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battle of loos

25 September 1915


The desperate state of the Russian Army in 1915

demanded a change of focus, a major effort in the

West was required. The Allies therefore launched

a significant joint offensive that the French

General, Marshal Joffre, promised would ‘compel

the Germans to retire to the Meuse and probably

end the war’. The British sector centred on the

mining region of Loos.

On 25 September long lines of British infantry

advanced on heavily defended German positions

in and around the small coalmining town of Loos,

in the heart of the industrial area of northeast

France. The attack was preceded by an artillery

bombardment that began on 21 September. After

much agonised debate, chlorine gas and smoke was

discharged at 5.50 a.m. on the morning of the

battle. The decision was finally reached in order

to compensate for what Sir Douglas Haig, Commander

First Army, whose men would execute the advance,

considered insufficient artillery support. This

was the first time the British would use gas as

a weapon in the Great War.

1 G. Corrigan, Loos 1915: The Unwanted Battle (Stroud, 2006), 8.