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Lincolnshire Remembers: Army did not learn the lessons of the Battle of Loos

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Thousands of Lincolnshire soldiers were killed at the Battle of Loos. Our heaviest losses occurred at the Hohenzollern Redoubt on October 13, 1915. As we approach the 100th anniversary of that action, historian Steve Bramley says British forces ignored the mistakes made that day….

The shocking loss of so many Lincolnshire soldiers at the Battle of Loos could have provided the British Army with valuable tactical insight. The fact so many soldiers went out of the trenches and to their deaths across no man’s land was a mistake that even the most mundane of officers would surely have noted. But the British Army failed to take stock and a year later after Lincolnshire’s finest lay rotting in a foreign field, the Tommies again went “over the top” in the Battle of the Somme.

There are also many firsts associated with the Battle of Loos. It was the first major offensive attempted by the British Expeditionary Force and known at the time as the ‘Big Push’. It was the first use by the British of poison chlorine gas (gas was first used by the Germans at Ypres with some success in early 1915).

It was the first strategic use of large scale artillery bombardment, the first time Lord Kitchener’s ‘New Army’ volunteers would see action and the first time that the Lincolnshire Territorials would go ‘over the top’. It was also the first time that towns and villages in Lincolnshire would read the long, long casualty lists in the newspapers containing the names of loved ones, friends and neighbours.

Three weeks of battle

The Battle of Loos began on September 25, 1915, and ended (after several minor subsidiary actions) on October 18, at a cost of more than 60,000 British casualties. Despite the misgivings of General Sir Douglas Haig, who commanded the British First Army, the initial assault was a partial success; this despite the limited effect of the gas and the relative ineffectiveness of the artillery bombardment.

The village of Loos and part of the German front line were taken, including the formidable Hohenzollern Redoubt, by the 9th Scottish Division. But a combination of alleged mismanagement of reserves by the overall British commander Field-Marshall Sir John French and a high proportion of officer casualties meant that the advantage was not exploited. The following day, after lengthy forced marches and after arriving in France only 15 days earlier, the 8th Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment, volunteers from Kitchener’s army, were pushed into the fray in a bid to renew the attack.

Their first experience in the Great War was truly appalling. Their division suffered more than 3,800 casualties for very little gain. the Lincolnshire men among them did not stand a chance 466 men, almost half of the 8th battalion, were lost. Over the next fortnight severe localised fighting took place. The Germans, by counter-attacking, reclaimed much of the lost ground. On October 13, the main attack was resumed over the ground of the Hohenzollern Redoubt.

This time it would be the turn of the 1/4th and 1/5th Battalions of the Lincolnshire Regiment, part of the Territorial Force 46th Division. Major-General Stuart-Wortley, the commander of the division, preferred to attempt the attack in a series of ‘bite and hold’ manoeuvres (a tactic used to great effect much later in the war) but was overruled by his superiors.

Daylight attack

Gas and heavy bombardment would again be used before a frontal assault. This time, as an attempt at surprise, it was timed for 2pm in broad daylight. The other attacks had taken place in the half-light of dawn.

It was, despite undoubted courage and bravery shown by the attackers, an abstract failure. The division suffered 3,850 casualties, including 880 from Lincolnshire. Over the next days the impact of the horrendous loss of life became apparent back home.

Some men had seen all the pals they had come out to France with in February disappear around them. There were many sad hearts across the whole county. Of the men of the Lincolnshire Regiment listed as killed on October 13, more than 90 per cent of them have no known grave and remain buried under the Redoubt or in cemetery graves marked as unknown. They are commemorated on the panels of the Loos Memorial that overlooks the battlefield.

After the battle, the 62-year-old French was replaced by Haig. However, lessons were not learned and in July 1916 the battle of the Somme began. Haig used almost the exact tactics as those used at Loos on a much larger scale, which resulted in even greater devastation to the army.


The Echo, Lincolnshire Co-op, BBC Lincolnshire and Lincoln High Street Parishes have joined forces to organise a memorial and two-minute silence to remember the county’s great losses at the Battle of Loos. A service and silence will be held to coincide with the exact moment the Lincolnshire regiment went over the top at Hohenzollern Redoubt at 1pm(BST) 100 years ago on Tuesday, October 13. We are urging people to attend the war memorial on the High Street, Lincoln, at this time and to observe the silence across the county.

Mike Hoyer, 51, from North Carlton, near Lincoln, saw the Echo’s coverage of the Battle of Loos and has added his voice to the call for Lincolnshire to remember the bravery of local soldiers. Mr Hoyer’s great-great-uncle, Lance-Corporal George Salmon, was one of those who died in the action. He says the battle of Loos in which thousands of Lincolnshire soldiers were slaughtered by the Germans should be remembered as “our Somme”.

He said: “Amazingly the 1/4th and 1/5th made it to the German defences and took the Hohenzollern Redoubt and a couple of trenches. But within a day or two the Germans had recaptured all they had lost and the British were back to exactly where they had started from. Thousands of lives were lost. Within a matter of days the people of Lincolnshire were aware that their ‘boys’ had fought a major action in France and that losses had been severe.

“The Lincolnshire Echo and the County News of 1915 amply described some of the horror. Many years ago there used to be a bench in Lincoln High Street dedicated to the survivors of the attack on the Hohenzollern Redoubt. It was put there by their old comrades.

“I’d never heard of the Hohenzollern Redoubt. so assumed it must have been a minor affair Now I know more about it, I am able to say it was no minor affair and for Lincoln and Lincolnshire it was ‘our Somme’. As such,

“I feel it should never be forgotten.”

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