Photographs and history of the Argyll and
Sutherland Highlanders, during the reign of Queen Victoria.
The double name given to this regiment indicates
its origin. The 1st
battalion was the late 91st of the Line, or Argylshire, and
its 2nd the 93rd, or Sutherland Highlanders.
The former was raised in 1794 as a kilted regiment,
with the Campbell tartan; white epaulettes and yellow facings were worn;
and it was first numbered the 98th, but in 1798 this was
altered to its recent designation, the 91st.
Its first service was at the capture of Cape Town
by Sir Alured Clarke, in 1795, when it does not appear to have worn
either kilt or tartan, but the national costume was partly resumed on
its return to England in 1803.
It was during the voyage home that one of the
regimental heirlooms was acquired.
For a narwhal having charged the transport, and left its bony
snout in the ship’s side, this was eventually removed, and converted
into the sergeant-major’s official walking stick, decorated with a
series of gold plates, eight in number, bearing the names of the
principal Peninsular battles in which the regiment served.
A second battalion, formed in 1804, served at Bergen-op-Zoom in
1813, but was shortly afterwards disbanded.
The other battalion shared in the Peninsula
campaign from 1807 to 1809, being present at Obidos and Vimiera under
Wellesley, and at Corunna under Moore, while detachments served at
Oporto and Talavera. The
bulk of the regiment joined the Walcheren expedition, at which period
the standard for recruits was first fixed at 5 feet 4 inches; and after
losing many men by sickness it returned to England, to be transferred
again to the Peninsula, where it remained
till 1814, taking part in the battles of Vittoria, Saurauren,
Nivelles, Nive, Bayonne, Orthes, and Toulouse.
Though it landed in Belgium for the Waterloo campaign, it took no
part in the great fight, as it was detailed to guard the lines of
communication. In 1822 the
coatee took the place of the regimental jacket, and this lasted until
the introduction of the tunic; but in 1864 its original Highland title
was restored, and it became a trewed regiment, the costume being added
to a little later by the blue patrol jacket for the officers, and a red
serge frock of the Stewart pattern for the men.
Finally it was reconverted into a kilted regiment, and received
its present title.
Meanwhile it had seen its most prolonged and
arduous service at the Cape, where, with a “Reserve Battalion”,
raised in 1842 and incorporated with the first in 1857, the regiment
served for twenty years.
It was unfortunate in its sea voyages.
The “Reserve Battalion” went ashore in the Abercrombie
Robinson, and a detachment of the 91st was wrecked on
board the Birkenhead in 1852.
In both cases the superb discipline of the regiment was
evidenced; and, in the latter case, the noble bravery of the men in
preferring to go down with the ship rather than endanger the safety of
the boats, already over laden with women and children, sheds a lustre not
only the history of the regiment, but that of the whole army of the
State. Out of 631 souls
only 193 were saved.
Among the interesting if unwarlike duties it has
had to undertake during this time may be mentioned that some of its
companies were present at the exhumation of the remains of Napoleon I at
St Helena in 1840.
It was mixed up in the disturbances between Boers
and Griquas as far back as 1843, and then shared during the first Kaffir
War in the dangerous operation in the Amatolas and the Waterkloof.
In one of these small campaigns alone it marched 1,200 miles.
For these services it bears the names of “South Africa,
1846-47”, as well as of “South Africa, 1851-52-53”, on its
colours, to which it added later “South Africa, 1879”, for its work
during the Zulu campaign, where it took part in the actions of
Ghinghilovo and Ekowe. Its
only other foreign service before this last was in the operations
against the Rohillas in 1859.
Before the 2nd battalion, formerly known
as the 93rd or Sutherland Highlanders, was called into being,
a regiment of “Sutherland Fencibles” had appeared, to be disbanded
in 1798. It was not until
1800 that “Major General Wemyss’ regiment of Infantry was formed”.
