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The Black Watch ~ poignant tales / battles


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Hi Chaps & Chapettes,

The Black Watch ~ poignant tales / battles

I am after some pointers, it's always best to field request amongst forum members as I know that there will be Pals with an interest in the regiment, which may inspire me!

Many thanks in advance


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Hi Soren

BUZANCY 4/5th Black Watch(15th Division)

July 1918 Marshal Foch asked for four divisions to help throw German attack back in Rheims area.

"Objective of the operation was the village of Buzancy and high ground east of it.

Two companies of the 8th Battalion Seaforths were to attack Buzancy,clear the village and link up with the French troops on the right.

Zero hour 12.30p.m.on the 28th.

B company of the 4/5th meet with some resistance from strong points in the north- east corner of village.About an hour after this ,as the French troops on the right had not succeeded in getting forwsrd,and as in,in consequence the right flank of the Seaforths was exposed,Captain Murray of that regiment ordered B company of the 4/5 B/W to establish posts on the right flank to protect it from being turned.

At about 4p.m. two heavy German counter-attacks were launched,with the result that what was left of the Seaforths andThe Black Watch were obliged to withdraw through Buzancy to their original line.

It was a heart-breaking failure,but no blame whatever could be attached to the Scottish troops.They took and held Buzancy and the high ground to the east of it and only withdrew fighting when it became obvious that the troops on the right had not carried out their attacks,and had they not withdrawn all would have been either killed or captured during the fierce enemy counter-attacks.

Letter from the General Officer Commanding the 17th( French ) Division to the General Officer Commanding the 15th(Scottish)Division.

" Mon General,-After relieving your Division in the pursuit on the Vesle,I established my Headquarters at Buzancy.I found there the traces still fresh of the exploits of your Scottish soldiers,and the officers of my staff were able to see clearly what hard fighting you had to gain possession of the village,and above all the park.

Wishing to leave on the spot some lasting tribute to the bravery of your soldiers,I entrusted to one of my officers,Lieutenant Rene Puaux ,the task of erecting there,with the material at hand,a small monument,emblematic of the homage and admiration of my Division for yours.This monument has on it a medallion.on which are inscribed thitles and roses,and beneath the words: HERE THE NOBLE THISTLE OF SCOTLAND WILL FLOURISH FOR EVER AMONG THE ROSES OF FRANCE. And beneath that 17th French Division to 15th Scottish Division.

This monument was erected on the highest point of the plateau,where we found the body of the Scottish soldier who had advanced the fartest(on july 28th,1918 Buzancy)"

(History of The Black Watch)

This Scottish soldier was a man of the 4/5th Black watch

And in our Family that soldier was Pte J.Gibb 200503.K.I.A.28/07/18.

Sorry it`s not one of the big Battles but it`s our poignant family story.

All the best Gary.

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Hi Soren,

What about the following? One of several gallant episodes from Nonne Bosschen, 11 November 1914.

There's a good account of the action in Wauchope's History if you'd like a copy?

All the best,


2nd Lieut. Neil McNEILL, A Company, 1st Royal Highlanders

Born Yokohama, Japan, 18 April 1894. Disembarked, 24 September 1914.

Killed in action, France and Flanders, 11 November 1914, aged 20. Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium, Panel 37.

Son of Duncan and Emilie Margaret McNeill, 24 Yuen Ming Yuen Road, Shanghai, China.

Neil McNeill was born in Yokohama, Japan on 18 April 1894. He was the eldest son of Duncan and Emilie Margaret McNeill. Duncan McNeill was a Barrister who had served as Acting Crown Advocate at Shanghai 1901 – 02.

Neil was initially educated at Horris Hill. He then attended Charterhouse from Oration Quarter 1907 to Summer Quarter 1912. He was a talented artist and won the school’s Leech Prize for three successive years. He was a member of the school Rifle Corps holding the rank of Sergeant. It is interesting to note that one of his fellow pupils was Robert Graves who was in the same form as McNeill for two terms.

He left Charterhouse for Hertford College Oxford, where he applied for a commission in the Black Watch Special Reserve of Officers on 7 June 1914. When war was declared he had just completed his second year at university.

Lieutenant McNeill joined the 1st Battalion from the 3rd Black Watch on 28 September 1914. The 1st had suffered heavy casualties and Neil was posted to A Company. He was commanding two platoons on the morning of 11 November 1914 in trenches at the south-west corner of Polygon Wood. His position was subjected to a heavy bombardment between 6.30 and 9 a.m. which preceeded an attack by a Division of the Prussian Guard with orders from the Kaiser to break the line at all costs. The following account of the action appeared in the Edinburgh Evening News on Saturday, 14 November.




