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5th Battalion Gordon Highlanders

"Friends are good on the day of battle"

51st Highland Division Monument, Beaumont Hamel

51st Highland Division Monument at Beaumont Hamel

The 51st Highland Division memorial at Beaumont Hamel ideally illustrates the ethos of the Territorial Force.  The translation of the Gaelic inscription on the base reads, "Friends are good on the day of battle".  The bronze statue of a Highlander looks out across Y Ravine, where so many of those friends from towns and villages across the north of Scotland,  fell. 

In the History of the 51st (Highland) Division, the author makes the following comments regarding casualties at Beaumont Hamel:

"The casualties sustained by the Division during the month of November amounted to 123 officers killed, wounded and missing, and 2355 other ranks.  For modern warfare [ Note: this was written in 1921] these were not heavy, particularly when compared with the number of prisoners captured during the operation.  It must, however, be borne in mind that at the time of the battle, the battalions were extremely weak in numbers.  The casualties during the action represented 45 per cent of those who took part in the attack."

The War Diaries for the 5th Battalion list 94 men killed in action or dying of wounds as a result of the action at Beaumont Hamel. (Several were not in fact killed.) Of these 90 or so men, about 80 can be identified as either having been born in, or lived in, the North East area of Aberdeenshire.  The loss to many small communities was considerable.

War's End

The battalion that ended the war in 1918 was a very different unit from that which had volunteered for service in 1914.  Heavy losses in 1916 and 1917, the end to direct recruiting into the Territorial Force  and conscription, had all helped to reduce the local nature of the original battalion.  The catastrophe of March 1918, when the battalion lost 560 men, including its Commanding Officer, mainly as prisoners of war, meant that few of the men who had appeared on the 1914  Roll were present to hear the contents of the telegram of congratulations sent to them by the County Association on Armistice Day 1918. On 12th November, the Buchan Observer published the following response to that telegram:

The following reply has been received from O.C. 5th Battalion -" Allow me on behalf of this battalion to thank the County of Aberdeen Territorial Force Association for the kind telegram of congratulations.  This has been communicated to all ranks and was greatly appreciated.  We all rejoice with you in the termination of the world war and trust that the day is not too far distant when we will be all back again pursuing our peaceful vocations, having prevented, we hope, for all time the recurrence of such a tragedy."

Click here to see the War Diary for November 1918

 Click here for details of the March 1918 battle.

The Regimental Roll of the Fallen in the Great War shows the figures for the 5th Battalion as 45 officers and 817 other ranks killed. The 1914 Roll contained the names of 33 officers and 902 other ranks.

The purpose of this site has not been to discuss in any detail the battles or tactics of the war.  There are many books and internet sites dedicated to this purpose.  Below I have listed some that I have found particularly useful.
To the best of my knowledge there are no books or memoirs about the 5th Battalion, however mention is made of it, or the 51st Highland Division, to which it belonged, in the following:

About the Territorial Force or the Army in general:

About Prisoners of War

Internet Sites:

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