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Loos Memorial, France Loos Memorial, France
First Name: John C Last Name: DUCKETT
Date of Death: 28/09/1915 Lived/Born In: West Hampstead
Rank: Private Unit: Royal Fusiliers12
Memorial Site: Loos Memorial, France

Current Information:


44 Messina Avenue, West Hampstead

The Battle of Loos

This battle, 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.

The reserve Corps for the battle, XI Corps, was made up of the Guards Division and two New Army divisions, 21st Division and 24th Division.  They were held back until the last minute which meant that they had to march across country through a night of heavy rain to reach the battlefield. It was not until the afternoon of 26th September that they were in position to assault the German second line between Bois Hugo & Hulluch. But by this time the enemy had brought up reserves and were launching counter attacks which further disrupted proceedings. What happened next was a disaster. Advancing in broad daylight in ten columns, without the help of an artillery barrage these totally inexperienced divisions were cut to pieces by machine gun and rifle fire. They lost half of their number in a matter of minutes. Even the Germans were shocked at the slaughter and stopped firing to allow the survivors to withdraw.

73 Brigade of 24th Division, made up of 13th Middlesex, 7th Northamptonshire, 12th Royal Fusiliers and 9th Sussex were sent further north on the battlefield to relieve 26 Brigade of 9th Division around Fosse 8.  At 1am, whilst the relief was in progress, the Germans launched a counter attack but this was seen off by units of both Brigades.  Those who got into the British line were seen off with bayonets.  73 Brigade then took over the whole line from Fosse 8 to Fosse Alley.

Throughout the night the enemy kept up their shelling of these trenches and the three battalions of 73 Brigade holding the line, 9th Sussex, 12th Royal Fusiliers and 7th Northamptonshire were not only dog-tired but they had had little food and no water for 48 hours. At dawn on 27th September two red rockets signalled the start of an intense German bombardment on this sector and then, 600-1,000 German infantry, who had crossed from Haisnes in the dark, rushed 73 Brigade’s position at the junction of Slag and Fosse Alleys where 7th Northamptonshire met 12th Royal Fusiliers.  Bombing northward along the trenches they pushed 7th Northamptonshire back into the cottages north of the Dump and took possession of the mound from where their machine guns covered the whole area back to the Hohenzollern Redoubt.  At noon more German reinforcements arrived and they began bombing southwards.  At this point Brigade HQ ordered a  withdrawal the Corons, abandoning Fosse and Dump Trenches and taking up a new line on the east face of the Hohenzollern Redoubt. The diary of 12th Royal Fusiliers has these events happening on 28th September, 1915 and many of the deaths in the battalion are recorded as being on this day by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission but the Official History and other sources record it as being 27th September.

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