| Home | War Diaries Home |

1st/5th Battalion Gordon Highlanders

Battalion War Diary June 1915

  Place  Date                Diary


 5th  June  1915

15th June

From 31st May to 4th June inclusive the Battalion occupied the trenches in the ORCHARD in front of INDIAN VILLAGE. "C" Company occupied the trench in ORCHARD with "B" and "D" Coys on its right as firing line, whilst "A" Coy was in support.  On the night of 4th/5th June at 11.55 p.m. the Battalion was relieved by 6th Seaforths, and marched via LE TOURET-LOCON to billets at CORNET MALO, remaining there till it marched at 6 p.m. to RIEZ du VINAGE arriving at 9 p.m. [and] remaining there till the morning of 16th June 
16th June At 5 a.m. on 16th the Battalion received orders to proceed to 2nd Line breastworks at LE TOURET and be under orders of G.O.C 154th Infantry Brigade,  The Battalion arrived at LE TOURET at 8 a.m, proceeding to the trenches at 3 p.m., taking over portion of Reserve trench near LA CINQUE RUE at 4.30 p.m. taking place of 7th Black Watch.  The Bn. marched via INDIAN VILLAGE and suffered a few casualties from shell fire on nearing the Reserve Trench.

17th  June -

18th June

 An attack in conjunction with 2nd Gordons on our right was ordered for 3 a.m. 18/6 inst.  The 1/7 Gordons in the trench were to attack, the 5th Gordons being in support.  This attack was postponed till 5 a.m. owing to want of time from receipt of order till the attack should be launched.  Preparations had been made for the assault on the German line on our front on L, 10 when orders were received postponing the attck for 24 hours.  The 2nd Gordons however attacked unsupported at 4.55 a.m.  Colonel A. Grant D.S.O. commanding [5th Bn] was wounded by a shell on the morning of 18th whilst returning from the support trench to the Bn. Headquarters.

19th June -

26th June
The Battalion was relieved by 1/6 Seaforths on 19th at 11.50 p.m. and marched to Billets on Canal west of LES CAUDRONS where it remained two days till 22nd.  On this date the Bn. went into the trenches East of Festubert. 1 and a half Coys being in firing line and 1 and a half Coys. in Support, one company in Reserve trench. On 24th June, Major M.F. McTaggart from 5th Lancers took over command of the Battalion.  On night of 25/26 June, the Battalion was relieved by the 1/7 Gordon Highlanders in the fire and support trenches, and came back to the reserve trench.
LA TOMBE WILLOT   27th June - 29th June On 27th about 11.45 p.m. the Bn. was relieved by the Yorkshire regiment and went into Billets at LA TOMBE WILLOT arriving at 4 a.m. Leaving La Tombe Willot at 8.30 p.m. the Bn. marched via Zelobes and La Gorgue to billets on the Pont du Hemestaires road west of Le Drumez arriving 12.1 a.m. 29th June.  There was trouble in finding billets, owing to another Bn. being in the area.  This was rectified on the following day.
NEAR LE DRUMEZ  30th June    The strength of the Battalion on 30th June 1915 is 24 [unclear] officers 548 other Ranks.

Casualties during the month ending 30th June 1915:

Killed - Two officers  - (Lt Hon. R.A. Forbes Sempill and 2/Lt W.L. Scott)

Wounded - Four officers  - (Capt. F.S. Runcieman, 2/Lt L.C.H. Fuller, Col A. Grant D.S.O, Lt R. Cowie.)

Other ranks:  Killed - Fourteen.  Wounded -  Sixty-nine. 

Click here to view Casualty List for June 1915

The following are letters that appeared in the Fraserburgh Herald on 15th June 1915 and 22nd June 1915
regarding the time in the trenches in early June.
(My thanks to Mary Melville of Fraserburgh for making these available to me.)

15th June 1915

From a Herald Man.
Private James Barclay, formerly of the “Herald” Office, Fraserburgh, writes as follows:
We were in four days and had 17 casualties in our company alone.  Six were killed outright and 11 wounded ; something like 35 altogether to the battalion, so you see we certainly had the worst of it.

14 Killed, 31 Wounded,
Writing on Monday 7th June, Staff-Sergeant Macgegor gives the follwing particulars regarding the second visit of the 5th Gordons to the trenches.

