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War Diary, 1/18th London Regiment – September 1915

September 1st – Houchin.
Battalion paraded 915am and practised attack on second line trenches. No work in afternoon. Orders received 4pm for 200 men to proceed to Les Brebis work under orders of RE and Brigade MG Officer. ‘A’ and ‘C’ Coy detailed and marched off 630pm under command of Captain Hobbs.

September 2nd – Houchin.
Battalion parade 9am. Attack practice continued.

September 3rd – Houchin.
CO and Adjutant proceeded at 915am to front line to reconnoitre ground in front. Further 100 men sent off to join part to work under RE.

September 4th – Houchin.
General training.

September 5th – Houchin.
General work.

September 6th – Houchin.
Working party returned from Les Brebis.

September 7th – Houchin.
Attack practice carried out by whole Battalion in lines marked to correspond with German trenches. Brigadier General Thwaites commented very favourably on the way it was carried out.

September 8th – Houchin/Les Brebis.
Battalion proceeded at 930am for inspection – close order drill. Moved to Les Brebis in evening for work in trenches. Worked until 2am and returned to billets at Les Brebis.

September 9th – Les Brebis.
Billets at Les Brebis. Worked in trenches at night.

September 10th – Les Brebis.
Worked at night in trenches.

September 11th – Les Brebis/Noeux les Mines.
Moved by bus route to Noeux les Mines. Arrived 4am. Billets good. Taken over from 20th Battalion. Men rested all day.

September 12th to 17th – Noeux les Mines.
Billets at Noeux les Mines. Drill and training carried on.

September 18th – Noeux les Mines/Les Brebis.
Drill and training carried on. Moved by bus route to Les Brebis at 6pm for working in trenches for work at night. Billets taken over from 19th Battalion.

September 19th – Les Brebis.
Billets at Les Brebis. Men resting all day. Command of Battalion assumed by Major JA Tredennick, Dublin Fusiliers.

September 20th – Les Brebis.
Billets at Les Brebis. Men resting all day.

September 21st – Houchin.
Moved to Houchin by bus route. Arrived 4am. Billets very crowded, not very good.

September 22nd – Houchin/Les Brebis.
Moved in evening to Les Brebis by bus route.

September 23rd – Les Brebis.
Men resting all day.

September 24th – Les Brebis.
The Battalion moved from Les Brebis at 1115am for the trenches W3 to take up a position prior to the attack on the following day. All final instructions were issued during the day.