The Press Bureau issued the following statement last evening:

A very severe attack against a portion of the line held by the First Army Corps before Ypres was delivered on the 11th by the Prussian Guard Corps. The enemy made a special effort on this occasion to break the line, which they hoped had already been weakened by attacks of infantry of the line.

The facts are briefly as follows: Our troops were subjected to the heaviest bombardment that we have yet experienced from dawn for three hours. This was at once followed up by an assault in force carried out by the 1st and 4th Brigades of the Prussian Guard Corps. It is understood that these picked troops had been brought up specially to act against us in order to force their way through at a point where the previous effort made by the infantry of the line had failed.

The attack was pressed with the greatest bravery and determination. Owing to the gallantry of our troops and their splendid resistance against great odds the attempt to penetrate to Ypres was repulsed, but the weight of the enemy’s advance enabled them to break through our line at three points. They were, however, hurled back and prevented from gaining further ground.

Immense loss has been inflicted on the Germans, 700 of their dead having been found on the ground behind our trenches alone. The casualties suffered by them in advancing up to our line under direct and enfilade fire must have been enormous.

Our casualties have also been heavy. The action of our troops on this, as well as on previous occasions, cannot be praised too highly. The Edinburgh Evening News, Saturday, 14 November 1914, 6.

Second Lieutenant Neil McNeill was killed during the attack defending his section of trench. The Regimental History records that he ‘was last seen on the parapet of his trench, revolver in hand, fighting right gallantly to the end with all his men’.

The 1st Battalion War Diary describes the incident as follows.

Owing to the heavy shelling a great amount of trench in “D” Coys. line was destroyed. As it stopped about 9-30 a.m. their look out discovered the Prussian Guard just beginning to cross the wire entanglement while the trenches on their right were unoccupied by our troops. 2/Lieut. McNeil [sic] kept in front of the trench and opened fire with his revolver but was hit and fell back in the trench. The few men of “A” Coy. with him fired a few shots and seeing their right flank surrounded ran down the trench and joined “D” Coy. whom Captain West had formed up in prolongation of the line of the Liverpool Regiment almost at right angles to his own original line and on the S. edge of the ZONNEBEKE race course wood. War Diary, 1st Black Watch, 1st Infantry Brigade, 1st Division, Appendix B, 11 November 1914.

His death remained unconfirmed for almost two years.

When news reached Edinburgh that he was missing, his grandfather, Sir Malcolm McNeill CB, placed the following notice in The Scotsman.

BLACK WATCH. – Any information regarding 2nd Lieut. NEIL M'NEILL, reported Missing, 11th Nov., will be gratefully received by Sir Malcolm M'Neill, 53 Manor Place, Edinburgh. The Scotsman, Thursday, 26 November 1914, 1.

In June 1915 McNeill’s mother received a letter from the War Office informing her that the Commandant of the German Prison at Schneidermuhl had forwarded a statement made by a Sergeant Chapman, 1st Scots Guards, reporting that her son had been killed by shrapnel on 25 October 1914. The family replied, stating that Neil had written to his mother on the 8 November 1914, and if he was killed, which she much fears, it would have been on Nov 11th in a trench taken by the Prussian Guard. She hopes perhaps some information about him may come from men in his trench who were taken’.

In February 1916, the War Office in view of the lapse of time since he was reported missing and for official purposes accepted his death. Nevertheless, it was November before the following obituaries appeared in the press.

The sum of £24.10.11 due to his estate from army funds was sent to his father in Shanghai his mother, sister and younger brother then resident at Snode Hill House, Alton Hampshire.

Lieutenant McNeill has no known grave and his name appears on the Menin Gate Memorial.


Sec. Lt. Neil M'Neill, Black Watch, who was previously reported missing, is now officially presumed to have been killed in action. Aged 20 years, Lt. M'Neill was the elder son of Mr Duncan M'Neill, barrister-at-law, Shanghai, and grandson of Sir Malcolm M'Neill, 53 Manor Place, Edinburgh. The Scotsman, Saturday, 11 November 1916, 11.


SECOND LIEUTENANT NEIL MCNEILL, Black Watch, previously reported missing, and now officially presumed to have been killed near Ypres on November 11, 1914, aged 20, was born at Yokohama in 1894. He was the elder son of Mr. Duncan McNeill, barrister-at-law, Shanghai, and grandson of Sir Malcolm McNeill, of 53, Manor-place, Edinburgh. He was educated at Horris Hill and at Charterhouse (1908-12), where he gained the Leech prize for drawing three years in succession, and had just completed his second year at Hertford College, Oxford. He was a keen member of the O.T.C. at Charterhouse and Oxford, and was gazetted second lieutenant, Black Watch, on July 8, 1914. On September 25 he went out to Flanders. The Times, Saturday, 11 November 1916, 10.

The photograph shows McNeill as a member of Pageites House Football Team, Charterhouse c. 1912.


