Evening Express (City Final) - - Front Page - BY LAURA FER­GU­SON

THE Bat­tle of Loos marked a ma­jor turn­ing point in the war – and saw Scot­tish bat­tal­ions suf­fer some of their most dev­as­tat­ing losses. The cam­paign was the largest at­tack from the British mil­i­tary that year and marked the first time they used chlo­rine gas as a weapon – some­thing that would be wide­spread for the re­main­der of the war. The en­tirety of the Gor­don High­landers bat­tal­ions in France took part in the 13-day of­fen­sive from Septem­ber 25 to Oc­to­ber 8. This in­cluded an or­der given to the 1/4th Bat­tal­ion to take part in a di­ver­sion­ary at­tack where they were guar­an­teed to suf­fer heavy losses. Ruth Dun­can, cu­ra­tor at the Gor­don High­landers Mu­seum, said: “The big ac­tion was at Loos in Septem­ber. “Pretty well all the Gor­dons bat­tal­ions were in­volved over the fight­ing. “1/4th Bat­tal­ions took part in a di­ver­sion­ary at­tack where they were es­sen­tially told go­ing into it that they were the sac­ri­fi­cial el­e­ment. “They were told that they were go­ing to be a di­ver­sion and that was just how it would be. It was pretty grim. “That may have in­cluded the Univer­sity Com­pany – which was a com­pany of OTC of­fi­cers from Aberdeen Univer­sity who all joined up to­gether. They were known as U-com­pany. “There was pretty close to none of them left by the end of the ac­tion. “Loos was very hard-fought fight­ing. “There were tens of thou­sands of ca­su­al­ties and there was a re­ally heavy Scot­tish in­volve­ment. “About one in three of the fallen were Scot­tish, such was the con­cen­tra­tion of High­land sol­diers at that time on that bat­tle­field.” The first use of chem­i­cal weapons on the West­ern Front oc­curred ear­lier in April 1915, at the Sec­ond Bat­tle of Ypres by the Ger­man mil­i­tary. The Bat­tle of Loos marked the first time Bri­tain used poi­sonous gas as a weapon, with hor­ri­fy­ing con­se­quences. Ruth said: “There were nearly 6,000 gas can­is­ters un­leashed be­fore the in­fantry at­tacked, but un­for­tu­nately, the wind changed di­rec­tion and blew back on a lot of them. “That was the first time it was used by the British Army and in suc­ces­sive bat­tles through­out the next few years, it would con­tinue to be used.” The im­pact of chem­i­cal weapons could be seen on both the health of sol­diers and their morale. Ruth said: “Chem­i­cal war­fare was cer­tainly dif­fer­ent and could kill or wound peo­ple so badly that they would be taken out from the war or would strug­gle to re­cover. “A weapon on that scale would cer­tainly have the po­ten­tial to make an im­pact on both sides of the fight­ing. “These weapons were in their in­fancy and be­ing used for the first time, so there were el­e­ments where things didn’t go right. “The dif­fer­ent types had dif­fer­ent ef­fects on peo­ple and could add to mis­ery at a very ba­sic level – sit­ting in these hoods wait­ing for the gas to clear was the ab­so­lute min­i­mum suf­fer­ing you could go through. “Chlo­rine gas would cause your lungs to fill up, mus­tard gas would cause ter­ri­ble blis­ter­ing – which for High­land sol­diers was par­tic­u­larly bad be­cause they wore kilts so their legs and knees would be ex­posed. “It re­ally had the po­ten­tial to im­pact peo­ple’s morale as well as their phys­i­cal well­be­ing from a small-scale level through to re­ally ma­jor and up­set­ting wounds or com­pli­ca­tions they would have to live with for the rest of their lives.”

An il­lus­tra­tion of the Gor­dons at Loos

A Gor­don High­lander wear­ing a gas mask

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