By 1915 more than a third of a million men had answered Lord Kitchener’s call to arms to defend their country.
The Kitchener Battalions of the New Army were nearing the end of their training and in May, 1915 the first of these, the 9th Scottish Division, the first to be formed, was sent to France.
In it’s ranks were literally hundreds of Midlothian men, volunteers to a man and keen to get into a fight. They arrived around May of 1915 and settled into life in trenches. Joining them later on were the men of the 15th Scottish Division who arrived in August of 1915. They were green and unused to combat, a factor that would cost them dear.
Tucked away up in North East France is the coal mining area of Lens and Loos, very similar in appearance to parts of the Midlothian with it’s Pit Heads, bings and miner’s rows. And it was around the small town of Loos that one of the bloodiest events in Scottish Military history occurred.
A major push was planned, with the attack going in on 25th September over what had been described as ‘most unfavourable ground’. Spearheading the attack would be the newly arrived volunteers, some barely off the boat in the case of 15th Scottish Division.
It was planned to make use of a new weapon at Loos, poison gas, first used by the Germans at Ypres but now used by all.
The Scots had been set tough objective, in the North 9th Scottish were to attack the Hohenzollern Redoubt, in the South, the very green, 15th Scottish were to take Loos itself.
What followed was a disaster without parallel in the Great War for Scotland and Midlothian. On the opening day of Loos over 8,000 men were killed, staggeringly due to the high percentage of Scots engaged, around 4,500 lost their lives. The heaviest losses on the field since the Battle of Flodden 4 centuries before.
From the big cities to the tiniest of hamlets, everywhere felt the sting of battle.
Even the staggering losses sustained on the Somme were less, from a purely Scottish point of view.
A century plus on we remember those who fell.
1 George Alves - Cameron Highlanders
2 Peter Baxter - Seaforth Highlanders
3 Alfred Herbert Bell - Royal Scots
4 George Brand - Royal Scots
5 William Cameron - Cameron Highlanders
6 James Fairly Christie - Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
7 Matthew Conlon - Cameron Highlanders
8 James Downie - Highland Light Infantry
9 Ernest Taylor Franklin - Seaforth Highlanders
10 Thomas Fraser - Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
11 Walter Thomas Gaisford - Seaforth Highlanders
12 William Gray Gordon - Highlanders Garvald
13 David William Hamilton - Gordon Highlanders
14 George Armstrong Henderson - Seaforth Highlanders
15 William Paterson Jack - Seaforth Highlanders
16 Gavin Jack - Royal Scots
17 John Johnston - Cameron Highlanders
18 John Kenny - Seaforth Highlanders
19 Robert Steadman Lyon - Black Watch
20 Frank Horace MacFie - Seaforth Highlanders
21 Alexander Martin Gordon - Highlanders Arniston
22 Henry McGregor - Highland Light Infantry
23 William McLellan - Gordon Highlanders
24 James Milne - Seaforth Highlanders
25 John Moffat - Seaforth Highlanders
26 William Morrison - Gordon Highlanders
27 Alexander Munro - Black Watch (Royal Highlanders)
28 John Cuthill Naysmith - Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
29 Samuel Neil Cameron - Highlanders
30 James Pender - Gordon Highlanders
31 John Porteous - Highland Light Infantry
32 William Reid - Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
33 George Rogers - Seaforth Highlanders
34 William McBean Sanderson - Black Watch
35 Thomas Stewart - Seaforth Highlanders
36 David Anderson - Taylor Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
37 John M Thomson - Cameron Highlanders
38 John Beaton Blair Thomson - Cameron Highlanders
39 Thomas Borthwick Thomson - Cameron Highlanders
40 James Walker - Seaforth Highlanders
41 Manus Ward - Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
42 David Wright - Black Watch (Royal Highlanders)
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