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Remembered Today:

Lt Col Hugh Wilderspin Niven PPCLI & his binoculars


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Recent eBay purchase; This is a set of, Huet of Paris, Extra Lumineuse, 8x magnification binoculars dating from 1913. They were purchased from Robert Ballantine Opticians of Glasgow.

The case is typical military configuration private purchase with both a strap and belt loop, they are marked with the initials MEM and Stewartlea Ayr.


Scratched on the base is “H W Niven PPCLI” a quick check of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry history shows only one “H W Niven”.

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A “Hugh Wilderspin Niven” (Later Lt Colonel DSO* MC made famous for painting Canadians at Ypres (08 May 1915 – Frezenberg Ridge) by William Barnes-Wollen (1915)


Lieutenant H W Niven is the central figure (officer) pointing towards the enemy


Military Cross; Captain Hugh Wilderspin Niven, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry

For conspicuous gallantry and coolness during a very heavy bombardment on 8th May 1915, at Bellegarde lake, east of Ypres, when his battalion suffered very heavy casualties. All the senior officers being disabled, he found himself in charge, and continued to command the battalion with great ability till 15th May. He had previously been brought to notice for consistent good work as Transport Officer, and as Adjutant has done good services, and was wounded.

DSO; Niven M.C., Hugh Wilderspin Captain

For conspicuous gallantry when in command of his company and holding an advanced position. He repulsed the enemy and hung on to his position when he was practically surrounded, and the enemy were calling on him to surrender. He continued to direct operations after being wounded.

Bar to the DSO; Niven D.S.O., M.C., Hugh Wilderspin Major

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He did excellent work in going to the front line during the operations and reorganizing scattered units. He personally carried away the wounded and saw to their evacuation in the face of great difficulties and dangers. His grasp of the situation in the captured position was of high order.



Edited by leibregiment
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So, were these binoculars his???


While there is always an element of conjecture and doubt in all historical investigations in this case (and with the information I have) my findings are yes.

The binoculars; While French in manufacturer were retailed in Glasgow and date from about 1910-14, the retailer Robert Ballantine advertised during WW1

“Robert Ballantine: In the late 19th century the Ballantine family were involved in the business of J. Lizars, a well-established Glasgow optician. Matthew Ballantine took over the running of the company in 1882. They expanded into selling photographic items around this time, starting to manufacture cameras around 1896. In 1908 Robert Ballantine retired from the Lizars Buchanan St. business and set up in business under his own name at 99 St Vincent St, Glasgow as an optician and photographic dealer. The Glasgow business of Lizars continued under the management of Matthew Ballantine junior and Arthur Ballantine, both sons of Matthew Ballantine senior”.


The initials “MEM” and “Stewartlea Ayr” stamped on the case;

Hugh Wilderspin Niven was born on 22 May 1876 in London. He joined the PPCLI in August 1914 as a lieutenant and was appointed adjutant. He was wounded on 19 Mar 1915, and again on 2 June 1916.

Initially I considered the binoculars to have been a brother officers, often an officer’s kit was auctioned off when an officer was killed, a check of PPCLI officer casualties has no one with those initials.

A check of Niven’s online record has him recuperating after his second wound in June 2016 at “Stewart house”, Ayr (unable to find this place) so could it be “Stewartlea”



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The Macandrew family

The Macandrew’s had lived in Knock Castle until the father Francis Glen died in 1908, they moved to Stewartlea house on his death, the Mother Elizabeth (Jessie) Muir took over as the head of the house with the eldest daughter;

Marie Elizabeth Macandrew, Met and was engaged on the 30 October 1916 and married Hugh Wilderspin Niven on the 27 December 1916 she died in 1967 and he (Hugh) died in 1969




Winifred (Freda) Orr Macandrew; was born on May 28, 1892, in Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland, her father, Francis, was 37, and her mother, Elizabeth, was 34. She had one son and one daughter with Herbert Roderick Kelway Bamber between 1918 and 1920. She died in 1977 at the age of 85.


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James Orr Macandrew; James Orr Macandrew was born on June 22, 1899, in Largs, Ayrshire, Scotland, his father, Francis, was 44 and his mother, Elizabeth, was 41. He married Eileen May Butterfield on September 9, 1944. They had one child during their marriage. He died on July 11, 1979, at the age of 80, Lieutenant-Colonel and politician; MP for Ayrshire, He joined the British Royal Flying Corps (RFC) in 1917 and was severely wounded in France in 1918


Colin Glen Orr Macandrew; Lieut. Colin Glen Orr MacAndrew, Yeomanry, attached Royal Flying Corps (killed), was the second son of the late Mr F. G. MacAndrew and of Mrs MacAndrew, Stewartlea, Ayr. He was 20 years of age, received his commission in November 1914, and was transferred to the Flying Corps in April of 1917.

The son of Francis G. and Jessie M. MacAndrew, 2nd Lieutenant Colin Glen Orr MacAndrew, 2/1st Ayrshire Yeomanry, received Royal Aero Club Aviator's Certificate 4205 on a Maurice Farman biplane at Military School, Thetford on 21 December 1916. He was appointed Flying Officer and seconded to the Royal Flying Corps on 16 April 1917. On 1 July 1917, he was promoted to Lieutenant. A Bristol Fighter pilot with 11 Squadron, he scored five victories in the summer of 1917. He was appointed Flight Commander and promoted to temporary Captain on 12 September 1917

Marie's brother KIA.PNG

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Back to the Binoculars

So; we know the binoculars have the initials “MEM” and with the “Stewartlea” embossed on the case, the time scale of Robert Ballantine opening his shop we can be certain they belonged to Marie Elizabeth Macandrew.

We know Marie married Hugh in December 1916. At some point his name was scratched on the case.


Conjecture; The binoculars were given as a gift to Marie, given the “Military” nature of the case I am thinking possibly as a thank you by Hugh after his recuperation after his chest wound, she then scratched his name on them.

My second thought is she gave them to him (possibly a former gift from her Brother or another Officer) and he scratched his name on them.

So, did he have these binoculars when he briefly commanded the divisional grenade school as a temporary Lt Colonel or back in France when he briefly commanded the regiment we will never know…but whether he bought them for his future wife or she gave them to him or even if he had them post war…they touched one of the greatest Canadian soldiers to serve during WW1.


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Great stuff!

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