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A Black Watch veteran who also died on 11 November 1914.

7524 Pte. Thomas SMALL, 2nd Royal Highlanders M.I.

Thomas Small was born in Leslie, Fife and enlisted Kirkcaldy, Fife. He served in South Africa with the 2nd Royal Highlanders (Mounted Infantry).

Small was evidently recalled in 1914 and was killed in action on the 11th November 1914, while serving with the 1st Battalion, Royal Highlanders. He is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Belgium.

Thomas was the son of John Small and brother of Pte. John Small, 755, 2nd Royal Highlanders. Hi brother, John, was born in Lochee, Forfarshire and enlisted in Edinburgh. Like Thomas he was a pre-war regular soldier. He was killed in action at Rue de Bois, on the 9th May 1915. He is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial, Pas de Calais, France.

Thomas Small was still listed as missing when the following notice appeared in the Fifeshire Advertiser in September 1915.

Pte. THOS. SMALL, 1st Black Watch

12 years’ service and 6 years reserve. Missing since 11th November, 1914. Native of Kirkcaldy, and postman in Stranraer. Has a wife and six children. Brothers of Mr. Wm. Small, Standard Dairy Co., Dysart. The Fifeshire Advertiser, Saturday, 18 September 1915, 2.


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I am over tomorrow to visit where the 1 Bn Hertfordshire Regiment attacked near St Julien on 31 July 1917. I do not have my papers to hand but I think the Black Watch went in with them?



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Dear Soren,

There is a part of the Black Watch that will be forever Maghull, Merseyside.

You may recall that some years ago the Burgomaster of Ypres suggested that there should be something done to mark the 25,000th ceremony under the Gate. The LPA came up with the idea of reading out a bit about a man with NKG either on the Gate or the Tyne Cot Memorial. Having a friend in the LPA, I sent off details about the locals I was researching, and got a reply asking for anything I could get on Herbert Finch, who was killed on October 19th 1917. For some reason, there were few casualties each year on October 19th!. I was then told that Herbert would be named under the Gate that year. As it happened, the date was a Saturday, so it was too good an opportunity to miss. Wife, friends and I went over for the weekend, taking a few bits and pieces from Maghull with us. The cadets of the BW were the Honour Guard that evening, and I found myself chatting beforehand to a pleasant young female officer, to whom I offered a print of views of Maghull, relating it to the naming of Herbert that night. After the ceremony, during which I had the honour of reciting the Exhultation, and laying of a wreath on behalf of his last known relative, I was confronted by the Lt. Col. of the BW. He almost demanded a second such print, and asked if I could put name, date, location, etc on the back of both of the prints. I obliged, and then asked just why he wanted them. He replied that they would be framed, and one hung in the Cadet's Mess and one in the Officer's.

Thus there are now two framed prints of views of Maghull on the walls in Edinburgh, but with the explanations on the back and thus not readable. i suppose there will be both officers and cadets who must wonder why they are there!


P.S. As the details about Herbert were read out, they seemed familiar. I then went and looked at the notice-board besides the gate and saw what was read, and it again seemed familiar. All 365 sets of details read were published in a book, At the Going Down of the Sun, which i went and bought. Only after reading the bit on herbert did I twig.....word for word my e-mail! The compilers were decent enough to list contributors at the back, and so I got my name in print for the very first time.

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Hi Alan

118th Brigade,1/6th Battalion Chesshire Regiment on the right the 1.1st Battalion Hertfordshire Regiment ( centre ) and the 4/5th Black Watch on the left,and the 1/1st Battalion Cambridgeshire Regiment in support.


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Hi Gary

Many thanks for the confirmation. I hope to get some pics of where they fought and pause for a moment to remember all who took part.



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There must be some Black Watch enthusiasts out there?

Were any of the above suitable?

If not what about the death of 2nd Lieut. Andrew Sharp, 9th Royal Highlanders at Loos, shot by a surrendering German.

Sergt. Charles Anderson, 8th Battalion, in command of one of the four Vickers guns, killed with his gun crew while engaging a German artillery battery (at short range) near Haisnes on 25 September 1915.

2nd Lieut. Robert William Reid, 9th Battalion, mortally wounded on 27 April 1916, as he tried to repel a German bombing attack that had reached his section of the line. 'He received his fatal wounds while attempting to tread an enemy bomb into the ground to prevent it bursting among his men'.

1st and 2nd Bns. at the Aubers Ridge.

The 6th and 7th Battalions at High Wood.

Mrs Murphy of Hawick receiving her late son's (Pte. John Murphy, 6th Battalion) Military Medal from George V at a public investiture at Ibrox on 18 September 1917 (her son died on 31 July 1917).

There are no end of similiar stories that could be classed as 'poignant' but a bit of feedback on the type of thing you're looking for would be useful.


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