One of the most horrific slaughters of infantry- Battle of the Hohenzollern Redoubt

One of the most horrific slaughters of infantry- Battle of the Hohenzollern Redoubt

Photo story:  Men in Uniform paying homage at the memorial to the casualties of the 46th North Midland Division at the Hohenzollern Redoubt on 13th October 1915 (Bottom Left photo). Loos Memorial at Dud Corner Cemetery, Pas-de-Calais, France (Top).

Near the village Auchy Les Mines in France is a solitary memorial to the fallen soldiers of the British 46th North Midland Division who became casualties here to a German counter-attack to recapture the Hohenzollern Redoubt from the British on 13th October 1915. The memorial pays tribute to a valiant British effort on the western front in WWI.  It’s a forgotten chapter of Britain’s and also Burton’s history.

In February 1915, the 46th North Midland Division commanded by Major General Hon. E.J. Montagu-Stuart-Wortley was sent to France.  On October 13th, 1915 afternoon, the division attacked the German stronghold after a cloud gas release. This final attack was not successful and resulted in 3,763 casualties. British offensive on the western front is known as the Battle of Loos and the battle to capture the Hohenzollern Redoubt was the disastrous final chapter of it.

The sign for the memorial in the isolated corner of France is the only remnant of the battlefield now. The redoubt is only an arc of land with overgrown shrubs today. The ground is slightly raised so clear view of the flat fields west of the village is possible from here. This is the reason why the German army built trenches, dugouts and gun posts here.

After the first two waves of attacks from the North Midland division’s 138th brigade, Lincoln and Leicester, the objective of the 6th North Staffordshire battalion was to provide the third wave of attack. They were to attack the portion of the redoubt called Big Willy which was connected with the main German front line. After taking over Big Willy, Sixth North Staffords were supposed to push into Auchy to take over Fosse Eight buildings and Corons, the fortified cottages there. The division hoped to eliminate the German defense with artillery, gas and smoke attacks followed by the infantry assault.

But the ineffective bombardment of gas canisters, some of which were misdirected towards the British trenches soaking own soldiers in concentrated chlorine, high wind, bright sunlight and shortage of artillery ammunition resulted in a faltered attack. The German machine guns wiped off most of the advancing troops who were pushed into the fray as few British men made it to the German wire.  Sixth North Staffords had lost most of its 17 officers and 298 soldiers within minutes.

Sixth North Staffords had two companies- A and B; both had their drill halls in Burton High Street. A company’s Private first class Holden mentioned the attack as ‘the most awful sight’ that he had ever seen. He also said that hundreds were wiped out before they could reach the German barbed wire. WWI war officer of the Royal Engineers and British official historian Brigadier General James Edward Edmonds wrote that the fighting (from 13-14 October, 1915) had not improved the general situation in any way. He also said that it ‘had brought nothing but useless slaughter of infantry’.

Some of the fallen soldiers were placed in makeshift graves, later moved to the St. Mary’s A.D.S. Cemetery at Haisnes, Pas-de-Calais. There were many buried in graves without any markings. On the Loos Memorial at the Dud Corner Cemetery, Pas-de-Calais their names are inscribed. October 13th, 2013 proved to be the costliest days for Burton. But in Britain, Battle of Loos and Hohenzollern Redoubt have been almost totally blotted out. It is overshadowed by the 57,470 casualties the Fourth Army suffered on the first day on the Somme, costliest day in Britain’s history. Near the redoubt, Quarry Cemetery contains 130 graves of Commonwealth soldiers. The soldiers who are buried in the cemetery without exact grave location, got a memorial, on it following words are engraved, ‘Their Glory Shall Not Be Blotted Out’. Very appropriate epitaph indeed.


The reports

Mohammad Rafi Saad

Mohammad Rafi Saad is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE