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Remembered Today:

Identify VC-winning Colonel


Northern Soul

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The following extract comes from the diary of a woman who made a pilgrimage to the battlefields in 1920, in the company of her son, Alan Squarey MacIver M.C., ex 20th Lancashire Fusiliers:

Wednesday, July 14th 1920

Today we go to Maricourt where Alan won his M.C. It has been an extraordinarily interesting day. The Brigade came down from Ypres to Corbie, Beaucourt, Sailly le Sec and Sailly Laurette, staying in each place for a few days in whatever buildings were available. This was just before the German attack in March 1918. They were ordered to go up to Maricourt which was near the German lines. As they went they met the villagers all flying back, also some of our very demoralised troops flying back too. When they reached Maricourt they found it in ruins and saw the Germans, masses of them, coming over the hill. They tried to stop the flying troops without success. They moved their H.Q. a little further back and then the Germans came into the village at the other end of it. A messenger brought this information while they were having lunch. A brave Colonel [...] collected some men, Alan being among them. They went round to the back of the village and found a lot of Germans in a collection of iron huts and surprised them so that they ran away in a panic except some who tried to shelter in the huts and were killed. Our men ran across the road, the Colonel leading. It was then that Alan sent his servant back with a message and took his rifle, preferring it to his own revolver. The man returned quickly and was quite pleased to have Alan's revolver. When Alan reached the trench where our men had hastily dug themselves in, he found Colonel [...] dead, shot through the head. It was a horrid blow to Alan. The Colonel was awarded a posthumous V.C. and Alan his M.C.

They held the trench till orders were given that they were to retire in a couple of hours. Then they retreated to Buire in very good order. They could not stop there as the village was heavily shelled, as they went up a lane to a small chalk pit. I forgot to say that soon after they reached Maricourt a shell fell into the middle of a group of men sitting in a field. One of them was blown up about 20 feet into the air. Alan saw it. They expected to find several killed but they were not. The one who was blown up broke his leg when he fell.

To return to the chalk pit. Looking at it, it seemed impossible that 20 men could have lived in it for four days and several more in another close by. The enemy soon realised it was H.Q. and shelled it. Ten men were wounded in Alan's pit. One had his leg shot off. At last they managed to get away gradually and to send back at night for the wounded. It must have been a horrible time. They had an exhausting march retreating all the way for three days almost sleeping as they walked.

There are several queries:

Who was the colonel who won the VC? (the closest I can get is W. H. Anderson, 12th H.L.I.)

Can anyone find the London Gazette entry for Alan MacIver's MC award? (I've tried and can't)

If the 20th Lancashire Fusiliers was disbanded in February 1918, which unit was Alan MacIver serving with when this incident occurred - it should be the same one as his MC was gazetted to?

Cheers.

Andy.

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There are several queries:

Who was the colonel who won the VC? (the closest I can get is W. H. Anderson, 12th H.L.I.)

Cheers.

Andy.

Would seem to be your man - he is buried in Perrone Road Cemetery Maricourt.

edit: Old Owl beat me to it.

His VC citation matches the account also:

As the Germans were about to overrun his flank at Bois Favieres, near Maricourt, France, he hurried across the open under heavy fire, gathered his remaining companies together and led a counter-attack which drove the Germans back and captured 12 machine guns and 70 prisoners. Later the same day, he was killed while leading another counter-attack which drove the enemy from their new position.

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Excellent! Thanks to all. I may post the rest of her diary in a separate thread. It does make quite interesting reading.

There is one other lingering query. Quoting once again from the diary;

Alan thought as we were on the way we had better go on to Gezaincourt near Dailleus to look for Mrs Gair's son's grave. As we had not thought of going there when we started, I had not the paper of directions with me and did not know his name and rank or regiment. However we went through Dailleus to the cemetery and found it along a narrow lane and beyond the town cemetery. Alan and I started at each end to read all the names, and I found T.GAIR in the fourth row. Of course when we got back and referred to the paper it was not the right initial or regiment.

Now, I believe the "T Gair" whose grave they found was Pte. T. Gair, 15th D.L.I. I think the T. Gair they were looking for was the T. Gair commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial as 276th Bde. R.F.A., as he originated from Ambleside (as did the MacIvers) - and he was the only Ambleside "Gair" killed during the war.

What puzzles me is that why would they go to Gezaincourt to look for the grave of a man killed near Ypres? How did they know he had a grave, when he is now commemorated on a memorial? The diary entry is also a bit contradictory because it states that "T" was the wrong initial - yet it must be correct. Perhaps they had asked the fledgling IWGC and been given a misdirection? It was only 18 months after the Armistice, after all.

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When was the Tyne Cot Memorial erected? It may be that it had not been completed and so the record of a T Glair with a grave was given to them if/when they enquired? Depends on how the question was phrased, of course.

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The Tyne Cot Memorial was unveiled on the 20th June, 1927 :thumbsup:

As Squirrel says, it may be that when the original enquiry was made that there was only one T.Gair showing with a grave and hence the mix-up? It must have been a gigantic job to record the thousands and thousands of names(approx 35,000) which were to appear upon the Tyne Cot Memorial and of course the correct T.Gair may have originally had a grave which was subsequently lost through shell-fire etc., and hence the wrong information was given out?

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Yep, I guess in the confusion over sorting out burials immediately post-war the two mens' nanmes had got mixed up by an overworked staff of the IWGC.

I'll post the whole transcription of the diary in a new thread.

Cheers.

Andy.

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A footnote to the above: the Lancashire Fusiliers were previously the 20th Regt of Foot, and for a long time after 1881 clung to its Roman numbering as XX.

D

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