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John Duncan Denton

Updated: Sep 28, 2022

8547 Private

1st Battalion, Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders, 1st Infantry Brigade, 1st Division

Age: 23

Date of Death: 31.10.14

Buried: Menin Gate Memorial Panel 38 & 40

Family history: Son of William and Angelina Denton, 54 Pentland Road, Lasswade, Midlothian. His parents moved to Bo'ness and John lived with his father, his mother having died earlier, at Hope Street, Bo’ness. His father died on 8 August 1910, age 55, and John, now an orphan, went to live with his step brother at Water Inns, Grangemouth Road, Bo’ness.

He enlisted in the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders in 1912 and landed in France with the Regiment on 9 September 1914.

The action leading to his death

The Battalion was heavily engaged in the fighting known as the First Battle of Ypres. On the 28 October the 1st Division held the line facing Becelaere between Reutel and Poezelhoek. The German Army Group Fabeck was massing for an attack on this front at Gheluvelt were the 1st and 7th Division joined. The British had some warning of the attack as a German radio message had been intercepted from the German Fourth Army to the XXVII Reserve Corps on the afternoon of the 28 October. The weight of the German attack would fall on the Gheluvelt crossroads where the Menin Road crossed that between Kruiseecke and Poezelhoek.

(Linesman Map showing 1st Division positions)

The 1st Battalion Cameron Highlanders faced the Germans in this area who were some 300 yards from their trenches. On the 28 October the battalion evacuated their original front line trenches, due to heavy enemy shell fire, and moved to new positions. On the 29 October they were warned to expect an attack from the Germans on the right of the line at 5.30am. The Germans moved to attack the battalion lines and the battalion War Diary records: ‘We mowed them down with rapid & machine gun fire.

On their right the German attack on the Black Watch and the Coldstream Guards had, initially, been held. However, problems arose when two British machine guns placed to cover the crossroads jammed and a large number of rifle cartridges proved too large for the rifles. By 6.30am the Germans had penetrated the 7th Divisions line and captured most of the Black Watch and two of the Coldstream Companies so getting in behind the 1st Brigade line. The situation was retrieved when the 2nd and 3rd Brigade counter attacked and restored the line.

At 3am on 31 October, firing commenced to the right of Cameron Highlanders front and a trench was blown in and many men were buried. The Germans again got through on the right and the Scots Guards held them off withdrawing their line flank. In th evening the Battalion was withdrawn to the rear.

The battalion losses for the period 14 October to 31 October were 38 Officers and 1,000 other ranks, dead, wounded or missing.


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

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