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sgmcgregor

2nd Battalion Seaforth Highlanders

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sgmcgregor

Hello everyone,

As I have had such a good response when I've asked a question, I would like to say that I have a copy of the complete war diary for the 2nd Seaforth Highlanders for World War 1. I was researching a family member, and the complete diary was available online from the National Archives at Kew.

Should anyone require anything looked up, please get in touch and I will try my best. Dates, names, any relevant information - the more specific you can be, the better.

I haven't searched this group, so there may already be someone who has offered to do this. I don't want to tread on any toes here, but if there is no-one providing this help, please feel free to get in touch.

I can be emailed direct at sgmcgregor@NOMAILyahoo.co.uk. Just remove the "NOMAIL" to get me direct, or post here.

Best Regards,

Steven McGregor

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Jesse

Hi Steven, thank you for your kind offer. I'm looking for data on D Company, especially throughout the first half of the war, but perhaps you could let me know if there is much War Diary detail on them regarding the St. Julien debacle of April 25-26, 1915.

Jesse

Hello everyone,

As I have had such a good response when I've asked a question, I would like to say that I have a copy of the complete war diary for the 2nd Seaforth Highlanders for World War 1. I was researching a family member, and the complete diary was available online from the National Archives at Kew.

Should anyone require anything looked up, please get in touch and I will try my best. Dates, names, any relevant information - the more specific you can be, the better.

I haven't searched this group, so there may already be someone who has offered to do this. I don't want to tread on any toes here, but if there is no-one providing this help, please feel free to get in touch.

I can be emailed direct at steven_mcgregor@NOMAIL.com. Just remove the "NOMAIL" to get me direct, or post here.

Best Regards,

Steven McGregor

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sgmcgregor

Jesse,

Glad to try and help. If you leave it with me, I'll check the diary today/tomorrow and get back to you with any details I find.

Steven

P.S. By the way, I realised in my original post I put an incomplete email address. I was so busy adding in the NOMAIL, I forgot to add the full domain name. What an idiot I am (It's now been corrected). I've seen people doing this on other groups, and assume it's intended as an anti-spam device - whether it works or not, I have no idea :-)

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sgmcgregor

Jesse,

Below is a transcript of the movements of 2nd Battalion Seaforth Highlanders from 1st April 1915 to 30th April 1915, including details of the engagement at St Julien. There are a couple of specific mentions of D Company, but hopefully the rest will be of some interest too.

Note:- Any words which appear in italics indicate any word where I have been uncertain as to the word or spelling, and the word entered is my best guess/interpretation of the word in the war diary.

1915

1st-2nd April – Douve Trenches

Hot,sunny days – just like summer – Very quiet days – Germans shelled working party on our left working at new brestaworks intermittently all night (1st April) and also turned on machine guns – no casualties as a matter of fact, but rather lucky to have none.

1st April – Bismark's birthday anniversary – Germans put up red flares all night – Several casualties at dusk by enfilade sniping in left Coy (D) Relieved by 1/R.Ir.Fus about 7pm and marched to La Crieche (Brigade Reserve now). Started raining hard just after relief – 1 case of measles in Battn. Noticed on 1st April

Notes in margin for above dates:

Casualties

1st April – 1 man died (natural causes in the trenches) ; 1 man wounded

2nd April – 2 men killed ; 3 men wounded

3rd-6th April – La Crieche

Very wet four days – almost incessant rain or showers – Some steady drill ; working at Nieppe ; Coy football tournament occupied our time (D Coy won)

4th Divnl Boxing Entertainment on 5th and 6th – Pte Grant won his fight on 5th ; L/C Davie won his fight on 6th

We relieved 1/R. Irish Fusiliers on 6th about 9pm.

7th-10th April – Douve Trenches

A good deal of heavy rain – Very stormy and unsettled. A snow and thunder storm continued on 9th. Weather improving on 10th. Some useful patrolling work was carried out and several official patrols brought in useful information. Unfortunately on 7th a patrol under Sgt J Munro came in contact with a German patrol and he was killed.

Enemy's artillery rather active in rear of our line on 7th. On nights of 8th and 9th there was intermittent shelling of trenches on our left (new work) and heavy bursts of rifle fire. Our left trench (D Coy) came in for this as well. On 9th (night) our artillery retaliated, but without much success, and some of their shells fell behind our line. There was not much sniping by day. The left Coy (D) suffered casualties from enfilade fire. 3 platoons 4th Berkshire Regt. S. Midland Terrl. Divn. In trenches with us for 48 hours on nights of 8th and 9th – Relieved by 1/R. Ir. Fus. about 9pm 10th April.

Notes in margin for above dates:

Casualties

7th April – 2nd Lieut M Macpherson wounded (not severely); 1 NCO killed

9th April – 3 men wounded (1 died of wounds 10th)

10th April – 1 man wounded (died of wounds 11th)

11th April – Pt. 63.

In billets at Pt. 63 – glorious day – Preparing for move to Bailleul, as Brigade line is being taken over by Warwickshire Bde of S. Midland Division (Terrl.)

N.B. 7th A&S Highrs are to remain in the line with Warwickshire Bde

Notes in margin for above date:

Arrivals 11th April – 28 men reinforcement

12th April – Bailleul

Marched [as a Battn] to Bailleul leaving at 9.45am and arriving at billets about 12.30pm. The Warwicks also moved there during the morning. The remaining two regiments marched in during the night after handing over the line – The Battn is billeted in the Rue de la Gare and the Chemin des Loups. Billets taken over in very dirty and insanitary state. Lovely day.

13th-23rd April – Bailleul

Battalion resting. Weather glorious with the exception of 13th and 14th April. Work done consisted mainly of physical drill – route marches – steady drill and football tournaments.

Night of 12/13 April - Zeppelin dropped bombs on Bailleul.

16-23 April – 11.30am – ordered to hold ourselves in readiness to move at short notice. 7.30pm Bde moves to Dranoutre (square M.36.C)

Notes in margin for above dates:

Arrivals 7th April - Lieut M.A. Arbuthnott from 3rd Batt.

14th April – 50 men reinforcements

24th April – Dranoutre

7am – marches to Zeve-Coten (square G.34.d) – arrived at 9am – billeted in huts – moves to beyond Ouderdem (square G.30.a) where are halted till 3-30pm – We were issued with 150 extra rounds "illegible word here" – Carts filled up – 100 grenades issued and each man carried 2 sand bags.

