5th Battalion Gordon Highlanders
Brothers Who Served in the Great War
The Dunbars of Fraserburgh
Alexander and Frank Dunbar with their mother
early in the war, probably 1915. Both men would be dead by the end of 1916.
George Dunbar, photographed at Bedford. He is shown wearing his Imperial Service badge.
The Dunbars were a prominent Fraserburgh family. Two brothers, Isaac and John had established the successful fishcuring business of I & J Dunbars, one of the largest in the country in 1895 and were operating from a site at 73 Barrasgate in the early 1900s.
Several members of the extended family served with the pre-war Territorials and later with the Gordon Highlanders in World War One.
John Dunbar, one of the brothers who founded the fishcuring business, is listed on the 1914 Buchan Observer Roll of volunteers for foreign service as the Company Sergeant Major of "H" Company (Fraserburgh). His service number (413) indicates that he was in the Territorials from its inception in 1908. His Medal Card shows that he went to France with the battalion on 3rd May 1915 and was commissioned into the Gordon Highlanders on 17th June 1915. It further shows that he was badly wounded at some stage and as a consequence was entitled to receive a Silver Wound Badge. John Dunbar died in 1957.
His brother Isaac, pictured seated in the group photograph below, had two sons, Isaac and John who also served in the Gordon Highlanders.
1302 Corporal (later Sergeant) Isaac Dunbar, pictured below, left, joined the 5th Battalion on 20th March 1911 when he was an eighteen year old cooper employed in the family's business. With the outbreak of war he volunteered for overseas service and proceeded to Bedford for training. Isaac was promoted to the rank of Sergeant in "B" Company on 2nd May 1915, the same day that the Battalion embarked for France. He was wounded during the Battalion's action at Festubert on 4th June 1915, receiving gunshot wounds to the left hand, thigh and back. He was treated first at Locon, behind Festubert and then transferred to No 9 General Hospital at Rouen before being sent back to England to recover.
On 26th March 1916 his period of engagement with the Territorial Force (four years plus one extra because of the war) expired and he was discharge at South Camp Ripon. It is possible he did not re-engage because his father was ill, (he died a matter of days after Isaac junior's discharge) and the younger man was required to take over the business as both his uncle and brother were in the army. After the war Isaac took a keen interest in the British Legion, serving for a time as an honorary vice president of the Fraserburgh branch. He died at the age of sixty-seven on 4th February 1960.
Isaac's brother No1800 Pte John Dunbar (pictured below right) was also listed on the Buchan Observer Roll of 1914. Like his uncle, he was commissioned into the 5th Gordons and in October 1918 was seconded for service with the R.A.F. John Dunbar died on 17th February 1960, only two weeks after the death of his brother Isaac.
The two pictures above show three brothers - Alexander, Frank and George, cousins to the younger John and Isaac Dunbar.
Alexander, born in 1882, was the eldest of eight surviving children of Alexander Watt Dunbar, a cooper, and his wife Margaret. Unlike his siblings, Alexander was not a pre-war Territorial. Although living and working in Fraserburgh, Alexander enlisted in the Gordon Highlanders at Cowdenbeath in Fife, probably in 1915. His service number - S/12275 indicates that this was a wartime enlistment i.e enlistment for the duration of the war.
The date that Private Dunbar went to France is unknown, however the fact that he was not entitled to a 1915 Star shows that is was not before January 1916.
The Fraserburgh Herald states that Alexander was admitted to hospital at Rouen on 30th June 1916 suffering from a gunshot wound to the chest. By September the paper was able to report that he was again at the front.
Alexander Dunbar was killed on 13th November 1916 during the attack at Serre. At the time he was attached to the 1st Battalion, Gordon Highlanders. His body was not located and he is commemorated on the memorial at Thiepval.
No 1127 Private Frank Dunbar was born on 28th April 1891. He was a pre-war Territorial, having enlisted in 1910. He went to Bedford with the Battalion and to France in May 1915. In June or July of that year he was wounded while the Battalion was in the Festubert area. (Reported in the Scotsman of 8/11/1915) In the following year he was reported in the Battalion's War Diary as being wounded during the attack on High Wood and then as wounded and missing in later official casualty notices. The Fraserburgh Herald of 26th September 1916 reported: 'Mrs A.W Dunbar, 2 Castle Terrace, has been informed that her son is reported wounded and missing since 30th July. Pte Dunbar was a cooper with Messrs I & J Dunbar, fishcurers, Fraserburgh. His brothers Alexander and George, who were recently wounded, are again at the front.' As he was issued with a new service number - 240081- in March 1917, it can be assumed that his death was not confirmed by that date. His death was later determined as having occured on 31st July 1916. He is buried at Caterpillar Valley Cemetery. This small cemetery was greatly extended after the Armistice when the graves of more than 5000 men were brought in from other small cemeteries and battlefields of the Somme. Iti s probable that Frank's remains were located during this post-war battlefield recovery action.
George Dunbar enlisted in the Territorials early in 1914 when he was sixteen, and he turned 17 a few days after the outbreak of war. Like his brother Frank and his cousins and uncle, he volunteered for foreign service, landing in France on 2nd May 1915. No 1750, Pte George Dunbar fought in most of the great battles of the war, being wounded five times and receiving the Silver War Badge for his injuries. He came through the battle at High Wood, in which his brother died, unscathed but was wounded a few days later on 3rd August 1916. The Fraserburgh Herald of 22nd of August records: 'The brothers Privates Frank and George Dunbar, Gordon Highlanders, 2 Castle Terrace Fraserburgh were wounded in the recent fighting in France. They are the sons of Mr Alex W. Dunbar, who is engaged in patrol service in the Mediterranean. A third son was wounded last month.'
George was back with the the 5th Gordons in September 1916 and appears to have survived the battle of Beaumont Hamel in November 1916 without injury. He was wounded during the Battalion's next two major engagements - Arras (16th May 1917) and Cambrai (20th November 1917).
It is not known whether he was with the Battalion during the German offensive of March 1918. It is possible he was still recovering from his earlier wounds. However he was back in France shortly afterwards and was wounded for the final time in June 1918. The Buchan Observer of 2nd July states: 'Pte George Dunbar, Gordons, wounded for the fifth time, is the fifth son of Mr A. Dunbar, cooper, Castle Terrace Fraserburgh. He was formerly a toolworker.'
George Dunbar was finally discharged (disembodied) on 29th March 1919. After the war he worked as a toolmaker for the Consolidated Pneumatic Tool Company in Fraserburgh and married Jessie Ann Wilson in 1922. Sadly, Jessie was killed as a result of enemy action in Fraserburgh on 6th April 1941. George died aged 69 on 19th August 1966.
Isaac Dunbar (seated) and his wife. Standing at the left is their son Sergeant Isaac Dunbar
and at the right Private (later Lieutenant) John Dunbar.
My thanks to Margaret Attfield, niece of Alexander, Frank and George Dunbar for permission to use her family's photographs and for kindly supplying much of the information included above.
See: Burr brothers of Methlick
Thomson brothers of Burnhaven
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