Neither battalion of the regiment seems to have
been much favoured by the sea, for in the first expedition of the 93rd
to the Cape, in 1805, it lost thirty five men by the upsetting of a boat
in Lospard bay. For the
battle of Blauwe Mountains and the surrender of the colony it earned the
first name for the regimental list of honours, viz., “Cape of Good
Hope, 1806”. Its career in South Africa was uneventful until 1814, when it
returned to England, to proceed at once with the expedition to New
Orleans, where, in the attempt to storm the works, it lost 584 men, and
the attack failed.
A second battalion was raised in the same year, but
disappeared after less than two years’ life.
Little of military interest occurred until the outbreak of the
Crimean War, when the 93rd formed part of Sir Colin
Campbell’s Highland Brigade. Sir
Colin’s order to the brigade before going into action shows the
discipline of the regiments at that time, and still more the value of
localisation. To none would the threat used by the General appeal more
directly than to a Scotsman, when he was told that if any soldier
attempted to carry off wounded men “his name shall be stuck up in the
parish church”. It was
the fact that these men were localised to a great extent, that made such
a threat serious. They
behaved with admirable gallantry everywhere.
When they met the charge of the Russian cavalry in line it was an
act of desperate boldness, considering the slow loading arms of that
time. But to Sir Colin’s
brief address, “There is no retreat from here, men! You must die where
you stand”, came the ready, cheery answer, “Ay! Ay! Sir Colin, and
needs be we will do that!” The
93rd shared in the occupation of Kertch, and saw the fall of
Sebastopol; and in 1857, when on its way to China, was diverted at the
Cape to the more serious work of the Mutiny in India, where it again
fell under its old general’s command, and saw practically continuous
arduous and active service until 1859.
It was engaged at Kudjwa, where some of its wounded and some
wounded sappers beat off a body of rebels; in the first advance on
Lucknow (which name is borne on the colours); at Secundrabagh; at
Cawnpore; at Kala Nuddee; the second and successful advance on Lucknow,
when Lieutenant and Adjutant Macbean killed eleven men with his own
hand, and where the regimental piper, among the first to crown the
breach, remained there, cheering his comrades on with the pipes, at Fort
Rayah, where Adrian Hope was slain; at Bareilly, Pusgaon, Russulpore,
and Fort Mussowli. During
the campaign seven Victoria Crosses had been won, and three other
officers were recommended, but though the cases were most meritous, the
applications were not granted. Crosses
were bestowed upon Captain Stewart, who was elected to the honour by the
officers of the regiment; Lieutenant Macbean (or McBen), for the exploit
referred to above; Sergeant Paton, chosen by the non-commissioned
officers of the regiment for reconnoitring for a breach under a heavy
fire; Sergeant Munro, for saving Captain Walsh when wounded; and
Privates Mackay and Grant, both selected by the privates of the regiment
for their distinguished bravery.
This regiment’s last active service was in the
The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders is the only
infantry regiment of the Line that bears “Balaklava” on its colours.
Their gallantry in the battle when the “thin red line”
received the charge of the Russian cavalry – a formation to meet the
mounted arm unprecedented up to that time in the annals of war – has
been already referred to, and the name of “the thin red line” is the
only recorded nickname – save probably the “Rory’s” – the old
93rd have had. It
is also stated, that though the first “king’s colour” is retained,
framed and glazed, the regimental colour carried with it has
explains this by asserting that when Colonel Dale of the regiment was
mortally wounded before Orleans in 1814 he made the request that he
should be buried wrapped in one of the colours, and his wish was
Like other Scotch regiments, the scarlet uniform is
faced with yellow, and the kilt is of Sutherland tartan. The badges are quaint; a myrtle wreath interlaced with one of
butcher’s broom, the former surrounding a boar’s head with “Ne
Obliviscaris”, and within
the other a cat with the scroll “Sans peur”, the whole linked
together with a label of three points, and crowned by the coronet of H.
R. H. the Princess Louise, is worn on the button.
The tunic collar has the same without the crown.
The head dress plate bears a thistle wreath, within it is the
regimental title on a small scroll within the double cipher crown of the
Princess Louise; the boar’s head and cat are borne on either side.
