239 Lancastrians were killed in 1915 which, in many ways, was the town’s most traumatic year of the War even though 1917 and 1918 saw higher losses. The casualties of 1914 had been relatively light and were concentrated among people who had been servicemen before the start of the war. The first three months of 1915 continued in this vane with “only” 25 deaths, mainly from the 2nd Battalion of the King’s Own Royal Regiment, a regular army battalion.
In the spring everything changed. April and May were the worst two months of the war for the town with 54 and 67 casualties respectively. Most of these killed were at the Second Battle of Ypres, 90 of them with the 1st/5th Battalion of the King’s Own. This was a Territorial Force battalion, the equivalent of the modern Territorial Army, which thus consisted of part-time soldiers many of the men who had volunteered on the outbreak of war. The 1st/5th arrived in France in February and moved to the Ypres area on the 9th April, just in time to find itself in the way of the major German offensive there, which included the first use of poison gas on the Western Front. Just over a month later, on the 11th of May, the history of the battalion records “…the survivors of the Battalion, over 1,000 strong coming out, now slept in a hut and a very small barn.”1 It records that between 9th April and 11th May the battalion lost 7 officers and 113 NCO’s and men killed and 14 officers and 416 wounded. Not all of these were Lancastrians, however Lancastrians were also killed fighting with other units including the King’s Own’s 2nd Battalion and even Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.
After May, the number of casualties dropped significantly, however, September saw more heavy losses. The Battle of Loos was one of the British Army’s first attempts at launching a major offensive. As with many of the offensives that followed, it resulted in heavy casualties with little gain. The opening day of the battle, the 25th September, saw 19 Lancastrians killed making it the equal worst day of the War for the town along with the 8th May 1915. Many of these casualties were from the Seaforth Highlanders.
- Hodgkinson, A. (2005) The King’s Own, 1/5th Battalion, TF, in the European War, 1914-1918 (King’s Own Royal Regiment Museum: Lancaster) p. 21