‘Sad news has been re­ceived through the Geneva Red Cross’

The Oban Times - - THE GREAT WAR -

My fam­ily, like so many oth­ers at the time of the Great War, lost loved ones who died far from home and in ter­ri­ble con­di­tions.

My great-un­cle An­gus, one of a fam­ily of nine com­pris­ing eight broth­ers and one sis­ter, en­listed in November 1914 in the Ar­gyll and Suther­land High­landers.

Af­ter much fight­ing, his talents as a ma­chine gun­ner were recog­nised by of­fi­cers who were set­ting up the newly formed Ma­chine Gun Corps Heavy Branch, Tank Corps, and he was trans­ferred to this unit in December 1916.

Twelve tanks were sent into com­bat in Bul­le­court in the French depart­ment of the Somme on the morn­ing of April 11, 1917. They led Aus­tralian in­fantry and were sup­posed to open up the Ger­man lines, but the Ger­man forces were equipped with heavy ar­tillery and shelled the tanks in­ces­santly, caus­ing great dam­age.

We have never found out which tank was An­gus’s. Only two tanks sur­vived the bat­tle and were able to retreat be­hind Aus­tralian lines. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion dif­fi­cul­ties in the bat­tle­field and last-minute changes in strat­egy did not help the valiant tank crews who did their ut­most to fol­low or­ders and do as much dam­age as pos­si­ble to the Ger­man front lines.

Many mem­bers of the tank crews died in Bul­le­court and do not have a known grave; their names are en­graved on the Ar­ras Mon­u­ment.

An­gus was among those killed at the Bat­tle of Bul­le­court. He was 21. The cir­cum­stances of his death only be­came known to his fam­ily a year af­ter it took place, and they were re­lated in an ar­ti­cle in The Oban Times of March 16, 1918: ‘On the morn­ing of 11th April, 1917, his com­pany ad­vanced at Bul­le­court (Somme). The tank crew, of which Gun­ner Drum­mond was a mem­ber, was seen by an air­man to have been cap­tured, and ac­cord­ingly his par­ents had hopes that he might have been a pris­oner. Un­for­tu­nately, the sad news has been re­ceived through the Geneva Red Cross that two of the tank crew who are in­terned in Ger­many saw the sol­dier taken out of the tank among the wounded but a large piece of shell struck him on the head killing him in­stan­ta­neously.’

A post­card from An­gus. Th­ese em­broi­dered pieces of fine silk were made by French and Bel­gian women, of­ten refugees from the area where bat­tle was rag­ing. It pro­vided them with a source of in­come and the sol­diers a spe­cial me­mento to send home.

One of the tanks used at Bul­le­court.

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