The feather bonnet has a white feather and a scarlet and white
diced border. The 91st
regiment, or the Princess Louise’s Argyllshire Highlanders, were
shortly after the marriage of the Princess “commanded” by the Queen
to “always march past (in quick time) to their pipers”,
The 3rd and 4th Militia
Battalions are the Highland Borderers Militia, formed in 1803, and the
Royal Renfrew in 1798. The
latter was embodied until 1816 and again in 1855, having “invariably
been kept to its establishment, and given a great many officers and men
to the regular army, notably during the Peninsular and Crimean Wars”.
There are seven Volunteer Battalions attached : the 1st,
2nd, and 3rd Renfrew, 1859-60; the 1st
Stirling, the 1st Argyll, the 1st Dumbarton, and
the 1st Clackmannan, 1859, and Kinross.
All these wear a scarlet uniform with the national facings,
except the second, which has blue facings.
The regimental depot is at Stirling.
Extract from "The British Army and Auxiliary Forces" Colonel
C. Cooper King, R.M.A. , 1894
JAMES MUNRO (Colour-Sergeant)
93rd Regiment (Argyll and Sutherland
Decorated for his devoted gallantry on November 16th
1857, at the attack on the Secundra Bagh, Lucknow, during Sir Colin
Campbell’s advance to the relief of the Residency.
Captain Walsh had fallen severely wounded and was in imminent
danger of being killed by the Sepoys, when Munro rushed to his
assistance, carried him to a place of safety, and saved his life.
He himself was shortly afterwards brought in dangerously wounded.
His Victoria Cross is in the United
Services Institute, in London.
JOHN PATON (Sergeant)
93rd Regiment (Argyll and Sutherland
At the Shah Nujjiff, Novemebr 16th 1857, Peel’s
naval guns had been firing point blank at the walls, endeavouring to
force a breach for the eager Highlanders to rush in, but the strength of
the masonry was such that it seemed a hopeless task. An attempt was about to be made to carry the place by
assault, when Sergeant Paton hurried up with the report that he had an
opening. On his own
initiative, and quite alone, he had crept around the stronghold to, if
possible, discover a means of entry, and found that the shot’s from
our heavy guns had at the commencement gone over the front and made a
beach in the rear defences, through which he guided his regiment.
The enemy were taken in rear, and a general stampede took place
leaving the Shah Nujjiff in our hands.
Born on December 23rd 1883, at Stirling, Paton
enlisted in the 42nd Highlanders on March 20th
1848, but volunteered into the 93rd at the outbreak of the
Crimean War. After the
Mutiny, he left the Army in 1861, went to Sydney, joined the Prison
Service, and eventually became Governor of Goulburn Gaol, retiring in
WILLIAM McBEAN (Lieutenant
and Adjutant, afterwards Major General) 93rd
(Argyll and Sutherland) Highlanders
Forbes-Mitchell, in his Reminiscences of
the Great Mutiyn, relates how Lieutenant McBean, with Sergeant
Hutchinson and Drummer Ross, a boy of about twelve years of age, climbed
to the top of the dome of the Shah Nujjiff by means of a rude rope
ladder, which was fixed, on it. This
was during the relief of Lucknow by Sir Colin Campbell’s force, and
the reason for this daring adventure (for the enemy on the Badshahibagh
saw them and turned their guns on them) was in order to signal to the
garrison of the Residency to let them know the position of the relieving
the assault on the Begum’s Kothee, the same author relates the act for
which William McBean was awarded the Victoria Cross.
After the assault the men were broken up into small parties in a
series of separate fights all over the different detached buildings of
the palace. “Willie”
McBean, as the officers, but “Paddy” McBean to the men knew him,
encountered a havildar, a naik, and nine Sepoys at one gate, and killed
the whole eleven one after the other.
The havildar was the last; and, by the time he got out through
the narrow gate, several men came to the assistance of McBean, but he
called to them not to interfere, and the havildar and he went at it with
their swords. At length
McBean made a feint cut, but instead gave the point, and put his sword
through the chest of his opponent.
McBean was an Inverness-shire ploughman
before he enlisted, and rose from the ranks to command the regiment and
died a Major General. It is
said of him that when he first joined the regiment he walked with a
rolling gait and the drill corporal was rather abusive with him when
learning his drill. At last
he became so offensive that another recruit proposed to McBean, who was
a very powerful man, that they should call the corporal behind the
canteen in the barrack yard and give him a good thrashing, to which
proposal McBean replied: “Toots, toots, man, that would never do.
I am going to command this regiment before I leave it and it
would be an ill beginning to be brought before the colonel for thrashing
the drill-corporal.” McBean kept to his purpose and did live to command the
regiment through every rank from private to Major General.
J. DUNLEY (Lance
Corporal) 93rd Sutherland
Highlanders (now part of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders)
At the attack on the Secundra Bagh at Lucknow, November 16th
1857, Dunley was the first surviving man of his regiment who entered the
trench. He was particularly
noticeable in his conduct, gallantly supporting Captain Burroughs
against heavy odds. Elected
by the private soldiers of the 93rd Regiment under Rule 13 of
P. GRANT (Private)
93rd Sutherland Highlanders (now part of the
Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders)
Elected under Rule 13 of the Victoria Cross Warrant, for his
bravery at the storming of the Secundra Bagh, Lucknow, November 16th
1857. Lieut. –Colonel
Ewart had most gallantly captured a colour from the mutineers, and,
while striving to get it away through the masses of Sepoys, was
furiously attacked by them. Grant
kept close to his colonel, and defended him, and having seized one of
the enemy’s swords, killed five of them himself.
The colour was eventually safely carried out.
D. MACKAY (Private)
93rd The Sutherland Highlanders (now part of
the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders)
At the capture of the secundra Bagh at Lucknow, November 16th
1857, MacKay displayed the greatest gallantry in capturing one of the
standards of the enemy, after a most obstinate resistance on their part.
Afterwards, at the capture of the strong defence, the Shah
Nujjiff, he was severely wounded. His comrades elected him to receive the decoration of the
Victoria Cross under Rule 13 of the Warrant.
WILLIAM GEORGE DRUMMOND STEWART
(Captain, afterwards Major Sir W. G. D. Stewart, Bart
93rd The Sutherland Highlanders (now part of
the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders)
On November 16th 1857, this officer led a brilliant
charge upon two of the enemy’s guns, which were brought to bear upon
our troops, and inflicting severe damage.
By the capture of these cannon the position of the mess-house was
secured. Under Rule 13 of
the Warrant this officer was decorated with the Victoria Cross.
ARGYLL AND SUTHERLAND HIGHLANDERS
The regiment was formed in 1794, as the
98th Argyllshire Highlanders, changing in 1809 to the 91st of foot,
the 93rd Highlanders were formed in 1799, and in 1881 both of these
Regiments became the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Princess Louise's
Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.
1806, at the Cape of
good hope against the Dutch.
- 1814, Rolica, Vimiera, Corunna, Pyrenees, Nivelle, Nive, Orthes,
Toulouse during the Peninsula War
- 1847 Seventh Kaffir war, south Africa
- 1853, Eigth Kaffie War, South Africa
- 1856, Alam, Balaclava, Sebastopol during the Crimean War
- 1858 at Lucknow during the Indian Mutiny
- 1979 Zulu war, South Africa
- 1902 Modder River, Paardeburg, during the Boer War, South Africa
- 1918 Mons, Le Cateaux, Marne 1914, 1918, Ypres 1915, 1917, 1918, Loos,
Somme 1916, 1918, Arras 1917, 1918, Cambrai 1917, 1918, Doiran 1917, 1918,
Gaza. during the First World war
- 1945 Odon River, Sidi Barrani, El Alamein, Akarit, Longstop Hill
1943, Crete, Grik Road, Malaya 1941- 1942
- 1953 Pakchon during the Korean War.
Crosse's were awarded to members of the regiment. 7 during the
Indian Mutiny, 6 during World war One, 2 during World war two, and 1
during the Korean War.
A Captain and Subaltern of the 93rd (1896)
Of the tow officers of the 93rd Highlanders, the one with
his feather bonnet on and wearing a full dress badger skin sporran, holds
the rank of Captain, as the line of gold braid within the lace on his cuff
shows. The officer by the Captain's side, bare-headed, is a
Lieutenant in "review order" tenue. The badge of
their famous regiment is shown on the collar of the doublet - a silver
wreath of myrtle interlaced with a wreath of butcher's broom. Within
the myrtle wreath is a boar's head of gilt metal inscribed Ne oblivis
caris, and within the wreath of the butcher's broom a cat on a scroll,
inscribed Sans Peur. Both emblems bear above them, in silver,
a label of three points. The 93rd are also known as the 2nd
Battalion of the Princess Louise's (Argyll and Sutherland) Highlanders.
magazine photo page published 1895 - 1902. Price £25.
reproduction of photograph ready mounted. Price £25. Click here to
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|The late Sergeant-Major J. McKae, Argyll and
Sutherland Highlanders. (1895)
Opposite is the portrait of the late Sergeant-Major J. McKae, of the
2nd Battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, who died in
India on 14th August, 1895, deeply regretted by all ranks with whom he
was, deservedly, most popular. The 1st battalion of the famous
regiment is the old 91st of Corunna and Peninsula War fame, since widely
known for their services at the Cape, in the Kaffir Wars and the Zulu
War. As having been first raised in 1796 by the then Duke of
Argyll, the Battalion, on the marriage of Princess Louise to the Marquis
of Lorne, was specially given its present title. Equally renowned
is the 2nd Battalion of the regiment, the old 93rd, those splendid
highlanders, who at Balaclava formed Sir Colin Campbell's "Thin Red
Line" of immortal memory.
The Colonel of the 1st Battalion Argyll and
Sutherland Highlanders. (1896)
The officer in trews is Lieut.-Colonel O.C. Hannay, who
command the 1st Battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders now
stationed at Aldershot Camp. The warrant officer to whom he is
giving an interview is the Sergeant-Major of the battalion, Sergeant-Major
R. C. Williamson. The two officers here shown are the heads of the
executive in a battalion. The Lieut.-Colonel is the commandant in
supreme charge of the corps as a military unit, and also the senior and
head of the commissioned officers of the battalion. The
Sergeant-Major is peculiarly responsible for the discipline and efficiency
in drill of non-commissioned officers and men of the rank and file at
whose immediate head he is, as the senior warrant officer of the
The Officers of the 1st Battalion Princess
Louise's (Argyll and Sutherland) Highlanders. (1896)
These are the officers of the 1st Battalion of the
Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (the old 91st), waiting to fall in on
parade at Aldershot. Most of them are seen in full Highland
uniform, as worn by officers of Scots regiments on foot. The three
officers, of those wearing the feather bonnet who are shown in trews,
are Colonel Hannay, the commander of the battalion, one of the majors,
and the adjutant. Colonel Hannay is seen with a paper in his hand,
speaking with the major, while the adjutant stands to the left (as the
reader looks at the group) conferring with another officer. The
badges borne on the uniform of this regiment are specially distinctive:
the Boar's Head, the crest of the Argyll family, and wreath of Myrtle,
the badge of the Campbell clan; the Mountain Cat, the family cognizance
of the Sutherlands, and wreath of Butcher's Broom, the badge of the
Sutherland clan; the silver label of three points, the heraldic
"mark of cadency" of the arms of the Princess Louise.
These badges are borne on the buttons, feather bonnet, glengarry cap,
doublet collar, and waist plate. The regimental Tartan is the
Sutherland Tartan; the regimental facings are yellow; and the hackle is
|A Company of the 9th
Argylls Advancing Under Heavy Fire to Reinforce the 2nd Camerons During
the Second Battle of Ypres.
Between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. on May 10th 1915, during the
Second Battle of Ypres, the regiment of the 9th Argyll and
Sutherland Highlanders (Territorial Force) was ordered to reinforce the
2nd Camerons with two companies. Major George James Christie thereupon led A and D
Companies through a terrific shellfire to a position two hundred yards
west of Hooge. But at 9.30
he was ordered to reinforce the trench south of the Menin Road, which
was reported to be breaking. A
Company was chosen, and led with dauntless courage by Major Christie;
they went forward in short rushes with shouts of Good old 9thArgylls. The advance lay over a bare slope without any cover from the
terrible fire, but though men fell fast these brave Scotsmen never
First World War antique black and white book plate published c.1916-18 of glorious acts
of heroism during the Great War. This plate may also have text on the
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Title and text describing the event beneath image as shown. Paper
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from Home by Robert Gibb
Sutherland Highlander Officers, are shown in camp, reading letters from
home, during the Crimean war.
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|Argyll and Sutherland Officer Review Order 1914 by Haswell Miller
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|Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders by Harry Payne
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|Piper, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders by Harry Payne
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The Thin Red Line by Robert Gibb
One of the all time classic military painting's. See text
below. This text is printed below the larger image.
Print serial number DHM065 image size 30" x 15" plus
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smaller image serial number VAR304
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|The Thin Red Line by Robert Gibb
"There is no retreat from here, men!" said General Sir Colin
Campbell (who at that moment may have said to have commanded the regiment
in person) as he cantered along the front of the 93rd "You must die
where you stand" To which some of the Highlanders replied cheerily
"Ay Ay, Sir Colin if needs be we'll do that".
Nearer and nearer the Russian Squadrons approached - the ground
trembling beneath their horses feet; and gathering speed at every stride,
they galloped on towards that thin red streak, topped with
steel" the Sutherland Highlanders awaited the onslaught
of the enemy's horsemen in line, without a movement in their ranks.
"I would not even form four deep1" was the reply of Sir
Colin, when remonstrated with for giving the Russians such a chance. Cool
as if on "Birthday parade" The Sutherland s stood until their
foes were within 600 yards; then down on their knees they dropped the
front rank, and delivered a steady volley. But the distance was too great,
and, though a few saddles were emptied, the Russians pressed forward
unchecked. On they rode, till scarcely 200 yards separated them from the
intrepid Highlanders; When the rear rank brought their "Minies"
to the "present" and over their heads of their kneeling comrades
pourd a withering fire into the enemy's masses.
Shaken to their very centre, the Russian Squadrons fell back, but,
encouraged by their gallant leaders, they determined to make one last bid
for victory, and wheeling around, endeavoured to turn the Highlanders
right flank. here they were checkmated by the grenadier Company, which
received the charge with such a volley, that the Russians went "Files
about" and scampered off to seek the shelter of their guns.
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Fighting Spirit by Peter Archer
Shows the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders going over the top of the
trenches during the First World War.
DHM064. Image size 21 x 16". Print price £34 ($60).
Operation Bluecoat, Normandy 30th July 1944 by David Pentland
Churchill MkIV tank of the 6th Guards Tank Brigade (comprised of 4th
Battalion Grenadier Guards, 4th Battalion Coldstream Guards and 3rd
Battalion Scots Guards), pass infantry of the 2nd Battalion Argyll and
Sutherland Highlanders during the Battle for Caumont.
Signed Limited Edition of 1,150 prints plus 50 artists proofs.
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|Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders by Richard Simkin
Print serial number UN248. Image size 9" x 12". Print
price £13 ($22).
From the supplement of the Army and Navy Gazette, published 1887-89.
Original chromolithograph image size 10" x 13". One copy available
price £140 ($260).
||The Advance of the 93rd
Sutherland Highlanders at the Battle of Alma 1854 by Richard Simkin.
Plate from the book our armies 1896. Image size 10" x
7" paper size 11" x 8". price £65
Order code RSIM1
||The Princess Louises Argyll and
Sutherland Highlanders Forming on Parade by Richard Simkin.
Plate from the book our armies 1896. Image size 10" x
7" paper size 11" x 8". price £65
Order code RS18
George James Christie, Of The 9th Argyll And Sutherland
Highlanders (T.F.), Won The D.S.O. At The Second Battle Of Ypres.
During the night of May 9th-10th
1915, a draft of thirty men belonging to the 9th Argyll and
Sutherland Highlanders (T.F.), all burning to take their share in the
great battle which had been in progress for nearly three weeks, joined
their battalion, which was occupying dugouts n the Zouave Wood near Hooge.
At dawn the new arrivals were allocated; before midday they were
fighting for their lives; and when evening came only two of them were fit
for service. For that day was
a terrible ordeal for those gallant Territorial.
Early in the morning the German artillery began a heavy bombardment
of the British trenches on either side of the Ypres-Menin Road, which in
places were soon almost demolished, and the bombardment was followed up by
an attack under cover of gas. Between
8 a.m. and 9 a.m. the 9th Argyll’s were ordered to reinforce
the 2ns Cameron’s with two companies, and “A” Company and “D”
Company were accordingly dispatched, under the command of Major Christie.
Through a terrific shellfire, Major Christie led his men to a
position astride the Menin Road, two hundred yards west of Hooge, where
the Cameron headquarters were. Here
they dug themselves in, while the major went forward for further orders.
At 9.30 he was ordered to lead one company forward to reinforce a
trench south of the Menin Road, and between it and the Sanctuary Wood,
which was reported to be breaking. “A”
Company, being stationed on the south side of the road, was chosen, and
advanced in short rushes, with cries of “Good old 9th
Argyll’s!” The advance
lay over a bare slope right to the ridge opposite Chateau Hooge, without a
ditch, or hedge even, to afford cover from view, and was accomplished
under a most murderous fire. But
though comrades were falling to right and left of him, not one of those
brave Scotsmen wavered, but only became the keener to come to close grips
with the Huns. They were only
just in time, for the gas, on top of the terrible shelling, had been more
than flesh and blood could endure. The
trench, which they had come to save, had broken, and the men were falling
back. At sight of the
Argyll’s, however, they raised a cheer, and passing through them, the
Territorial dashed into the trench, bayoneted or chased out those Germans
who had already gained a footing there, and, setting up their machine
guns, began to mow down the advancing enemy with them and rifle fire.
The Huns, astonished at this unexpected resistance, fell back in
confusion, and the Argyll’s and Cameron’s, having done what they could
to repair the damage done to the trench by the enemy’s shellfire,
awaited developments. Presently
they saw, to their astonishment, a strong force of men in Cameron kilts,
advancing through the Bellewarde Wood, north of the Menin Road, toward the
trenches occupied by the 91st.
Uncertain as to whether they were British or Germans, they
refrained from firing, until volley upon volley from the trenches of the
91st told them they were the enemy in disguise.
Meanwhile “B” and “C” Companies of
the 9th Argyll’s had advanced from Zouave Wood to the
trenches, which Major Christie’s men had dug near the Menin Road.
On the way, their gallant and much loved Commander,
Lieutenant-Colonel Clark, and shells killed another officer.
Major Christie, who had hurried back to report the new attack,
dispatched “D” Company to reinforce the 91st; but,
notwithstanding the assistance of the Territorial, the latter were driven
from their trenches by the determine attacks of the kilted Germans.
The 9th Argyll’s and 2nd Cameron’s,
though now exposed to an enfilading fire from north of the Menin Road,
gallantly held their trenches against every attack, until night fell, and
piles of corpses beyond their entanglements bore eloquent testimony to the
deadly work of their machine guns and rifles.
They had themselves lost heavily, however.
Among the slain was Colonel Campbell, commanding the Cameron’s,
who was killed by a shell, which had landed right in the middle of a
machine gun team, who work he was directing.
At 2 a.m. relief arrived, and Major Christie, whom the death of
Colonel Clark had left in command of the 9th Argyll’s, led
his sorely tried men back to their dugouts in Zouave Wood.
In that and the previous days fighting the battalion had had twelve
and some three hundred men killed and wounded.
