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10th BATTALION, GLOUCESTERSHIRE REGIMENT


In August 1914 the call for volunteers went out across Britain and was immediately answered, by September 500,000 men had enlisted. Fathers and sons, brothers, uncles, friends and work mates flocked to join their local Battalions together. The 10th Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment  was recruited mainly from Cheltenham and Gloucester and the surrounding area. It's H.Q. was established at Lansdown Crescent in Cheltenham. Training would take place usually on Cleeve Hill, just outside the town. 6th May 1915 the Battalion left Cheltenham by train and landed in France, at La Havre, on the 9th August 1915.


Seeing off fathers, sons and brothers at Cheltenham train station, 6th May 1915

They (and the 8th Royal Berkshires) were put into the 1st Brigade of the 1st Division, with 2 Regular Battalions (1st Black Watch and 1st Cameron Highlanders) and 1 Territorial Battalion (pre-war 'part-time' battalion - the 1/14th London Scottish).

17th August the Battalion arrived at Bethune, near the front line. The 10th Glosters and the 8th Berkshires were destined to lead the big attack at Loos, 6 British Divisions would advance along a 6 mile front.

The first officer to fall was accidentally shot in the stomach whilst hunting rats in a gun pit. He was 2nd Lieutenant Eric George, aged 19 years. He died at Chocques the following day, 15th September 1915.

Part of the plan for the attack was the use of poison gas. The artillery barrage was started on the 21st September, 110 heavy guns and 841 field guns poured shells onto the German lines for the next 4 days. The 10th waited for the moment that they had volunteered and trained for. Spirits were high and all were sure of success. The objective of the 10th was the village of Hulluch. 22nd September the 10th left their rest camp to move to the front line. 95 men with mumps were left at Gosnay under Lieut. Carnegy.

On the 24th heavy rain fell, occassionally the German artillery opened up and one shell hit a dug out killing Sergeant Ernest Linden Betteridge.

At 6.30am on the 25th September 1915, Captain Edward Moss blew the whistle that signalled the advance of the 10th Battalion. The German machine gunners were waiting:

"Whole lines crumpled to the ground as machine-guns traversed left and right, here and there leaving a man to advance alone......" (N. Christian - In the Shadow of Lone Tree)

Just before the German wire 2nd Lieut. William Tate was knocked down by a shell explosion, fracturing his thigh. Private Frederick William Smith knelt to help him and was shot, falling dead across the dazed officer. As the few survivors emerged through the gas and smoke they found the German wire largely intact. The men headed for the few gaps in the wire. Lieut. Symons and his few remaining men got into the German front line, he was instantly cut down by a machine-gun, which then "scythed down at close range, the men following, leaving them to hang in the wire's steely embrace." (N.C.)

Private James Groves: "My brother Fred and I were in No.3 Company and we hadn't got far across No Man's Land when a shell dropped amongst my section. When I came around it was late in the afternoon and I made my way forward to find the rest of my battalion. I found them defending some captured trenches. Only 3 of my section were left and the battalion had lost so many men there was only 1 man for every 20 yards of trench. I later heard that poor Fred was dead." (N.C.)

The survivors sheltered in the captured German trenches but were pinned down and helpless. Three Victoria Crosses were won at Loos that day, all posthumously. (Captain Anketell Read, 1st Northamptonshire Regiment. Rifleman George Peachment, 2nd King's Royal Rifle Corps, aged 18 years, and Sergeant Harry Wells, 2nd Royal Sussex Regiment).

With no firm news coming back from the attack more battalions advanced and were cut down, the 2nd Welsh, 1st South Wales Borderers and 2nd Royal Munster Fusiliers. Finally at 3.30pm the German line was taken, but the advance had been so slow and costly that the attack was stalled. Over 150 men of the 10th lay dead in No Man's Land:

10th Battalion War Diary: 25th September 1915: "The Officers fell, as the position of their bodies showed, leading their men, 14 out of 21 were lost. The bodies of our dead indicated how they had died, with faces to the enemy."

Only at Hulluch had the German 2nd line been reached, by the Glosters, Berkshires and Camerons. To the north at La Bassee the 2nd Division was decimated before it had left its own positions, the 7th and 9th Divisions captured the Hohenzollern Redoubt but suffered massive casualties, the 15th Highland Division captured Loos town and carried out 5 suicidal charges at Hill 70. By contrast the 47th Division had captured their objectives with relatively light losses. To the south the French attack at Vimy Ridge had stalled with no advance.

Of the 10th Battalion only 60 men remained.

Lieut-Colonel Pritchard, Officer commanding 10th battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment: "I cannot tell you how great an honour I felt it to have had the fortune to have collected together, brought into one camp, trained into one body, such a battalion of men.... we stood there with only  a small band of our men left, winning the foremost position opposite Hulluch.. But the glorious deeds of our men was at a cost of the practical loss of the greater part of my dearly loved Regiment...... I well remember crossing over the battlefield, seeing our men in rows, dead.... I should never again lead such men...."

Letter from Mrs. Pritchard to Canon Cox, of Cheltenham: "My husband is here at Brighton suffering from shock... What you have heard of the battalion is true, they suffered heavily but fought magnificently. Had a letter from the Adjutant today, the Tenth have made a name for themselves. They have performed magnificently and have added further laurels to the traditions of the Gloucestershire Regiment.... my husband has nothing but praise for them. How I wish I could convey this knowledge to the relatives of the men who have fallen."

The 10th were finally pulled out of the line on the 29th September. Over 450 men did not answer the roll call.

By October 5th the battalion (with the 95 mumps cases recovered) were back in the line near Le Rutoire Farm. On 13th October the 10th were to be part of another attempt to take Hulluch.  The survivors were to relive the horror. At 2pm the assault began and men who lived through Hell once, left their trenches again. By nightfall another 150 men of the battalion were dead or missing. (most were killed).
 

The Battle of Loos was at an end. 50,000 British soldiers were dead, wounded or missing (over 15,000 were killed). The advance had been about 1500 yards. 309 men of the 10th Battalion, Gloucesterhire Regiment were dead.

Note: I have detailed notes from the Battalion War Diary. Email for specific dates.