Webmatters Title
Webmatters : The Battle of Loos, the loss of Fosse 8
Rough Map of Area

Loos

Fosse 8

73rd Brigade

On the 25th September 1915 the 9th (Scottish) Division had advanced forward and taken both the Hohenzollern Redoubt and Fosse 8. Their losses had been considerable and General Haig, on receipt of the reserve, ordered 73rd Brigade (24th Division) to I Corps where Lt General Hubert Gough immediately assigned them to the 9th Division with orders to secure Fosse 8.

It took all night for the Brigade to find its way forward (remembering that this was the first time that these recent civilians had been anywhere near a battlefield). The 9th Bn Royal Sussex Regiment took up position in Fosse Alley, half of 12th Bn Royal Fusiliers were on their left around the pit — the others had got lost en route, and 7th Bn Northamptonshire Regiment formed the left flank.

About 450 metres away to the south, 7th Division held a line around the Hulluch Quarries which was coming under constant fire. About 0100 hours on the 26th September the Germans mounted a determined attack and discovered the gap between the two Divisions. The Quarries were taken so suddenly that Brigadier General Clarence Bruce of the Scots’ 27th Brigade, who was in the signal dugout, was captured.

Realising the threat to their right as 7th Division were forced to pull back their front line the final battalion of the 73rd Brigade — 13th Middlesex — was placed in Slag Alley on the southern side of the Dump.

An attempt was made by Lt Colonel Carter’s Force at 1600 hours on the 26th September to recapture the quarries. It came to nothing and whilst going forward with them Major General Sir Thompson Capper, commanding 7th Division, was mortally wounded. He is buried in Lillers Communal Cemetery.

 

27th September 1915

Despite the failures of XI Corps to capture the Hill 70 Redoubt and advance elsewhere towards the Germans’ Second Line the British front was considered stable. The loss of the Hulluch Quarries did however give cause for concern about the strength of the 73rd Brigade’s position at Fosse 8. The untried soldiers had no experience to tell them what to do or how to organise themselves. Their commander had gone sick with stress and his replacement Brigadier General Rudolph Jelf had been given less than twenty-four hours to master the situation.

Hearing that the situation in Fosse 8 was critical Major General George Thesiger, commanding 9th Division, went forward to assess the situation and was killed by a shell together with two of his staff (Major Edward Le Mottee and Lieutenant Gilbert Burney).

The loss of Fosse 8 by 73rd Brigade

Under cover of darkness between six hundred and a thousand of the Bavarian Staubwasser and 91 RIR crawled out to within attacking distance of Fosse 8. At dawn (about 0500 hours) they launched their assault on the junction of Fosse and Slag Alleys forcing the Northamptons back into the Corons de Pekin and ceding the Dump to the Germans. From there the Germans were soon able to machine gun anything that moved between Fosse 8 and the Hohenzollern Redoubt.

Hoping to rally any retiring soldiers from the 73rd Brigade the 8th Bn Black Watch (9th Division) sent a party forward under Captain Fergus Bowes-Lyon who took up a position on the eastern face of the redoubt. By noon the Germans had been reinforced and began pushing the Fusiliers back along Slag Alley. The retirement continued but the sight of the Scots, steady in their trench, had the desired effect and despite German efforts to bomb their way down both North Face and South Face trenches the Redoubt was — for the moment — secured.

Corporal James Pollock of the 5th Bn Cameron Highlanders was awarded the Victoria Cross for his hour long stand under machine gun fire throwing grenades into the Germans as they advanced along the trench beneath him. He would survive the war and be commissioned.

British bombing parties sent to halt the German progression commented that the German stick grenade was more powerful and could be thrown further than the British egg grenade.

It was during this period of the fighting that Captain Bowes-Lyon was killed. Initially commemorated on the Loos Memorial, overwhelming evidence, produced in 2012, led the CWGC into engraving one of the gravestones at Quarry Cemetery with his name. Like almost all of the others within the cemetery it is marked : Buried near this spot, as the exact location of each grave was lost. Fergus Bowes-Lyon was the elder brother of HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

 

28th Division

With the three available reserve Divisions from XI Corps played out the 28th Division was summonsed from Bailleul to replace the 9th in the line. The plan to have one Brigade moved by train; one by motorised transport and the other on foot disintegrated into all three having to make their way on foot. It would not reach the Hohenzollern Redoubt until 2000 hours.

Attempts by both the 9th Division and elements of the 28th Division to recapture Fosse 8 during the night were beaten off.

2nd Lieutenant Alexander Turner of the 1st Bn Royal Berkshire Regiment was awarded the Victoria Cross for leading a bombing attack against approaching Germans in Slag Alley. Although mortally wounded his action saved the remainder of his battalion. He is buried at Chocques Military Cemetery.