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Benjamin Buchanan

202563 L/Cpl

‘D’ Company, 4/5th (Angus & Dundee) Battalion Black Watch (Royal Highlanders), 118th Infantry Brigade, 39th Division

Age: 23

Date of Death: 31.7.17

Buried: Menin Gate Memorial Panel 37

Family history: Eldest son of Benjamin & Marion Buchanan, Cobblebrae Cottage, Carron. Before he enlisted he was a police constable in the Stirlingshire Constabulary, stationed at the Nobel Explosives Works at Polmont. He joined the Scottish Horse in May 1915 and was subsequently transferred to the Black Watch.

4/5th (Angus & Dundee) Battalion Black Watch (Royal Highlanders)

The Battalion is the descendent of the pre-Territorial 1st and 2nd Volunteer Battalions of the Black Watch. In 1859 the 1st Forfarshire (Dundee) Rifles were formed and in 1881 joined to the Black Watch and given the title of 1st (City of Dundee) volunteer Battalion The Black Watch. The 2nd (Angus) Volunteer Battalion was formed from the independent Volunteer companies raised in Forfarshire in 1859 and organised a year later into two administrative battalions. In 1874 these two battalions were amalgamated, and in 1881 this Battalion became the 2nd Volunteer battalion The Black Watch. In 1908 it formed the 4th (Territorial) Battalion The Black Watch.

The other three Territorial battalions of The Black Watch were recruited from Forfar, Perth and Fife, but the 4th Battalion stood for the City of Dundee from where they recruited.

The action leading to his death

The 39th Division, was preparing for the attack on the 31 July known as Third Battle of Ypres. The 116th and 117th Brigades were to attack from the Hill Top and Wieltje sectors with their first objectives the German front line and then from the corner of Kitchener Wood and Corner Cot which was just behind the village of St Julien. When these had been secured the 118th Brigade was to pass through and cross the Steenbeek River and dig in on the far bank. From the front line positions to the Steenbeek River was a distance of two miles and the 4/5th Battalion was to join up with the 55th (Lancashire) Division on their right and the 51st (Highland) Division on their left.

(Linesman Map showing Hill Top in the bottom left and the battalion objective of the Steenbeek River top right)

The 118th Brigade was formed up with the 1/6th Battalion Cheshire Regiment on the right, the 1/1st Battalion Hertfordshire Regiment in the centre, and the 4/5th Battalion Black Watch on the left with, with the 1/1st Cambridgeshire Regiment in support. The German front line trenches were lightly held and they defended in depth with the positions defended with concrete ‘pill boxes’ with the main counter attack forces behind the Steenbeek.

The attack began at 3.50am on 31 July and the leading battalions secured their objectives. At 10am the 4/5th advanced in artillery formation through Kitchener Wood and on to cross the Steenbeek. Although enemy shelling was heavy the casualties were light. The 1/6th Cheshires took St Julien however, the Hertfordshires in the centre suffered heavy casualties from German machine guns and the battalion was practically wiped out. The decimation of the Hertfordshires exposed the flanks of both the Cheshires and the 4/5th Black Watch which resulted in the 4/5th Black Watch having to retire back across the Steenbeek in order to conform with the rest of the Division line and in doing so suffered heavy casualties from enemy artillery fire but also from machine gun fire on their right flank. The Battalion was relieved during the night and went back to La Brique.

The Battalion War Diary listed the names of the casualties and includes that of Benjamin.

Medals Awarded

The British War Medal, Victory Medal.

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