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Alexander McTaggart

60180 Private

74th Machine Gun Company, 74th Infantry Brigade, 25th Division

Age: 29

Date of Death: 7.6.17

Buried: Menin Gate Memorial Panel 56

Family history: Husband of Janet McTaggart, 11 Jubilee Place, Bonnybridge. They had four children. Son of Duncan and Margaret McTaggart, Port Appin, Oban.

The action leading to his death

The 25th Division were involved in the British Second Army’s successful assault on the previously impregnable German defences at Messines Ridge. On the 7 June the British blew 19 mines which totally pulverised the German defences. Known as ’Cratering the Ridge’ the British detonated 600 tons of explosives alongside a massive and sudden artillery barrage. At a pre-battle press briefing Major General Tim Harrington, chief of staff to Second Army commander General Sir Herbert Plumer said: ‘Gentlemen, I do not know whether we shall change history tomorrow, but we shall certainly alter the geography.’ An eyewitness recounted: ‘Suddenly, at 3.10am, great leaping streams of orange flame shot upwards, each a huge volcano… along the front of the attack, followed by terrific explosions and dense masses of smoke and dust which stood like pillars towering into the sky, all illuminated by the fires below.

The front allotted to the 25th Division extended from the Wulverghem to Messines Road to the Wulverghem to Wytschaete Road. The objective of the 25th Division lay in front of the village of Wulverghem and comprised the strip of ground with a front of about 1,200 yards on the German front line to a depth of about 3,000 yards but narrowing towards the top of Messines Ridge to about 700 yards. There is a short forward slope with a decent into the Steenebeek Valley, swampy in winter and relatively dry in summer. From here the ground rises steeply, flanked on either side by the German strong points at Hell Farm, Sloping Roof Farm, Four Huns Farm, Chest Farm, Middle Farm, and on the crest of the ridge Lumms Farm. Despite the mines and the immense artillery bombardment the Germans were able, though dazed and shaken, to put up strong resistance for an extensive period.

(Linesman Map showing trenches before the British blew their mines on 7 June 1917)

On 7 June 74th Machine Gun Company had taken up position in the assembly trenches at 3.10am four guns went forward with the battalion attack with three coming into action at Nutmeg Reserve trench with the War Diary recording that the team of the fourth gun had been put out of action. At 3.30am the remaining four guns of the Company went forward and were in action at October Support trench and incurred casualties. The guns at Nutmeg trench came up to support those in October Trench. At 7am there were nine guns of the Company in action at October Support trench and they dug in. Six guns, that had been in the opening barrage, had taken up position one hundred yards east of the Messines to Wytschaete Road ready to provide SOS fire on Owl and Odious support Trenches.

(Linesman Map showing mine craters on 25th division line of advance at Kruisstraat Cabaret.)

(One of the three in de Kruisstraat Cabaret mine craters today. Now used for fishing.)

Medals Awarded

The British War Medal, Victory Medal.

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