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Tom Wilkie, 1st Black Watch


Ian Robertson
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Ian,

Quite an interesting photo at the barbers. The 1st Battalion always considered themselves as the 42nd 'The Forty Twa' regardless of the Cardwell Reforms, which amalgamated them with their 'old' second battalion, the 73rd (who had to then re-don kilts etc. and adopt Black Watch uniform).

Albeit the reforms amalgamated these battalions, the 2nd Battalion - although Black Watch - was still referred to (at times) by its regiment of the line number - the 73rd.

Aye

Tom McC

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Tom,

Looking at pictures in " The Black Watch Photographic Archive" there is evidence that both numbers, 42 and 73 were still used informally until recently.

regards

Ian

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Brilliant pictures, superb information and comment, what a fantastic thread. Thanks to all.

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Also private George Green

Ian/Tom

Here's my grandfather (bottom right), 267806 Pte James Myles MM, 6 (TF) Btn BW (RH) on summer camp back in July 1912. At that time he was in the 5th (TF) Btn. I suspect that the picture was probably taken at Barry Buddon Camp near Carnoustie in Angus, which is still used today.

post-4771-1163679077.jpg

If you zoom in on his collar you should be able see the 5 T RH. If you can't, I have a Hi Res version at home.

He was awarded his MM in August 1918 after being 'Gassed and Shellshocked'. I suspect this may have been during the Battle of Tardenois (15-30 July), where the 6 Btn received the Croix De Guerre for assisting the French 5th near Chambrecy. Alternatively it could be during Battle for the Scarpe (25 - 29 Aug) where the 6th attacked in between Fampoux and Gavrelle during the first 4 of the last 100 days of the war. Still got lots more research to do to before I can reach a fair conclusion though.

James was Forfar born but a baker in Dundee by trade. The photo is the front of a postcard sent to his girlfiiend Helen (Nell) Robertson also of Dundee, who was to become my grandmother in 1920. He survived the war but sadly died from stomach cancer in 1948, only 5 weeks after my parents married.

I also include his official photo.

post-4771-1163679208.jpg

Hope you enjoy the photos.

Gus

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Gus,

Great Photographs. My military knowledge is practically nil so I won't be able to enlarge on the information you supplied except to say that Barry Buddon is still very much in use today, in fact I was down that way on Sunday with the dog and there seemed to be a sizable execise taking place.

Funnily enough Tom Wilkie's father Nicol, was also born and brought up in Forfar and moved to Dundee with his wife and first child in the early 1880's.

regards

Ian Robertson

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Gus,

Again, great pictures. I am currently doing research into the TF Battalions of the Black Watch - especially 4th, 5th, & 4/5th.

The bottom picture is probably taken in late 1917 to 1918. The 6th BW diary does not have them fully in the TOS till 1918 (April I think), up until then the diary says Balmorals - but there may be dated photos to dispute this.

Aye

Tom McC

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Hi All,

Just reference the Feather Bonnets. Feather bonnets were also worn with Service Dress when travelling to and from duty stations - for no other reason than they were extremely awkward to carry and keep in good condition; especially when carrying: kit bags, packs, and rifles. The main mode of transport, of course, being the train.

I think they were pretty much hung up in 1914 along with Full Dress really. You don't see much of Review order with Feather Bonnets unless of course the soldier was in the Pipe Band...and I think the 'Sitting Doon Band'.

Ian,

Here is an article that was written for the relative of a Black Watch soldier who was killed in the First World War:

At the outbreak of the Great War L/Cpl David Martin was serving as a regular soldier with the 1st Bn The Black Watch in Aldershot as part of 1st (Guards) Brigade, 1st Division. The commanding officer was Lieutenant Colonel A. Grant-Duff, C.B.

The Battalion had been in Oudenarde Barracks Aldershot since February 1913 and had the advantage of having spent eighteen months at the principal training station of the army.

Between July 29th and August 8th 1914 all men had been recalled from leave including the arrival of five hundred reservists of time served men of both the 1st and 2nd Bns. On the 11th of August the Battalion was inspected by the King as Colonel-in-Chief of the Regiment who wished them good fortune. The Bn arrived at Le Harve on the 14th August with a fighting strength of 28 officers and 1031 other ranks.

Between 17th August and 15th October David Martin would take part in the epic fighting retreat from Mons and the subsequent advance which denied the Germans the quick victory they had planned for, and altered the outcome of the war, much to the consternation Kaiser Bill. Britain’s ‘contemptible little army’ did well!. See map,

I am certain that David fought at the Battle of the Marne 7th – 10th September and two days later at the Battle of the Ainse 12th – 26th September 1914.

On the 19th October, Sir John French ordered a general advance east by the British forces. The British were unaware that a superior German force was already closing in on Ypres, and so began the 1st Battle of Ypres in which the 1st Black Watch would take part in many of the crucial actions around Ypres from the north at Kortekeer Cabaret, Polygon Wood and down to the area of the Menin Road around Gheluvelt where the German main effort threatened the British line.

