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1st/5th Battalion Gordon Highlanders

Alexander Cheyne


This article is from "Forgotten Scottish Voices from the Great War'" by Derek Young, Tempus, 2005


In Aberdeen, Alexander Cheyne, who had graduated in Classics from Aberdeen University,
worked his passage across the Atlantic and rode the Canadian prairie for a year before returning
to Aberdeen to train for the ministry. When the war broke out, one of his professors set the class
an essay on the subject 'My duty in the present national crisis', and when they had finished writing,
the entire class marched down to the nearest recruiting office and enlisted.  Cheyne, 2nd Lieutenant
5th Battalion Gordon Highlanders, was the sole survivor of this enthusiastic young group. (Page 19)

Alexander Cheyne came from the Mintlaw region of Buchan. He was born at Lonmay on 3rd May 1891, the son of William and Isabella Cheyne.  He left Glasgow for the United States and Canada aboard the "California" on 28th March 1913.  He returned to Scotland in September 1913 to resume his studies for the ministry.

He joined the 4th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders in November 1914 and was gazetted 2nd Lieutenant in the 5th Battalion on 2nd October 1915.    He received his orders for the Front on 2nd June 1916 while stationed at the training camp at Ripon, and sailed for France on board the "S.S. Caesarea" arriving at Le Harve on 9th June 1916. He was eventually assigned to C Company, number 10 platoon.  In September 1916 he was offered, and accepted,  the position of assistant adjutant.  One of his duties was to write up the Battalion War Diary, which he did until December 1916.  He appears in the Battalion's War Diary for November 1916  on a list of officers and men who did not go into action at Beaumont Hamel, in December 1916 as going on leave and in September 1917 as being sick on leave. In July 1917 he was promoted to Lieutenant.  He again appears in the War Diary for April 1918 as being one of a number of officers returning from leave following the big German attacks and he is listed as one of the officers of the Battalion who was wounded during that month.  

After the war he became a minister of the United Free Church.  In 1923 he was a minister at Maryculter in Aberdeenshire when he married Catherine Anne Campbell, a local school teacher from the neighbouring town of Peterculter.  The couple's first child, Alexander Campbell Cheyne, (who was to become one of the foremost Scottish scholars of Church History) was born in Perth in 1924. Cheyne spent many years as the minister at Dunnikier, Kirkcaldy.

Alexander Cheyne died in Edinburgh in 1976.

His personal diary covering the period 31st May to 21st November 1916 is held in the Liddle Collection at Leeds University. It is an interesting collection of personal details such as letters received and sent, religious quotations, and details of fellow officers and casualties in his platoon. Contact me for further details

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Carolyn Morrisey