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2nd Royal Highlanders/Black Watch, November 1914


Idlewild

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Hi there,

Trying to find out what the 2nd Battalion Black Watch were doing around this time. Had a look on the NA and the part I am looking for hasn't been digitised. :( I understand that they are in the process of this but was wondering if anyone had any idea where and what the unit was doing around the beginning of November 1914, specifically the 9th of November??

Interested as my Great Great Uncle, Private James Herd 2201, was killed on the 9th and is buried in Browns Road Cemetery but all I can find from The Long Long Tail was that the 2nd was in the process of arriving at Marseille in September. I have a feeling, though not certain, that he was not part of the battalion when it arrived from India and that he joined as part of a new draft from the 2/4 City of Dundee as that's where he came from.

Any help greatly appreciated

Andy

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Hi Andy,

I can't help with the war diary but would just like to say that comparing his date of entry to theatre of war with other 2nd BW men suggests that he was indeed a regular soldier who arrived with the 2nd Bn from India. His number indicates that he enlisted during November 1911 (cf 2208 John Cunnison 2nd BW enlisted 28/11/1911).

Cheers,

Stuart

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Morning

According to Westlake

"Captain Forrester led a raid on enemy positions with 20 men of No. 2 Company. Ten Germans killed after hand to hand fighting. Captain Forrester and 2 men wounded"

War Diary should make interesting reading when available,

Regards,

Graeme

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Hi there,

Trying to find out what the 2nd Battalion Black Watch were doing around this time. Had a look on the NA and the part I am looking for hasn't been digitised. :( I understand that they are in the process of this but was wondering if anyone had any idea where and what the unit was doing around the beginning of November 1914, specifically the 9th of November??

Interested as my Great Great Uncle, Private James Herd 2201, was killed on the 9th and is buried in Browns Road Cemetery but all I can find from The Long Long Tail was that the 2nd was in the process of arriving at Marseille in September. I have a feeling, though not certain, that he was not part of the battalion when it arrived from India and that he joined as part of a new draft from the 2/4 City of Dundee as that's where he came from.

Any help greatly appreciated

Andy

If he enlisted in 1911 under the terms of enlistment he would have still been serving in the Regulars and not in the Reserves. Also the drafts came from the Depot and were at that time drawn from the Army Reservists and Special Reservists who were pooled at the Depot (although they were running low towards the end of 1914). The 1/4th and 2/4th (Dundee) Territorials would not have been providing drafts to the Regular battalions. There is a remote chance he was one of the Regular permanent staff at one of the TF battalions, but as a man with only 3 years service I think it unlikely. The 2/4th wer not formed until Sep 1914 and the 1/4th did not go overseas until 25th Feb 1914. I think the Dundee angle is a red herring. The 2nd Bn Black Watch was 95% Scottish and probably would have had scores of men from Dundee.

The battalion had left Bareilly in India with 24 Officers and 934 Other Ranks. In order to make up numbers the Battalion required 118 Reservists including 20 men who had taken their discharge in India who were called up. That left 98 Reservists required from the depot. The 934 men included a First Reinforcment of 81 men. These would almost certainly have been made up from Reservists. Due to the extremely high casualties among the 1st Bn in France, this First Reinforcement draft was diverted to the 1st Bn and never saw service with the 2nd Bn. Unless a second Reinforcement draft reached the 2nd Bn before 9th Nov it is therefore very unlikely that more than a handful of Reservists from the UK were serving in the 2nd Bn on 9th Nov 1914. Given the Battalion had been in the line for less than 11 days I think it possible, but unlikely given the desperate situation the 1st Bn was in at the time.

The 2nd Battalion saw its first casualties on 29th Oct when it relieved the West Riding Regt on the extreme right of the British lines some 900 yards East of the village of Le Plantin. On 2nd Nov the HQ and No. 1 and No. 2 Coys moved north (exact location not given in the history) where it remained for three weeks on the left of the Bareilly Brigade's front line.

