HERITAGE: Germans and allies face to face in battle

British regiments capture a German trench during the Battle of Loos
British regiments capture a German trench during the Battle of Loos

In our latest extract from the First World War memoirs of Walter Young, he describes the allied defence of a slagheap during the 1915 Battle of Loos.

The slagheap – one of two – was being guarded to prevent the Germans using it to launch a sneak attack on nearby allied trenches.

Battle of Loos PNL-140509-150454001

Battle of Loos PNL-140509-150454001

‘They may have been about 12 yards from us when we first saw them. Now we had the advantage for we were still and could not be seen in the blackness until almost stumbled on. They were moving and for that reason we could make them out.

‘The man leading was on the second slope climbing slant-ways and upwards as though he was making to go over the top of the second slope and down into his own lines. No-one had spoken a word since we first saw them but all of us had the muzzles of our rifles pointing at them.

‘All this took place in a matter of seconds.

‘The leading man once when just a few yards away stopped and crouched down and looked round quickly as though he had seen or heard something.

‘How he missed seeing all of us I don’t know, but we were all lying motionless.

‘Getting up again he continued his way with those quick short steps of his and came straight up to where Fay and others were, almost touching the end of Fay’s rifle before he realised it.

‘He uttered an exclamation and raised something he carried in his hand, most likely a revolver, but on the instant Fay fired and he gave a cry and rolled over down the slope.

‘Then ensued an exciting few minutes.

‘We all opened fire and the Germans, whom we could not now see, returned it. I remember firing into the darkness.

‘Bullets whizzed by our heads and it was decidedly unhealthy. Then it quietened down. The Germans had obviously made off, but we withdrew from the second slagheap and made our position on the top of the first.

‘This was wise I think for if a strong hostile party had come down the path between and forced a way through, those on the second slagheap would have been completely cut off.

‘None too soon we moved, for several grenades exploded in the position we had just left.

‘It was still quite early in the evening and we spent the whole of that night till about 5.30am on top of that slagheap.’

> More extracts from the Wal’s War memoirs will be published at a later date.