Each November we pause to remember those whose lives have been lost in service with our Armed Forces. This tradition of a day of remembrance began in 1919, following the devastating losses of the First World War. In this blog we reflect on some of those Argylls who gave their all.

Family and Community

The Argylls have long been known as a family regiment, and this was no different during the First World War. Much like the infamous ‘pals battalions’, fathers, sons, brothers and uncles would sign up to fight together. The swell of men signing up across the Regimental recruiting area of Central and West Scotland had a significant impact on the small communities from which they came. Men like Sergeant Archibald and Private Donald Galbraith from Glenbarr, Kintyre, who both joined the war in 1916. Archibald embarked for France with the British Expeditionary Force in August 1916. An Officer of the 14th (Service) Battalion described his character: “He came to us towards the end of last summer, and it was not many days before he had endeared himself to us all. As an N.C.O. he was second to none.” Meanwhile his brother, Donald, was sent to Salonika with the 12th (Service) Battalion, and served with the Salonika Army from January to May 1917. Sadly, they would both lose their lives within weeks of each other in early 1917. Their loss would have been felt keenly in their rural community.

Two bronze discs lie side by side. They are slightly larger than the palm of a hand. In memoriam: Remembrance plaques given to the family of brothers Neil MacEwan MacGregor and John MacGregor, both killed during the First World War.

In 1919, a competition was announced to create a memorial token for the families of service personnel and civilians killed during the war. The resulting bronze plaque – now known more commonly as a ‘Death Penny’ – was presented to the next of kin of each person killed. They would often be displayed prominently within homes, framed or in windows, to highlight the ultimate sacrifice made by the family. Outside of private homes, monuments began to appear in small towns and villages across the country in greater numbers. These would act as a focal point for remembrance.

Brothers in Arms

Many men enlisted at the outbreak of war, keen to ‘do their bit for King and Country’. These were volunteer soldiers like Sergeant Allan Riddick Taylor, who had been a reservist before the war but left his job as a moulder in Glasgow to sign up full time. He went to France with the 10th (Service) Battalion on 11th May 1915 as a Machine Gunner. The Battalion was heavily involved in fighting at the Battle of Loos – the first major attack by volunteer soldiers and first recorded use of gas by the British Forces. British troops struggled to gain ground in face of the German lines, resulting in heavy casualties and high numbers reported missing. Amongst the missing was Allan, later confirmed as being killed in the confrontation.

Black and white picture of five men standing beside a train carriage. The men are all wounded. All but one has an arm in a white sling.Walking wounded: Members of the 2nd Battalion following the Battle of Loos, September 1915.

Following Allan’s death, his sister Margaret volunteered as a Red Cross nurse to care for and rehabilitate other soldiers who had suffered war wounds. Their younger brother, William, was also inspired to join The Argylls, himself receiving medical treatment following a gas attack. Margaret’s wartime training enable her to care for William after he left the Army in 1918.

 

The Youngest Argyll

‘These were not professional soldiers – they were for the most part volunteers of the Territorial Force… mostly very young men just starting out on life.’ – Commemoration Service, St Andrews Memorial Kirk, Jerusalem December 2017

There were many young men from the Regiment’s traditional recruiting grounds amongst those Argylls killed in the First World War. Private James Duchart was the youngest Argyll to be killed, aged just 16. Originally from Falkirk, James – like many other young men – used a relative’s paperwork to falsify his aged.

A letter written by Private Vincent Lionel John Collins, 8th (Argyllshire) Battalion, sums up the fears of the men – young and old – heading into battle. His moving letter was written prior to his unit moving into the trenches, and in it he expresses his worry that he might not survive this particular spell at the Front. Sadly, Vincent was wounded on 4th October 1915. He succumbed to his wounds later that day.



 

As we take a pause this Armistice Day we remember not only The Argylls lost during the First World War, but also in the conflicts which would follow.

‘They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old; Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them.’"
                                                                                   - For the Fallen, Robert Laurence Binyon