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Between May and September up to fifteen divisions of Kitchener's New Army landed in France and Belgium. The Battle of Loos in September and October was the British Army's contribution to the major Allied offensive launched simultaneously with the main French offensive in.
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The ground was flat and open, easily swept by machine gun fire, the many pit heads and spoil heaps providing defensive positions which were heavily fortified by the Germans. Many British army battalions were formed of inexperienced wartime volunteers and their supporting artillery was short of heavy guns and shells. To compensate, the British would use poison gas for the first time. British troops advance into the smoke cloud, Loos, 25 September IWM HU b.
On the morning of 25 September , after a four-day artillery bombardment, six divisions attacked through clouds of smoke and gas. In the south, the gas had been more successful and the 47th London Division reached the distinctive spoil heaps known as the Double Crassier, while the 15th Scottish Division swept through the village of Loos and on the stronghold of Hill By nightfall, reserves were urgently needed to exploit the gains.
But by the time the 21st and 24th Divisions saw action the following day they were already exhausted by a long march and German reinforcements were counter-attacking. Despite hard fighting, the British reserves suffered heavy casualties and were driven back until the arrival of the Guards Division stabilised the position.
Fosse 8 and the Hohenzollern Redoubt were lost during the following days and an attempt to regain them on 13 October by the 46th North Midland , 12th Eastern and 1st Division ended in failure. Column of wounded British soldiers return from fighting at the Hohenzollern Redoubt, 13 October IWM Q The Battle of Loos was part of the final attempt by Franco-British forces to push the German Army out of France before the onset of winter in Casualties on 25 September were the worst yet suffered in a single day by the British army, including some 8, dead.
In total, the battle resulted in casualties of more than 50,, of whom some 16, lost their lives. In its case, the heavy losses of this volunteer battalion were felt by families not only in Angus but in parts of Fife, Perthshire, Aberdeenshire, Stirlingshire, Lanarkshire and Ayrshire.
The experiences of soldiers from other Scottish units are reflected in documents held in National Records of Scotland. During the Battle of Loos Private Robert Dunsire earned the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry, for 'most conspicuous bravery on Hill 70' on 26 September, when he twice braved heavy enemy fire to rescue wounded comrades of the 13th Battalion The Royal Scots.
Robert also became a miner, and on 22 July married Kate Pitt.
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They set up home at Denbeath, Methil, but did not have children. Dunsire enlisted on 6 January , and was posted to France with his battalion on 9 July, days after making his will. The award of the Victoria Cross was announced in the 'London Gazette' in November , but the gallant recipient was killed in action two months later, on 30 January , aged 24, and was buried at Mazingarbe. His body lies with those of 78 comrades of the battalion, and over men from other regiments, all killed on 25 September.
They were buried in an extension to the village churchyard at Cambrin, close to the northern part of the front line at Loos. William moved with his family to Dundee and later to Govan, where he worked as a butcher, as did his son George after he left school. In a partly light-hearted letter to his sister on 18 September Lawson told her of his promotion to sergeant: 'I have taken on again'.
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As their mother had experienced 'trouble' in getting his effects, George wanted her to know that in his own will he was leaving everything to her. He reckoned he had 'a sporting chance' of surviving 'this rumpus'. One week later he was killed in action.
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He had witnessed Lawson's burial, but no identity disc or pay book was found with his body, nor the jacket in which he would have kept his pay book. Galbraith was also able to corroborate the terms of his will, because Lawson had shown it to him. Although George wrote his name as Lawson, his surname appears as Lowson in several records, and he wrote to his sister as Miss Lizze Lowson.