A blog from our CWGC historian, Dr Glyn Prysor, on
the history of the CWGC's commemoration of those who lost their
lives at the Battle of Loos.
At 10.15 a.m. on Monday 4 August 1930, a group of dignitaries
gathered at a cemetery called 'Dud Corner', near the French town of
They unveiled a memorial honouring more than 20,000 men who had
lost their lives in the area during the Great War, but who had no
Britain was represented by General Sir Nevil Macready, a key
figure in the creation of the Imperial War Graves Commission, which
had built the cemetery and the memorial, along with thousands of
The Battle of Loos began on 25 September 1915. It was part of a
joint Allied offensive intended to push the Germans back from their
foothold in northern France.
Much of the battlefield was flat and exposed, and there were
many strong defensive positions - industrial machinery, workers'
cottages, high spoil heaps - which provided excellent vantage
points for the Germans.
There were other problems. Short of artillery and shells, the
British turned to poison gas for the first time. Short of
professional soldiers and reservists, they turned to wartime
Despite these difficulties there were some successes, and
British soldiers swept through the town of Loos itself. But delays
in bringing up reinforcements meant that it was difficult to
sustain the momentum of the attack.
It was the largest offensive the British army had yet
undertaken. Around 75,000 men were involved on the first day
Some 8,500 were killed on 25 September, and by the end of the
battle in October around 16,000 had lost their lives.
Correctly pronounced 'Loss', the name of this small mining town
in northern France would evoke grief for families across
Dud Corner took its name from the large numbers of unexploded
shells - or 'duds' - which had been discovered in the area.
Standing at the heart of the Loos battlefield, it seemed a fitting
place for the memorial to the missing.
The unveiling ceremony was not the last ritual of remembrance to
take place there. At the request of Rudyard Kipling, who had lost
his son in the battle, the Imperial War Graves Commission agreed
that the 'Last Post' could be sounded every evening by one of its
ex-Service gardening staff.
In 1935, a journalist travelled to Dud Corner to pay his
respects. 'Facing me in the dying shadow of the towering war
memorial cross,' he wrote, 'stood ex-Lance Corporal W.T. Prynn, of
the 2nd Dragoon Guards.'
'Every evening in the year, bad weather or fine, he leaves his
cottage in the village to sound the Last Post at sundown over the
graves of his dead comrades… Many and many a night he is entirely
alone, but the stirring call of his trumpet is heard far and