Friday, 25 September 2015

25th Sept 1915 ! The Battle of Loos

25th September 1915 - 9th RWF War Diary (Written by Major Barrard)


Actual photo taken at Loos (not the RWF)
  • A very bad day for the Commonwealth Troops 
  • The Battle of Loos was the largest British battle that took place in 1915 on the Western Front during World War I. It was the first time the British used poison gas and the first mass engagement of New Army units. The British battle was part of the attempt by the Allies to break through the German defences in Artois and Champagne and restore a war of movement. Despite improved methods, more ammunition and better equipment, the Franco-British attacks were contained by the German armies, except for local losses of ground. British casualties at Loos were about twice as high as German casualties.
  • 59,247 Commonwealth casualties 
  • 9th Royal Welch Fusiliers, of the 806 officers and men who went into battle,  and reported on the day of battle  was, 24 know died, 129 wounded and 85 missing (many of these were dead) 
  • Gas used for the first by the British and should not have been used as the wind in the wrong direction!

TIME - 04:15

  • I meet the CO in A company mess at 4:15am & had some coffee. I ten went back to my dug-out.
  • It was drizzling & what breeze there was seemed unfavourable for the use of gas; 
  • I began to think the attack would be postponed.
  • Brigade HQ moved to Advanced Report Centre. 

TIME - 05:15

  • Our artillery started a furious bombardment. 
  • I hurried down the firing line & found smoke candles at work.  
  • On my way there I observed a mile to my south a thin cloud floating slowly toward the German lines; this I took to be the asphyxiating gas. 
  • The breeze was still very slight but seemed to have turned temporarily in our favour.  
  • It was not to be  depend dent on however & too weak & I am not of the opinion that the pall of smoke in front of our lines did more harm than good as it brought on inactivity on the part of our artillery.  
  • The smoke was intended to supplement the gas and mislead the Hun into believing that there was an immense about of that commodity coming toward them.

TIME - 06:50

  • None of our men were injured by our gas, though I believe a few of the 6th Wilts suffered. 
  • About this time I was informed that a sheaf of rockets had been sent up by the Brigade, intermating the commencement of the attack.  
  • I personally did not see it.  
  • From subsequent inquiries I learnt the following which bore out to some extent the message sent by the Artillery Observation Officer at 06:25 that the Royal Welsh already attaching.  
  • Col Madocks remained at A company mess till the sheaf of rockets went up, he then told Captain Hoyle, commanding A company  to commence the attack (A company was to be directing) Captain Hoyle proceeded to No 10 sap but he has already at 06:15 had his men out in the sap & I think it is probable that his leading  platoon was already extended, lying down, in line with the head of the sap, ready to advance.

TIME -  about 07:00

  • The order had been issued to be ready to commence the attack at 06:30. This order might be differently interpreted. 
  • It should have mad it clear whether troops were to enter the sap or remain behind the parapet till 6:30.  
  • The leading platoon of A company being extended in front of the sap it is possible an advance was made before Capt Hoyle returned from Hd Qrs. 
  •  At any rate an officer from B company on the left whose company was keeping in touch with A looked at his watch when the advance commenced and it was 6:20. 
  • The pall of smoke was very thick; Capt Hoyle had orders for direct flank to march on a certain willow tree but was now hidden from view and it is believed he diverged to the right in front of the 9th Welch  
  • The Artillery observation officer who had wired down the attack had commenced, about this time surpassed himself by phoning that the 9th R W Fus. had taken the 1st line of trenches
  • This must have been an effort of the imagination on his part owing to the smoke, nothing could be seen.  
  • Messages like this led to wild rumours after the action of spies having tapped the wires.  
  • At about 6:50 I meet Lt Col Madocks and his adjutant in one of the centre bays.  He seemed very optimistic and asked if D company was out yet; if so we would follow. 
  • The arrangements for the attach were as under;-.

TIME - about 07:15

  • I reported that D company was not yet out.  
  • A quarter of an hour later Captain Hogg the Adjutant again went to enquire & in the meantime Col Madocks ho was observing over the parapet was struck by a shot in the temple & fell dead at my feet.  
  • It was evident by this time that things were not going well; not much could be seen on account of the smoke but there were rumors of the saps being encumbered with wounded which accounted for the delay with D company - 
  • I had seen capt Acton commanding D company a few minutes before just outside our wire entanglement & suggested to Capt Hogg to get into the communications with him & obtain his option;  
  • Capt Hogg had gone about 10 minutes when i received information that both he and Capt Acton had been shot.

TIME - about 07:20

  • The 6th Wilts were now beginning to arrive; to avoid a useless sacrifice of life I gave orders for a retirement.  
  • Col Jeffreys, comdg 6th Wilts. Who arrived shortly afterwards concurred with me. 
  •  Our action north of the La Basse canal was intended as a demonstration, the principal attach being carried out south of the canal; our energetic action was the means of withdrawing several battalions of reserve to our front, which the germans could have utilised further South I 

TIME - about 07:20 

  • But could not this advantage have been gained without such loss of life? 
  • Undoubtedly both GOC 58th Brigade & Col Madocks had been misled as to the damage our artillery had effected on the enemy's wire after several days bombardment also the effect it had on the enemy's moral' the effect on the wire was, as a matter of fact, negligible & the onus of not reporting this, of not making a more thorough reconnaissance rests on the companies who were in the front line; it was unduly optimistic to suppose that the enemy's morale had gone, as during the bombardment the Germans are adept at burrowing themselves into specially deep dugouts or keeping out of the way

TIME - about 07:20 

  • It was confidently believed that we should have no difficulty in rushing across the intervening space and capturing the German front & support trenches. 
  • When the time came for to carry this out we found ourselves up against a row of impenetrable wire and intervening ground swept by half-a-dozen machine guns.
  • C company under Capt K. Nicholl had been detailed to act as a flanking party & move up Fife Road. 
  • They suffered severely from enemy's artillery which was most accurate. 

TIME - about 10:00 

  • The remainder of the morning was taken up in moving the remnants of the battalion to the reserve line.  
  • During the hours of darkness many of the wounded were brought back in.   


The following list of casualties on Sept 25th;-  
  • Killed (officers) - Lt Col H.J Madocks, Capt CA Acton, Capt EG Payne, Capt LS Hogg, Capt BWE Hoyle, Lt CFJ Symons, 2nd Lt R.J. Williams,
  • Officers wounded - Lt HJ Williams, Lt GH Higham, 2nd Lt C Fawcett
Other rank and file

  • HD Qrs, 2 wounded, 3 missing
  • A Comp 10 killed, 45 wounded 28 missing
  • B Comp 2 killed 23 wounded, 44 missing
  • C Comp 5 killed 28 wounded 3 missing believed buried
  • D Comp 7 killed 31 wounded 7 missing
  • Total 24 killed, 129 wounded, 85 missing
  • Total casualties officers & men 249
  • It is believed a few of the missing are prisoners of war.  
  • The numbers that went into action were;- 25 Officers, 781 rank and file

Some of those mentioned on the Loos Memorial

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