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Frederick Smith Rae


13678 Private

1st Battalion, Scots Guards, 2nd Guards Brigade, Guards Division

Age: 30

Date of Death: 31.7.17

Buried: Canada Farm Cemetery II.B.17

Family history: The youngest son of James & Helen Rae, Yair Estate, Selkirk. Formerly of Dunipace East Lodge, Larbert. They moved to Yair, Selkirk were Frederick was employed as an apprentice gardener before he enlisted in October 1915. Frederick was unmarried and his mother is listed as his ’dependent’ on his pension records. He died of wounds.

The action leading to his death

On the 30 July The Scots Guards were in the Outpost Line across the canal at Boesinghe preparing for the opening attack of Third Ypres known as The Battle of Pilkem Ridge. The battalion War Diary highlights the objectives for the assault on 31 July:

(Taken from the battalion War Diary)

(i) ‘The ‘BLUE LINE’ - a trench running between ARTILLERY WOOD and BIG CLUMP, in our sector, and (ii) The ’BLACK LINE’ - some 600x further on.’

Randal Nicol, in his book ‘Till The Trumpet Sounds Again, The Scots Guards 1914-1919 in their own Words’, interviewed many of the men who were present, one of them was Private Johnes of the 1st Battalion who recalled: ‘On July 30th we were issued with chocolate bars with our rations and of course the regular rum ration, the chocolate bars were an extra titbits to munch on, and meant over the top. This was it.’

The Battalion formed the right of the 2nd Guards Brigade with 16th Royal Welsh Fusiliers (38th Division) on their right with the 2nd Battalion Irish Guards on their left on the other side of the Ypres-Staden-Roulers railway. The Battalion Right Flank and ‘B’ Company formed the first and second waves of the battalion attack, with ‘C’ Company and Left Flank forming the third wave.

(Linesman Map showing the German trenches as at 1 April 1917 & the area of attack of 1st Battalion Scots Guards)

The Guards Division attack went in at zero plus thirty eight minutes, this was because the 38th Division, on their right, forward positions were further back and they attacked at zero hour at three fifty. A consequence of this was that the German counter battery fire fell on the Guards Division lines without many casualties as the shells fell on soft, wet ground which absorbed the exploding shells. At zero plus thirty eight the British barrage opened and Corporal Jolly recalls ‘.. A huge star shell burst just in front of us sending off a shower of orange coloured light. This was the signal for the commencement of the barrage. In front of us there appeared a great wall of fire and smoke where the shells were bursting - shells of every calibre: from field guns up to great ‘iron foundries’ thrown from the huge railway guns. From thousands of machine guns poured forth showers of leaden bullets and trench mortars also helped to complete the awful inferno of smoke and flame which was swallowing up any mortal beings (our enemy) who were in front of us. At the proper minute there appeared as if coming out of the very earth, great lines of men with rifles, and bayonets fixed and they started to move forward. By this time strange gaps began to appear - the enemy’s artillery had started.

By 5am the first two waves easily carried the Blue Line which was lightly defended and they immediately began to consolidate the line. This was hampered by enemy sniper and machine gun fire. Private Johnes recalled seeing several Germans wearing ‘broad yellow bands on their arms with the words ‘Gibraltar’ on them in large black letters. He did not see any being taken prisoner. These were soldiers of the 73rd Hanoverian Fusilier Regiment who 1782 were serving with the British at the siege of Gibraltar. One of their officers was Leutnant Ernst Junger, who wrote ‘Storm of Steel’ after the war.

The other two companies of the battalion went past to continue the advance to the Black Line some seven hundred and fifty yards further on at Palisade Fam and Hey Wood. They consolidated the line and established a battalion HQ at the Rose Cross Roads. The battalion was relieved at 1.30pm. The War Diary recorded the casualties for the period 29 to 31 July as:

(War Diary entry with casualties for 29 to 31 July 1917)

Medals Awarded

1915 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal

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