Once more I sit down to pen you a few lines concerning the Broch boys out here.  We have finished our second speel of the trenches and I regret to say we have lost a good few of our company.  We were in the trenches for four daysand all that time we were under a severe fire from the enemy, whose trenches were in places only about 70 yards from ours.  It so happened that the portion of our line occupied by A and B Companies came in for the worst of it.  Time and again our trenches were blown in and the men buried, but time and again our men rebuilt them under galling fire. In one particular section of the trench occupied by B Company, only one man came out untouched, all the rest being killed or wounded. Nothing would have pleased our men better than to have the command to fix bayoners and charge, for then they would have had a chance of getting their own back. It's a bit disheartening, you know, to be cooped up in a trench and seeing your chums falling and you unable to do anything.  One thing which struck me very much was the excellent spirit of the men.  Our losses only seemed to make them work harder, and seasoned reguar troops could not have done any better. 

22nd June 1915

How They Held Their Position.

Writing on 12th June 
[Extract only]

In the afternoon of the second day we had our first real taste of German high explosive shells.  As I said they had our range and they shelled us for about half an hour.  This may seem a short time, but when you understand that these high explosive shells are breaking constantly over you and spreading all sorts of deadly material, you will not think so lightly of it.  We had no casualties.

The 2nd and 3rd inst. were our black days however.  Time after time the Germans cleared the front of our trenches away with their artillery fire.  We had only two men touched up by snipers.  One man, our valued officer, the Hon. R. A. Forbes-Sempill, and the other was Corporal J. Clark, 7 Kirk Brae, Fraserburgh - the officer killed and the corporal wounded.  Altogether there were 18 caualties in our company - 6 killed and 12 wounded.  You will see therefore, that over 20% of our casuaties were due to artillery fire.  No one can, with safety, move when it is bursting.  We have got to take risks but they do deadly work.  If therefore, we are to succeed in this war we must have a greater supply of high explosive shells so as to beat the enemy’s artillery fire, and then we can go forward and take his trenches.  The latter cannot be won until the former is accomplished.  I wish the people at home knew all the facts of the case.  If they had been with us in our narrow trench and seen, as I did, the parapets destroyed and our brave fellows knocked out, they would stir up such interest in the question of munitions that we should have all we want at once, and thus ensure not only an enormous saving of life but a speedy ending of the war.  We must have high explosive shells in unlimited number, otherwise we are not only to have a long but a very costly war in human life.

We are all in splendid spirits and in fine fighting fettle.  Coming out of the trenches last Friday night my company sang their cheery marching songs.  We had a rough time, but we are neither afraid nor downcast.  The shadow of our losses was on us, but we were proud that they had falled in so noble a cause.

We buried our comrades near our trench, and marked with reverence and awe the place where they lie by erecting simple wooden crosses.  It was my last painful duty before I left the trenches to visit their graves and take a last fond farewell of these noble men.
We shall likely be in the trenches soon again, perhaps ‘ere this letter reaches you (June 16). Tell our friends not to be too anxious over us.  We are all keen and in capital form, and prepared to do our part no matter how dangerous it is.

Life Behind the Firing Line.
Extract only]

Writing on 13th June, our valued correspondent, Staff Seargent J. F Macgregor gives the following interesting description of  how our Territorials live when not actually in the fire trenches : -

We are now resting in a pretty little village some distance behind the firing line.  When I say “resting” I do not mean that we are living a life of comparative idleness.  We have our daily programme to go through just the same as if we were in camp.  Our day’s work commences with reveille at 6 a.m., when we have an hour’s running drill after which we have breakfast at 9.30 a.m.  At 10 o’clock we fall in again for company training, bayonet fighting or respirator drill.  Dinner is served at 1 o’clock, after which the most popular of all the parades then takes place, namely the bathing parade.  Although our bathing facitilies are not to be compared with those at home, we manage to enjoy ourselves very well.  Tea is served at 5p.m. when we are free until roll-call at 8p.m. when every man must answer his name.  Today, being Sunday, we attended church parade, our chaplain being the Rev. W.G. Donald, West Parish Church, Aberdeen.  Our Padre is very popular with the men ; he has a cheery word for everyone, and whether in the trenches or in rest camp, he is always found taking a keen interest in the welfare of the men.  After church parade most of the men spend the day in visiting the various regiments that are billeted in our vicinity.  A few miles from where we are now the ------- -------- are stationed, amongst them being several Fraserburgh men.  Their commanding officer is Major J. R. K. Stansfield D.S.O. who used to be well known in the Buchan district, where he acted as adjutant of the 5th Gordons for several years.

By the time this letter reaches you it is almost certain we will be once more in action, and I hope that we will give a good account of ourselves.

| Home | War Diaries Home |

Carolyn Morrisey