Halted again just N.W. of Ypres along road crossing square H.12.a till 12 midnight. Men moved to Wieltje in square C.28.b via St Jean where we again halted. Men only carrying equipment and water proof capes Packs, great coats and water proof sheets left at Bailleul.

25th April – near Wieltje

Very wet indeed. Moved into position for attack at 4am. Attack commenced at 5.30am. Brigade disposition from left to right – R. Warwickshire Regt – Seaforth Highlanders – R. Dublin Fusiliers – R. Irish Fusiliers.

Came under heavy fire when getting into position before attack commenced. Finally took up a position and dug in as well as possible.

6.30am - and after absolutely quiet except for a great deal of shelling on "illegible word" flank. Line readjusted "illegible word" after dark "illegible sentence"

From right to left Companies B C D & A. Very wet day till 8am. Fine afternoon

Notes in margin for above date:

April 25th Casualties:- Officers – 4 killed; 4 died of wounds; 2 missing; 9 wounded Other Ranks – 61 killed; 239 wounded; 13 died of wounds; 16 missing

26th-30th April – Trenches in front of Wieltje (Belgian Sheet 28 C.17.d)

Weather was very hot and sunny. There was a great deal of shelling all the time.

26 April – Very heavy shelling from 11.30am till 12.30pm; 1.40pm heavy bombardment of enemy; 2.20pm 3 battalions attacked towards St Julien. They seemed to lose very heavily from shells and maxim guns – except in a few cases they did not get beyond our lines – Line readjusted after dark.

27 April – French attack about 12.30pm on our left. St Jean heavily shelled.

28 April – Ypres heavily shelled. "illegible word" aeroplane brought down over R. Irish Fusiliers on our right.

29 April – Vanheule Fara very heavily shelled, also left Coy (A).

30 April – French attack at 10am.

Notes in margin for above dates:

Casualties

April 26th – Lieut I.P.A. Chalmers (Shock) ; Other Ranks – 14 killed, 81 wounded

April 27th – Lieut C.E. Baird (Wounded); 12 wounded April

28th – 4 wounded April

29th – 2 wounded

Arrivals

April 27th – 2Lt J.M. Low and 75 reinforcements

April 29th – 2Lt D. Kingsley

The following is a transcript of an additional entry added at the end of the section for the month of April, after the above entries had been made.

1915

Title - Further account of action on 25th April 1915

Notes in margins - Reference Map – Belgium, sheet 28 N.W. ; Times in some cases only approximate

1.15am – Battalion (2 in Brigade) halted with Brigade. Head of Brigade at Wieltje (square C.28.b ) crossroads. Pouring with rain.

1.15am to 2.25am – G.O.C. giving instructions and final orders to CO's in a ruined house in Wieltje. Wieltje in ruins, but luckily all quiet now – houses smouldering still. Very difficult to get information of situation – [as orders were being dictated, staff officers of Canadian Division were coming in to give what information they could, but they had little definite knowledge of the exact situation], and in the end it was not definitely established whether St Julien itself was partially held by us or not. It was known that the Germans had pushed back the French south of Pilckem (square C.2.c ) and had crossed the canal near and north of Boesinghe (C.5.d ), and further that this line ran roughly from St Julien (square C.12.c ) to this place if not further south.

The final orders received were that

1) The 1 Warwicks should attack the wood west of St Julien, which was stated to be held by the Germans.

2) 2 Seaforth Highrs should attack on the line between the wood and St Julien – both above to deploy west of St Julien road

3) 2 Dublin Fusiliers should attack St Julien deploying east of road

4) 1 Irish Fusiliers should attack St Julien on right of Dublin Fusiliers from direction of Fortuin (C.18.c) clearing that place if occupied

5) 7th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders should be in support behind 1 R. Waricks

Various other Battns and portions of Battns were placed under Genl "illegible name" command and some artillery. As far as we could tell most of the other Battns did not report in time, though certain detachments cooperated on our right.

6) The field artillery were ordered to shrapnel the wood W. of St Julien and the howitzers to shell the N.E. of St Julien itself with Lyddite

7) Our object was to occupy the whole of the wood if possible, and St Julien

8) All infantry were ordered to get through the gaps in the wire in front of our old 2nd line (G.H.Q. line) before light, to deploy for action and attack at 4am

2.30am – Started issuing tools etc. and making arrangements. The Battn had been all this time in the pouring rain, which was rather less heavy now. Day was showing signs of breaking now, and it was all important to get through the wire before light. Very little opportunity to give proper orders to Coy commanders.

3.15am – Moved forward – almost light before we got through the gap

3.45am – Received orders to delay attack till 5am as other Battns could not be ready by 4am. The Battn was then advancing with 2 Coys – B & C front, and A & D Coys in rear to position for deployment. Owing to Warwicks being in front drawing fire, we also came under fire almost as soon as we were through the wire.

4am - The fire became quite hot and the order to postpone the attack till 5am came rather late. The Coys had to continue advancing so as to get to some sort of cover as heavy machine gun or rifle fire was now opened, and we were losing considerably.

4.30am – The leading Coys had advanced almost level with farm (in C.17.a) and in the right further still, but further advance was impossible owing to the sever machine gun fire directed on us from the farm in C.16.b and C.17.a

5.30am – Heavy artillery fire was opened on us with considerable accuracy. About this time (or perhaps some time later) the Battns on our right meeting a heavy fire fell back. At the same time and in consequence of this the Battn on our left also fell back some distance. This left the Battn right out by itself and we withdrew to a line of hedge which gave us some cover from 100 to 200 yards in rear. We were still some distance in front of the rest of the Brigade, and shortly after they came back again like a wave. There was no apparent reason why they should have gone so far back – probably some mistaken order.

7am - From this time forward we attempted no further attack having lost very heavily. The Germans were much quieter and hardly shot at us when we moved about. We were able to get a lot of the wounded back to the dressing station in farm C.23.a North.

