Battle of Loos
Catalogue reference: WO 158/262 (15 Oct 1915)

(Handwritten at top) Original sent to WO OB/893. 9.11.15  
21st Division.
To: 2nd Corps  

1.            With reference to your G.71 of the 13th inst. forwarding G.H.Q.O.B.893 of the 13th inst, I enclose a detailed report of the Operations of the 21st Division during the fighting, 25th - 27th September 1915. The report on the Operations of the 63rd and 64th Infantry Brigades has been compiled by me from reports submitted by Brigades, and from the personal observation of my Staff Officers and myself. The report on the Operations of the 62nd Infantry Brigade (which was not under my orders during fighting) has been compiled by G.O.C. 62nd Infantry Brigade.

2. Causes of retirement.

I consider that the circumstances which led to the first retirement of the 63rd and 64th Infantry Brigades were
(a) The effect of fire, and especially of Artillery fire, on men meeting it absolutely for the first time.
(b) The exhausted state of the men due to the march of the night 24/25th, and the day of the 25th, followed by the night advance across unknown ground and, in the case of most of the battalions, across the trench networks of both sides.
The above two cases should, I think be considered together, since they are bound to react on one another.
(c) The loss of the Brigadier 63rd Infantry Brigade at a critical juncture, of
two Battalion Commanders, and of a very large proportion of officers (handwritten) of that Brigade.
(d) The fact that the attack on Hill 70 commenced at a different hour to the attack further north; want of success in the former operation involved the 63rd Infantry Brigade who were to have taken part in the latter.
(e) The effect alleged to be produced by the fire of our own Artillery.
(f) The casualties in the ranks, which naturally affect the morale of the troops, were heavy and were chiefly incurred before the final retirement commenced. Most of the severely wounded cases had to be left on the ground and are therefore returned as missing. From a review of this fact, and of the number of wounded men known to have been passed through the Field ambulances, together with a knowledge of the average proportion of wounded to killed, it appears unlikely that the number of surrenders was great.
(g) I consider, however, that, in the case of the 12 W.York. R. and a part of the 10 York. and Lanc. R., when full allowance has been made for all the above circumstances, the men of those units did not behave with credit. The West Yorks had, it is true, their left flank exposed and had lost their Commanding Officer, but they appear to have retreated without sufficient cause, and their retirement greatly affected the remainder.

3)           In subsequent retirements, the same causes operated to an increased extent, and the want of water undoubtedly began to be severely felt.

4) Confusion attending retirements.
          The confusion attending these retirements was chiefly due to the loss of
Officers and the admixture of units. This intermingling was enhanced by
each successive advance and retirement.

5) Loss of Equipment.
          Loss of equipment was due, in the case of one battalion, to orders having been given to take off packs previous to advancing to the attack; in the case of many men, equipment was left in the trenches which the men occupied and were working at, and in some cases dug completely, during the early morning of the 26th Sept. up to the time of the German attack. Many packs were left, however, without excuse in the trenches occupied on the night September 26/27th, during which night the Division was relieved by the Guards.

6)           Over 300 men of the three Infantry Brigades returned without rifles. Each of these cases has been separately investigated. A considerable number proved to be due to circumstances beyond the man's control; but I regret to say that a considerable number of men abandoned their rifles without excuse, under circumstances which tend to show that these men were demoralised.

7) Adequacy of arrangements regarding food.
              A separate report on this point is attached (marked F).
          From this report it appears clear that there was, or should have been, no
difficulty regarding food. Only such men as had lost, or previously eaten, their iron rations, could have gone hungry.
          Undoubtedly, during the latter part of the 26th September, there was considerable suffering on account of want of water, but the tactical situation made it impossible for water carts to get to the troops.

G Forester Walker
October 15th 1915.
Commanding 21st Division.

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