The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) has unveiled a Battle of Loos Remembrance Trail.
It aims to tell the tale of an offensive that was the largest of the war for the British Army up until that moment and involved 75,000 men on its first day alone.
First use of poison gas
The Battle of Loos was fought from September until October 1915 and witnessed both the first British use of poison gas and also the first major deployment of inexperienced wartime volunteers in an offensive on the Western Front. At the time it was widely termed ‘the Big Push’.
The CWGC Loos Remembrance Trail creates a journey of discovery that incorporates the battlefields of Loos and some of the CWGC cemeteries where many of those killed in the battle lie buried.
The CWGC’s Director of external relations, Colin Kerr, said: ‘The casualties on the first day, 25 September, were the worst yet suffered in a single day by the British army – including some 8,500 dead – and yet the Battle of Loos has largely been forgotten.
‘We believe that is not right and that these men, and the cemeteries and memorials where they are commemorated, deserve to be better known and visited and that is why we have launched this fascinating and easy to follow remembrance trail.’
Scottish piper wins the VC
The remembrance trail tells the story of some of the 17 Victoria Crosses that were awarded during the Battle of Loos.
Among the medal’s recipients was 40-year-old Piper Daniel Laidlaw of the 7th Battalion Kings Own Scottish Borderers.
With his unit pinned down in a front-line trench by an artillery bombardment and with British gas blowing back towards their position, Laidlaw set his pipes to his lips and began a rendition of the regimental march Blue Bonnets over the Border.
So inspired were his comrades by the tune that they charged out of their trench and, despite heavy losses, reached the German trenches. Laidlaw followed the advance and despite being knocked over by a shell and wounded by shrapnel continued to play the pipes while lying on the ground weakened by his injuries.
Afterwards he said: ‘I was only doing my duty. A piper’s place is always at the head of his regiment. I always led them on the march, and it was right that I should lead them when they went to battle.’
Laidlaw’s medals are on show at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.