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James Peebles

6113 Private

‘F’ Company, 2nd Battalion Scots Guards, 20th Infantry Brigade, 7th Division

Age: 26

Date of Death: 24.10.14

Buried: Menin Gate Memorial Panel 11

Family history: Husband of Ellen Hickey Peebles, Anderson Terrace, Longcroft. They had a daughter Mary Ivy. Son of James Peebles, 79 Fort Street, Broughty Ferry, Dundee. James was a reservist who, prior to rejoining his regiment on the outbreak of war, was employed as a brusher by the Banknock Coal Company. He was one of five brothers serving with the forces, Samuel, who with Charles, was in the Canadian forces and was killed. David, was in the Black Watch and George in the Royal Navy. Ellen remarried a discharged soldier David Muir on 23 June 1916.

The action leading to his death

F Company had been sent, on the evening of the 22 October, to the east end of Polygon Wood and placed under the command of the Wiltshires, who were I trenches on the Reutel Ridge. Three platoons of F Company were deployed amongst the Wiltshires, with the fourth in reserve. The positions had, at best, only two to three hundred yards of fields of fire on the plateau and were roughly the same distance from the Polygon Wood. The layout of the trenches were unsuitable, particularly when the German artillery got the range, in what was already a poor position in a very exposed salient. The position was made worse when the Germans captured the Poezelhoek from the left company of the Royal Scots Fusiliers and also got into the building in Reutel from which they sniped. The Germans then used dead ground to get in behind the Wiltshires right flank. The Wiltshires did not know about the loss of Poezelhoek and had also received order not to withdraw.

(Linesman Map)

When the Germans attacked in front the Wiltshires were also attacked from behind which resulted in the loss of 450 officers and men taken prisoner. F Company, who were with them, were killed, buried alive or taken prisoner. Lieutenant Ronald Gibbs, of F Company, wrote to his mother that: ‘Yesterday (24 October) was our worst day as my Company 220 men strong has now only 77 men left….

(Sgt Christopher Pilkington Roll Call of 2nd Battalion Scots Guards, Menin Road 27 Oct 1914)

His family had not heard from James and the War Office had posted him as missing. His wife had been enquiring through the Falkirk Herald in the hope that a relative of a comrade had heard of his fate. She received a postcard from a Private J Tattersall, a PoW at Gottingen near Hanover, in which he wrote that he had seen her notice and that he was sorry to tell her that his chum, J Peebles, was dead. He wrote to the parents of James Peebles on the 30 June 1915, stating that: ’Dear Friends I received your letter and I am very sorry at the news which I have got to give you. Your son James was killed on the 24th October at six am near YPRES. I can tell you his death was painless as he was shot through the brain and never spoke. I straightened him out in Trenches. I was wounded then (he was shot in the hand) and got captured at 6.30am and brought here. Your son was one of the best soldiers and never grumbled as we got it very hard.

Medals Awarded

1914 Star & Clasp, British Medal, Victory Medal

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