Oldham Historical Research Group

1914 - 1918

Guardsman 21718,
Service No. 385
No. 2 Company
Killed in Action 31st July 1917

3rd Battle of Ypres
With many page transcriptions from 'The Grenadier Guards in the Great War of 1914-1918' by Sir Frederick Ponsonby, to recount the actual organisation & battles in which the Grenadiers, in particular the 4th Battalion, took part.
Pub. 1920 in 3 Volumes, .
from Volume 1

Part 2 ... Narrative Parts Index

On the 20th of July the newly created 4th Battalion had set off for Bovingdon Camp and their last few weeks of training before embarking at Southhampton, on the 'Empress Queen', for Havre in France. On arrival they entrained for St. Omer, then marched to Blendecques. there they would remain until the newly created Guards Division came into being in September, and they were thrown straight into action when the Battle of Loos began on the 25th September ... Edward himself would not cross to Fance, with a draft of soldiers, and join the 4th battalion until the battle was virutally over,

transcripts :

Chap. XV

p. 290-291 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

BATTLE of LOOS, 1915

BATTLE of LOOS, 1915 - map
IN September General Joffre and Sir John French agreed that a determined attempt should be made to break the strong German line. Thousands of guns were to be massed, and after an action by which, it was hoped, the German trenches would be destroyed, twelve infantry divisions were to be launched upon the enemy. Then Sir Douglas Haig, with the First British Army, would attack between La Bassée Canal and Lens, while the French were to force their way through the lines south of Lens.

click on map for larger version

Sir John French in his despatch thus described the character of the front to be attacked by the British Army :

Opposite the front of the main line of attack the distance between the enemy's trenches and our own varied from about 100 to 500 yards.
The country over which the advance took place is open and overgrown with long grass and self-sown crops.
From the canal southward our trenches and those of the enemy ran, roughly, parallel up an almost imperceptible rise to the south-west.
From the Vermelles - Hulluch road southward the advantage of height is on the enemy's side as far as the Bethune - Lens road. There the two lines of trenches cross a spur in which the rise culminates, and thence the command lies on the side of the British trenches.
Due east of the intersection of spur and trenches, and a short mile away, stands Loos. Less than a mile farther south-east is Hill 70, which is the summit of the gentle rise in the ground.
Other notable tactical points in our front were :
"Fosse 8" (a thousand yards south of Auchy), which is a coal-mine with a high and strongly defended slag heap.
" The Hohenzollern Redoubt." - A strong work thrust out nearly 500 yards in front of the German lines and close to our own. It is connected with their front line by three communication trenches abutting into the defences of Fosse 8.
Cité St. Elie. - A strongly defended mining village lying 1500 yards south of Haisnes.
"The Quarries." - Iying half-way to the German trenches west of Cité St. Elie.
Hulluch - A village strung out along a small stream, lying less than half a mile south-east of Cité St. Elie and 3000 yards north-east of Loos.
Half a mile north of Hill 70 is "Puits 14 bis," another coal-·mine, possessing great possibilities for defence when taken in conjunction with a strong redoubt situated on the north-east side of Hill 70.

It was arranged that the First Corps, consisting of the Second, Seventh, and Ninth Divisions, under Lieut.-General Hubert Gough, should attack the line between La Bassée Canal and Vermelles, while the Fourth Corps (First, Fifteenth, and Forty-seventh Divisions), under Lieut.-General Sir H. Rawlinson, attacked from Vermelles to Grenay, the Hulluch-Vermelles road forming the boundary between the two Corps
p. 292
The attack began at 6.30am on September 25, after four days' continuous bombardment by our massed guns. Gas was employed, but unfortunately the wind was unfavourable, and it moved so slowly that it retarded the advance. Further, the wire in some places had hardly been touched, and consequently the Second Division was held up from the start. Meanwhile the Ninth Division started well, and even managed to reach the northern end of "Little Willie," but was unable to maintain its advanced position on account of the check to the Second Division. The Seventh Division captured the first line of the trenches and cleared the quarries half-way between the front line and Cité St. Elie, while the leading troops even penetrated as far as Cité St. Elie itself.

