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5th Battalion Gordon Highlanders
Commanding Officers 1914 - 1919
Lt Col Sir A Grant DSO - 4th Aug 1914 to 18th June 1915
Lt Col M F McTaggart DSO (5th Lancers) - 24th June 1915 to 3rd Dec 1916 and 6th Feb 1917 to 21st March 1918
Lt Col S McDonald CMG DSO - 4 Dec 1916 to 5th Feb 1917
Lt Col G A Smith DSO - 22Mar 1918 to 28th July 1918
LT Col J B Wood DSO MC - 29th July 1918 to 20th Oct 1918
Lt Col Lord Dudley Gordon DSO - 21st Oct 1918 to 5th Jan 1919
Lt Col A Greenhill Gardyce - 6th Jan 1919 to 2nd April 1919
Lt Col J L G Burnett CMG DSO - 3rd April 1919 to 27th April 1919
Lt Col R R Forbes DSO - 16th May 1919 to 26th Sep 1919

Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur Grant  D.S.O.

Arthur Grant, who commanded the 1st/5th Battalion until mid 1915, was born on 14th September 1879, the eldest son of Sir Arthur Henry Grant, 9th Baronet of Monymusk and his wife Mary Sholto-Douglas.

He entered the army in 1899 and served in the 12th (Prince of Wales's Royal) Lancers during the South African War.  He took part in the advance on Kimberley, including action at Magersfontein.  He also participated in the relief of Kimberley. 

Lieutenant Grant was awarded the D.S.O on 26th June 1902. In May 1904 he was Gazetted a Captain.  Three years later he was placed on temporary half-pay owing to ill-health and on 25th September, still on the half-pay list, he retired.

On 17th April 1912 Captain Arthur Grant became a Lieutenant Colonel of the 5th Battalion (Buchan and Formartin) Gordon Highlanders and in May 1915 accompanied the Battalion to France.

On the morning of 18th June 1915, in the trenches at Festubert, Grant was wounded by a shell whilst returning from the support trenches to Battalion Headquarters. The wound to his arm was severe enough to resulted in this being invalided home.  A letter written by Brigader General D. Campbell dated 18th July 1915, to Grant, then in the Duchess of Westminster's Hospital at Le Touquet, makes mention of his (Grant's) replacement.   By October 1915, he was recuperating back in Britain. (Scottish National Archives ref: GD345/1392)



His Medal Card above shows that at some time he was employed in the Prisoner of War Department. Documents in the Scottish National Archives (GD345/1418) indicate that Grant was the commander of a prisoner of war camp at Brocton in Staffordshire in 1916.

In March 1917 Grant succeeded his father to the baronacy and in September of that year he was appointed Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Aberdeen.

Sir Arthur Grant died on 21st June 1931.

Lieutenant-Colonel Maxwell Fielding McTaggart  D.S.O.

Lieut-Col M F McTaggart
My thanks to Charles Reid, a researcher at the Gordon Highlander Museum
for this photograph

Arthur Grant was replaced on 24th June 1915 by Maxwell Fielding McTaggart who was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel (temporary) in the 5th Battalion Gordon Highlanders effective from 15th July 1915.  Prior to this appointment, he served with the 5th Irish Lancers, and had been recommended for a DSO, the citation stating:
"During the German gas attack on Weiltze on 2nd May 1915, in spite of the German curtain of fire through which the Regiment had to advance, this Officer many times passed through it to reconnoitre the situation, displaying exceptional coolness under the heavy shelling." (DSO awarded 14th January 1916)

On 3rd December 1916 he was wounded and spent several months recuperating. During that time he was replaced by Lieutenant Colonel S. McDonald.  McTaggart was taken prisoner on 21st March 1918, on the opening day of the German Spring Offensive.  He died in 1936 aged 61.  He was the author of a number of books about horses and riding.

The following extract is taken from Behind the Lines by Colonel W N Nicholson (Jonathan Cape 1939) pp148-149:

"McTaggart, great horsemaster that he was, understood men as thoroughly. He came to us from the 5th Lancers to command the 5th Gordons, a battalion that needed a leader, and he proved up to the hilt the value of a good Regular officer. The change in his unit in a short time was extra ordinary; they caught his enthusiasm, stuck out their chests and rightly regarded themselves as a very fine body of men. How pernicketty the little man was about the set of his kilt, the size of his glengarry; I fancy he had never worn either before in his life. He might have posed for the Gallic Cock; a most gallant little man; all blood and thunder.

On one occasion Weston and I dined with him. We reached his village after dark, slithered down a muddy lane to find his battalion pipers waiting by the farm-yard door— for McTaggart had his pipers in after dinner, even if for lack of room the diners had to wait without. The farm kitchen barely held the six of us, for the table was large. The padre, as mess president, had procured the dinner, saddling his horse with old and patched harness to a borrowed cart and driving into Amiens some eight miles distant.

Afterwards McTaggart and I played chess; and from the lively interest the rest of his officers took in how the game went it was clear to see how much they lionized him. But in chess great courage has no great psychological value.

McTaggart was an example of what a fine officer can do. The best of talent lay dormant in this unit only waiting the touch of a trained soldier. In later days there were many fine  New  Army  officers  taught  in the great school of experience who could have commanded this unit. But in 1915 our best reserve for commanding officers was in the cavalry resting behind the lines.

