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Alexander Marquis Black Harley

Updated: Sep 28, 2022

43018 Private

6/7th Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers, 45th Infantry Brigade, 15th (Scottish) Division

Age: 24

Date of Death: 31.7.17

Buried: Menin Gate Memorial Panel 19 & 33

Family history: Son of John Harley, he was a widow his wife, Marion, died in 1910 aged 45. Alexander was married to Mary and they had a son John born on 26 February 1913. They lived at 12 Main Street, Bo’ness. Alexander had an elder brother, John, and a sister Jane. Prior to enlisting in June 1915, he worked as a motorman at the Kinneil Coal Company.

He enlisted in the 1/10th (Cyclist) Battalion, Royal Scots and volunteered for overseas service landing in France in July 1916. He was posted to the 6/7th Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers and was wounded at the Battle of the Somme. On recovering from his wound he rejoined his battalion in the Spring of 1917.

The action leading to his death

The Battalion was involved in the opening attack of Third Ypres, listed in the Nomenclature as the Battle of Pilkem Ridge. The front of the 15th (Scottish) Division ran from Potijze Road to the Roulers Railway, immediately facing Frezenberg Ridge. The 46th Brigade was on the left of the assault, 44th Brigade on the right with the 45th Brigade ready in reserve to exploit the advance made.

The first objective was the enemy front and support lines, the second, the second line, and the third the defensive system fifteen hundred yards further east. When the first two objective had been taken the 45th Brigade was to advance and attack the third. The attack went in at 3.50am on 31 July and by 10am the Frezenberg Ridge had been taken and it seemed that the second position had also been carried. The 45th Brigade advanced against the third objective with the 6/7th Battalion on the right and the 6th Camerons on the left with the 11th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders and the 13th Royal Scots in support. At 10.18am the advance began and immediately the Battalion came under heavy machine gun fire and heavy losses occurred. The Battalion reached the wire in front of the German block house redoubt known as ‘Bremen Redoubt’ by which time most of its officers were casualties. By 11.30am the 6th Camerons were established in the third position and the Royal Scots Fusiliers had one company east of Potsdam Redoubt however, they were not in touch with the two just west of Bremen Redoubt, while the fourth company was well behind on the Ypres to Zonnebeke road.

(Linesman Map)

The Germans counter attacked at 2pm and the Camerons were forced to withdraw and with the help of the Royal Scots managed to stabilise the line by 5.30pm. The Royal Scots Fusiliers were now reduced to a Battalion strength of 150 men and had been brought back to the old German first line in preparation for an attack on Beck House (the attack did not go ahead until 2 August), a block house in the old German second line which was still held by them. The isolated company of the Battalion that had been east of Potsdam Redoubt fell back to the strengthen the left. At 3am on 1 August the Battalion was relieved by the 8/10th Gordon Highlanders.

An officer of the Royal Scots Fusiliers wrote to Alexander’s wife regretting his death and that: ‘… your husband was one of the splendid boys who helped us to succeed, but by glorious death was deprived of satisfaction of knowing how well we had done….’


The British War Medal, Victory Medal

His wife was the recipient of his effects and she was paid a war gratuity of £9.00 in lieu of a pension.

(Register of Soldiers Effects)

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