By mid-day the First Corps had secured the whole of the German front from the Hohenzollern Redoubt southwards and had pushed forward to the second line at three points. But in this achievement it suffered heavy casualties, and was left too weak to do more than hold on to the position it had gained.

In the Fourth Corps the First Division swept forward, carried the first two lines of German trenches, and reached the outskirts of Hulluch, where it waited for reinforcements, but as these did not arrive it had to fall back on the Lens - La Bassée road. As for the Fifteenth Division, whose objective was Cité St. Augusté, it pushed through not only to Loos, but even over Hill 70, and the 4th Brigade in this division actually reached the outskirts of Cité St. Laurent.

26th - 27th
p. 293-294
On the afternoon of the 26th the Eleventh Corps was placed at the disposal of Sir Douglas Haig; it consisted of the Guards Division and the Twenty-first and Twenty-fourth Divisions. The two latter were at once hurried up into the firing line, the Twenty-first Division sending two brigades to Loos while the Twenty-fourth went to the Lens - La Bassée road.

Throughout that Sunday the fighting was very severe, and it was only with the greatest difficulty that we held on to Loos. The First Corps was also being strongly counter-attacked, and the quarries changed hands several times. All day the Crown Prince of Bavaria, who was in command of the army facing the British divisions, was engaged in bringing up reserves from other parts, and by next day he had strengthened his whole line. The German line ran from Auchy - La Bassée over comparatively flat country to the Vermelles - Hulluch road, where the ground became undulating and culminated in Hill 70.

Early on Monday the advance was renewed, but the Germans had started counter-attacking, and a confused struggle went on, with varying success. Several times our line gave way, only to be rallied and go forward again. We managed to maintain our ground on the right and centre of Hill 70, but on the extreme left the enemy pressed the line back towards Loos. In the meantime the 64th Brigade of the Twenty-fourth Division was being driven back and subjected to withering enfilade fire. The line from the Chalk Pit to the northern end of Hill 70 had to be abandoned, and Loos was thus left exposed to an attack from the north-east. A brigade of the Third Cavalry Division was then brought up to reinforce the hard-pressed troops who were holding Loos.

The Guards
p. 294 continued

The Guards Division

The Guards Division arrived early on Sunday morning at Haillicourt, more than ten miles off, and marched through Noeux-les-Mines and Sailly-la-Bourse to Vermelles. For the first time since its creation the Guards Division was to go into action, and naturally, after the fame individual battalions had won in the earlier part of the war, a great deal was expected of it. All the troops were cheered by the news that the Division had arrived and was going in, but the situation had altered a good deal since the attack was first launched. All element of surprise had disappeared, and the Germans had had time to recover from the effects of the first blow and to collect reinforcements. It is doubtful whether the Guards Division ever had any real chance of succeeding in its attack. It had to start from old German trenches, the range of which the German artillery knew to an inch, while the effect of our own original artillery bombardment had died away.

However, there was no alternative but to put in the Guards Division and try and regain as much of the lost ground as possible. Major-General Lord Cavan sent round on the 25th a stirring message to the men, reminding them that great things were expected of the Division, and they were full of confidence as they went into action.

The Guards
p. 295
The easiest task fell to the lot of the 1st Guards Brigade, under Brigadier General Feilding, on the left. It was to advance in the direction of the Bois Hugo and straighten the line, so that it would run parallel to the Lens - La Bassée road. The 2nd Brigade, under Brigadier-General Ponsonby, was to take and hold the Chalk Pit and Puits 14 bis, and the 3rd Brigade, under Brigadier-General Heyworth, to advance against Hill 70. But to a large extent the movements of the lst and 3rd Brigades depended on the success of the attack of the 2nd Brigade.

Accomplishing their work at once, Feilding's Brigade secured a good position on the ground over which the Twenty-fourth Division had retired. General Feilding, who understood that he was to assist the other brigades by fire as far as possible, at once collected as many smoke-bombs and smoke-candles as he could, and at zero hour formed a most effective smoke-screen, which drew off the fire of a great many German guns from the other attackers.