The Trench raid happened on 9th Nov:

"The chief incident in the left section was a night raid made on the German trenches by some twenty men of No. 2 Company under Captain Forrester with the objective of destroying a machine gun which was causing annoyance from a sap pushed up close to our line. The raid took place on November 9th. Captain Forrester was wounded through the lungs as the raid started but continued to lead his men, who reached the German trenches and killed ten of the enemy in hand-to-hand fighting; the machine gun had however been removed. The party returned with Capt Forrester, Sergeant Wallace and one private wounded."

So there is very good chance your Great Grand Uncle was in this raid and was the wounded man and later died of wounds. He is listed in the History in the Roll of Honour as Died of Wounds KIA although his MIC shows him KIA. The War Diary might well provide the missing confirmation that he was the wounded man on the trench raid.

The next entry related to 17th Nov.

I believe the Indian Corps War Diaries are to be released on 10th March so you will not have to wait long. I would recommend the History of the Black Watch (Royal Highlanders) in the Great War 1914-1918 by Maj Gen A G Wauchope CB - three volumes. Volume one covers the Regular Battalions and is particularly rich in detail when compared to other regimental histories.

MG

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Thanks lads,

Honestly, you know your stuff and I am indebted to your knowledge. Hopefully when the diaries are released next week I will find out more. As I've mentioned before in other posts I am in the midst of tracing the family tree, especially since its the centenary this year, so its all coming together and no doubt I will be back with more questions.

Thanks again

Andy

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Hi,

Just to throw some confusion on the subject my History of the Black Watch, volume one by Major-general A. G. Wauchope shows J. Herd Private 2201 as being killed in action on 9/11/14 rather than died of wounds. Wauchope also states that the 2nd Black Watch had been split on the 2nd November 1914 with “The Black Watch was, on November 2nd, called on to send its Headquarters and the two reserve companies (Nos 1 and 2 which had been relieved in the front line by 3 and 4 on November 1st), to take over part of the line further north; and for the remainder of its first tour in trenches, which lasted till the third week in November, the Battalion was split up, Headquarters and Nos. 1 and 2 Companies being in the left section of the Bareilly Brigade, while Nos. 3 and 4 remained in the original trenches north of Givenchy, on the right of the line”

Assuming that he was Killed in Action, (This agrees with Ancestry’s Soldiers Died in the Great War) then the raid on the 9th November, in this context, may well be a red herring.

As he is buried in Brown’s Road Military Cemetery (I appreciate that this is not a great indicator but it is a pointer as to his location when he died) is it not more likely that Private Herd was a member of either No 3 or 4 Company?

Regards

Gordon

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Apologies. My mistake. There was another Herd DOW. Your Herd KIA as highlighted above. My original post amended accordingly.

There are quite a few variables. Record keeping was not always perfect - in SDGW, CWGC and Regimental Rolls one always finds some anomalies and discrepancies between the various records. Also the location of a grave can sometimes be misleading as graves were occasionally relocated. There were only three 2nd Bn men killed that day - buried in three different Cemeteries - Bethune, Gorre and Brown's Road which perhaps gives an idea of how the place of burial might be misleading too.

ORs rarely get mentioned in War Diaries, however given this was so early and the numbers were low there is a chance the War Diary might shed some light. Good luck and do let us know when you have solved the little mystery. You might be really lucky and find a nominal roll showing which company he was in which should then greatly increase your chances of knowing which of the two locations he was in.

MG

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  • 2 weeks later...

Quick update,

I am still waiting on the war diaries being released for this unit but while doing research I've found that another member of the family, my Great grandfather served with the 2nd Royal Highlanders, James Malone 23282 and survived the war. Those are the only details I have at the moment. As yet, Ancestrys not for giving up his Service Records. Again, any help with him would be greatly received.

Andy

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  • 3 weeks later...

Your man arrived in Marseilles on the 12/10/1914. There are no diary entries between the 1st and 9th November. The narratives in the Red Hackle record that " Nov 2. 1 Coy and Hqrs transferred to trench N of LA QUINQUE. RUE. Capt Skene, Forester and McLeod wounded. 10th Nov Capt Henderson wounded. There is no report on the 9th on the raid on the German line led by Capt Forrester. I believe James Herd was one of the men of No 2 Coy who took part in a raid on 9th Nov 1914. Capt Forrester, Sgt Wallace, and one Private were wounded. There is no mention of a fatality in Wauchope. James probably died of wounds as listed in Wauchope . The raiders killed ten of the enemy.

