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Matthew McNicol

Updated: May 7, 2023


Larbert

263026 Private

5th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, 153rd Infantry Brigade, 51st (Highland) Division

Age: 33

Date of Death: 31.7.17

Buried: Artillery Wood Cemetery IV.E.3


Family history: Husband of Annie McNicol; father of Matthew Hodge, born before they were married. They lived at 18 Argyle Street, Alexandria, Dumbarton. He was the son-in-law of Mrs Jeanie Hodge, Wheatsheaf Buildings, Larbert; brother-in-law of Robert Hodge, 12th Battalion, Highland Light Infantry and buried in Millencourt Communal Cemetery Extension near Albert and of John Wood, 6th Battalion South Lancashire Regiment and buried in Bagdad (North Gate) Military Cemetery.

The action leading to his death

At 3.50am on 31 July 1917, the Third Battle of Ypres opened. The 51st (Highland) Division attack was opened with a barrage of 206 drums of burning oil projected from mortars on the German support and reserve lines, like something from medieval siege warfare. A further 150 shells filled with thermite were fired at the strong point known as Fort Caledonia in the German reserve lines. One squadron of the 1st King Edward’s Horse and eight fighting tanks and one supply tank, were placed at the Divisional commanders disposal. The artillery barrage had begun on the 16 July, with some 3,500 shells per day by the 18-pounders, 1,000 rounds per day by the 4.5 howitzers, and 200 rounds per day by the trench mortars.

Simon Verdegehem - Livens Projectors used by the 51st HD uncovered in a recent archaeological dig

The leading battalions of the 51st (Highland) Divisions attack were, from right to left, the 5/Seaforth Highlanders, 8/Argyll’s, 7/Gordon’s and the 7/Black Watch. The four battalions first objective, known as the Blue Line, was taken and consolidated. With the Blue Line secured according to plan, the troops allocated to the capture of the Black Line passed through them. The order of the troops detailed for the capture of the Black and Green Lines from right to left was 6/Gordons, 6/Seaforths, and 5/Gordons. The 5/Gordons met machine gun fire from strong concrete emplacements and these were overcome, with 2nd Lieutenant W. B. Maitland commanding ‘C’ Company, awarded a D.S.O. The 5/Gordons continued their advance to the Green Line and had captured the strong points at Francois Farm, in conjunction with the 6/ Black Watch, and Varna Farm in conjunction with troops for the 38th Division. The Green Line was reached at the Steenbeek and here the line was consolidated.

(Linesman Map showing Francois & Varna Farms with the Steenbeek)


The battalion casualties during this advance were 1 officer killed, 7 wounded and 58 other ranks killed, 171 wounded, and 7 missing.


Medals Awarded

British War Medal, Victory Medal


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