Posted by: sommecourt | 03/10/2010

Loos Remembered

I have just returned from a special battlefield tour with a Leger Battlefields group visiting the battlefields of 1915. It is hard to believe that this week is the 95th anniversary of the Battle of Loos, especially as I have been attending anniversaries in the area since the 75th in 1990! Then there were veterans of the campaign still alive, among them my old Veteran pal, Harry Coates. Harry served at Loos with the London Scottish and was gassed; his undying memory was finding the body of his best mate with his cold eyes staring at him out of the eyepieces of the gas mask. Harry never went back to Loos, but I once stood on the spot where he went over the top and played the tape of him talking about the battle all those years ago. It sad that those sort of days are long gone; the battlefields are lonely at times without the voices of those who were there.

This week, however, we recaptured something of that, for the group I was with included many who had personal connections to the Loos battlefield. Five of the group members had relatives who fought and died at the Hohenzollern Redoubt, that great killing ground of 1915. Even after nearly a century the evidence of battle still abounded: shrapnel balls, bullets, cartridge cases and even a huge piece of shell fragment. Standing there, picking out the corner of a Foreign Field on which their loved ones died or were wounded I realised that even though the voices of the war are silent, these fields mean as much to a new generation as they did before, perhaps more so as we redefine our understanding of the conflict in a world with no witnesses of it. Loos, the first ‘Big Push’ was remembered and small tributes paid: names, often now only in stone, were recalled and their lives brought into sharp focus. Hard to believe that in another five years it really will be a century since those deadly days.


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