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Joseph Blair

60329 Private

19th Company, Machine Gun Corps, 33rd Division

Age: 20

Date of Death: 25.9.17

Buried: Tyne Cot Memorial Panel 154 to 159

Family history: Son of Joseph and Jessie Nicholson Blair, 12 Company's Row, Stenhousemuir. He was employed by Mrs Eadie & Sons, bakers, Stenhousemuir.

He attested in July 1916, joining the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders and later transferred to the Machine Gun Corps.

The action leading to his death

The 19th Machine Gun Company was part of the 33rd Division, with three other Companies the 98th, 100th and 248th. In September 1917, the 19th Company was ordered forward with the 248th Company to Dickebusch, were they encamped, and began to construct barrage positions in the Stirling Castle area near the Menin Road. In preparation for the attack the two Companies were attached to the 23rd Division and moved forward to their barrage positions to take part in the assault on Belgian Hills which ran through Inverness Copse, Polygon Wood and onto Passchendaele and Westroosebeke. The attack began on the morning of the 20 September with the first phase being a success with the capture of Inverness Copse and Dumbarton Lakes.

(Linesman Map showing front line at 14 September 1917)

On the 22 September, the 19th Company rejoined the 33rd Division in preparation for the attack on Polygon Wood, the Reutelbeke and Polderhoek Chateau and were to supply the machine gun barrage support in conjunction with the 248th and 207th (Independent) Companies. On the 25 September the 19th Company was in position just West of Inverness Copse, in two batteries of eight guns. At 3.30am on the morning of the 25 September the Germans opened a bombardment on the British front and support lines. They then launched an attack with five divisions on the 33rd Divisional front. Heavy fighting then took place throughout the day with the 19th Company answering no less that twenty one S.O.S. calls from the infantry for fire support while at the same time coming under heavy shell fire themselves.

In a letter to his father, Lieutenant George Harrison, commanding the section wrote:

Your son was in my section, and nobody appreciated more than I did his never failing loyalty and devotion to duty. He was a magnificent soldier, and one of the bravest of men. He was extremely popular with his fellow soldiers, and they will miss him for many a day. He was killed on the 25 September while doing his duty in the line, and was buried with one or two of his comrades on the battlefield. Your son made the supreme sacrifice in the course of one of the most brilliant engagements in the history of this war, and he had no small share in what proved to be a glorious victory. I was by his side when he fell, and I do hope it is some consolation for you to know that your son has done the finest thing a Scotsman could do - he gave his life for his country and his friends.’

For his part in the action Lieutenant Harrison was awarded the Military Cross.

Medals Awarded

The British War Medal, Victory Medal.

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