Voices from 1915

In September 1915 British forces on the Western Front launched a major attack at La Bassée-Loos, seeking to break through the German lines.

In commemoration of the centenary of this bloody offensive, this site will describe the battle as it happened, using the words of the men who were there.

From the 24th to the 28th of September 2015, there will be daily posts of accounts from soldiers present at the battle.

Through these accounts we hope to prompt our users to consider what life was really like for those who lived, fought, and died in the trenches.

Above all else, this site encourages you to make your own interpretations. Please comment, discuss, and debate as you see fit.

Select a set of accounts from the toolbar at the top, or explore the rest of the site with the directory on the right.

Please take a few minutes to also answer the questionnaire available.

N.B.: As accounts of the First World War, the sources selected may discuss issues of physical and psychological trauma.

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7 thoughts on “Voices from 1915

  1. Derek Stark

    I think the Battle of Loos in 1915 was where John the 18 year old son of Rudyard Kipling was killed. He was only there because his father had contacts. John had originally been rejected for Military service on medical grounds. Thinking about the emotional aspect , how could his father have lived with this ?

    There must have been many more examples of family and friends pressure sending the young to war in 1915. I wonder how many of these died in the Loos Offensive and what their parents thought when the knock on the front door came.

    The family stresses of all service men is a subject that could benefit from more exposure.

    Many very young men proudly joined up ( some as young as 14 who lied about there age )
    The Authorities turned a blind eye to this reality.
    The boy soldiers expected to return home as heroes within a few weeks or months.

    Within weeks of enlistment the young men (children ) faced unimaginable horrors. Painful death was an everyday reality.
    The families at home received the dreaded knock on the front door. Would their lives ever have returned to normal ?

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    1. jhmurphy1

      That’s interesting, I was unaware that it was the battle where John Kipling died. Truly, it’s difficult to imagine what his father went through knowing that he had ensured his commission into active service.

      Their age must have definitely compounded the grief for a lot of families. I know that the youngest British soldier at Loos was just shy of his 15th birthday, although thankfully he survived the war.

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  2. Derek Stark

    We did learn lessons from the WW1 battles … especially how the civilised world now views chemical weapons.
    At the time I believe little was known of the properties of the Poison gas type used at Loos and other battlefields.

    It transpired that as the gas was being heavier than air, sheltering in the trenches was the worst mistake possible. Under attack those that climbed out of the trenches stood a chance of survival. Those that stayed in what they thought was shelter died a slow and painful death over many days and weeks … if not longer.

    The most famous ( notorious ) moustache in history did not start out in its well known form.

    Adolf Hilter was 25 when WW1 started and he was very proud of his handlebar version.
    After his first encounter with gas he clipped it to the ugly thing he sprouted right to the end of his last day in the Berlin bunker.

    I have emailed a picture of Hitler’s original moustache to Michael Murphy in case you if would like to include a photograph with my comment in your project.

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  3. Derek Stark

    My third comment relates back to my first. i.e. WW1 and Family Life

    A brilliant and moving book by Mary Gibson covers the period of life in London from 1911 and onwards into WW!.
    This book conveyed more to me about life in those distant days than all the history books and TV programmes had ever done.

    It is called ‘ Custard Tarts and Broken Hearts ‘ … a strange title which will mean something when you read it.
    The book is based on real events. Mary’s Grandmother worked in a Custard Factory.

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  4. Derek Stark

    My final comment today relates to who was to blame for the failed Loos offensive.

    Was there ever an enquiry ? There certainly would be today if a battle brought about 60,000 casualties.

    If an Enquiry or even a Court Marshall took place today would Lord Kitchener be found negligent …. He believed that Russia could not stop the Germans in the East and hence wanted a Western Offensive…. or were other politicians and senior officers closer to the true situation re the lack of munitions and preparedness and inexperience of our troops really to blame ?

    By the way I think Prince Charles is leading a Battle of Loos Memorial Service in Dundee to mark the centenary this weekend … over 7000 Scots died in the battle. Sorry if you already knew this but just in case you didn’t we may all learn something from the Media coverage

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  5. James Pennock

    Charles Hamilton Sorley died on 13 October 2015 at Loos. A gifted young poet, he had been at university in Germany at the outbreak of the Great War. Robert Graves comments on his death in Goodbye To All That – given works like ‘Song of the Ungirt Runners’ it was clear that British literature lost a real treasure.

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