The 51st Highland Division needed but little outside help. 'Scotland for ever' is still a battle cry. 'St. George for Merrie England', if it ever existed, is now forgot. The history of the 17th Division was in the main this difference between the two countries. No division in France had a finer record than the 51st Division; it was instinct with this great battle slogan; the 17th Division, mute, ran the more famous Highlanders close; but they needed occasional McTaggarts, and then they never failed in anything they were set to do."


Lieutenant-Colonel George Alexander Smith  D.S.O.

Lieut-Col G A Smith

G.A. Smith was an Aberdeen solicitor and a Territorial of long standing. For much of the war he served with the 4th Battalion the Gordon Highlanders having enlisted in the Volunteers in 1900. At the outbreak of war he was mobilized and went to France in February 1915 as second-in command of the 4th Battalion.  He was wounded in June of that year at Y Wood during the  Battle of Hooge.  He was wounded again on the attack of Guillemont on 16th August 1916. Following the loss of Lieut. Colonel McTaggart and most of the Battalion's officers in March 1918, Smith was appointed to the position of Commanding Officer.  He was killed in action on 28th July 1918 during the battle of Buzancy.  He was 43 years of age and the son of Robert and Jessie Smith, of Auchmar, Aberdeenshire.
Details of his D.S.O appear in the London Gazette of 3rd March 1916.

Click here for information on the battle of Buzancy 

See also his biography on the Aberdeen University Roll of Honour

Lieutenant-Colonel John Bruce Wood  D.S.O., M.C

Lieut-Col J.B. Wood
My thanks to Brian Knights for supplying the photographs and for the family information

John Bruce Wood was born in 1886 at Cullen in Banffshire the son of James Wood, a successful fish curer and businessman. 
He trained as a lawyer and before the war worked in the legal department of the National Bank of Scotland in Edinburgh.

A family photograph (see below) shows him as a non-commissioned officer wearing the uniform of The Royal Scots.  It is unknown whether he was a pre-war Territorial or enlisted at the outbreak of war.  Two of his brothers, David and Peter (No.1686), served in the 4th Battalion The Royal Scots. David appears in the above mentioned photograph wearing the Imperial Service brooch.  Peter and David both served at Gallipoli and both were wounded. Two other brothers served with the Gordon Highlanders - Charles in U Company 4th Battalion and later in the RAMC, and Lieutenant Murdoch Wood with 6th Battalion, being wounded at Neuve Chapelle in March 1915.

On 29th December 1914 John was commissioned and posted to the 8th (Service) Battalion , Gordon Highlanders and went to France on 8th July 1915.  He took part in the battle of Loos in September of that year, serving with the 10th (Service) Battalion. He was awarded a Military Cross for his actions in this battle. (See citation).

While on leave in Edinburgh in March 1916 he married Maud Paton, a missionary teacher. 

The 10th Battalion amalgamated with the 8th Battalion in May 1916 to form the 8/10th Battalion. This in turn amalgamated with the 5th Battalion in June 1918. Wood, by that time holding the rank of major, was second in command of the new unit.

Major Wood was awarded the D.S.O for conspicuous gallantry [Gazette 23/7/1918].  On 29th July 1918, following the death of Lieutenant Colonal Smith, Wood assumed temporary command of the Battalion (see details) and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He held this position until October 1918 when Lord Dudley Gordon took over.

Wood was demobilised in April 1919, returning to civil life in Edinburgh.  He retained his association with the Territorials and in 1920 was appointed to command the 4th Battalion The Royal Scots.

John Bruce Wood died at Bathgate on 20th October 1927 leaving a widow and three daughters.

Three of the Wood brothers,
David (left) Peter (right) John (seated),
wearing the uniform of the Royal Scots.

Lord Dudley Gordon - 1919

Lieutenant-Colonel Lord Dudley Gordon  D.S.O.

Lord Dudley Gordon, was born in 1883, the second son of John Hamilton- Gordon, 1st Marquess of Aberdeen and Tremair. He attended Harrow School and started work for J & E Hall Ltd, a Dartford based engineering company in 1907, becoming a director in 1910.

He was gazetted a 2nd Lieutenant in the 8th Battalion Gordon Highlanders  on 6/10/1914 and was soon transferred and promoted to the 9th (Pioneers) as a Temporary Captain. [25/10/1914]

The London Gazette of 26/9/1917 records his award of the D.S.O. The citation reads:
Temp/Major Lord Dudley Gladstone Gordon, Gord. Highrs.
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in personally supervising the construction of two artillery tracks over newly captured ground. Throughout the day he set a splendid example of gallantry and coolness, personally carrying out reconnaissances under heavy fire from rifles and machines guns, and it was due to his fearlessness and disregard of danger that the track was successfully completed.

He became Commanding Officer of the 8th/10th Battalion from 21st December 1917 but on amalgamation with the 5th Battalion, the Commanding Officer of the latter, Lieut Col. G.A. Smith assumed overall command.  With Smith’s death, Major Wood assumed temporary command until Lord Gordon took up the position in October 1918. (The war diary for November 1918 mentions Major Wood as again being in temporary command at the time of the Armistice while Lord Gordon was on leave.) He resigned his commision in February 1919.

Gordon became 3rd Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair on the death of his brother in 1965 and died in 1972.

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Carolyn Morrisey