The Battle of Loos

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Lance Corporal Bernard Scott Budge served with Company D, 5th Battalion, Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders. The young soldier was wounded by shrapnel during the Battle of Loos. Recuperating at the Ulster Volunteer Force Hospital in Ireland, he wrote to his mother in Scotland recounting his experiences during the battle. Soldiers wrote home to their families often, but because of censors or not wanting to cause their loved ones to worry, they did not always go into detail about their battlefront experience. Budge did not conceal much from his mother, which provides us with valuable insight into this important battle.

Black and white portrait of two young white men in military uniform. The one on the left wears trousers, the one on the right wears a kilt.
Black and white image of two British (Scottish) soldiers. Bernard Scott Budge on right. Learn more in our Online Collections Database.

The Battle of Loos was fought between Sept. 25 – Oct. 13, 1915, and is noteworthy for Great Britain’s first use of gas. Budge described the gas attack:

“From 5 am to 5.12, gas was sent across, the wind being favorable, from 5.12 to 5.20 smoke was sent over (to cover our advance) & then more gas was sent across, of a different kind. I notice that the papers here mention nothing about this gas etc. which we sent over. The gas evidently did its work well, as I found out myself afterwards. The smoke which we sent over was a sort of cover, & some other form of gas was sent over, which did not kill, but which I think, merely temporarily affected the eyes. The smoke & gases going across was a beautifully wonderful sight. It was just like clouds in the sky. lt was right along the line, & was about 50 or 60 feet in height. It was weird.”

He also described the high cost of the battle:

“…the Camerons had a roll call, & only about 200 answered their names out of 1000!! It was terrible. …we had another charge! This one was twenty times worse than the first & was absolute Hell upon earth. I thank God I came thro' [sic] alive. We walked across, supported by the Guards, & were met with a perfect storm of German high explosives. Their gunners must have been well on the look out. Whenever a bunch of men advanced, there would come a whistle in the air, a bang, & the group of men would crumple on the ground just the same as you would crumple a piece of paper in your hand.”

The British forces broke through the German position at Loos, but were pushed back to their starting positions. There were 50,000 British casualties.

Lance Corporal Budge survived the war and immigrated to the United States. He worked for the U.S. War Department during the Second World War.

Scan of a handwritten letter on an Ulster Volunteer Force Hospital letterhead.
Letter written by Bernard Scott Budge on October 6, 1915, to his mother.