Grand­fa­ther one of first to di

The Oban Times - - Leisure -

A CEN­TURY ago the Bat­tle of the Somme was rag­ing in north­ern France, and this week we look at how another Ar­gyll fam­ily was hit by one of the blood­i­est strug­gles of the First World War.

The Bri­tish forces’ aim was to re­lieve their French al­lies at Ver­dun and weaken the op­pos­ing Ger­man army, but they were un­able to break through en­emy lines. It led to a bru­tal five-month bat­tle of at­tri­tion on a 15-mile front, which left one mil­lion dead and wounded on all sides.

The 141 days of hor­ror had be­gun on July 1, 1916, when 100,000 Bri­tish soldiers were sent over the top to at­tack the Ger­man trenches. But the day was a dis­as­ter: the Ger­mans had weath­ered seven days of ar­tillery fire, and mowed down Bri­tish troops with ma­chine-gun and ri­fle fire. It was the blood­i­est day in the Bri­tish army’s his­tory.

One of the 19,240 Bri­tish soldiers to die on the Somme’s first day was Fran­cis Howard Lind­say, grand­fa­ther of Colin Lind­say-MacDougall, cur­rent Laird of Lunga Es­tate near Craobh Haven.

Born on March 9, 1876, Fran­cis was a Cam­bridge grad­u­ate and ex­am­iner with the Scot­tish Ed­u­ca­tion De­part­ment. Un­like many in his fam­ily, he was not at­tracted to a mil­i­tary ca­reer, but when the call-up came, he served as a cap­tain, then a ma­jor, in the 14th Bat­tal­ion London Scot­tish Reg­i­ment.

Few de­tails are known about how the 30-year- old died at the Somme, and nor is there a known grave to visit, but he is com­mem­o­rated be­side many board col­leagues on the Thiep­val Memo­rial, and at a memo­rial at St An­drews House in Ed­in­burgh. Fran­cis was not the only ca­su­alty in his fam­ily, which, like many oth­ers, was dev­as­tated by the First and the Sec­ond World Wars.

In 1910, Fran­cis Lind­say had mar­ried He­len MacDougall, whose fa­ther, Lt Col Ste­wart MacDougall of Lunga, and only brother, Ma­jor Iain MacDougall, an ad­ju­tant in the Gre­nadier Guards, also fell in ac­tion early in the First World War.

Fran­cis's brother, James Lind­say, sur­vived the Somme, and the Great War, af­ter be­ing wounded in 1917. How­ever, his two sons, Michael and Harold (' Harry'), per­ished in the Sec­ond World War – Michael aboard the Royal Navy bat­tle­cruiser HMS Hood, sunk in 1941, and Harry in 1944, fight­ing up through Italy into Ger­many. Fran­cis's other brother, Michael, had been killed in the Boer War in 1900.

Fran­cis Lind­say and He­len MacDougall's son, John, took on the sur­name Lind­say-MacDougall, in­her­ited Lunga and mar­ried Sheila Sprot, who gave birth to their two chil­dren, Colin and Ce­cilia Anne. Sheila's fa­ther James, and un­cle Ivan, had died fight­ing in Bel­gium in 1914.

John Lind­say-MacDougall of Lunga be­came a ma­jor in the Ar­gyll and Suther­land High­landers dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, and luck­ily avoided cap­ture in Sin­ga­pore and Dunkirk, then fought through North Africa onto Si­cily, but died from his wounds in a Ger­man pris­oner of war camp in 1943.

' The im­pact was uni­ver­sal in Scot­land,' re­flected John’s son, Colin. ' There was not much landown­ers could do but go fight in the army. Large amounts of the es­tate went with them, and they died in just the same num­bers.

' The women, af­ter the war, talked of all the men as tragic he­roes, with­out bring­ing them to life. I don't think they knew how to han­dle it, be­cause it was on such a scale. Both fam­i­lies felt so guilty for lead­ing so many from the es­tate and wip­ing out a whole gen­er­a­tion.

'My fa­ther, I knew al­most noth­ing about un­til some­one told me. He was known as "the camel" be­cause he had a funny run­ning move­ment, and as "lean and fru­gal Lind­say-MacDougall". It's a shame we don't have more sto­ries about Fran­cis Lind­say. He was re­luc­tant to be in­volved in the mil­i­tarism of the rest of his fam­ily, but that's what hap­pens in war. It does teach us what an in­flammable world we live in.’

Colin, speak­ing to The Oban Times on his 77th birth­day, added: ' Ste­wart MacDougall was killed vir­tu­ally on his 65th birth­day. My am­bi­tion was to live beyond 65 – and I've made it.'

Colin Lind­say-MacDougall and a por­trait of his grand­fa­ther Fran­cis Howard Lind­say.

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