Amongst the western Allies at this time, France had superior numbers of men and artillery in the field, and the British Expeditionary Force was very much the junior partner. When Commander-in-Chief Joffre proposed the plan, British commander Sir John French had little choice but to comply. Joffre contended that the British attack would “find particularly favourable ground between Loos and La Bassée”. When the Commander of First Army, Sir Douglas Haig, inspected the area, he reported back to Sir John that the ground was quite unsuited to a large attack. Sir John French, under strong pressure from Joffre, ignored Haig’s advice. The attack (“the Big Push”) around Loos, north of the mining town of Lens, went ahead, with the British First Army and the French Tenth Army to their south attacking eastwards against the entrenched German Sixth Army.
The German trench defences consisted of a front line and a second line. British bombardment of the German lines started on 21 September and continued until the ground assault began on 25 September. The Battle of Loos was the first occasion that the British used chlorine gas as a weapon. The Germans had used it earlier in 1915 first against the Russians and then in April and May on the Western Front. However, delivery of the gas depended on wind direction, and on this occasion it probably impacted the British troops as much as the intended targets. At 06:30 on 25 September, British infantry units moved out from their front lines and advanced across no-man’s land. Casualties were severe as the advancing troops came under heavy fire, though in places the British did achieve their first objective of taking the German front trenches. Troops involved on that first day included the 2nd Battalion of the Border Regiment, which as part of 7th Division formed part of I Corps of the British First Army. They were engaged in the attack near Hulluch, to the north-east of Loos.
The early successes could not be capitalized upon. Two divisions of reserve troops, which Haig had requested to be stationed close to the front line for quick deployment, were instead stationed 16 miles behind the front. The reserves were therefore not able to join battle until the afternoon of 25 September and the opportunity to push the attack on had been lost. Strong resistance in the German second line had brought the attack to a halt. The Big Push had broken into the German positions, but not through them.
The British suffered 60,000 casualties in the Battle of Loos including over 2,000 officers. Nearly 8,000 British troops died. The Scottish Divisions (9th and 15th Divisions) suffered particularly heavy casualties. By the end of the year, Sir John French had resigned and Sir Douglas Haig had been appointed Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force.
Acting Corporal Frank CONDRON (service no. 4525) was killed in action on 25 September 1915 in the Battle of Loos, northern France.
Francis John (Frank) CONDRON was born in 1894 in the West Derby registration district of Liverpool. He was the son of Francis Patrick and Mary Ellen (née HAY) CONDRON. In the 1911 census of England and Wales, Frank is living in Salford with his parents and seven younger siblings (four brothers and three sisters): his occupation is given as “cart lad” on the railway. Frank joined the Border Regiment and served in its 2nd Battalion.
Francis Patrick CONDRON and Mary Ellen HAY married in 1893 in the West Derby registration district of Liverpool. Francis’s occupation is given as “furniture porter” in the 1901 census and as “ships boiler scaler” in 1911. The couple had at least nine children: Francis John (born 1894) and Robert (1896) born in Liverpool; Lilian Winifred (1898), Thomas Baden P. (1900, possibly died 1902) and William Daniel (1901) all born in Colwyn Bay; Mary Jane (1903) born in Liverpool; and Michael (1905), Thomas (1907) and Amelia (1910, died 1912) all born in Salford.
Frank CONDRON’s grandfather was Francis CONDRON, who was born in Dublin in about 1842 and died in Salford in 1921. Francis was a color sergeant in the army, as recorded in the censuses for 1871 and 1881. Francis married Ellen BOURKE in Limerick in 1863, and the couple had at least seven children: Anne (born 1864 in Limerick), Amelia Emily (born in about 1866 in the East Indies), John Joseph (born 1869 in Chatham), Francis Patrick (born 1871 in Aldershot), Thomas Michael (boon 1874 in Devonport), Albert Edward (born 1877 in Newport, Monmouthshire) and William Henry (born 1882 in Liverpool).
Frank CONDRON is memorialized on the Loos Memorial, Pas de Calais, northern France.
For other blog posts about CONDR*Ns in the First World War, click on "First World War" in the Labels list on the right of the blog web page. Comments and corrections welcome, either by leaving a comment below or by email to me: CONDRAN[AT]ONE-NAME.ORG