Battle of The Somme
THE BATTLE of the Somme was one of the defining events of the First World War, writes Helen Glennie.
It took place between July 1 and November 18, 1916, on both sides of the River Somme in France. It was one of the largest battles in the First World War in which more than 1,000,000 were wounded or killed.
There were huge losses of men on the day – July 1, 1916 – but the Somme offensive continued for a total of 141 days. Men from every part of Britain and across the Commonwealth took part.
Some 150,000 Commonwealth servicemen lie buried in 250 military and 150 civilian cemeteries on the Somme and six memorials to the missing, built and cared for by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, commemorate by name more than 100,000 whose graves are not known – a lasting reminder of the human cost of the fighting in this region throughout the First World War.
The Battle of the Somme left a deep mark on millions of families across the Commonwealth, including seven men from the small community of the Slate Islands. It is important that we never forget what happened on the battlefields, and always honour the memory and bravery of those who served and those who fell. Private Hugh Cameron, 9th Battalion the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles). Lance Corporal Archibald Douglas, 1st/14th London Scottish. Corporal Archibald McDermid May, 10th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. Corporal Donald Livingston, 5th Regiment (Quebec) Canadian Mounted Rifles. Private John Livingston, 1st/14th London Scottish. Pioneer Kenneth Livingston, 51st Coy Highland Divisional Signals Royal Engineers. Private Peter Alexander Macdougall, 2nd Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.
CORPORAL Donald Livingston, 5th Regiment (Quebec) Canadian Mounted Rifles, was born on October 16, 1888, in Oban, to John Livingston and Ann McGilvray of Balvicar, Seil. He emigrated to Canada, where he became a riveter before enlisting in Vancouver on November 7, 1914.
Donald died, aged 33, on Septem- ber 14, 1916, at the Battle of the Somme and has no known grave. He is commemorated on France’s Vimy Memorial: the highest point of Vimy ridge which commemorates all Canadians who served their country in battle during the First World War, and particularly to the 60,000 who gave their lives in France. It also bears the names of 11,000 Canadian servicemen who died in France – many of them in the fight for Vimy Ridge – who have no known grave.
Donald’s brother, Alexander Livingston, listed above his name on the Kilbrandon war memorial, also died in the First World War.
PRIVATE Peter Alexander Macdougall, 2nd Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, was born at Ardincaple, Seil, on June 15, 1892. Peter’s obituary in The Oban
Times on December 2, 1916, relates: ‘BALVICAR – KILLED IN ACTION – On the 13th, Mr and Mrs Macdougall, Ashburton, Balvicar, received the sad intelligence that their eldest son, Peter, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, was killed in action on the 28th October. Of a most gentle, amiable disposition from early childhood, private Macdougall was a universal favourite.
‘Had he been spared, there was every reason to believe that a successful career in his profession lay before him. The heartfelt sympathy of the whole district goes out to the stricken parents, sister and brother.
‘A younger brother, James, also of the Argylls, and who has been wounded in one of the recent attacks, and is in hospital at Havre.
‘A Callander paper says: “Infor- mation has been received that Private Peter Macdougall, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, was killed in action in France of 28th October. Pte. Macdougall, who was 24 years of age, came from Easdale in 1906 and attended the McLaren High School until 1911, when he entered the Callander Branch of the Bank of Scotland”.
‘After successfully completing his apprenticeship, he was appointed teller at the Killin branch of the bank, which position he held until he entered the Army in the early months of this year. Private Macdougall was a great favourite at school and in business and athletic circles, and the news of his death has caused general regret in Callander. He was a prominent football player and a companion of the late Lieut. John Ferguson in the McLaren High School and Callander Thistle football teams.’
Peter Macdougall is buried among the 3,137 graves at the Guards’ Cemetery, Lesboefs, France, where his headstone is inscribed ‘To Memory Ever Dear.’
Peter Macdougall was one of the soldiers who were re-interred from a map reference from the battlefield. Some 1,644 of the burials are unidentified. His brother Donald Macdougall also died in the First World War and is named on the Kilbrandon war memorial. Peter was awarded British and Victory Medals.
PIONEER Kenneth Livingston, 51st Coy Highland Divisional Signals Royal Engineers, was born on July 12, 1892, in Lorn Combination Poor House, Oban, a twin with sister Isabella, to mother Isabella Livingston, who had six children, but did not marry.
Kenneth had enlisted in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Territorial Force at Easdale in 1909 when he was 16, and then was transferred in April 1915 to the 51st Highland Division Signal Coy Royal Engineers. He was registered Sapper Telegraphist Field Line in December 1915.
He was killed in action on July 22, 1916, at High Wood, Somme, aged 24. The 51st Division attack at High Wood came under heavy machine gun fire, and they were forced to withdraw with 450 casualties.
He is also commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial as he has no known grave. Kenneth was awarded the Victory, British and Star Medals. His next of kin was given as Gilbert May, Oban, Seil, Easdale, a farmer with whom he had been living. Kenneth’s obituary in The Oban
Times on September 2, 1916, carried the following poems:
LIVINGSTONE – Killed in action in France on 22 July. You are lying in a foreign land, In a grave we shall never see; But as long as life and memory be, Kenneth, we’ll remember thee. – Inserted by his sorrowing Sisters and Brothers He was brave, loving, kind and true, He faced the shot and shell; Although his grave I cannot see, He like a soldier fell. – Inserted by Mrs Allan Livingstone
The Oban Times obituary of Donald Livingston on October 28, 1916.