8.30am – We filled up a gap by throwing 2 sections over the road to the East by Vanheule (C.17.d) farm and increasing the garrison of the farm. After this we started to reorganize and to dig ourselves in behind the hedge running West from Vanheule farm to point in the field 300 N.E. of Shelltrap farm (C.22.b ). During the rest of the day there was very heavy shelling of Shelltrap and Vanheule farms, and the line in both sides of us, and in rear of us. The Wieltje-St Julien road was shelled all day. Heavy shell fire all over the slope behind us and into Ypres which continued all night. During the advance we had lost nearly all our tools. At dusk we first of all reorganized companies, then collected tools and started digging in, and by morning had quite a good line of trenches. We gave up Vanheule farm to the Dublin Fusiliers.

Roll of Officers for April 1915

Battalion

Lt.Col. R.S. Vandeleur C.M.G – Comdg – wounded 25th

Major K.W. Arbuthnot – senior Major – killed 25th

Major E. Campion – cmdg – from 26th

Capt. "illegible name" DSO – Adjutant – wounded 25th

Lt. D. Munro – Quartermaster

Lt. A.O.R. "illegible surname" – Machine Gun Officer – died of wounds 25th

Lt. N.I. MacWatt – Transport officer

Lt. P.W. "illegible surname" – R.A.M.C. – medical officer

Rev. A.R. Yeoman C.F.

D Company

Captain F Anderson – wounded 25th

Lieut. C.E. Baird – wounded 27th, to hospital 29th, comd Coy 25th-29th

2 Lieut. H.C.S. Munro – to comd C Coy on 25th 2

Lieut. M. Macpherson – (3 Battn) wounded 7th

2 Lieut. H.E.R. Widnele – (3 A&S Highrs) to comd of D Coy from 29th

2 Lieut. M.A. Arbuthnot – (3 Battn) joined 17th, wounded 25th

2 Lieut. J.M. Low – rejoined from Hospital 27th

Hope this information is of interest to you,

Regards,

Steven

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imilliga

Hi Steven

My grandfather served in 2nd Battalion Seaforths in WW1. Enlisted Sept 1914 and transferred to army reserve January 1919. His name was Alexander (Sandy) Milligan S/3662. He drifted between private and lance corporal throughout the war. He won the military medal in 1918. My father says rather vaguely it was something to with a machine gun and a bridge. I don't think the war diaries give details of inidividual actions but I wondered if you knew of the significant engagements in that year. He appears on the London Gazette of 2nd August 1918 although I have a copy of a gallantry report from Major General Matheson commanding 4th Division dated what looks like 22/4/18.

I have his medals, paybook, a platoon photo and various other bits and pieces.

His brother Robert served in 8th Battalion and was killed 25th September 1915 at Loos.

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sgmcgregor

Frogisland,

It you leave it with me, I'll have a look through the diary for you, and I'll get back to you with a response.

Steven

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Jesse

Thanks for that transcription, Steven! It makes fascinating reading. Struck me odd that there is no mention of Capt. Hugh Spencer, who I believe was killed while commanding D Company at St. Julien.

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sgmcgregor

Jesse,

Glad that the transcription was of interest. Sorry it didn't answer your question, but after your mention of Captain Spencer, I went back and looked at the War Diary.

Captain H Spencer is mentioned in the roll of officers for C Company, not as part of D Company. He is noted as being killed on 25th April 1915. I should also mention that C Company seems to have had things extremely rough. The other officers for C Company are noted as follows...

Captain WAA Middleton - killed 25th

Lieut RG Barker - to hospital (shock) 25th

Lieut IN Fyfe-Jamieson - wounded 25th

2nd Lieut GJH Fielder OR Fielden - killed 25th

2nd Lieut HCS Munro - from D Coy to "comd" from 25th

Unsure of the word for Lieut Munro, but it appears to be an abbreviation, and best guess is as above.

Hope this helps, and doesn't confuse matters too much.

Also in reply to Frogisland - I am working through a transcript for your request too, and it will follow when complete. Briefly though, there seems to have been a fairly substantial engagement with the enemy on18th April 1918, and there is a mention later that there was to be a ceremony for awarding medal ribbons, but it was called off because of the weather. I'm afraid that there is no specific mention of Alexander Milligan.

Steven

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sgmcgregor

Frogisland,

Here is a transcription of the War Diary for most of April 1918. I have included the entry for May that mentioned the postponed medal ceremony. Hope this detail helps. As I did in a previous posting, words in italics indicate a word I was having difficulty deciphering, and it is merely a best guess.

1918

April 1st – In the Field

The Bn relieved 1st Royal Warwicks in front line south of the river. D left front Coy, C centre front company, B right front Coy, A in support in Battery Valley. D from Feuchy to river, C in front of Feuchy, B south of Broken Mill. Bn H.Q. in railway cutting - An outpost line without trenches. Relief without incident, complete by 12.30am.

April 2nd – In the Field

A certain amount of shelling but not on outpost line, though support platoons and Coy got shelter from the south flank – otherwise quiet. Post in Broken Mill "illegible word" (could be swapped or sniped)

April 3rd – In the Field

Quiet day. B Coy relieved by Coy of KOSB of 15th Division, and came back into support at Spider Corner.

April 4th – In the Field

A misty day and wet night. Working parties on left front Coys outpost line. Boche patrol captured by D Coy.

April 5th – In the Field

Relieved after a quiet day by D of Wellingtons Reg and relieved Royal Warwicks ourselves in Railway Triangle. A&B Coys in army line, C&D Coys in support. Relief successfully carried out though extremely dark.

April 6th – In the Field

A fine day, rain at night. A little shelling, otherwise quiet. Working parties on support line at night.

April 7th – In the Field

Quiet day again, been little shelling.

April 8th – In the Field

Division relived by Canadians. Bn relieved by 14th (Montreal) Canadians after quiet day, and taken by bus to Dusians into hutment camp. Bn in camp by 2am. Very muddy.

April 9th – In the Field

Day spent entirely in cleaning up and resting. 3 officer reinforcements joined the Bn. O.R. 135 also rejoined the Bn from 4th Div Provisional Bn.

April 10th – In the Field

Very heavy artillery fire in front of Arras all early morning. No infantry attack appeared to develop. Enemy attack in force up north "Illegible word". Day spent in cleaning up and easy short parades.

April 11th – In the Field

A warm sunny day spent in light parades. The Bn got orders to be ready to move at 4 hours notice in the evening. This was reduced to ½ an hour's notice about 10pm.

