“The Piper of Loos”

Extract from “Piper of Loos” by I.F.Derry

However, probably the most famous piper to receive the Victoria Cross is Daniel Laidlaw, “The Piper of Loos”. The first day of engagement, the 25th September 1915, was a disorganised mess: the wrong gas cylinder keys had been sent, and what gas could be released before the British infantry attacked blew into their own faces on the changeable light south-westerly wind, exacerbated by the downdraft produced by heavy german shelling. Poorly designed gas masks were discarded as a hindrance and men were overcome by the Red Star chlorine smog gathering in the trench bottoms, exactly where the men were cowering for cover. Seeing the distress and destroyed morale, the CO implored, “For God’s sake, Laidlaw, pipe them together!” Laidlaw recounted:
“On Saturday morning we got orders to raid the German trenches. At 6.30 the bugles sounded the advance and I got over the parapet with Lieutenant Young. I at once got the pipes going and the laddies gave a cheer as they started off for the enemy’s lines. As soon as they showed themselves over the trench top they began to fall fast, but they never wavered, but dashed straight on as I played the old air they all knew ‘Blue Bonnets over the Border’. I ran forward with them piping for all I knew, and just as we were getting near the German lines I was wounded by shrapnel in the left ankle and leg. I was too excited to feel the pain just then, but scrambled along as best I could. I changed my tune to ‘The Standard on the Braes o’Mar’, a grand tune for charging on. I kept on piping and piping and hobbling after the laddies until I could go no farther, and then seeing that the boys had won the position I began to get back as best I could to our own trenches.”

The shell that wounded Laidlaw had exploded only a few yards distance from him, sending up a section of barbed-wire entanglements previously cleared by his charging comrades. The wire cut off the heel of his boot and a strand lodged in his foot. The same shell blast killed Lieutenant Young.
Laidlaw was now hindered from following his troops, but continued until forced, from loss of blood, to kneel and then become prostrate, never ceasing his piping all the while. “You see,” he said later, “I was only doing my duty.”

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