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COMMONWEALTH WAR GRAVES COMMISSION (CWGC) LAUNCHES REMEMBRANCE TRAIL TO COMMEMORATE BATTLE OF LOOS CENTENARY

23 September 2015

The Battle of Loos (September - October 1915) was the British Army's largest effort of the war so far, with 75,000 men involved on the first day alone.  It saw the first British use of poison gas and also the first deployment of battalions formed of inexperienced wartime volunteers - part of General Haig's First Army. It became known at the time as 'The Big Push.'

The CWGC Loos Remembrance Trail takes the visitor on a journey of discovery across the battlefields of Loos, visiting some of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) cemeteries where many of those killed in the battle lie buried and discovering more about the battle and the experiences of those who fought it.

The CWGC's Director of External Relations, Mr Colin Kerr, explained: "The casualties on the first day, 25 September, were the worst yet suffered in a single day by the British army - including some 8,500 dead - and yet the Battle of Loos has largely been forgotten."

"We believe that is not right and that these men, and the cemeteries and memorials where they are commemorated, deserve to be better known and visited and that is why we have launched this fascinating and easy to follow remembrance trail."


A pdf of the remembrance trail leaflet can be downloaded, here: Loos Remembrance Trail Leaflet.


For more information, contact: Claire Douglas on 01628 507116 or 07792 216863 or by email claire.douglas@cwgc.org

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Notes for editors:

1. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (www.cwgc.org) maintains the graves of the 1.7 million Commonwealth servicemen and women who died during the two world wars. It also holds and updates an extensive and accessible records archive.

The Commission operates in over 23,000 locations in 154 countries

2. The Battle of Loos: September - October 1915

In September 1915 the French and British armies launched a major offensive on the Western Front, intending to break through enemy lines and strike a decisive blow against the German army. While French forces attacked in Champagne and Artois, the British First Army would attack along a ten-kilometre front between Loos and La Bassée. This would be the British army's largest effort of the war so far, with 75,000 men involved on the first
day alone. It became known at the time as 'the Big Push.'

The industrialised mining area around Loos was difficult terrain for an offensive. The ground was flat and open, easily swept by machine-gun fire, the many pit heads and spoil heaps providing  defensive positions which were heavily fortified by the Germans. Many British army battalions were formed of inexperienced wartime volunteers, and their supporting artillery was short of heavy guns and shells. To compensate, the British would use poison gas for the first time.

On the morning of 25 September 1915, after a four-day artillery bombardment, six divisions attacked through clouds of smoke and gas. In the north of the battlefield, the gas hindered the attack of the 2nd Division along the La Bassée Canal, and it was driven back with heavy casualties. In the centre, the 9th (Scottish) Division managed to seize the formidable Hohenzollern Redoubt and the vital observation point of Fosse 8, while the 7th
and 1st Divisions battled forward towards the Lens-La Bassée Road, with some units reaching the village of Hulluch. In the south, the gas had been more successful and the 47th (London) Division reached the distinctive spoil heaps known as the Double Crassier, while the 15th (Scottish) Division swept through the village of Loos and on to the stronghold of Hill 70.

By nightfall, reserves were urgently needed to exploit the gains, but their deployment was delayed. By the time the 21st and 24th Divisions saw action the following day along the German second defensive line at Hulluch and Hill 70, they were already exhausted by a long march, and German reinforcements were counter-attacking. Despite hard fighting, the British reserves suffered heavy casualties and were driven back, until the arrival of
the Guards Division stabilised the position. Fosse 8 and the Hohenzollern Redoubt were lost over the following days, and an attempt to regain them on 13 October by the 46th (North Midland), 12th (Eastern) and 1st Divisions ended in failure and losses of more than 2,000 dead.

The Battle of Loos was part of the final attempt by Franco-British forces to push the German Army out of France before the onset of winter in 1915. Sir John French, the Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force, was recalled shortly after the battle, to be replaced by Sir Douglas Haig. The casualties on 25 September were the worst yet suffered in a single day by the British army, including some 8,500 dead. In total, the battle resulted in casualties of over 50,000, of whom some 16,000 lost their lives.