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James McFarlane

2383 Private

2nd Battalion Royal Scots, 8th Brigade, 3rd Division

Age: 22

Date of Death: 14.12.14

Buried: Locre Churchyard Cemetery II.E.18

Family history: He was unmarried and lived with his sister Mary at 73 Castleloan, Bo’ness. He was employed as a miner at Kinneil Colliery. James was also an acrobat and performed with a partner under the title ‘Carl & Mac’ at the local Hippodrome Theatre and Coliseum.

He joined the Royal Scots on 1st April 1912, as a Special Reservist. When war was declared in August 1914, he joined the 2nd Battalion Royal Scots at Glencorse Barracks, Penicuik, Midlothian. He landed in France on 11 September 1914.

The action leading to his death

The Battalion had begun the month of December quietly. They were to become involved in one of the last actions of the year of any importance on the northern front. It was to be a mainly French operation with the British 3rd Division and its 8th Brigade on the French right taking part. The plan was for the attack to spread south with the ultimate aim of capturing Messines Ridge. The 8th Brigade, with 9th Brigade in support and 7th Brigade in reserve, attacked with 1st Gordons on the right attacking Maedelstede Farm and 2nd Royal Scots on their left attacking Petit Bois.

(Linesman Map)

At 3am the Battalion moved off through Kemmel Chateau grounds to take over trenches held by the Liverpool Scottish. ‘C’ and ‘D’ Companies occupied the fire trenches, with ‘C’ Company on the right. ‘B’ Company was in support and ‘A’ Company in reserve. The wire entanglements in front of the line were cut down. At 7am a heavy bombardment of the German positions at Petit Bois began and at 7.45am ‘C’ and ‘D’ Companies advanced under heavy machine gun and rifle fire from the German positions. ‘D’ Company had to file through a gate in the British line due to a thick hedge immediately in front of their fire trenches. Both companies advanced at the point of the bayonet over 150 yards to the attack in two lines at 20 yard intervals and took one officer and 60 other ranks prisoner along with two machine guns. Both ‘C’ and ‘D’ Companies consolidated the trenches captured and ‘D’ Company then sent out a patrol into the wood and they discovered a second line of German trenches empty and filled with water about 100 yards in front of the captured trenches. ‘C’ Company could not make any progress due to heavy machine gun fire. ‘D’ Company, now reinforced by three platoons from ‘B’ Company, did not make any further moves forward. At 5.30pm the 2nd Suffolks relieved the battalion and went into the reserve trenches and awaited the arrival of the Liverpool Scottish before moving off to billets in Kemmel.

James died at No. 7 Field Ambulance at Locre from wounds received. In a letter from the chaplain at the Field Ambulance to his sister he wrote ‘… He was shot through the knee, the bullet coming out through the back part of the left thigh. Evidently he had lost a great deal of blood and so was very weak…


1914 Star and Clasp, The British War Medal, Victory Medal


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