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  • 1 month later...

Going by date James was the 16th OR in the Bn to die.

The war diary is very bitty early on and there are no entries from the 2nd till the 10th which does not really help you.

I do have a picture of his grave if you wish drop me a PM.

I indexed the war diary and there is no mention of him

Kind regards

Fred

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Going by date James was the 16th OR in the Bn to die.

The war diary is very bitty early on and there are no entries from the 2nd till the 10th which does not really help you.

I do have a pictur of his grave if you wish drop me a PM.

I indexed the war diary and there is no mention of him

Kind regards

Fred

Fred,

I have sent you a PM regarding your book on Black Watch Casualties that would aid me in my present research to identify the owner of a service dress jacket to a Black Watch Lt that is in my possession. Would appreciate your thoughts on my query at your convenience.

Mike

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Could it be he was wounded in the raid but died very soon after returning to the trench & no fine distinction was made as to DOW or KIA. He was dead so soon after being hit they listed him as KIA. Given the hectic nature of the time it's easy to see how paperwork was low level priority just then. Especially if the raid is not even mentioned. Just a theory & hope this one can be solved.

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  • 1 month later...

Hi

I am researching one of the men buried at Bethune, Pte. Herbert George Hughes (No. 1491) of the 2nd Battalion Black Watch, "Died of wounds" 12 Nov 1914. He is listed on the war memorial at our church here in Burgh, Suffolk, along with 4 other men of the village who died in WW1 (its a small village) and I am researching all 5 in connection with the centenary commemmoration.

Having seen the reference to the 9th November raid with Capt. Forrester, I am thinking it just as possible that Pte. Hughes was the wounded man from this raid, but perhaps there's no telling. I'd be grateful for comments on this, accordingly.

I've attached Pte. Hughes' medal card.post-111303-0-06506400-1402348473_thumb.

Many thanks and regards

Shane Hines

Burgh

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  • 3 months later...

Hello Shane, I think that you probably have this allready It is Herbert George HUGHES and from the CWG his next of kin is Son of Charles and Lizzie Hughes, of 7, Gardens, Burgh, Woodbridge, Suffolk.

I have a group to Sgt John WHITE 1509 who was KIA 25/9/15 He was born in CLACKMANNAN and his enlistment place was DUNFERMLINE, FIFESHIRE. Interesting as the regimental numbers are so close but the diferent enlistment locations. Pte then Sgt WHITE was with B Coy.

Sorry I cant help any further

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A rather belated follow up to BurghResearcher's enquiry from June this year, I think that 1491 Private Herbert George Hughes is the same soldier as Private Bert Hughes of the Black Watch who appears on the war memorial of Falkland, Fife, Scotland.

The connections are that also on the Falkland memorial is 1517 Private William A Black from Falkland who was killed in 1918 and 1666 Private John Hall from nearby Freuchie who died the day after Herbert/Bert and is buried two graves away in Bethune cemetery.

Ed's posting about 1509 Sergeant John White adds to the Fife connections in the 2nd battalion.

Moriaty

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Many thanks, Ed Robinson and Moriaty and previous posters above, including Martin G's post of 4 March as to how 1 and 2 Battalion may or may not have been made up by reservists in the circumstances at the time.

Yes, I have those details for Pte Hughes, thanks, Ed. I understand that he enlisted at Lochgelly, Fifeshire, and from his number this would have been in 1908. I have no idea how a young man from Suffolk (born at Kirton here) would have found himself enlisting in the Black Watch in Fifeshire, but this seems to add to the likelihood that this is the same Pte Hughes shown on the Falkland war memorial, per Moriaty's e-mail today.

In regard to November 1914, what we seem to have, on the one hand, is the reference in Wauchope to the 9 November raid under Captain Forester, returning with Capt Forrester, Sgt Wallace, and one Private wounded, then nothing further till 17 November. This contrasts with 4 privates of the battalion being buried at Bethune Town Cemetery with dates of death of 9 November (Pte Gibson), 12 November (Ptes. Hughes and Williams) and 13 November (Pte Hall). There is also a Pte Strachan, there, given as died on 21 November.

Idlewild also refers above to Pte Herd, KIA on 9 November and buried at Browns Road Cemetery and I suppose there may be others there or elsewhere.

Wauchope refers to the four companies of the Battalion being split on 2 November (see Martin G's post of 4 March above). Forester was with 2 Company.

What I wonder is whether whoever was writing up the diary (which Wauchope presumably drew upon) was with 1 and 2 Company and the Battalion HQ, whilst casualties in 3 and 4 Company went unrecorded due to the split and there being other units of the Bareilly Brigade in-between. I don't know how realistic this is, but if it could be the scenario that would place Ptes. Hughes and Hall in 3 or 4 Company, north of Givenchy.

This all seems fairly tenuous, though, so I am thinking that all that can be said is that these privates were all casualties across the 4 companies and the two sections of the line they were covering.

Gibson died of wounds 9 November, so he would seem most likely as the private wounded in Forester's raid on current evidence.

Regards

Shane Hines

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  • 3 weeks later...

Going to bump this up with a small update. Managed to visit James grave in August and it was a moving moment. The CWGC gardeners were out in force and doing what they do best and was very impressed with the cemetery. Beautifully kept and a credit to all of those lying there. I even managed to lay some soil and stones from Forfar beside his grave. Since I wasnt too sure where he fell, I took a walk around the area north of Givenchy as I felt this was probably the closest to the spot I would get. Just wish I could know what happened to him. Thanks for all the help though. If anyone has ay further ideas or theories it would go a long way :)

Andy

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Just to follow on from the various postings, we have the four Black Watch soldiers buried in Bethune Town Cemetery, A53-56, who died between 9 and 13 November 1914.

There was a report in the Fife News in early December 1914 quoting a letter written by the Battalion Chaplain on 12 November to the parents of 1666 Private John Hall who, according to his Medal Index card, died on 13 November. The article reads:

“Private J. Hall, 2nd Battalion Black Watch; 7th Meerut Division, Indian Expeditionary Force, son of Mr and Mrs David Hall, Eden Valley Row, Freuchie, was killed in action on 12th November. The Rev. Andrew Macfarlane, chaplain, 2nd Battalion Black Watch, writing to Mr and Mrs Hall, under date 12th November, conveying the sad news, says their son was killed while engaged in carrying a wounded comrade from the trenches to the field hospital under fire. “I understand”, he writes, “he was instantly killed, so you have at least the small consolation of knowing he did not suffer. Along with another, he was bravely carrying a stretcher, on which was lying a mortally-wounded lance-corporal of the Black Watch, when he was killed. So he died in the faithful performance of his duty and in the performance of an act of heroism and self-sacrifice, attempting to save another’s life. I can only give you my sincere and heartfelt sympathy in your sorrow, and in this I am joined by the officers of his Company and by all his comrades in the battalion. Your son has been buried in a small cemetery along with other brave soldiers who have fallen in action, and a wooden cross will be erected to mark his last resting place.” Private Hall was twenty-six years of age, and enlisted in the Black Watch six years ago. Before joining the Army he was a farm servant "

It is interesting that 12th November is given as Private Hall's date of death. There is no indication from the CWGC information that Private Hall was later re-interred at Bethune. I understood that in 1914 Bethune was more than "a small cemetery".

Moriaty

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Hi - thanks Andy/Idlewild, Moriaty for your further posts. I am just wanting to query re the Falkland memorial - the photo at http://www.lostancestors.eu/memwar/F/Falkland.htm shows a Pte. David Hall, not John, though John Hall is shown on the Freuchie memorial: http://www.lostancestors.eu/memwar/F/Freuchie.htm. I am thinking that, if not John on the Falkland memorial, maybe that might make the reference to Pte. Bert Hughes less likely to be Herbert George Hughes buried close by John in Bethune Cemetery, though still a good chance in view of the number of Black Watch mentioned on the Falkland memorial. Regards, Shane Hines

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