Thee losses were considerably increased during the next two days,
May 11th and 12th, when, their position having been
located by a captive kite balloon sent up by the enemy, the wood was raked
by a terrific shelling, which seemed to search every yard of it.
Major Christie’s own dugout was twice blown in, but, happily, he
escaped without injury. When
the shelling creased, hardly a tree of that wood remained standing; all
was a jumble of broken timber and undergrowth, beneath which lay dead men,
broken rifles and equipment, and torn sandbag.
On the 16th the 9th Argyll’s were sent to
the rest camp at Poperinghe. But they were not permitted to enjoy even so much as one
whole day’s rest, as, scarcely had they arrived, when orders came to
join the 10th Brigade at La Brique.
Just after dawn on May 24th, while they were occupying
the support trenches northeast of Saint-Jean, the enemy started bombarding
our front with asphyxiating shells and immediately afterwards gas was
released from the cylinders against the whole three miles of front from
Shelltrap Farm to the Bellewaarde Lake.
After the gas came a violent bombardment from north, northeast and
Seeing that the troops in the first line trenches were beginning to
give way, Major Christie at once resolved to repeat that dash to the
rescue, which had saved the Cameron’s trench at Hooge a fortnight
before, and having adjusted their respirators, the territorial doubled
across the shell swept ground which lay between them and the fire
trenches. The sight which met
their eyes as they reached them was terrible, for maimed and gassed men
were lying everywhere. But
they lost no time getting to work, and, lining the broken parapet, opened
a withering fire on the advancing Germans.
The enemy fell back, but soon it became apparent that their
artillery was concentrating on that particular trench, while, though the
German infantry fell in heaps before our fire, they continued to advance
in ever increasing numbers. Major
Christie saw that, if the trench was to be held, more men must be found to
replace those whom we were losing every minute.
As all communication with the rear had been cut, he left one of his
officers in charge, and ran back to the support trench, in search of
stragglers. He found a few
odd lots of the Dublin Fusiliers and of his own battalion and rushed them
forward. But still there were
not sufficient rifles to line the parapet, so out into the fire swept open
went the major again, searching for men-men with rifles.
In a small isolated trench he found another odd lot, gassed and
half dazed, but, though for the moment the poor fellows could be of little
use, they had rifles, and, pouncing upon them, he was leading them
forward, when he was hit in the leg by a piece of shell and fell to the
ground. But the odd lot he was leading went on and reached the
trench, and it seems to have been largely through the assistance rendered
by them that the German hordes were held off until relief arrived.
Major Christie did what he could for himself
with a tourniquet, until Drummer Bell, of the Argyll’s came out of the
trench to his assistance and after rendering first aid, went away and
returned with two men of their battalion carrying a stretcher.
Lifting the wounded officer on to this, they set out for the
nearest dressing station; but so tremendous was the fire through which
they had to pass, that they were obliged several times to stop and take
refuge in a ditch or under a hedge. Major
Christie begged the men to leave him and look after themselves; but these
brave fellows indignantly refused to do, and, though all three were
wounded, they managed to stagger on with their load until they reached the
dressing station. Drummer
Bell, who repeatedly interposed his own body between his wounded officer
and the enemy’s fire, was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Conduct
Medal and the French Croix de Guerre.
Major Christie, who received the Distinguished Service Order, is a
native of the Vale of Leven, and the youngest son of Mr John Christie, of
Levenfield, Alexandria, Dumbartonshire, chairman of the United Turkey Red
Company, Limited, and its thirty-five years of age.
He served for a number of years with the Alexandria and Renton
Company of Volunteers, retiring with the rank of honorary major.
He is a good shot and won several prizes at the Dumbartonshire
Rifle Association meetings at Jamestown.
At the outbreak of war he volunteered for service, and went into
training with his old regiment at Bedford, proceeding to the front in
February 1915. He was immensely popular with the 9th
Argyll’s, alike for his dauntless courage and his solicitude fro their
comfort, and it is indeed regrettable that the injuries he received will
prevent him from leading them again.
Extracted from 'Deeds That Thrill The Empire'
Officers, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders