Grandfather one of first to di
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.