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Remembered Today:

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24th March

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gmac101

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George Frier of the 1/7th  Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders died at the 3rd Canadian Stationary Hospital from wounds received during the German attacks.  The3rd  Canadian Stationary Hospital was located in Doullens  which lay between Arras and Amiens.  As well as hosting the Hospital it was also the French HQ for part of the war.  The 1/7th A&SH were stationed on the front line  55km east between the  villages of Boursies and Demicourt when the Germans attacked. George was unlikely to have been injured in the initial attacks as the ferocity of the artillery bombardment made it impossible for the wounded to be evacuated from the advanced dressing stations and they along with the doctors and orderlies who tended to them were captured or  killed on the 21st.  After repeated German, artillery gas and flame thrower attacks the A & SH fell back to a line between the villages of Beaumetz lez Cambrai and Hermies  about 2 miles behind the front line overnight on the 21st and it is likely he was wounded here  by artillery or rifle fire .  Whilst shelling made evacuation difficult all the wounded were evacuated from this line.  See also Gordon Tait  who was serving in the same division who was killed fighting nearby at the same time.  He would have been taken by horse drawn or motor ambulance to one of the  three 51st (Highland) Divisions Casualty Clearing stations.  These were large “district” hospitals based in huts or tents near railway lines where wounded or sick men could be treated or moved “down the line” to the stationary or general hospitals which were based in permanent buildings.  All the 51st Division CCS were by railways so he would have been taken by a special hospital train to Doullens where unfortunately he died.

John Bell Aged 24 a Lance Corporal with the 11th Royal Scots had been in action since the 21st of March.  His unit was part of the 27th Brigade in the 9th (Scottish) Division and they had been trying to hold back the Germans just to the south of  where Frank Gibson (who died on  the 23rd) began the battle.  By the 24th they had retreated from Huedecourt where they started the battle,  to Nurlu, then fighting a rear-guard action on the 23rd ending up in a position just to the East of St Pierre Vaast wood where they spent the night.  The Brigade messages to the divisional HQ ask for rations and ammunition which they were short of this must of made resistance difficult .  They retreated throughout the 24th whilst engaged with the Germans and this no doubt why John Bells body was never recovered.  He was hit at some point during the retreat to the village of Combles and died immediately or before any aid could reach him.  His parents lived on the Dalry Road in Edinburgh but he had been born in Galashiels

Robert Barron.  A mile or so to the South of where John Bell spent the night of the 23rd/24th is the Bois Marrieres  and here just to the East of the small village of Bouchavesnes  the South African Brigade who like the 11th Royal Scots had been in action for 3 days made a stand.  The brigade received an order on the 23rd that their line must be held at all costs,  the commander Brigadier General Dawson followed these orders to the letter.  500 South Africans were in rudimentary  trenches and shell holes as the morning mist cleared at about 9 am and the Germans attacked with rifle and artillery fire.  The shells landing amongst the South Africans threw up so much debris that they had to stop firing to clean their rifles regularly  but despite the many German attacks they held out until 4pm when their ammunition was exhausted the 100 still alive and unwounded surrendered.  Robert Barron born in Galashiels some 42 years before lay amongst the dead and his body was never identified.  His parents who still lived in Galashiels at 46 Meigle street arranged for his name to be included on the Galashiels War Memorial.

George Lowrie.  According to the CWGC George died on the 24th of March but I think this may be an error.  Unlike many of other men whose bodies were lost during the German attacks George has a known grave: Plot III. G. 5.in the Peronne Communal Cemetery Extension on the East side of the river Somme but on the 24th Georges unit, the 4/5th Battalion The Royal Highlanders – better known as the Black Watch was on the West Bank having crossed during the night of the 23rd.  After the war the army organised a huge search that involved several thousand men and lasted into the 1920’s  of the battlefields to locate as many  missing bodies as possible.  These bodies, identified wherever possible were then moved to official cemeteries,  a process known as concentration.  George’s body was “concentrated” in 1919 and the records show that his original grave was marked with cross with the date of 23rd of March 1918 and his name and he was buried in Mont St Quentin then a small village just outside Peronne, now it’s a suburb of the town.  It was in Mont St Quentin that the 4/5th Black watch fought a rear guard action against the Germans on the 23rd and George was probably killed in this.  His comrades were then able to bury him and prepare a cross.  This grave then survived the war until identified by the post war grave registration units.  George lived in Edinburgh with his parents prior to the war in Balcarres Street but he was born in Galashiels.  His parents were proud of their border heritage and arranged to have “Born at Galashiels” carved on his grave.

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