Men lie where they fell
Donald Abbott of Invergowrie tells the story of his great uncle, Alexander Pirie Abbott. “Alexander was born in Dundee in 1877,” he says. “In his youth, he began a course in Dundee for qualification as a chemist, but went off suddenly in January 1895 to join the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders.
“He served in the Sudan and South Africa and then the 1st Battalion was home in Inverness from 1902-04 and served in Ireland and Aldershot between 1904 and 1913. Thereafter they returned to Edinburgh in 1913. On August 12 1914 the 1st Camerons marched out of Edinburgh Castle for France.
“Sadly, Alexander lost his life early in the Great War. The 1st Battalion had its headquarters in a cave on the banks of the River Aisne. On September 25 1914, two huge German shells exploded, one on the roof of the cave and the other at its entrance.
“The occupants were entombed and probably killed outright.
“Five officers including the acting CO and the medical officer were killed, as were Regimental Sergeant Major G.S.Burt, Company Sergeant Major Alexander Abbott and Sergeant A. Hutchison, together with two Junior NCOs, and 17 others.
“It seems that the cave was also in use as a dressing station for the wounded, which would account for the presence of the medical officer and the bandsmen, the latter being used in battle as stretcher-bearers.
“So far as I can establish, the bodies of these brave Cameron Highlanders still lie where they fell.
“CSM Alexander Abbott is commemorated at the La Ferté-Sous-Jouarre memorial at Seine-et-Marne, France, and his name is included in the Books of Remembrance at the National War Memorial in Edinburgh Castle, in the Chapel of Fort George, Ardersier, and on an Anderson gravestone at Crathie.
“Before the fire at Morgan Academy, Dundee, his name topped the school war memorial which then stood in the vestibule of the main entrance door adjacent to the Rector’s office.
“Alexander’s name is also recorded also on the Abbot(t) family gravestone within the Western Cemetery, Dundee.”