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About this blog

Inspired by the anniversary of the First World War I suggested to my cousins that we visit Ypres where I knew that one of Grandfathers uncles had died in early May 1915.  The hundreth anniversary of his death coincided with the May Day Bank Holiday in 1915 so we arranged to meet there and I promised to do some research.  In a story probably familiar to many here I was fascinated by his story and as I tried to work out if he was the first officer to die from his home town of Galashiels increasingly drawn into the stories of those 638 men listed on the Galashiels War Memorial. I hope to post some of those stories here. 

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gmac101

Anybody researching a casualty on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission(CWGC) website knows that anything in the “additional information” column is always greatly appreciated but few have something as intriguing as:  Son of Admiral John Bush, of Bangkok, Siam; husband of Jean I. Bush, of 21, Lauderdale St., Edinburgh.”

The Galashiels War Memorial only lists only one member of the RAF; Captain V.G.A. Bush.  There is only one man of that name listed on the CWGC site, not in the RAF but in the RFC as he died in early 1918 before the RAF was formed.  And according to the CWGC additional information his father was Admiral John Bush of Bangkok, a rather improbable sounding character.  But John Bush did exist; an English merchant seaman who arrived in Bangkok in 1857 with his wife and was encouraged by the British Consul to apply for the position of Bangkok  Harbour Master.  He served in this role until the late 1800’s when one of his sons took over.  He also ran the Bangkok Dry Docks and Captained the King of Thailand’s ship when he made longer voyages.  He had 4 children with his wife from England but his first wife Elizabeth (nee Lawson )died in 1866. John Bush then married Mae Plian  and in the early 1890’s had two further children Victor and Victoria.  John Bush died in the early 1900’s and sometime shortly after Victor came to the UK, presumably to study and the 1911 census finds  him at a boarding school in Edinburgh.

Victor studied at George Watsons College in Edinburgh where he won prizes for drawing and played rugby in the 2nd fifteen he finished in 1911 and started a university course.  However his studies were interrupted by the announcement of war and on the 29th of August 1914 he enlisted in the 9th Battalion of the Royal Scots but along with other OTC Cadets was quickly commissioned and joined the 10th Battalion of the Highland Light Infantry in November 1914 as a 2nd Lieutenant .  He arrived in France on the 8th of August 1915.  He presumably fought with the HLI at Loos on the 25th of September 1915 where they suffered considerable losses.  Perhaps as a result of this he applied and was accepted into the RFC qualifying as an observer in early 1916 and as a pilot by August.  By the 10th of August he was back in France serving with 1st Squadron, flying Morane Parasol’s and later Nieuport Scouts. He got some home leave in December and married Jean McLeod, he gave her family address when he joined up so he must have known her for some time.  They married in St Davids Church, Viewforth in Edinburgh on the 16th of December.  His sister Victoria, now in the UK, was one of the witnesses.  On his return to France he was involved in bringing down at least one enemy plane a Roland C on the 4th of March 1917.  Shortly afterwards he returned to the UK to serve as a flying instructor

He served at a number of flying schools and the 26th Reserve Squadron before he was posted in late..  August 1917 to the No.1 School of Aerial Fighting at Turnberry near Ayr.  During this period he was Gazetted a Captain.  It appears he lived in Ayr at 5a Miller Street with his wife.  He died from head injuries he received in a crash on the 8th of February.  One of the wings of the Sopwith Camel he was flying failed and as a result he was unable to control the aircraft and it crashed on the outskirts of  Ayr at a place called Kincaidston farm (now a housing estate).  He was buried in Edinburgh in Merchiston Cemetry.  As well as the Galashiels War Memorial  he is remembered on the memorial at Gorgie in Edinburgh and on the memorial in St Michaels Church in Edinburgh.

Why is he remembered in Galashiels? – None of the official records finds him in Galashiels but an article in the “Southern Reporter” in September 1917 recording his promotion to Captain notes that he was “formerly of Galashiels”.  In addition according to the 1911 census his wife’s younger brother was born in Galashiels.  So he and his wife had some connection to the town and thus a place on the War Memorial. 

Captain V G A Bush is an interesting person, possibly the only British Officer with Thai Origins? Does anybody know of any others

His sister went on to serve in the WRAF and married an American serviceman in Montrose in July 1918 and evidently emigrated to the United States.  The last record I have found of his wife is from 1920 when she was living in Pewsey Wiltshire when she applied for her late husband’s medals

But what of the connection to the King and I?

When Anna Leonowens, the “I” in the “King and I” first arrived in Bangkok she was met by John Bush, then known as a Captain and stayed at his house until the King arranged accommodation for her.

gmac101

Numbers from the War Memorial.

 

Galashiels war memorial has 638 men listed on it.  I have tried to identify all of them.  So far I have identified 609, so 29 are “missing”.  Of the 609 the vast majority are listed on the Commonwealth War Grave Commission (CWGC) list of war dead but 17 are not.  These men generally died of disease after being discharged from the army.  As the CWGC lists of war dead were compiled post-war their deaths either did not meet the CWGC criteria or their families did not tell the military authorities about their death.  But the Galashiels community felt that their death was associated with military service and therefore honoured them with a place on the memorial.

 

They fought for 6 separate countries armed forces : United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and the United States of America

The men (and they are all men) served in 59 separate regiments and corps, though in many cases those corps and regiments are only represented by one man on the memorial.  The vast majority served in the army, 626; 11 served in the Navy and 1 in the Royal Flying Corps (RFC)(actually part of the army).  The RFC member is listed as serving in the RAF but he died before the RAF was formed on the 1st of April 1918.

 

Of those serving in the army, most served in infantry regiments that recruited from Scotland.  78% or 489 men served in Scottish regiments and a number of those who served in corps, such as the RFC or the Machine Gun Corps (MGC) were originally recruited into Scottish regiments.

 

The most popular regiment was the Kings Own Scottish Borderers (KOSB), the local regiment, with 240 men, followed by the 71 men of the Royal Scots (RS), who traditionally recruited in and around Edinburgh. 32 served in the Highland Light Infantry(HLI) which recruited in the Glasgow area, 31 served in the Cameron Highlanders, who  traditionally recruited in the Inverness area

The most common rank is Private – 425 privates or equivalent, 51 Lance Corporals, 21 Corporals 48 Lance Sergeants and Sergeants, 5 Sergeant Majors 24 Lieutenants, 6 Captains and 4 Majors died.  These are ranks given by  the CWGC, they can differ from those on the war memorial particularly for the non-commissioned ranks.  Promotion and demotion between the lower NCO ranks was at the discretion of the local Commanding Officer and  news of these promotions or demotions may not of reached the administrative staff before they were killed.  All in all there are 49 “errors” in rank.  37 have a rank on the GWM higher than their CWGC rank and 12 held a higher rank than listed on the GWM.

 

 

Born & Lived.

We know the birth places of 579 of the men – 386 were born in Galashiels  -66%.  The rest were generally born elsewhere in Scotland but 6 were born in England 3 in Ireland 2 in each of  Canada and South Africa  and 1 in Thailand, New Zealand, Australia and the United States.

They mostly lived in Galashiels .  There are addresses of some description for about  560 of the men of those 396 are in Galashiels.  124 lived elsewhere in Scotland, 13 in England, 1 in Ireland and the rest in parts of the Empire.  It’s likely that less  than 396 actually lived in Galashiels, they were mostly young men and a number may have lived in Edinburgh or Glasgow in lodgings but gave their “home” address as Galashiels.

Using the population data from the 1911 census about 4.5% of British men died in WWI,  Based on the number of men we know lived in Galashiels we can estimate that about 70% of the men on the GWM  lived in Galashiels.  As the male population of Galashiels was  6900 in 1911 this means Galashiels lost about 6.4% of its male population – about 40% more than the national average.   If you consider just the “military age” population (15-50) of Galashiels was 3698 the percentage is higher at 12%,  1in 8.

 

Age?

The oldest to die in combat was 52 and the youngest 16 – Their  average age was 27

 

When did they die?

18 died in 1914, the first two on the 14th of September  , 174 in 1915, 101 in 1916, 150 in 1917 and 132 in 1918.  A further 29 died post war, the last on the 21st of November  1924.

The worst day for the town was  the 12th of July 1915; 75 men were killed at Achi Baba when the 1/4th Battalion  of the KOSB mounted  an ill-fated attack on the Turkish trenches.

About 46% have no known grave, 51% are buried in a known plot and for about 3% we don’t know enough yet but it’s likely they were buried in a known grave.  Nationally about 53% are buried in a known grave so Galashiels experience is close to the national average.

 

Where are they buried or commemorated?

They are buried on 4 continents in the following 17 countries

 

Country(ies)

No. Buried or Commemorated

1

Belgium

95

2

Canada

1

3

Egypt

10

4

France

283

5

Germany

3

6

Greece

8

7

Iraq

7

8

Israel & Palestine

27

9

Italy

3

10

Lebanese Republic

1

11

Malta

3

12

Mozambique

1

13

Russian Federation

1

14

Tanzania

1

15

Turkey

90

16

UK

58

17

Unknown

46

 

Note that where they were buried or commemorated does not always reflect where they died.  Several of the Royal Navy personnel, commemorated in the UK, died some way from the UK (Russia, off Ireland and off Spain). The unknowns are the sum of those who I’ve failed to identify (29) and those not listed by the CWGC (17) where I don’t have a site of their grave.  Many of these are likely to be buried in or near Galashiels .

They are buried in or commemorated on 227 cemeteries and memorials. Most of the Galaleans who are buried in a known grave lie singly or in pairs in cemeteries.  The cemetery  with largest number of casualties from Galashiels is in Galashiels; the Eastlands Cemetery  a mile or so from the war memorial.  Where possible if a man died of accident, wounds or disease in the UK their body could be sent to their home town.  As a result 23 men are buried at Eastlands, possibly more.  Other cemeteries with multiple Galaleans are those situated near the larger bases in France such the Terlincthun Cemetery with 7 Galaleans and those near the sites of large battles such as Caterpillar Valley cemetery on the Somme with 4 burials.

The memorial with largest number of men from Galashiels listed on it is the Helles memorial on the Gallipoli peninsula. This has 76 men listed on it – nearly all who died on the 12th of July 1915. Next is the Thiepval memorial in France which commemorates the missing on the Somme which has 40 men listed on it.

 

How did they die?

Most were killed in action 382 over 60%, 121 from wounds, 49 from disease, 10 from accidents 2 drowned and 2 were listed as gassed, though a number of those who were killed in action are likely to also have been gassed.  The low number who died from disease is a credit to the Royal Army Medical Corps and the Army Service Corps who managed sanitation and troop accommodation, in previous campaigns the British Army lost far more men to disease than in combat.  3 of those who died in accidents were members of the 7th Royal Scots who were killed in the train accident near Gretna on the 22nd of May 1915.

 

Awards?

The CWGC lists 12 men who received some kind of award or recognition for service above what was expected of them.  There were 6 Military Medals , 2 Mentioned in Despatches and 1 each of Military Cross, Distinguished Conduct Medal, Member of the Victorian Order and a Territorial Decoration.  There is some variation between the awards listed on the War Memorial and those listed by the CWGC with 14 men listed as having some award. 

gmac101

The Inglis Family

Today, the 24th of July 2017, one hundred years ago at about 9pm Dr Stevenson of Galashiels lost control of his car as he climbed Ladhope bank, the car mounted the pavement and struck Elizabeth Inglis who was walking to her home at 49 Glendinning Terrace with a young girl.  Elizabeth was fatally injured and died at the scene.  This must have been an awful blow to her Husband, ex Kings Own Scottish Borderers Piper Walter Inglis, as the couple  had lost 3 sons in the previous 3 years – all killed in action.  They were one of the many Galashiels families who lost more than one son.

All three are remembered on the Galashiels War Memorial:

Private William Inglis 2nd Battalion Kings Own Scottish Borderers – 18th November 1914

A regular soldier, he arrived in France in late October, part of a group of reinforcements for the 2nd Battalion of the Kings Own Scottish Borderers. He joined them in early November as they moved into the Ypres Salient and took over trenches near the Hooge Chateau on the Menin Road out of Ypres.  The first battle of Ypres was drawing to a close and the Allied armies had stopped the Germans “turning their flank” or getting behind them but it had been a desperate fight and the KOSB were taking the trenches over from exhausted troops and replacements were not available so the battalion spent 13 days in the frontline, far longer than would be normal later in the war.  They were in contact with the enemy every day, fighting off several attacks that were often accompanied by artillery bombardments.  Men were killed and injured every day but the worst day was the 18th of November, when William was killed.  The Germans brought up a trench mortar and began shelling the British Line at 8am.  The battalion war diary describes how the football sized shell was launched on a high, slow trajectory and could be watched through its flight.  When it landed it was terribly destructive, the diary describes how men were blown into pieces and the trench destroyed.  12 other men also died that day and like William none of their bodies were recovered.  William left £3 2’ & 4d to his brothers and father and in late 1919 his father was paid a war gratuity.  William was awarded 3 medals the 1914 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, along with a memorial plaque and scroll sent to his father.  He is listed on the Menin Gate with 6 others from Galashiels who served in the KOSB.

Private Charles Inglis Royal Marines Light Infantry – HMS Black Prince – 31st May 1916

He had joined the Royal Marines in late 1912 and by 1915 was serving on HMS Black Prince a Duke of Edinburgh class Armoured Cruiser built in 1904.  The ship was part of the 1st Cruiser Squadron based at Invergordon and was part of the British Grand Fleet that took part in the Battle of Jutland She was at sea by 10:30pm on the 30th of May and sailed out of the Cromarty Firth to join the rest of the fleet in the North Sea.  The plan was that the 1st and 2nd Cruiser Squadrons of four ships each would from a screening force several miles ahead of the main force of Battleships acting as their eyes and ears to detect and warn the Grand fleet when the German warships were sighted.  This occurred in the late afternoon of the 31st of May, HMS Black Prince radioed sightings to the Grand Fleet at 5:30 and turned south to avoid the British battle cruisers who had been shadowing the German fleet.  She was then lost to sight in the misty conditions that prevailed that day, the only contact, a radio message stating that she had sighted a submarine.  It was long thought by the British that she’d been sunk by the submarine but German sources stated that at around midnight she encountered the main German fleet, she tried to escape but caught in the searchlights of SMS Thüringen she was targeted by it and five other German battleships and quickly succumbed to their fire, exploding after midnight with the loss of all hands.  Charles is commemorated on the Galashiels War Memorial and the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.  3 other men and a boy from Galashiels died during the Battle of Jutland. 

Private George Inglis 2nd Battalion Kings Own Scottish Borderers – 25th September 1916

George had joined up in  August 1914 but didn’t end up overseas until 1916 – he served  with the 2nd Battalion KOSB throughout his time in the army.  The 2nd KOSB fought in the Battle of the Somme, they were not at the front on the first day but the battalion was involved in a number of actions during July, August and September; including attacks near High Wood, and a failed assault on Falfemont Farm.  Georges final battle came late in September when the 2nd KOSB were tasked with taking the village of Morval in a joint attack with the French.  The battle was a large affair with a rolling artillery barrage which the infantry followed meeting all their objectives within 4 hours and capturing over 700 prisoners a convincing success, but George was one of the 41 killed or missing that day.  Like his brothers his body was never recovered and he is listed on the Thiepval memorial to the missing of the Somme along with 39 other men from Galashiels including David Robertson of 130 Lintburn Street who died in the same Morval attack. 

Elizabeth Inglis was survived by 2 other sons Walter Inglis jun., and John Purves from an earlier partnership and her husband.

Dr Stevenson lost his son, Sub-Lt F Stevenson, in late 1918 when he was killed by gunfire whilst serving on HMS Perth during a surface action with a U Boat. He is also listed on the Galashiels War memorial and the Chatham Naval Memorial.  The girl walking up Ladhope Bank with Mrs Inglis survived the collision

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