April 12th – In the Field

Orders to move came early in the morning. The Bn moved off at 12.15pm and embussed at Larisset at 2pm. Whole division went by bus to Lillers getting there about 5.30 or 6pm. Bn then moved up on foot to Cantraine, W. of La Bassee Canal where it was billeted by 9.30pm. Royal Warwickshire Regt and D. of Wellingtons in front of us also in billets.

April 13th – In the Field

The Bn moved up and slightly southwards as support Batn to R. Warwicks who go into the line on La Bassee Canal. Bn moved at 5.15pm and relieved 2nd Suffolks. A&D Coys in barns in La Coury, C on outskirts of Hinges, B one platoon in Le Vertann, 2 platoons at Hingette. Bn H.Q. just S. of Le Cauroy. Bn quite well billeted, except 2 platoons of B Coy in trenches.

April 14th – In the Field

Shelling on Hinges heavy during the day. Two Coys took over line on canal bank. D Coy right front Coy, A left front Coy. Line taken over being from Pont Levis at Avelette to just south of Point L'Hinges. Support platoon of B Coy moved up to Hingette. 11th Bde made local attack on left of Division front, with success.

April 15th – In the Field

Warwicks and D. of Wellingtons made an attack on Precaut Wood on left of 10th Bde front. C&B Coys took over canal line previous to start of attack from Warwicks; Bn was holding 4 Coy front right up to point opposite southern edge of the wood. Situation obscure after the attack. A good deal of hostile shelling during the day, chiefly on Hinges.

April 16th – In the Field

A lot of shelling in and around Hinges and on the canal bank. At night A Coy took over from Warwicks on the left of C Coy, and D Coy was relieved by the D. of Wellingtons and came back in support to Le Cauroy. Bn H.Q. move back from point W. of Hinges to S.W. of Le Cauroy. These reliefs took all night and were not completed till 5am.

April 17th – In the Field

Heavy counter preparation shoot by our guns early in morning brought retaliation later which caused Bn a few casualties on the canal. 2 of our planes brought down close to Bn H.Q. but both got off again later in the day. A Coy working tonight on posts north of canal, B Coy pushed out posts toward La Pannerie farm over Pont L'Hinges. C Coy have now got a platoon of A Coy in front of them and on the N. side of canal.

April 18th – In the Field

Disposition of the Bn before enemy attacks were as follows: A Coy holding line on canal bank from pontoon at W3a79 (inclusive) turning N.W. with posts on north side of canal at Q33c9520 and Q33c68 and at La Pannerie about W4a?8. C Coy from pontoon at W3a79 turning S.E. along canal bank on S. side of canal. B Coy on right of C Coy with platoon pushed out in posts from Pont L'Hinges along road toward La Pannerie. D Coy in support at Le Cauroy. Bn H.Q. at W14b47 S. of Le Cauroy.

Enemy opened a heavy bombardment on back areas and cross roads at 1am. Shelling of west areas continued up till 8.30am. Intense and annihilating barrage was placed on the canal bank from 3-4.15am, which fell particularly heavy on A&C Coys. Enemy were seen massing S.W. out of Bois de Pacaut at 3.45am and at about 4.15am advanced out of the wood towards the canal. About 4.45am he managed to get to the canal and tried to place a pontoon across at W3a88. This attempt failed, being met by very heavy machine and Lewis gun fire and bombing.

D Coy advanced to reinforce C&A Coys on canal bank about 4.45am and on arrival reported to Bn H.Q. that most of party which had been working on A Coys posts previous to the attack had been ferried back over the canal safely. Situation as to advanced posts of A Coy obscure but "illegible word" at Q33c520 and Q33c68 must have been over-run, according to evidence of 2 or 3 survivors who managed to swim back across the canal.

About 5am posts of A&B Coys at La Pannerie were successfully withdrawn by their officers across Pont L'Hinges. They were not attacked but were being fired into from canal bank. At 5.40am an attempt was made by R.E. to blow up Pont L'Hinges. The demolition was unsuccessful and a second and successful attempt was made later in the morning. By 6.15am enemy attacks had been completely defeated and the Bn still held its line. At 4.25am Lt.Col. having "3 illegible words" got a message "illegible word" to Division by visual "You can rely on my Bn to stand fast on its front". This was completely fulfilled and the line along the canal firmly held.

About 8.30am enemy on N. side of canal came from under cover of bank with their hands up. Some were ferried across, others swam; about 115 prisoners were taken in this way. Throughout the preliminary shelling and the "illegible word" communication was kept by wire between H.Q. and the canal bank and only when it was not of much importance, did the line get broken. Other successful means of communication were by runners who did extremely good work and by "illegible word" from Bn H.Q. to Division. This later means became important when it grew light owing to shell-mist lying over whole area.

Enemy position after the action was inside S. portion of Bois de Pacaut and in La Pannerie farm. Otherwise exactly the same as before, along the whole Bde front. The behaviour of the Bn under the most intense barrage was beyond praise, and the manner in which the Bn dealt with the attempts of the enemy infantry needs no comment. Casualties were 1 officer killed and 3 wounded, 115 other ranks, proportion of "illegible word" not being high. Total casualties might have been expected to be considerably heavier under the circumstances.

A congratulatory wire was received from G.O.C. 4th Division and the following is an extract from a complimentary message sent by the Corps Commander to G.O.C. 4th Division:

2nd Battalion Seaforth Highlanders for their fine endurance under a very heavy bombardment by 5.9 howitzers and for the way in which they subsequently frustrated the enemy's attempt to cross the canal S. of Pacaut Wood.

Orders were received in the evening for us to send out patrols to a side of canal and in the event of finding S. portion of Pacaut Wood unoccupied by enemy to establish a line of posts along side in wood from Q 33 b 8 3 to Q 33 d 8 5 and to get into touch with brigade on left.

April 19th – In the Field

A half platoon was completed by 1.15am and a patrol of an officer and 7 other ranks were sent across and reconnoitred S. edge of the wood. This was found to be strongly held. The patrol "illegible word" returned having performed its object and at 2.30am the remainder of the day there was intermittent shelling but no further infantry fighting. Relieved at night by 1st Hants Regt and Bn went into billets at L'Ecleme.

April 20th – In the Field

Day spent in resting the Bn and reorganizing and re-equipping.

April 21st – In the Field

Church parade. Company inspections and re-fitting.

April 22nd – In the Field

At 12.55am Bn was ordered to stand to, ready to move at 5am to Gonnehem, in the event of enemy attack on our front. "Illegible sentence" Attack made by 11th and 12th Bdes to establish line in Pacaut Wood and N.S. of it. The Bn rested most of the day and moved off at 3.30pm to re-billet at Cesne La Vallee

April 23rd – In the Field

A quiet day spent in resting the Bn and short parades, musketry chiefly. Lt.Col. Hopkinson, who commanded the Bn earlier in the war came over to see us. The Bn should go into the line tonight, but relief postponed 24 hours owing to the situation being obscure after attack by 12th Bde early this morning.

1918

May 5th – In the Field

Presentation of medal ribbons by Corps Commander should have taken place. This was prevented by rain.

Regards,

Steven

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imilliga

Wow - that's brilliant, Steven. My father's recollection of his father saying the medal was to do with 'a machine gun and a bridge' makes perfect sense in the context of the diaries. My father is still alive and I'll print that off and read it out to him (his eyes aren't up to reading now) - he'll be fascinated. My grandfather was a tough cookie by all accounts - the sort of man you'd call on if you ever needed some puppies drowning in a hurry. He was born in Lesmahagow but lived most of his life around Bellshill. I wish I could offer you a drop of Macallan as gratitude! It's so important to keep history alive. His movement between private and lance corporal was mostly the result of 'indiscipline' brought on by jungle juice by the way.

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Jesse

Hi Steven, thanks for your fine provision of data. I have a large pre-war photo of D Company, when Spencer was the junior officer as a Lieut., so it's of interest to note the movement. I have noted in the past that there could be inter-company or even inter-battalion movement, which can serve to mislead those tracing soldiers. It has been interesting to trace the men from this photo.

Jesse,

Glad that the transcription was of interest. Sorry it didn't answer your question, but after your mention of Captain Spencer, I went back and looked at the War Diary.

Captain H Spencer is mentioned in the roll of officers for C Company, not as part of D Company. He is noted as being killed on 25th April 1915. I should also mention that C Company seems to have had things extremely rough. The other officers for C Company are noted as follows...

Captain WAA Middleton - killed 25th

Lieut RG Barker - to hospital (shock) 25th

Lieut IN Fyfe-Jamieson - wounded 25th

2nd Lieut GJH Fielder OR Fielden - killed 25th

2nd Lieut HCS Munro - from D Coy to "comd" from 25th

Unsure of the word for Lieut Munro, but it appears to be an abbreviation, and best guess is as above.

Hope this helps, and doesn't confuse matters too much.

Also in reply to Frogisland - I am working through a transcript for your request too, and it will follow when complete. Briefly though, there seems to have been a fairly substantial engagement with the enemy on18th April 1918, and there is a mention later that there was to be a ceremony for awarding medal ribbons, but it was called off because of the weather. I'm afraid that there is no specific mention of Alexander Milligan.

Steven

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Amor

Hi Steven,

I would be grateful if you could provide any details for the below soldier who was originally from my home town in Inverkeithing:

Pvt. John Michie

Service No: S/42437

2nd Btn Seaforth Highlanders

Killed 2/11/1918

Buried in Preseau Communal Cemetery

Rgds,

Alex

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sgmcgregor

Alex,

If you leave it with me, I'll have a look at the time in question.

As you may (or may not) be aware, it is unlikely that that there will be a specific mention of Private John Michie, but I will transcribe the diary entries for the period around his death, and hopefully it will help shed some light on what he experienced at the time.

Regards,

Steven

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Amor

Hi Steven,

Much appreciated.

Rgds,

Alex

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sgmcgregor

Alex,

I have transcribed the whole of October, and the first 5 days of November. As before, any words which I am uncertain of,I have typed in italics. And any I was unable to decipher have been left as "illegible word". I should note that the inability to make out the word is all me, and not that they are too light/illegible in the document - purely my inability to read them combined with the fact that I am no military hstorian. If I was then I would imagine I would be able to make a better guess at the words.

1918

1st October In the Field

Battn Arras, and cleaning up. Very muddy and wet after raining all night.

2nd October In the Field

Coys refitting, re-equipping, and absorbing of half of 200 odd men who joined on 1st.

3rd October In the Field

COs inspection of Coys in the morning. Platoon and Coy training in vicinity of Monchy and Happy Valley.

4th October In the Field

Coy training in morning. Lecture to all officers by G.O.C. at Div. HQ in afternoon.

5th October In the Field

Div. is being relieved: the Battn moved back, leaving Monchy area at 12.15pm. Marched into Arras. "illegible word" at Schramm Barracks, marched on to Simencourt, S.W. of Arras getting into camp (Nissen huts) at 6pm. An excellent day for a fairly long march.

6th October In the Field

Training all morning. No church parade.

7th October In the Field

Bn training. Scheme A,B&C Coys attacking toward Beaumetz. D Coy defending.

8th October In the Field

Coy training in morning: afternoon spent in going over ground and plans for Brigade Scheme tomorrow: Details joined the battalion from Movtreux.

9th October In the Field

Brigade Scheme Warwicks and the Bn attacking toward Simencourt from Berneville and Goury En Artois as 2nd objective. Finished at 3.30 for "illegible word" in camp at 5pm.

10th October In the Field

Coy training in morning. Bn night operations, elementary scheme. Night operations were cancelled owing to a warning order that the Div. would move to forward areas tomorrow.

11th October In the Field

Bttn moved off at 9.45am and embussed near Wanquetin and went up via Henin, Crusselles, Prinville, Queant, Inchy, Moevres, Bourlon, along Cambrai-Bapaume road to Fontaine-Notre-Dame. Debussed and marched 2 miles to Petit Fontaine where billets were found in ruined farmhouses for the night, about 800 yards outside Cambrai.

12th October In the Field

Transport joined the Battn after a long trek at 4pm. Nothing doing all day, raining most of the time. We move tomorrow.

13th October In the Field

Battn moved off at 8am marching up through Cambrai to Naves which was reached by 11.30am. 3 Coys in "illegible word" outside in the village, one coy in the village. Div. remains in reserve to the 49th and 51st Divisions.

14th October In the Field

Lt Col R Laing DSO MC rejoined and took command of the Battn Coys spent the day cleaning guns etc.

15th October In the Field

Coy training in morning. Fine but hot today.

16th October In the Field

Very wet all day. "illegible word" work in Coys.

17th October In the Field

Working parties, platoon training in morning. Nothing doing remainder of day. Bn moves up to relieve 49th Div. tomorrow 18th inst.

18th October In the Field

The Battn relieved 7th Duke of Wellingtons Regt in support on north side of Villers-En-Candines. Moved off at 4pm. A good deal of shelling, mostly gas, several casualties. 2 Coys in railway cutting on east edge of village, 2 Coys in support. Bn HQ in the open.

19th October In the Field

A certain amount of shelling. Preparations of attack on 20th inst. Coy commanders conference etc. Battn HQ is moved up into the open in front of Villers-En-Candines at 6pm and Coys assembled in positions at 11pm. Rain started at 6pm and continued without ceasing all night and following day.

20th October In the Field

Coys moved up at midnight to east bank of Selle river at Saulzoir to assembly positions for attack. D Coy on right, A Coy, C Coy, B Coy on left. Zero hour was 2am and the attack went forward under a heavy barrage and in pelting rain; Objectives were gained and 49 prisoners and 9 machine guns captured. Casualties about 25. Men lay out in soaking rain all day and late in the afternoon we had pushed forward further and established an outpost line on western outskirts of Verchain. The 10th Bde attacked on a one Battn front, with Dukes and Warwicks in reserve. Battn HQ moved up to Saulzoir in the afternoon. Enemy resistance was not serious and artillery reply feeble. The men had no coats and got soaked to the skin. The attack on our right went well and in the whole operation over 3,000 prisoners were captured. The front of attack being from Denain to Le Cateau, the 51st Division being on the left of 4th Div. and the 19th Div. on the right.

21st October In the Field

Penetration by Patrols was carried on during the night and patrols have entered Verchain but found the Railway and River Ecaillon held. Luckily a fine day and the men got dry to a certain extent. Casualties have mounted up and are now about 50 but no officers. The enemy is evidently putting up a stiff rearguard fight as any attempts at peaceful penetration met with considerable opposition. We have now established a suitable jumping off line for the continuation of the attack. Probably on 24th inst.

22nd October In the Field

Miserably wet again all day and the men are once more wet through. Nothing of interest. A good deal of harassing shelling by the enemy but he has few guns.

23rd October In the Field

Enemy artillery activity increased a good deal. Fighting started on our right at 3.30am and continued most of the day. Coy commanders conference at Bn HQ. Beautifully fine and every one much more cheery. Captain HCS Munro MC was killed today and 2Lt Tosthill taken prisoner. They apparently went out in front of the outpost line and came suddenly on an enemy post. In the scrap that followed we lost men 2 officers. The attack is being "illegible word" in the morning of 24th. Zero hour will be 4am.

24th October In the Field

Attack was launched at 4am. 51st Div. attacking on left and 61st Div. attacking on the right of 4th Div. 11th Inf. Bde. on the left, 10th Inf. Bde. on right, 12th Inf. Bde. in Div. reserve. Royal Warwicks on left, 2nd Duke of Wellingtons on right, the Battn in support. 2 platoons of A Coy, 2 platoons of D Coy were detailed as mopping up parties and the whole of A and D Coys consolidated the 1st objective.

At 1am an outpost line was taken over as a jumping off position by the attacking battns with the 2 platoons of A and D Coys respectively attached to them. The remainder followed up the attack as it proceeded. Objectives were more or less obtained and A and D Coys consolidated on the first objective east of Verchain. These 2 Coys had to cross the Ecaillon river by wading up to their armpits and got wet through. C and B Coys followed up A and D Coys and occupied eastern outskirts of Verchain. Bn HQ moved up into Verchain. Over 600 prisoners were taken by the Brigade and nearly 1,000 by the Division. Enemy m-gun fire was considerable but artillery reply feeble. Our own casualties were light. At 4.45pm the Duke of Wellingtons Regt. Renewed their attack to reach their objective. At night the 12th Infantry Brigade moved up and took over the whole Divisional front with a view to renewing the attack at dawn.

The Bttn (less C Coy) moved back to billets at Saulzoir. C Coy took over the line of the 1st objective previously held by A and D Coys. Capt Robertson was wounded slightly during the day.

25th October In the Field

The attack this morning met with no opposition as the enemy had withdrawn during the night. C Coy was brought back to billets at Saulzoir. Total casualties for the weeks fighting were 3 officers and 70 O.R. which cannot be considered heavy, 1 officer killed and 8 O.R. Day spent cleaning up and reorganising.

26th October In the Field

C Coy spent the day cleaning up and reorganising. A B and D Coys had a short parade, a time was employed also in interior work.

27th October In the Field

Wet day. The padre held voluntary services for Coys.

28th October In the Field

Coy parades in the morning. The GOC 4th Divn (Maj Gen CH "illegible name" Lucas) saw all officers of the Bn at 3pm and after addressing some remarks and his appreciation of the work carried out by the Bn during the recent operations to all officers, and spoke to each individually. Warning order to move 30th/31st October received at 5pm.

29th October In the Field

Coy training in the morning and warning order postponed 24hrs.

30th October In the Field

A fine day. Coy training was carried out in the morning. The Pipe Band joined the Bn from details. Operation order (provisional) received.

31st October In the Field

Coy training.

There is a page at the end of October given to officer movements, and casualties. Not transcribed.

1st November In the Field

Warning order received 1.30pm to be ready to move forward to support of 11th Inf Bde who had been counter attacked by the enemy and driven out of Preseau. At 4pm the Bn moved forward to the area W (may be N) of Guerenaing, the commanding officer having gone forward to report to BGC 11th Inf Bde for orders, the Bn having been placed under his orders. The CO held a conference with Coy commanders at 11th Inf Bde HQ at 8.30pm and the orders for an attack to be made by the Bn and the 1st Kings Own (R. Lan. Regt) were issued. In the interval teas had been issued to the Bn and they moved forward again at 9.45pm to take over the right sector of the 11th Inf Bde front. The relief was carried out under difficulties owing to the darkness and the disorganised front, and the Bn dug in on the jumping off line about 700-800yds S.W. of Preseau, the 1st Bn Kings Own being on their left. To the Bn was allotted the retaking of the village of Preseau and the high ground N.E.

2nd November In the Field

The Bn attack was made on a three Coy front B Coy on the right, C Coy, D Coy on the left: A Coy in central support. Bn HQs were established in the Chateau at Artres. Zero hour was at 5.30am and the attack went forward under a shrapnel barrage. B Coy met first enemy opposition in sunken road S.E. of the village (L.26.a.2.7) where they captured heavy and light machine guns and one field gun behind hedge at L.20.a.1.9. In sunken road L.30.a.4.8 to L.13.d.8.5 they met with further opposition and captured further heavy and light machine guns and one tank at L.20.a.3.8. Up to this point they had killed about 20 of the enemy and had captured 5 officers and about 140 O.R. C Coy met with no determined opposition in village itself, though isolated snipers fired from houses and caused some casualties. In such cases they were killed: 60 prisoners were taken by this Coy by the time they reached the line of the road L.13.a.8.5 to L.13.b.8.4. D Coy came under fire on road L.13.b.3.4 to L.13.a.3.6 and on pushing forward suffered many casualties. They cleared the northern end of the village, killing several of the enemy and capturing 7 officers and 180 O.R.

The further advance of the Bn was made in face of heavy MG fire from organised trench systems running right across the general line L.15.a.3.5 to L.8.central to L.8.a.2.6 and at L.17.d where one field gun was captured and from sunken road in L.14.a. Two platoons were sent up from A Coy to assist B and D Coys to fill the gap made by the failure of the left attacking Battalion to advance beyond the sunken road in L.7.c, and the gap between the right of the Bn and the right Bde 61st Div who remained stationary at St Aubert and "illegible word" De Wult. The Bn suffered many casualties in this portion of the advance, 2Lt DC Cargill (Comdg B Coy) and 25 O.R. being killed. It was however essential to go beyond the objective and clear the high ground which was crowded with heavy and light machine guns, 2 field guns also firing from the copse at L.8.a.8.1 and several trench mortars at L.8.a.9.0. The enemy positions were all carried, several machine gunners being bayoneted and 15 officers and 340 O.R. being taken prisoner. There were about 20 heavy machine guns in the captured position, trench mortars and a very large number of light machine guns. Orders having been received to consolidate the BLUE LINE as a main line of resistance and warnings having been received of large concentrations of the enemy the Bn was withdrawn and connection obtained with right and left Bn. B Coy captured 2nd tank at L.20.a.7.8.

Causalties 26 killed and 47 wounded

3rd November In the Field

The Bn was relieved on the night of 2/3 Nov by the W. Yorks Regt. Relief reported completed by 1.15am. Coys on relief marched to billets in Verchain for the night, moving on at 12.30pm for Saulzoir.

4th November In the Field

Kit inspections and cleaning up by Coys.

5th November In the Field

Wet day. Programme of section and Pn training contd not to be carried out. Coys spent the day with inspections and reorganising sections of Pns according to new organisation of the Bn. At 8pm warning order received that we shall be moving to new billeting area at Presau.

There is a page at the end of October given to officer movements, and casualties. Noted for 2nd November is the following…

27 killed, 44 wounded, 1 missing, 8 to hospital

Hope this is of interest to you, and helps you with your query.

Regards,

Steven

(P.S. Forgive any typos :o )

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Amor

Hi Steven,

Many thanks for the information and all your good work to transcribe the diary - a lot of work I know. This helps me a lot to trace his steps for the period up-to his death.

Rgds,

Alex

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Maricourt

Dear Steven

May I say an indirect thanks as the transcription of the 2nd Battalion Seaforth Highlander's War Diary for April 1915 has been a great help in researching an officer killed on the 25th April.

Grateful for your work ... Maricourt

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Guest

I also must thank you, for the October 1918 transcription. The 2nd Seaforth diary, though very detailed, is quite difficult to read, and well done.

Mike

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Hambo

Hi Steven

In the hope you are still happy to do look ups I wonder if you would mind doing one for me

I am researching 2nd Lt J.P.F.F. De Salis who was killed with the battalion on the 22nd of January 1917. All I have is that "he was killed by a shell near Peronne".

In the hope that he gets a mention could you look up where they were and what they were up to when he was killed

I also have (from his MIC I think) that he joined the battalion in October 1916 would that get a mention?

Many thanks John

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Ravrick

Hi Steve,

are you able to give me the details for the 2nd Bn for the period 10-15th Oct 1914? I am trying to find out some info regarding the death of Pte J Kemp and 19 other members of the Bn on or around the 13th Oct.

Cheers,

Rick

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sgmcgregor

Hi Steve,

are you able to give me the details for the 2nd Bn for the period 10-15th Oct 1914? I am trying to find out some info regarding the death of Pte J Kemp and 19 other members of the Bn on or around the 13th Oct.

Cheers,

Rick

Rick,

I'll look at the dates you mentioned, and I'll get back to you once I have transcribed the information. Sorry for the tardy reply, but I haven't been on the message board in a while. It just so happens I was posting a question elsewhere, and took a look at my old postings.

Regards,

Steven

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sgmcgregor

Rick,

I have transcribed the entries for the dates you asked about. See below...

10th October

Map: France,ST. OMER sheet 4

Moved off 1.30pmand marched with HdQs X Bde and R.Dub.Fus. to ST PIERRE PONT POINT via RARAYand VILLENEUVE-SUR-VERBERIE, where we arrived at 4.30pm.(Rest of Brigade marched to another destination). Went into billets and movedoff again at 11.30pm, marching toPONT STE. MAXENCE where we entrained. Bde HdQs and R.Dub.Fus. had entrainedthere previously – owing to lack of facilities for entraining transport we tookfrom 1.15am to 3.25am. Men in luggage vans, 40 per van and notcomfortable. Total distance marched about 11 miles.

11th October

ST. OMER

Trained via CREIL, AMIENS,ABBEVILLE, ETAPLES to ARQUES where we arrived at 7pm– marched to ST. OMER (about 3 miles) and were billeted with R.Dub.Fus. andsome French troops in the CASERNE de laBARRE.

