The Attack of the 7th Division at Loos (The Official History of the War - Military Operations in France and Belgium 1915 Vol II)
Sunday 26th September 1915: We have just heard from 2nd Bedfords who yesterday took part in the big push around Loos, intended to break through the German lines. We understand that while gains have been made the break through as yet remains elusive.
21st Brigade, of which the Battalion forms part, was held in reserve, the other two brigades of 7th Division undertaking the initial assault. At about 11.30 a.m. the Battalion, which had proceeded from the village of Vermelles, entered the former British Front Line. They then advanced on a frontage of two companies immediately north of the road from Vermelles to Hulluch(1) [shown in pink on the above plan]
By this time the 20th Brigade, to which they were acting as support, were already a long way ahead. The Battalion moved across and over the former enemy front line [shown in blue on the above plan] practically without casualties. B Company was on the left, D Company on the right, C Company in support and A Company in reserve. As soon as it began to advance across the open behind the German front line, however, it came under a very heavy rifle fire from the direction of the quarries [shown in yellow on the above plan] and the northern houses of Cité-Saint-Elie.
Captain J W Hurrell [X550/1/81]
The Battalion now suffered severely but continued to advance by rushes of small parties until Gun Trench [shown in red on the above plan] was reached. Second Lieutenant Forward was killed and Lieutenant-Colonel Onslow, Captain and Adjutant J W Hurrell, Captain J W Hutchinson, Second Lieutenant H E Mudford and Second Lieutenant R Hopkins were wounded. Sadly, Captain Hutchinson died from wounds later in the day. Between two and three hundred other ranks also became casualties.
Captain J W Hutchinson [X550/1/82]
Two platoons got about 100 yards in front of Gun Trench, but being unsupported had to fall back by ones and twos – Captain J McM Milling and Second Lieutenant R L Shaw were then wounded. So the Battalion remained in Gun trench holding the gun pits north of the road during the afternoon, digging itself in. At dusk the men of the 20th Brigade who were in the trench were sorted out and rejoined their Brigade. All four Battalion Machine Guns were in the trench.
Captain J McM Milling [X550/1/82]
At about 7 pm A and C Companies were withdrawn from Gun Trench and started digging a Support trench about 100 yards in the rear. At about midnight a number of men were seen coming down the Hulluch Road at a double calling out "Don't shoot we're the Gordons"(2); close behind them came a number of Germans. Almost at the same time the Borders(3) holding Gun Trench south of the road began to retire. At once bombs were rained upon Gun Trench and men began to leave it in increasing numbers, falling back on support trench, where they stopped. The Company on the left of B Company was not attacked and stood firm. Two Machine Guns were with the company and remained in action.
Lieutenant R L Shaw [X550/1/82]
A heavy fire was brought to bear from support trench and shortly afterwards a charge was organised, which was completely successful, practically all the Germans in Gun Trench were killed or taken prisoners, including the artillery captain who led the counter-attack. Second Lieutenant T C Pearson and Second Lieutenant K L Stephenson were killed and Second Lieutenant C J Hunter wounded. The left company suffered some casualties from our own shrapnel during this counter-attack. The rest of the night passed quietly. Two Companies were in Gun Trench and two Companies in the support trench.
Second Lieutenant T C Pearson [X550/1/82]
At the commencement of the action. Captain H de Buriatte commanded A Company, Captain J W Hutchinson commanded B Company Lieutenant R O Wynne commanded C Company and Captain J McM Milling commanded D Company. Second Lieutenant R B Gibson and Lieutenant B R Taylor, both of 3rd Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment, attached, took command of B and D Companies respectively after Captains Hutchinson and Milling were wounded. Second Lieutenant W J Stonier has become Acting Adjutant.
The 2nd Battalion were not the only ones involved in the battle yesterday. The 8th Battalion, which only arrived in France at the beginning of this month arrived in Béthune in the early hours yesterday and just after midday moved towards the fighting. Their Brigade was ordered to support 72nd Brigade, 24th Division, in a move on Hulluch, meaning they were immediately south of the 2nd Battalion.
The 1st Division reported that it had captured Hulluch but these first, optimistic, reports later turned out to be wrong. Believing a great victory was at hand the Commander-in-Chief decide to throw in the two new divisions, 21st and 24th, to secure the crossings over the Haute Deule Canal to the east. The 24th Division accordingly assembled about la Rutoire farm, south of the Vermelles road believing that little more was require of it than a march after a tired and beaten enemy. The reality proved very different and the adjutant of the 8th Bedfords tells us, candidly, that he was very glad that the division’s orders to attack were countermanded due to the lateness fo the hour and the poor visibility.
Sources: X550/3/wd; X550/9/1
(2) Presumably men on 2nd Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, 20th Brigade, 7rh Division.
(3) 2nd Battalion, Border Regiment, 20th Brigade.