In the early hours of the 29th October the Germans attacked in great strength down the Menin road and in spite of determined resistance by the British line the enemy broke through and managed to roll up

B Company of the Black Watch and two companies of the Coldstream Guards, after fierce fighting by the remainder of the battalion, the line was restored, but some lost ground could not be recovered. The battalion losses that day were 5 officers and 250 men.

The Germans immediately brought up three fresh Army Corps for a decisive attack and to force a breakthrough against a weakened, and weary British line that had no chance of relief. The fighting continued over the next two days. On the 31st October now recognised as the start of the most critical period of the 1st Battle of Ypres. The enemy broke through and took Gheluvelt and after heavy fighting the village was eventually taken by the Worcestershire Regiment on the 2nd November.

Whilst the Worcesters were taking Gheluvelt, the British line on the Menin Road was again breached.

Your relative David Martin took part in what has been described as a brilliant counter-attack by the greatly reduced A, B and C companies of the 1st Battalion The Black Watch. The three companies with a total strength of 120 all ranks (this was less than the strength of a single company), who in spite of their paucity, managed to plug the gap, and by dogged resistance and feat of arms thwarted the German forward movement.

Lance Corporal David Martin fell during this action. Of the 120 men that went in that day only 75 were left standing; all the officers were either killed or wounded, 26 other ranks were killed and 34 wounded. This was a remarkable achievement by our men in spite of everything. Two further great offensives (1917 & 1918) would be fought by the Black Watch at Ypres but that is another story.

David Martin has no known grave his name is engraved on panel 37 of the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.

Of the 28 officers and 1031 men that marched out of Oudenarde Barracks with David on the 13th August 1914 only one officer and 29 other ranks ended the Great War having served with the Battalion throughout. David would most certainly have known the officer who returned; Major and Quartermaster W. Fowler, MC, sometime RSM of the Battalion, and who at the end of the war became Quartermaster at Queens Barracks Perth where he would start an embryonic Regimental Museum, The museum is now in Balhousie Castle, Hay Street, Perth: A fitting memorial! where David is named in the Book of Remembrance, in the 1st World War room. Balhousie Castle is open all year (except Christmas & New Year), entry is free.

(CORRECTION OF MYSELF: The chap crossing the Bridge I don't think is Willie Fowler - he was Commissioned in 1911)

Aye

Tom McC

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Gus,

Again, great pictures. I am currently doing research into the TF Battalions of the Black Watch - especially 4th, 5th, & 4/5th.

The bottom picture is probably taken in late 1917 to 1918. The 6th BW diary does not have them fully in the TOS till 1918 (April I think), up until then the diary says Balmorals - but there may be dated photos to dispute this.

Aye

Tom McC

Hi Tom

James went to France in the summer of 1916 joining the 4th BW. His service medals and dog tag bear the Regt Details and service no. 5233. His MIC suggests that he moved to the 6th later taking the Service No. 5874 and with TF renumbering on 01 Mar 1917 took the number 267806 enscribed on the side of his Military Medal.

Your point about James's headgear raises an interesting question. Given its late creation, could this postcard/photo of James by the drum in full uniform actually be his medal winning publicity shot?

James was mentioned in the Dundee Advertiser on Aug 30 Aug 1918 (below).

"Pte. James Myles, Black Watch, whose mother resides in Nursery Street, Forfar, has been awarded the Military Medal. A baker to trade, he was employed in Dundee prior to enlisting in May 1916. He has almost two years of active service. He is one of four soldier brothers."

Due to the frailty of the old newspaper, it unfortunately could not be scanned. The text had to be extrapolated by a DC Thomsons employee and emailed, so I haven't seen the actual accompanying photo.

Strangely his brothers mentioned above, namely Charles, William Clark and Alexander were all in the Gordon Highlanders. They too survived the war. All are mentioned in the “Forfar & District In The War 1914-1919” published in 1921. In the same book, James was incorrectly given the middle name 'Cook' which actually was his cousin's name who was also in the BW (Ser No 1794).

Any idea whats is on James left upper sleeve? Could it be a 'Wound Stripe' and a small badge above. Could this 'wound stripe' tie in with his gassing?

If you have anything useful which could assist me in establishing the possible nature of James' medal winning deed, I'd be very grateful. I am especially interested in June, July and August 1918. I already have the Btn War Diary for August. If you've got anything on James' cousin, that would be great too.

Until next time

Gus

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Gus,

The upper arm horizontal stripe indicates that he is in the 1st Battalion of the two 'senior' brigades of the 51st Highland Division (152 Bde & 153 Bde).

1/6 BW were the 1st battalion of 153 Brigade (1 Horizontal Stripe), 1/7 BW being the 2nd battalion of 153 Brigade (2 Horizontal Stripes). The colour of the horizontal stripe/bar would represent the brigade.

The wound stripe was worn on the lower left arm vertically. Please find picture of the 15 HLI LCpl attached.

