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James Crane Burnside

1129 Private

‘D’ Company, 1st Battalion, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, 81st Infantry Brigade, 27th Division

Age: 23

Date of Death: 10.5.15

Buried: Menin Gate Memorial Panel 42 & 44

Family history: Son of Walter and Isabella Burnside, 13 Main Street, Bainsford. James was a ‘Regular’ soldier having enlisted on the 8 January 1913 and prior to enlisting was employed as a moulder. His Battalion was in India when war was declared. He had four brothers and two sisters. Two brothers were serving one with 3rd Battalion, Argyll’s and the other with the Highland Cyclists Battalion.

The action leading to his death

The Battalion was involved in the 1915 ‘Battle of Frezenberg Ridge’ in which the Germans tried to flatten the Ypres Salient and capture ground from the Allies. The German tactic on the 9 May, day two of their offensive, was to attack the 27th Division. At 5.30am they shelled the front line from Zwarteleen to the Ypres - Roulers railway an area that covered the entire front held by the division. They targeted the 80th Brigade holding the line straddling the Menin Road and the 81st Brigade which was holding the forward edge of Sanctuary Wood. At dawn on the 10 May the bombardment continued with the focus being on the junction between the 80th and 81st Brigades. At 1.30pm the Germans commenced their attack in the area of the Menin Road which was defended by the 2nd Battalion Cameron Highlanders and supported by the 1st Battalion Royal Scots. The 1st Battalion Argyll’s, ’B’ Company came into the line to support the 4th King’s Royal Rifle Corps of the 80th Brigade. ‘D’ Company and two machine guns were in Railway Wood with ‘B’ and C’ Companies held in reserve. With the Germans now putting severe pressure on the line from Railway Wood to Sanctuary Wood the order was given to hold the line at all costs with the Battalion taking up a position between Bellewaarde Lake and Sanctuary Wood holding the line with the 2nd Cameronians and the 4th KRRC.

(Linesman Map. Although the positions are of 1917 it highlights the ground of the fighting in 1915.)

In a letter to the parents of James Burnside Lance Corporal J Combe captures some of the desperation of the fighting: ‘I am sorry to convey sad news of your son, who was killed in action on 10 May. We were shelled out of our trench, and had to leave under a heavy fire. Shortly before we left, your son did splendid work in dressing the wounded, as we had a great many casualties.' In a subsequent letter he wrote that James and a comrade had been buried in a wood on a hillside (probably Railway Wood) his body being lost in the fighting and he added: ‘his death was instantaneous, as he was struck by a piece of shell about the face and body. We had been shelled out of our trench and it was in the retirement that your son was killed.’ Lance Corporal Combe was recommended for a Distinguished Conduct Medal for carrying despatches.

Medals Awarded

1914-15 Star, British Medal, Victory Medal

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