Success at first also attended the attack of Ponsonby's Brigade. It took the Chalk Pit and Puits 14, bis, but then a tremendous fire from machine-guns in Bois Hugo swept it down, and it was unable to keep its hold on these positions. This made it very difficult for the other brigades to move forward. But on learning that Ponsonby's Brigade was fighting furiously for the possession of the Chalk Pit, Lord Cavan decided

The Guards
p. 296-297
that the only way to relieve the strain on them was to order Heyworth's Brigade to advance. It did so, and this course proved successful in enabling Ponsonby's Brigade to retain possession of the Chalk Pit. Going forward, Heyworth's Brigade took Hill 70, but it too found it impossible to keep what it had won. The enemy's trenches were marked on the map as being on the crest of the hill, but in reality they were on the reverse slope, and had never been touched by shell-fire.

The net result of the attack of the Guards Division was the establishment of the British front along a line running, roughly, northward from the south-eastern end of Loos and parallel to the Lens-La Bassée road. Another attempt to gain Puits 14 was made by the lst Battalion Coldstream on the 28th, but was no more successful than the first. As before, a small party reached the Puits, but was driven out again by enfilade fire.

Measured by the length of the advance made during the battle and the extent of ground taken from the enemy, the results of the battle of Loos would seem distinctly disappointing, more especially when the casualty list of 45,000 men is considered. But to estimate these operations in terms of geography is a mistake. The smallness of the theatre of operations and the comparatively narrow depth of our advance give a totally misleading impression of the success of the battle. It is obviously more valuable to put out of action 50,000 Germans and gain half a mile than to gain live miles and only inflict a loss of 10,000. when it is realised that we drove the enemy from positions which they considered impregnable to the assaults of modern weapons, that their casualties must have been as heavy as, if not heavier than, our own, and that we took 3000 prisoners (including 50 officers), 26 field-guns, and 40 machine- guns, - it will be seen that Lord Kitchener's description of the battle as a substantial success was not very far wide of the mark.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Next part

Edward Garside Whitehead
* Edward & family
Part 1
* Edward enlists in Jan.1915;
* formation of the 4th Battn.
* Guards Division in 1915.
This Part
* Battle of Loos, Sept.1915 -
* the Guards Division
at Loos.
Part 3
* Battle of Loos, Sept.1915
* The 4th Battn at Loos.
Part 4
Edward lands in France Oct.

* Diary of the War-
Oct., Nov., Dec., 1915;
* 4th Battn. Oct - Dec
Part 5
Edward transfers to
Machine-Gun Guards

* Diary of the War -
Jan - Sept. 1916;
* 4th Battn. Jan - Apr. 1916
Part 6
* 4th Battn. Apr - Jul.1916
Part 7
* The Guards Divison
at the Somme;
* Division Orders
Part 8
* The 4th Battn. at
The Battle of the Somme
Part 9
* Diary of the War -
Oct to Dec 1916:
* 4th Battn - Oct - Nov 1916;
* Diary of the War -
Jan - Mar 1917;
* 4th Battn. Jan - Mar 1917
Part 10
* Diary of the War -
April - July 1917;
* 4th Battn. Apr - July 1917
Part 11
* The Guards Division. -
Battle of Boesinghe
31 July 1917
Part 12
* Edward Killed in action in
Battle of Boesinghe

31 July 1917
*3rd Battalion - Boesinghe
1st battalion - Boesinghe
4th battalion - Boesinghe

Part 13
* 2nd Battalion - Boesinghe
* Diary of War - Aug -Sept.
* 1st Battn. Aug - Sept.
* Guards Divison - Oct. 1917
Crossing the Broembeek
* Diary of War - Oct - Dec.


* Gallery
of pictures & Maps
War Diaries - Extracts
*4th Battalion M-G Guards
'The Grenadier Guards in the Great War of 1914-1918' by Sir Frederick Ponsonby
Pub. 1920 in 3 Volumes, is freely downloadable as .pdf files or can be read on-line.
Vol 1 HERE
Vol 2 HERE
Vol 3 HERE

Contributed by Sheila Goodyear

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