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Lieutenant Walter Scott Stuart Lyon


He was the first Advocate to be killed in the First World War and the first to be killed in action since the Battle of Flodden. ‘C’ Company, 9th Battalion Royal Scots, 81st Infantry Brigade, 27th Division, Age 28, Killed 8 May 1915. Menin Gate Memorial Panel 11. Son of Walter F. K. and Isabella R. Lyon, Tantallon Lodge, North Berwick. He was one of three brothers killed in action during the war. He was educated at Haileybury College, Balliol College, Oxford, and then studied law at the University of Edinburgh from where he graduated LLB in 1912 and was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates.

 

He was a cadet in the Officers Training Corps at Oxford University and in 1910 joined the 9th Battalion Royal Scots being promoted to Lieutenant in 1913. He was mobilised on the outbreak of war and went with the Battalion to France and arrived in the Ypres Salient on the 27 February 1915; the Battalion occupying billets in Abeele and Dickebusch  before going into the line at St Eloi on 14 March with ‘C’ Company holding the front-line trenches.

 

On the 22 April the Battalion was in rest camps at Vlamertinghe as the German gas attack was made on the French positions at Langemarck. They went forward at 7pm on the evening of the 22 April passing through Ypres which was under heavy German shelling and out through the Menin Gate taking up positions at Potijze Wood. The wood was being intermittently shelled. They advanced with the 2nd Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry to take up positions to the left of the Canadians and filling in the hole in the line left by the French Territorials following the German gas attack. The Royal Scots advancing along the Ypres-St Julian Road to Wieltje with the line of advance from the St Julian Road approximately north-westwards towards the Pilkem Ridge. On reaching the top of the ridge the Royal Scots came under enemy fire and sustained a number of casualties.

 

‘C’ Company had come to a halt behind a hedge which was thickly woven with barbed wire which was preventing them moving forward. Seeing this, Walter stood up and took out his wire-cutters and coolly began to make gaps in the wire while he was under enemy machine-gun fire. For this act of bravery he was mentioned in dispatches. The Battalion took up defensive positions on Pilkem Ridge and by mid-afternoon on the 24 April there was only about 100 yards of a gap between ‘C’ Company and the Canadians on their left. On the 27 April the Battalion was relived and went back to Potijze Wood to take up support positions. On the 29 April they moved to Sanctuary Wood were they dug a new line of trenches with the British shortening their lines the trenches dug at Sanctuary Wood were now in the front line.

 

Linesman Map

On the 8 May a storm of German shelling broke over the British lines north of the Menin Road while the 9 Battalion, in the line south of the Menin Road although not subjected to such a heavy barrage still sustained casualties one of those being Walter. He was the first Advocate to be killed in the First World War and the first to be killed in action since the Battle of Flodden.

 

His poetry was written between 9 to 20 April, in the trenches and dug-outs. He wrote ‘Easter at Ypres: 1915’, ‘Lines Written in a Fire Trench’, ‘On A Grave In A Trench Inscribed, English Killed for the Patrie’, and from the trenches at Glencorse Wood he wrote ‘I Tracked A Dead Man Down A Trench.’

 

ON A GRAVE IN A TRENCH INSCRIBED

‘ENGLISH KILLED FOR THE PATRIE’

 

You fell on Belgian Land,

And by a Frenchman’s hand

Were buried. Now your fate

A kinsman doth relate.

 

Three names meet in this trench:

Belgian, English, French;

Three names, but one the fight

For Freedom, Law and Light.

 

And you in that crusade

Alive were my comrade

And theirs, the dead whose names

Shine like immortal flames.

 

And though unnamed you be,

Oh ‘Killed for the Patrie’,

In honour’s lap you lie

Sealed of their company.

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