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Webmatters : The Battle of Loos, German counter attack, 8th October 1915
Rough Map of Area


German counter attack

8th October 1915

Having been forced to give ground on the 25th September the German forces opposite Haig’s First Army recovered quickly enough to be able to foil British attempts to break their second line on the 26th. Intelligence reports were soon suggesting that the Germans were increasing the number of batteries opposite the British at Loos and French at Vimy.

German efforts to counter attack in strength, however, had been hindered by a constant drain on units trying to hold Vimy Ridge (Which the French had once again taken and lost).

On the morning of the 8th October the French in the Hill 70 sector remarked that holes had been cut through the German wire — a sure sign that an attack was pending. At noon the German guns opened up with a bombardment, along the entire front between Lens and the La Bassée Canal, that lasted until 1600 hours.

At 1600 hours a major assault by the German 7th and 8th Infantry Divisions began against the French either side of the Lens – Béthune Road. This was rebuffed apart from a short stretch of trench being lost near the Double Crassier.

The right of the German attack fell on the British 1st Division, holding the line between Puits 14 bis to the north of Chalk Pit Wood. The 1st Bn Gloucestershire Regiment and 1/9th Bn King’s Regiment on the left halted the Germans coming from Bois Hugo whilst, on the right, the 2nd Bn Royal Munster Fusiliers facing the pit poured rifle fire into the attack emanating from there and drove it back.

Bois Hugo from Puits 14bis

Looking from Puits 14 bis towards Bois Hugo (the aerodrome is post war)

On the northern half of the battlefield an attempt was made by the Germans to recapture the final portions of their old front line still held by the British: Quarry and Big Willie Trenches. Fortunately the Guards Division had been in receipt of nine thousand Mills grenades; the importance of an adequate supply of these weapons in trench fighting having been recognised.

An attempt by the Germans to bomb their way down the communications trenches running into the southern end of Quarry Trench was beaten back by the 2nd Bn Coldstream Guards. The 3rd Bn Grenadier Guards in Big Willie Trench had a much harder time of things when they were assailed from three sides. Those of the garrison who were not killed were forced back down towards Dump Trench where a party from the 3rd Bn Coldstream Guards under Lance Sergeant Oliver Brooks turned the tide and threw the invaders back up the trench. By the end of the action the Grenadiers were back in their former position and Oliver Brooks had been awarded the Victoria Cross.

Although the Germans had made very few gains during the afternoon and evening their attack had forced General Haig to postpone his own attack planned for the following morning (9th October 1915).

The new date was set for the 13th October and by then the Guards Division had been replaced in front of the Hohenzollern Redoubt by the 46th (North Midland) Division.

A French attack on the 11th October went ahead, despite the delay in British preparations, and achieved nothing. Beaten back on all fronts for the loss of a further two thousand casualties they had encountered a German defence that was now more than prepared and in strength.

The problem for Général Ferdinand Foch was that the French trenches were now at the bottom of Vimy Ridge and overlooked by the Germans on the heights. Foch wanted one more effort to dislodge the defenders but he was overruled by his Commander in Chief, Général Joseph Joffre. French heavy artillery units had run out of ammunition (The French having been conducting battles both in Artois and Champagne — where they had made very little progress).

Thus, this attack on the 11th October formed the last infantry engagement of the battle by the French. They would provide a bombardment on the British right on the 13th October but that would be the limit of their involvement.

The British would inherit the French lines just under Vimy Ridge in March 1916.