Hope this helps

Aye

Tom McC

post-10175-1163777766.jpg

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Tom,

Very many thanks for posting the informative and interesting article about David Martin. I have no verified information about Tom Wilkie's war service but it is fair to say the what you have given is representative of Tom's experiences in the first months of the war. It is strange to think that David Martin's face may be looking out from one of the pictures posted in this thread. The only surprise about the small number of men who managed to see the war all the way through is that there were any at all given the nature and amount of action they would have seen over the four years. Astonishly it looks as if John Smith and George Green may be two who did manage to survive. I had a quick recce in Balhousie castle yesterday and neither are mentioned in the roll of honour which bears out the information on their medal cards. It is interesting to note that on Tom Wilkie's, John Smith's and George Green's medal card it gives their entry into the theatre of war as 13/08/1914; does this mean that their active participation was seen as starting when they embarked rather than when they landed in France. All three have been awarded the addition of the clasp to the 1914 star as you would expect.

In amongst Tom's Album was a post card which depicteds the batallion in Action in May 1915 at perhaps Aubers Ridge . I expect that the picture may be from a detail from a larger painting. Tom hasn't written anything on the back except a date 29/12 15.

post-16112-1163841109.jpg

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Stewart, as discussed see picture below. This was part of the battalion Christmas card for 1912. This picture shows the NCOs and on another page there was a a picture of the offices on Edinburgh Castle esplanade. Unfortunately I can't scan the that without damaging the card. You'll probably have to tweak the picture to stand any chance of seeing the faces.

post-16112-1164357509.jpg

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  • 3 weeks later...

Ian,

The postcard is of the 1st Battalion The Black Watch, 9th May 1915 - RUE DU BOIS, May 9, 1915. This picture is in: The Black Watch, A Short History, by Bernard Ferguson. Answers a question about pipers in action. They don't tend to lead the attack after Loos.

Aye

Tom McC

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Ian,

Do you have any more pictures of the 1st Bn wearing their white shell jackets, as they are in the group picture above?

If so, could you please post them? In advance, Many Thanks!

Aye

Tom McC

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Tom,

Sorry I've no more pictures of Ist Bat in the shell jacket; the only other one I have is shown in post number 30.

The book " The Black Watch: The Black Watch Photographic Archive" has a couple but not from the first World War. On page 34 there is a picture from around 1904 at Fort George with a group (which includes Willie Fowler) in the shell Jacket. I dont want to post that here but if it was any use to you I'm sure that I could get a copy to you.

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Ian,

Thanks for the offer from the archive book but I've got the book in question. From a First World War perspective, I think your pictures would have greatly enhanced the archive book.

Aye

Tom McC

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  • 1 month later...

post-16112-1170664675.jpg

This photo was in Tom's album along with several others including pictures of his Brother and his family before they departed for Australia in 1912. I didn't post it before as it wasn't really relevant in a military sense. Since then I have identified the young lady as Isabella Clark(e) and i believe that the servicemen are her brothers. The soldier on the right hand side is the same individual as shown in post 21 and I believe that he was Alex Clark(e) who was engaged at that time to my Grandmother. I am having difficulty tying up the know details for this Family with trhe 1901 census and therefore I would be grateful if someone could look up SDGW for me. The details would be

Alex Clark(e)

Black Watch, likely 1st Bat.

Father ; George

Mother; Mary

Residence; Fife, probably Kirkcaldy

possibly DOW, could be KIA but not before 1/10/1915.

Also

Yesterday I found in my Dad's loft a note from Tom to my Grandmother which he had sent with an embroidered card. The date was 1/10/1915. In it he said that they were now in Billets after spending the last 5 days in action. If anyone has the batt. diaries for this period could they have a look and see what it says for the week prior to this date.

Many thanks in advance

Ian

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Tom,

Once again thanks for your quick response. Given the information that you have kindly supplied it would seem that some of my details must be incorrect. I'll need to go back to my sources.

regards

Ian

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The first picture of this thread shows Thomas Wilkie in 1914 as a L/Cpl with a Good conduct stripe. The photograph below shows a studio portrait of him after his promotion to Sgt. This was taken in Dundee probably around the end of 1915. I wasn't going to post this but I just noticed there wasn't good conduct stripe on the BD. Any reason for this and if he was guilty of some misdemeanor how would he have made sergeant?

post-16112-1171116422.jpg

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Grumpy,

Thanks once again for the information, it makes sense.

Tom,

I thought that when I looked at the picture first. I' ve just looked at a book I have of Daily Mail pictures from the war and there are one or two pictures showing NCO's with stipes almost as dark. One of them shows L/Cpl C A Jarvis V.C. at Woodford Green recruiting station and his stipe is as dark as Tom's.

Also

In post I made dated 5th feb I asked for a Bat. Dairy look up for the week before Tom's letter dated 1st Oct 1915.Scrap that and cue huge embarrassment; the week before was the last week of Sept. Even I knew that most of the regiment was kinda busy then!

regards

Ian

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