September 25th.
By 2am, the battalion was assembled in the 2nd line trenches between Saps 6 and 18 vide Brigade Instructions Sheets No 2 and 3. The hour of zero (commencement of the attack) was ordered for 550am. Time for assault 630am. Punctually at 550am, the gas and smoke attack started and was soon answered by a heavy fire from the enemy but owing to extremely wild shooting of the enemy and the splendid trenches the men occupied, practically no casualties were received during the 40 minutes gas and smoke attack but a certain number of men suffered from the effects of gas. The wind was very light and it was raining slightly and the gas and smoke appeared to hang mainly in front of our own trenches and proceeded very slowly towards the enemy’s lines. Many of those in our front line state that it did not appear to go towards the enemy’s front line for a considerable period.
At 630am, the leading platoons cleared our parapet and moved off in quick time towards the enemy’s front line, Although, not more than 300 yards away, it could not be seen owing to the dense cloud of smoke which now enveloped it. In the space of a very few minutes, the first line had reached the enemy’s wire, which were well cut but a heavy rifle and machine gun fire being met with many casualties occurring which included many NCOs and the officers commanding the line, but this in no way checked the survivors who, without a halt, passed quickly over the German trench and pursued on towards their final objective, the 2nd German line. The 1st Line operation was quickly followed by the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Lines as per scheduled times, each line suffering casualties at the German Front Line. As the lines passed over and moved towards their final objective, the enemy’s fire followed them until our 5th line arrived. This line consisting of a company …. dropped 2 platoons and some… onto the German trench and in a very short space of time the trench was clear of the enemy and which had been gained with 140th Brigade on the right and the 15th Division on the left. In the meantime, the front lines were probing onto the German’s 2nd line and this was gained with only very little loss as the enemy lines had been taken completely by surprise and had not occupied the 2nd Line trench west of Loos.
‘A’ Coy were however holding the trenches on the west side of the town but the leading lines of the 20th Bttn on our right and 19th on our left were sweeping through us and very soon the town was in our hands. The remarkable feature of this attack was the manner in which the direction was maintained throughout. The whole of the enemy’s position was enveloped in a dense cloud of smoke but with the single exception of two platoons of ‘A’ Coy who went about 300 yards too far to their right, all the attacking coys arrived within the boundaries of the objective allotted to them. This was due to the carefully prepared instructions issued beforehand and to the fact that a careful reconnaissance of the ground had been made by all officers and NCOs the day previous to the attack. The scheme for this attack: the objectives etc was carefully explained to every man of the attacking force the day before the assault and as all ranks were well acquainted of the position of the Cemetery. The Bttn having occupied their Trenches for a considerable period, every man in the Battalion knew what was required of him. By 655am, the leading Platoons had reached the German Second Lines and Cemetery which was found unoccupied and, by 7am, the Bttn, consisting of 12 officers and about 300 other ranks, had occupied a line from the Lens road on the right at a point G35 C62 to a point 50 yards north of the Cemetery. Consolidation was immediately started and machine guns got into position near the Lens road. By now, every man had constructed a sufficiently serviceable fire step for himself but in many places the trench was much too shallow and the process of deepening it could not be started until well on into the afternoon owing to the shortage of entrenching tools. Supply of tools arrived during the afternoon and, by dusk, the trench was in a serviceable condition. During the first two hours of consolidation, the working parties were practically unmolested by the enemy but after this period any exposure on the part of the working parties drew a heavy rifle and machine gun fire from the enemy occupying Fosse 11.
Casualties – Total casualties for the day – officers killed 4, wounded 5. Other ranks killed 66, wounded 144, missing 27. Practically all our casualties occurred in front of the German front line trench after this was crossed although the attacking lines had about 1,000 yards of open country and more where practically no casualties occurred.
Enemy’s casualties: It is difficult to estimate this accurately. Between 20 and 30 Prussians were captured in the houses by the German 2nd line near the cemetery by this battalion. But a large number of Germans were killed in their own front line by 2 platoons of ‘B’ Company and a section of grenadiers supported by the bttn… The bulk of the prisoners appeared to be in a very demoralised condition though none were suffering from the effect of gas. They appeared to have been taken completely by surprise in Loos as a number of them were found sitting in the cellars when the first troops entered.
Their 2nd Line was unoccupied, which was indeed fortunate…..it was very strong and ….
8pm – as it was quite dark at this hour, a party was sent out from each coy to collect and cut the German wire. This was transferred across the Trench as an obstacle for our front.

September 26th – Loos.
Night passed fairly quietly. Enemy’s light artillery in action during the early part of the night but no damage was done. As much rest as possible was given to the men. Work of consolidating continued during the morning. Between 9am and 11pm, during the temporary evacuation of North West of Hill 70, our left flank became exposed but, as the enemy did not overrun the offensive, this ground was soon reoccupied by our troops. At dusk, rations and water were sent up. Brigade headquarters was established at the Valley Cross Roads, about 200 yards behind our line. At dark, more wire was put in first front line. This was taken from German entanglement,

September 27th – Loos.
Still on occupation and consolidating German Trench west of Loos. Fighting continues to our left front for possession of Hill 70. Loos shelled during the night. In spite of a heavy shrapnel and machine gun fire throughout the day, practically no casualties had been received among the men. The Trench is now very deep and well fire stopped. A certain amount of residual German wire was transferred across to our front during the night. The Guards Division attacked during the afternoon on our left: objectives Chalkpit – Puits 14. Two officers of 22nd Battalion inspected the line this afternoon with a view of taking over.

September 28th – Loos/Les Brebis.
All quiet last night. The usual shrapnel and machine gun fire during the day. Battalion relieved by 22nd Battalion London Regiment. Orders were received early in the day for this battalion to reoccupy W3 on relief but this was cancelled around 730pm and orders to proceed to Billets at Les Brebis substituted. By 9pm, the relief started and all the Battalion was clear of German trench by 945pm. This relief was difficult owing to there only being one Trench and no Communication Trenches. In order to prevent congestion as each man was relied, he was ordered out of the Trench and to fall in with his company in the open behind the trench. The relief was carried out in the open. No casualties occurred. By 1030pm, the whole of this Battalion was assembled in billets at Les Brebis.

September 29th – Les Brebis.
Battalion rested during the day. Brigadier General Thwaites visited the Battalion during the morning.

September 30th – Hesdigneul.
Bttn paraded at Les Brebis Church and marched off at 945am to occupy billets at Hesdigneul arriving 12 noon. As billets could not be allotted till 3pm, the Battalion did not get under cover till 4pm, Owing to the movement of a large number of troops eastwards, transport has to move by a circuitous route and did not arrive till 330pm.