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Alexander Bissett

Updated: Aug 20, 2021

41201 Private

Royal Scots, 16th Battalion, 101 Infantry Brigade, 34th Division

Age: 38

Date of Death: 16.4.18

Buried: Ploegsteert Memorial Panel 1

Family history: Son of Alexander and Elsie Campbell Bissett, of 2 Bank Street, Falkirk; husband of Elizabeth Bissett (nee McDonald), of 6 Brighton Street., Edinburgh. His pension card indicates that he was unmarried. He lived and worked in Edinburgh being employed as a ‘Vanman’, he also lists his trade as ‘Printer’ on his Medical History form, when he attested in Edinburgh on 3 July 1915 joining the Scots Guards.

(Western Front Association Pension Records)

His Statement of Services details a problem with discipline deserting from the Depot at Caterham on 16 October 1915 for which he received 28 days detention. His lack of discipline continued when he was transferred to the King’s Own Scottish Borderers and then to the Scottish Rifles (Cameronians) with frequent absences. He was finally transferred to the Royal Scots joining ‘B’ Company, 16th Battalion, on 15 September 1917. The Battalion went to France in January 1918 and while at Etaples he contracted Trench Fever. Discharged from hospital on 23 March 1918 he rejoined the Battalion and was posted ‘Missing’ on 27 April 1918.

The action leading to his death

The 16/Royal Scots became involved in what was to be termed the Battle of the Lys or as the Germans called their offensive Operation Georgette. On the night of 8/9 April the battalion was in billets at Erquinghem-sur-Lys, which was about 1.5 miles south of Armentieres, and as part of 101 Brigade was the XV corps reserve. At about 4.30am the town and the surrounding area and roads in the rear came under an intense bombardment from German artillery. The 40th Division, the neighbouring division, had received the full force of the German assault by the II Bavarian Corps and this brought the 101 Brigade as the reserve into action in support of 40th Division south of Bac St Maur. Due to a break in communication the Brigade did not receive this order until 11.20am and it was the 16/Royal Scots, being close to Brigade HQ that received the order at 11.25am that made the move first followed by two companies of the 15/Royal Scots. By the time they reached the area it was to late as the Germans now held the ground they had hoped to occupy. They took up a defensive position on the flank at Fort Rompu were they linked up with 103 Brigade. Despite coming under tremendous pressure from German attacks the 101 Brigade managed to create a continuous defence that included 12 Suffolks of the 121 Brigade.

On the night of the 9/10 April the battalion was on the south side of the River Lys as part of 101 Brigade. At about 7am two attacks in great strength were launched by the Germans, northwards from Fleurbaix and east wards from Fort Rompu, the result being that the composite line held by the Royal Scots and the Suffolks was attacked on both fronts of the right angled bend in the line south-west or west of Fort Rompu and here, by sheer weight of numbers the Germans penetrated the line north of Fleurbaix. The Royal Scots suffered very heavy casualties in this attack and it is here that most of those shown as ’Missing’ were killed. They are listed on the Ploegsteert Memorial.

Medals awarded:

The British War Medal, Victory Medal.

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