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Remembered Today:

Capt. J.F. Mackain, 34th Sikh Pioneers, K.I.A. 23/11/1914


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Remembering today my great uncle Capt. James Fergus Mackain, 34th Sikh Pioneers, killed in action at Festubert on November 23rd, 1914.

Capt. J.F. Mackain


"Captain, 34th Sikh Pioneers, Indian Army, elder son of the Rev. William James Mackain, of Ardnamurchan, Aubrey Lodge, Merton Park, formerly Rector of Parham, Sussex, and subsequently Vicar of Little Waldingfield and Posingford, Suffolk, by his wife, Helen Clifford, dau. of the late John Johnstone Elton Morecroft of Hollymount, West Derby, Liverpool; b. Bognor, co. Sussex 28 Oct. 1885; educ. Warden House School, Upper Deal; Clifton College (where he was a member of the Bisley VIII of 1902),and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst; gazetted 2nd Lieut., unattached, Indian Army, 9 Jan.. 1904 and, after serving for his first year with the Gordon Highlanders at Sialkot and Peshawar, was posted to the 34th Sikh Pioneers, 8 March 1905.

During the great earthquake in the Punjab in 1905 he was in charge of a relief convoy from Lahore to Kulu and did good work there, and his name appeared in a telegram from the Viceroy to the Secretary of State. He entered the Kusauli Army Signalling College, and on the completion of his course received a special certificate. He was engaged in the Mohmand Expedition of 1908, for which he received a medal with clasp. Seconded from his regiment in 1910 he was one of the first officers appointed to the newly raised Signal Companies of the Sappers and Miners and served with the 31st Signal Coy. as second in command for 3 years at Futtehghur and other stations. He was promoted Lieut. 9 April 1906 and Capt. 9 Jan 1913.

Home on furlough when the war broke out, he rejoined his regt. in Egypt in Aug 1914 and proceeded with it to France. He fell in action near Festubert, Flanders on 23 Nov 1914, while gallantly defending his trench against a determined assault of the enemy. Capt. Mackain, though wounded in the face from the splinter of a shell, rallied his men and while he lived kept the enemy at bay. He was mentioned in Field-Marshall Sir John French's Despatch of 14 Jan 1915. A brother officer wrote: "He was commanding his company (No. 4) at the time, and was shot through the head in a very gallant attempt to stem an attack in great force by the enemy through breaches blown in our trenches. The enemy were armed with hand-grenades, which they threw into the trenches. Your son, while shooting down the grenadiers with his revolver over the top of the trench, was unhappily himself shot dead through the head. His loss to us personally, and to us as a regt., I cannot yet realise. He was such a fine stamp of Christian soldier, and we looked on him as one likely to go a very long way." The "Civil and Military Gazette" of India, of 4 Dec 1914, said: "Capt. Mackain was known throughout Northern India as a keen Churchman and one of the mainstays of The Church of England Men's Society."

A memorial tablet to the memory of Capt. Mackain, erected by his father, was unveiled in the Grosvenor Chapel, South Audley Street, W., by the Chaplain-General on 29 Sept. 1915, and another was placed in Lahore Cathedral by his friends in India."

Memorial Tablet at Grosvenor Chapel, South Audley Street

Capt. James Fergus Mackain is remembered with honour at the GUARDS CEMETERY, WINDY CORNER, CUINCHY

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  • 3 years later...



I know you made your last post a while back but if you are still looking at this site I would be interested in any family memories you have of your great uncle. I have been researching my grandfather's war diary. His name was James William Barnett, known as Jock. He was in the Indian Medical Service and attached to the 34th in France and Mesopotamia. He mentions your great uncle's death. I have been trying to find the identities and if possible photographs of the other people mentioned to try to get a picture of the regiment at that time. I have a photo of Capt. James Fergus Mackain from I think, the IWM, but I am trying to get less formal pictures of the officers, so if you have any of him I would be very grateful if you could send me a copy (as an example I have a picture of Captain Masters in a hockey team line-up, and George Paterson on his wedding day). I am trying to get an idea of the characters of these men - I get the impression your great uncle was a devout Christian - at least that's what the records and his epitaph suggest. Are there any letters or memories or family stories you have that might give me an impression of what he was like? 

What I am going to do with all this I am not sure. If I get a good enough collection of tales it may be worth trying to publish it. It depends how I get on.

Best wishes


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