12th October

CAESTRE

Fine day – Transport moved off at 11.30am and the Brigade assembled in the square in frontof the Hotel de Ville at 1.30pmpreparatory to entraining on French Army motors. These did not arrive till 5.30pm. While waiting for them, a Germanaeroplane passed over us and dropped three bombs, which did not hit us, butkilled one or two civilians.

The Battalion (2nd in Bde) commenced entrainingleading company at 6.30pm, but did not complete till 9pm, as there was somehitch in arrival of cars. The motor trans moved in sections each under anofficer, and should have moved via CLAIR MARAIS-LE NIEPPE-STAPLE and LEBREARDRE Xroads. Touch was lost and the wrong road taken with the result thatwe did not arrive at CAESTRE (marching from LE BREARDRE Xroads) till about 4am.Distance was only 15 miles.

13th October

METEREN

Arrived about 4amat CAESTRE and went into billets. Moved off 9.30amvia FLETRE as advanced guard with R.War.Regt to the Division moving eastwardson 2 roads. R.War.Regt formed vanguard. They came into action about 11am whenwe were just in FLETRE, and Bn was ordered to move to N of FLETRE, finallyworking eastwards and taking up a position under cover (reverse slope of hill)just 400 NE of FLETRE. R.War.Regt appeared to be quite heavily engaged attimes. The day was wet and rather thick, so that it was unsuitable forartillery.

About 2.30pm wereceived order to attack the German position which was said to extend fromFOUNTAIN HOUCK opposite our left on a line southwards through PT62 and METEREN.The frontage of the Division was as follows:- 10th Bde: fromFOUNTAIN HOUCK to PT62; 12th Bde: from PT62 to FLETRE-METEREN road;11th Bde: in reserve at FLETRE.

NB 5th Division was on ourright and 2 Cav. Div. on our left – the frontage of the Brigade was divided asfollows:- Seaforth Highrs right on PT62; R. Irish Fusiliers left on FOUNTAINHOUCK; R. Dublin Fusiliers in reserve in rear of our left flank; R. War. Regtin reserve in rear of our right flank at PLANEBOOM (withdrawing there as wepassed through them).

At 3.15pm theBattn deployed to attack. C Coy and D Coy forming firing line and supportswith A and B Coys forming reserve.

The deployment took place about 1500 from enemy’s position.The leading Coys threw out a section extended in front of the leading platoonwhich took up the frontage allotted to the Coy. After advancing some 500 theycame under fire, still bein unable to locate the enemy’s trenches. These couldnot be seen till a ridge about 600 from them was reached. We were thensubjected to a fairly accurate though not really heavy fire. Owing to the thickweather prevailing our guns could not be used to any advantage, and were not firing,and the enemy’s trenches could not be clearly seen by us.

Some delay occurred here owing to touch not being properlyestablished with 12th Bde on our right. Captain Baillie (CO C Coy)organised an assault on the enemy’s position in combination with R. Irish Fus.And Essex Regt (12th Bde), and Major Stockwell having pushed A Coyup into the firing line the position was carried at the point of the bayonet. Avery flat open space had to be carried by the Battn which caused them severalcasualties as the enemy’s fire was exceedingly accurate.

The Germans evacuated their trenches before we got in withthe bayonet, and as it was very dark about 5.45pmpursuit across the enclosed country in fornt of us was impossible. The positionwon was entrenched, and A Coy put out on outposts, the remainder of the Battnbivouacking in the open. Beyond a certain amount of sniping from the directionof METEREN we were not bothered further that night. Very wet and uncomfortable.

We captured 1 German and they left on the ridge about 6dead, but covered communications by “illegible word” to their rear would havefacilitated them getting wounded and dead away.

Casualties

Officers

Wounded 4

Capt RAL Keith; Lt D Bruce; 2/Lt CE Baird; 2/Lt INFyfe-Jameson

NCOs & Men

Killed 18

Wounded 66

Missing 1

14th October

METEREN, Map ST. OMER, FranceSheet 4

Wet day again.

Improved position, and finding we were not on ridge at PT62,but on one about 400 to the west of it, advanced to it and occupied it.Entrenched the position.

Ordered to move off at 4pmvia METEREN (which had been occupied by 12th Bde) on BAILLEUL, withDivision and waited by the road near starting point till 8pm and then were ordered to go into billets at METEREN,the remainder of the Division billeting in BAILLEUL etc. Not good billets, butbetter than the open, as a wet night.

Hope this information is of use to you.

Regards,

Steven

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Guest UrukEngineer

Steven,

My grandfather was S/6926 Pte Frederick Joseph Taylerson 2nd Seaforths. He joined the Bn on 13 May 15 and served until the end of the war. I have read the Bn's war diary and can't believe he survived so long. There is no mention of him in the war diary. Are there other documents that might help me at least work out which Company he was in?

Thanks, Laurence

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sgmcgregor

Steven,

My grandfather was S/6926 Pte Frederick Joseph Taylerson 2nd Seaforths. He joined the Bn on 13 May 15 and served until the end of the war. I have read the Bn's war diary and can't believe he survived so long. There is no mention of him in the war diary. Are there other documents that might help me at least work out which Company he was in?

Thanks, Laurence

Laurence,

In my experience, the best place to start would be with the local newspaper archives. If your grandfather lived in an area where there was a local newspaper, then checking through the old issues may give you some articles about him and his service. They would most likely be held at the library local to the area in which he lived.

Alternatively you could always try contacting the Highlanders museum through their website at http://www.thehighlandersmuseum.com/

I was lucky that they had a little more on my Great-Grandfather who was awarded the Military Medal for his action in fighting between 21st and 26th March 1918, which was the beginning of the German Spring Offensive. They found his award noted in the 5th Seaforth War Diary, although there were a couple of other things that they were able to find. I must stress that the chances of there being anything substantial will be remote, but if all else fails it may be worth a try.

Regards,

Steven

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Guest UrukEngineer

Thanks Steve,

I appreciate your advice. My grandfather was a Geordie not a Scotsman so he may stand out in the local papers of the time. I'll also visit Fort George as my work takes me to Scotland fairly frequently. It is really sad that the records only focused on the officers and treated the rest just as numbers of ORs - with the exception of a few brave men from the ranks such as your great grandfather.

Regards, Laurence

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