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Loos Memorial, France Loos Memorial, France
First Name: William James Last Name: SOUTHAM
Date of Death: 25/09/1915 Lived/Born In: Clapton
Rank: Private Unit: Devonshire8
Memorial Site: 1. Clapton, St James 2. Loos Memorial, France

Current Information:





The Battle of Loos, fought by the British Army from 25th September, 1915 through to 13th October was conducted along a six-and-a-half-mile front running north from the mining village of Loos on the outskirts of Lens in Northern France. It was the largest offensive carried out by the British so far. The opening day involved an attack by six divisions, with others entering the fray as it progressed and it was part of a much wider offensive with the French launching their own attacks in Champagne and at Vimy. It was the first time that the British used gas during the war, despite their condemnation of the Germans for doing the same in April 1915. There were some encouraging results on the first day but no major breakthrough was achieved and in the successive days of the battle it became bogged down in brutal trench warfare. By mid-October the battle had petered out with the British having suffered over 60,000 casualties during its course.

On 25th  September 1915  7th Division attacked along a 1400 yard front between the Vermelles-Hulluch road and the Hohenzollern Redoubt but not including that stronghold. Along this stretch of the line the German defences were strong and had not been damaged much by the bombardment.  There were a number of strongpoints notably the Popes Nose Redoubt and The Quarries from which enfilade fire could be directed on the attackers. The villages just behind the German line, Hulluch, Cité St. Elie, Haisnes and La Bassée, were all strongly defended. At 5.50am on 25th September, 1915, a heavy British bombardment commenced and the gas cloud of chlorine was released. The gas on this stretch of the front had mixed results. The wind was not favourable every where and in some places it was not used.

At 6.30am 20 Brigade on the right attacked Breslau Trench with 2nd Gordon Highlanders and 8th Devonshire leading but in some places the advance became enveloped in gas and smoke. German shells burst in this cloud which dispersed it but also caused many casualties. 2nd Gordon Highlanders found the wire well cut and within 12 minutes were in the German front line.  8th Devonshire were not so lucky.  There were only a few gaps in the wire in front of them and this resulted in bunching and delay. Not surprisingly the Germans inflicted heavy casualties on 8th Devonshire around the wire, including 16 officers.  When they did manage to break in the 50 Germans there quickly surrendered.  2nd Gordon Highlanders and 8th Devonshire pushed on to the ridge.  At the second line, which was not strongly defended, there was a short sharp fight and then they moved on down the reverse slope towards Hulluch.  At 8.45am and despite heavy losses 2nd Gordon Highlanders reached the Lens road.  Here they were able to use their machine guns effectively against a 600 strong German column marching in fours into Cité St. Elie.  There were only 100 of 8th Devonshire left to advance to the Lens-La Bassee road and these caught heavy fire when half way across from Gun Trench.  They halted but later continued and reached the road.  A group of 50 from 2nd Gordon Highlanders reconnoitred the German position in front of Hulluch but were driven back by heavy fire. Thick undamaged wire made an advance impractical.

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