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Loos Memorial, France Loos Memorial, France
First Name: Maurice Ives Berthon Last Name: HOWELL
Date of Death: 25/09/1915 Lived/Born In: Roehampton
Rank: Second Lieutenant Unit: Royal West Surrey (Queens)1
Memorial Site: 1. Wandsworth, All Saints 2. Loos Memorial,France

Current Information:



Bryn Derwen, Crestway, Roehampton


 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 in the war. 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 the offensive became mired in trench warfare. By mid-October the battle had petered out with the British having suffered over 60,000 casualties during its course.

On 25 September, 1915  2nd Division attacked, with all three brigades, on a 3500 yard frontage astride the La Bassee canal with the task of forming a defensive flank facing north-east.  19 Brigade and  6 Brigade attacked between the Vermelles -La Bassee railway and the canal. Their objective was to advance through Auchy and the Railway Triangle to the railway line between Haisnes and the canal and convert Canal Alley into a fire trench.  No-man’s-land was less than 100 yards wide and contained a number of mine craters.  Vesuvius and Etna, the two largest, had 8 feet high lips, concealing large parts of opposing lines from each other.  The Germans had more men here than anywhere else and they had converted their support trench into their main fire trench and evacuated their front trench after levelling the parapet.  This gave them a number of advantages. Firstly they had more time to man the defences by adding 100 yards to no-man’s-land, secondly a better field of fire and thirdly an escape from the worst of the bombardment.  The brick stacks to the south of the canal concealed concrete machine gun nests with shell proof dug-outs beneath them.  To add to their woes of the British, the gas did not do its job on this section of the line.  It blew back over the British lines causing many casualties.

5 Brigade attacked to the north of the canal. On the right, 9th Highland Light Infantry moved against the Tortoise Redoubt but just before zero a dense cloud of gas drifted up from the south incapacitating the leading platoons.  Ten minutes later the next two platoons advanced.  Patrols of volunteers moved further forward to test the defences and were immediately hit by fire from Tortoise Redoubt and annihilated.  The rest of 9th Highland Light Infantry stood fast.  On the left of 5 Brigade, 3 battalions, 2nd Highland Light Infantry, 1st Royal West Surrey (Queens) and 2nd Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry launched a diversionary attack at 6am, half an hour before the main one.  At 5.50am gas was released and at 5.58am a mine was blown under the German trenches.  The Germans were taken by surprise and the attackers reached the well cut wire with little loss and entered the  front line.  Pressing on to the support trenches they came under heavy fire and were forced to take cover in communication trenches before being forced back to their starting line by 9.40am.  2nd Division had accomplished nothing.  

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