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Battle of Loos remembered 100 years on

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Battle of Loos remembered 100 years on

by Adam Hill

September 22, 2015, 6:00 am

This week marks the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Loos, remembered for the tragic toll it took of Dundee’s soldiers. In the first of a special series, Adam Hill looks at the city’s Black Watch battalion which went to France.

It was February 1915 and young men from The Black Watch were leaving on a train from Dundee’s Tay Bridge Station.

But the brave men, from across the Tayside region, had little knowledge of what they were about to face.

The Battle of Loos — the largest battle involving British troops that took place in 1915 on the Western Front during the First World War — started on September 25.

Commemorations to mark 100 years since the battle are being held in Dundee and France.

Dundee University historian Dr Derek Patrick has carried out extensive research into the conflict, which claimed the lives of an estimated 7,000 Scots — with about half thought to have been from the Dundee area.

He said: “A lot of guys signed up in Dundee, and by head of population, it had one of the highest numbers of enlistees.

 

“The Black Watch was popular because it carried a mystique — it was well known and stood out because of its traditions.

“The Black Watch had a good reputation amongst Scots especially in Dundee and the surrounding areas.

“It had won a lot of battles and had been around for a long time and that was not lost on the Dundee public.”

When the war started, The Black Watch had a number of Territorial battalions across the region.

There was the 5th Battalion, made up of men from Angus, the 6th — which were from Perthshire — and the 7th, which recruited from Fife.

While all the units fought courageously, the 4th battalion — a reserve infantry unit — will forever be remembered in Dundee’s history.

 

Nicknamed Dundee’s Own, the 4th was almost completely made up of people from the city and surrounding areas.

The 4th Battalion was made up of men from all walks of life, from those who were unemployed right up to the directors and managers of the city’s biggest industries.

It was said there wasn’t a person in the city who didn’t have a family member among its ranks.

Dr Patrick added: “They all worked together and came from the same streets. They were men from Lochee and other areas.

“They were Dundee born and bred, in every sense of the word.

“The 4th Battalion represented Dundee and the Dundee community. It was as close to a pals battalion you got in Scotland.

“It was made up of everyone in the city from lawyers and accountants to those who worked in the ship building yards, right from the workers to the managers. Men from

Lochee through to the Ferry, no matter where in the city, you could count on people from those areas being involved.

“There were fathers, sons, brothers and cousins, all serving together. When they talk about the city that went to war that is what they mean — it is incredible.

“Because of the way things worked out, their bosses at work could well be their leader on the battlefield.”

They were headed by Lt Col Harry Walker, a local businessman with a textile and manufacturing company, whose wealth eclipsed that of the men who served under him.

The 4th Battalion was a cohesive unit with strong bonds and despite the differences in lifestyle, Lt Col Walker is said to have cared deeply about his men and, in turn, they were loyal and respected his position.

 

The men, who departed for the front line on February 23 1915 were cheered on by supporters.

Among them was Robert Steven, of Barnhill, whose two sons Sydney and Harvey had enlisted together.

Dr Patrick added: “The 4th left Dudhope Castle, where they had stayed the night, and walked to the train station.

“They embarked in the three groups throughout the day.

“Dundee had really taken to them, they had pipe bands leading them and the route was swamped with people. The whole way down, the streets were packed with people and all the windows of the houses were full with cheering onlookers.”

The opening line of that day’s Evening Telegraph cried “Off at last!”

But little did the 4th Battalion know the hardships they would soon face.

 

Media contributions

TitleBattle of Loos remembered 100 years on
Degree of recognitionRegional
Media name/outletEvening Telegraph
Media typePrint
CountryUnited Kingdom
Date22/09/15
URLhttps://www.eveningtelegraph.co.uk/2015/09/22/battle-of-loos-remembered-100-years-on/
PersonsDerek John Patrick

ID: 257290040

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