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 Lothians 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 15th Scottish were to take Loos itself.
What followed was a disaster without parallel in the Great War for Scotland. 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 on we remember those who fell.
Midlothian men who died on 25th of September, 1915. Not all of them were killed at Loos, a small number were killed at Ypres in diversionary attacks, the vast majority however did die at Loos.
George Alves Cameron Highlanders
Peter Baxter Seaforth Highlanders
Alfred Herbert Bell Royal Scots
George Brand Royal Scots
William Cameron Cameron Highlanders
James Fairly Christie Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
Matthew Conlon Cameron Highlanders
James Downie Highland Light Infantry
Ernest Taylor Franklin Seaforth Highlanders
Thomas Fraser Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
Walter Thomas Gaisford Seaforth Highlanders
William Gray Gordon Highlanders Garvald
David William Hamilton Gordon Highlanders
George Armstrong Henderson Seaforth Highlanders
William Paterson Jack Seaforth Highlanders
Gavin Jack Royal Scots
John Johnston Cameron Highlanders
John Kenny Seaforth Highlanders
Robert Steadman Lyon Black Watch (Royal Highlanders)
Frank Horace MacFie Seaforth Highlanders
Alexander Martin Gordon Highlanders Arniston
Henry McGregor Highland Light Infantry
William McLellan Gordon Highlanders
James Milne Seaforth Highlanders
John Moffat Seaforth Highlanders
William Morrison Gordon Highlanders
Alexander Munro Black Watch (Royal Highlanders)
John Cuthill Naysmith Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
Samuel Neil Cameron Highlanders
James Pender Gordon Highlanders
John Porteous Highland Light Infantry
William Reid Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
George Rogers Seaforth Highlanders
William McBean Sanderson Black Watch (Royal Highlanders)
Thomas Stewart Seaforth Highlanders
David Anderson Taylor Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
John M Thomson Cameron Highlanders
John Beaton Blair Thomson Cameron Highlanders
Thomas Borthwick Thomson Cameron Highlanders
James Walker Seaforth Highlanders
Manus Ward Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
David Wright Black Watch (Royal Highlanders)