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Charles Ronald Campbell


'A' Company, 7th Battalion Black Watch, 153rd Infantry Brigade, 51st (Highland) Division

Age: 20

Date of Death: 31.7.17

Buried: Menin Gate Memorial Panel 37

Family history: Son of John and Jeanne Campbell, 24 Alma Street, Falkirk. He had six brothers, three of whom were serving, and two sisters. Before enlisting in the Scottish Horse in November 1915, he was employed as a Clerk in the Falkirk Iron Foundry.

The action leading to his death

At 3.50am on 31 July 1917, the Third Battle of Ypres opened. The 51st (Highland) Division attack was opened with a barrage of 206 drums of burning oil projected from mortars on the German support and reserve lines, like something from medieval siege warfare. A further 150 shells filled with thermite were fired at the strong point known as Fort Caledonia in the German reserve lines. One squadron of the 1st King Edward’s Horse and eight fighting tanks and one supply tank, were placed at the Divisional commanders disposal. The artillery barrage had begun on the 16 July, with some 3,500 shells per day by the 18-pounders, 1,000 rounds per day by the 4.5 howitzers, and 200 rounds per day by the trench mortars.

Simon Verdegehem - Livens Projectors used by the 51st HD to fire the barrels of burning oil. Uncovered in an archaeology dig

The leading battalions of the 51st (Highland) Divisions attack were, from right to left, the 5/Seaforth Highlanders, 8/Argyll’s, 7/Gordon’s and the 7/Black Watch. They had little difficulty forming up under the British barrage except that the water filled shell holes and heavy ground made the maintenance of direction and the proper extension of the line difficult. The four battalions advance to the first objective known as the Blue Line and found the trenches obliterated by the artillery barrage. Some of the farms had been so demolished that they could not be located until the sun was up above the horizon. The German counter-barrage opened some ten minutes after the British had launched their attack and this fell mainly on the old British front line. Points of resistance that remained were scattered across the battlefield and were not always cleared in the half light. Any that showed themselves were immediately dealt with. The 7/Black Watch were opposed by the remnants of an elaborate trench system however, they dealt with this and cleared the area.

Linesman map. showing the German trenches on 31 July 1917

With the Blue Line secured according to plan, the battalions consolidated their positions as the troops allocated to the capture of the Black Line passed through them.

War Diary entry, casualty return showing entry for Charles.

Charles would have known Private Thomas Gardner from Larbert, Falkirk District, who was in the same company and is buried in No Man's Cottage Cemetery.

Medals Awarded:

The British War Medal, Victory Medal.

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