Nothing, before or since, has been such a hammer blow to Dundee as the Battle of Loos.
As the country looks back on the silencing of the guns in 1918, we look back at that catastrophic engagement which defines the city’s suffering.
The Battle of Loos started on September 25 1915, the biggest land battle involving British forces at the time. The German line was assaulted by 60,000 British and Commonwealth troops and half were from Scottish units.
There were veteran soldiers of the famous Highland Regiments and the fresh young volunteers from the 4th “Dundee’s Own” and 9th Battalions of The Black Watch.
Just to the right of 9th Black Watch were the 69th Punjabis, who suffered greatly too.
Loos is half an hour south-east of Dunkirk and the attack, which involved French troops, started with a tremendous barrage from the Allied artillery, the detonation of a huge mine beneath the German defenders and the release of poisonous gas.
Such an assault would have stunned anyone a few years previously. But the Germans became old hands in short order and they were ready for them.
In The 9th Black Watch, three of the four company commanders, all four company sergeant-majors and more than 100 men were killed before they’d gone 200 yards.
The 4th Battalion stormed forward in a determined fashion and managed to seize a number of German trenches, killing or capturing the occupants.
But their swift advance had unexpected consequences – German snipers left behind emerged from cover and started picking-off the officers.
They endeavoured to hold their ground but as time went on and ammunition ran short, they risked being surrounded by steadily advancing Germans and, those who could, fell back.
The 4th had started the day with 21 officers and 450 men.
By the next morning, one officer and 210 men were fit for duty. Everyone else was wounded or dead.
Down at the 9th it was even worse. They’d started the day with 940 men – they finished it with 90.
The first reports to reach Dundee tried to be positive: it had been a successful battle, the 4th Battalion had shown much courage and taken much ground.
That’s what the local papers had to go on.
But as the days went by there was a grim realisation that the losses had been appalling.
If there is one thing upon which historians agree, it’s that there was no home in Dundee left untouched by the losses at that awful battle.
The 4th Battalion was never the same again and neither was the city.
This wasn’t a unit drawn from across the country and forged during training. This was the local Territorial battalion.
The lads knew each other, had grown up with each other, there were dads and brothers serving alongside.
The sergeants and officers, too, weren’t a different class and from a different county, they were the gaffers at work and the boss at the office.
They went to France together, shared the same wretched trenches and regardless of rank or wealth, they walked into the fire together and fought like tigers.
The British and Commonwealth losses were 48,367 during that battle.
Of these, 20,000 were never identified and still lie out there somewhere.