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John Friars

8678 Guardsman

Right Flank ‘B’ Company, 1st Battalion, Scot Guards, 1st Infantry Brigade, 1st Division

Age: 21

Date of Death: Killed in Action on 26 October 1914

Buried: The Menin Gate Memorial, Panel 11

Family history: The son of Mr John Friars, 39 Richmond Terrace, Bo’ness. Before enlisting in August 1913 he was employed under his father at the chemical works of Messrs Thomas Ovens & Sons at Corbiehall.

The action leading to his death

On the 26 October 1914 the Battalion was at Gheluvelt. Sergeant Macdonald takes up his account:

‘Off at 4am in the direction of Gheluvelt and halted on the road leading into the Gheluvelt from about 6am to 9am. ‘C’ Company crossed over the road and followed Left Flank up the line of the tramway, Gheluvelt Church being off to their right.’ The Ypres tramway ran beside the Menin Gate to west of Gheluvelt and then diverged towards Becelaere. ‘My Platoon No.9 was last over, we were shelled very heavily - then down through some garden with a pond at the back of the Chateau where there were a lot of Bedfords dug in all over the place. We went on to the further hedge, where the Bedfords had been, East, I think, of the Chateau. LF bore to the left and C settled down behind that hedge, where the Bedfords had been. We were overlooking a road running N to Becelaere, Sir I Colquhoun with No10 went on down the slope and took over a trench that was almost on the above road on his right were a haystack and a large wood RF and B were I believe, in front of that wood and to the right.’

Area of action (Linesman Map)

His platoon was probably on the slight rise in the ground on the south side of a stream, the Scherriabeck, with to his right, on the far side of the tramline, the pond north of Gheluvelt Chateau. The large wood he mentioned was Poezelhoek Wood, well away from the hamlet itself, to the south of the Gheluvelt-Becelaere side road.

Left flank who had to advance with their left exposed and unsupported, there being no link with the 4th (Guards) Brigade in Polygon Wood, and when enfilade fire came at them, presumably from north of Poezelhoek, they lost direction. Captain Cecil Pryee Hamilton, the company commander sent a message to Battalion Headquarters that he and twelve men were one hundred and fifty yards from the German trenches at the hamlet. Soon after that he was badly wounded and, though successfully evacuated, died next day in Ypres. Right flank and ‘B’ Company, south of the tramway, found themselves in their own very sharp salient. John Friars was one of twelve men in this salient and was later officially recorded as having died on 26 October. His body was not found.

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