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Peter Milne

WW1 - The Ypres Salient Battlefields, Belgium

S/25062 Private

7th Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders, 26th Infantry Brigade, 9th (Scottish) Division

Age: 18

Date of Death: 11.4.18

Buried: Tyne Cot Memorial Panel 132 to 135

Family history: Son of Alex and Annie Milne, 124 Kerse Road, Grangemouth. He had six brothers, the oldest brother William was killed at the Battle of Arras in April 1917. His brother John was wounded serving with the Australian Infantry, two other brothers were with the colours and another serving with the Navy. Before enlisting in July 1917, Peter was an apprentice baker.

Training Reserve

When he enlisted Peter was absorbed into the Training Reserve with the number TR/1/13441. The Training Reserve was formed in 1 September 1916. Before this most of the infantry regiments contained one or more reserve battalions of the regular and new armies. Recruits would be posted to these battalions for basic training, before they were then posted to an active service battalion. The introduction of conscription changed everything. The regimental system could not cope with the huge amount of recruits and a new system was put in place: the Training Reserve. The official compliment was 208,000. The local nature of a recruit joining their local regiment was now superseded by this new centralised system. Interestingly, the Guards, Irish and Territorial battalions did not convert to this system. Nor did it affect the Special Reserve and the Extra Reserve battalions of the regular army, what would be the 3rd and 4th Battalions of a regiment.

Those men posted to the TR were not allocated to any particular regiment when it came to them being posted. However, the system changed in May 1917, when TR recruits became Graduated and Young Soldier Battalions and were again associated with specific regiments. TR recruits uniform did not have the cap badge and shoulder titles of their former regiment instead, in the case of the three brigades of the Scottish command the 9th, 12th and 18th, they wore a Glengarry the 9th Brigade also wore a kilt and hose. All other ranks and NCOs wore the number of their TR Brigade on their sleeve this was usually a cloth patch, the more senior men wore white, then in descending order of service red, yellow, green, brown and blue. All TR titles were discontinued from June 1917 with the sleeve number dropped in December 1917.

The action leading to his death

The Division arrived in Flanders, following their involvement in opposing the German ‘Michael’ offensive further south on the Somme, in early April and took over the front line south east of Ypres, straddling the Comines Canal. Here, south of the canal, they also faced the next phase in the German spring offensive named ‘Georgette’ with their line facing the ruined village of Hollebeke and running from the Stables of the now ruined White Chateau - Delbske Farm - Ravine Wood - southern edge of Denys Wood - Godezonne Farm. They had received large drafts of men to replace the casualties of the earlier fighting and the division was still reorganising when the Germans attacked.

WW1 - The Ypres Salient Battlefields, Belgium
IWM Q 36594 A ruined chateau at Hollebeke, near Ypres, showing a trench leading to shelters in a cellar, November 1916.

At 3.30pm on 10 April, the 7th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders were in reserve, having been relieved for rest on 9 April and were at Seddon Camp near Vierstraat until 2.30am on 10 April. They were ordered to take up a line a from the Stables, where contact would be made with the 11th Battalion Royal Scots, to Godezonne Farm. The War Diary reported that the men were having tea while they stood to and at 4.30pm moved off to take up the new positions via the Brasserie, Bus House, and St Eloi. ‘A’ Company took the lead and was to form the left of the line with ‘B’ in the centre, ‘C’ on the right and ‘D’ in support. On their way to the Dammstrasse, this was a sunken drive way entrance to the White Chateau, the battalion had to pass through a German barrage which killed and wounded several men.

They arrived at the Dammstrasse and took up their position sending out patrols towards Ravine Wood, through Pheasant Wood to Denys Wood. At 1am on the 11th a company from the 9th Welch Fusiliers appeared having spent the previous day in a dug-out in Denys Wood and had still been in contact with their brigade HQ until ordered to retire during the night. They were absorbed into the Seaforth’s who then sent their ‘D’ Company down towards Wytschaete to reinforce the line. The battalion War Diary reported that the weather and the situation was ‘a bit hazy’ and this could account for the indecision when a large number of men began to advance from Ravine Wood. It was unclear whether they were British or German. When they were less that 150 yards from the battalion line it was realised that they were German and both ‘A’ and ‘B’ Company’s opened fire with rifle and Lewis guns and took a heavy toll of the enemy. The Germans who survived this fire lay down in the cover of the wood.

The Seaforth’s now mounted a counter attack with Sergeant Jeffries taking four men from ‘B’ company round to the right and Corporal MacKay of ‘A’ Company taking a larger group round to the left. Seeing this pincer the Germans stood up and attempted to retreat the War Diary recording that: ‘Those that got up to run back were mostly mown down by fire from our lines - the youngsters of the draft remembering all they ever knew about rapid fire!’ Sergeant Tait of ‘A’ Company seeing that the situation required more direct control ran forward shouting to ‘A’ Company to: ‘Get round the buggers’ and ‘A’ Company got out of their shell holes and charged the enemy. Meanwhile, ‘B’ Company had now got round the back of the German retreat and shot down any who tried to run away. The War Diary recorded that: ‘those of the enemy surviving put up a white flag and sank on their knees in supplication.

WW1 - The Ypres Salient Battlefields, Belgium
IWM BOX 7009-13-6BO-28P-1917 Hollebeke Chateau

WW1 - The Ypres Salient Battlefields, Belgium
Linesman Map

They took 17 prisoners and captured 3 machine guns. The battalion was engaged in further action throughout the day including a joint attack with 12th Royal Scots on the pill boxes in Ravine Wood. The attack launched at 3.30pm and the battalion platoons suffered some casualties and were held up some 100 yards short of the objective. The Seaforths waited on a signal from the Royal Scots who were to attack from around the rear of the pillboxes from the direction of the White Chateau. When no signal was received a patrol from the Seaforths found the Royal Scots held up in shell holes 50 yards short and it was impractable for the attack to continue without suffering heavy causalities. The Seaforths withdrew to their original start positions in the Dammstrasse.

The battalion casualties for the 11 April were 1 officer killed and 4 wounded. Other Ranks, 130 killed wounded and missing.

Medals Awarded

Victory Medal, British War Medal

WW1 - The Ypres Salient Battlefields, Belgium

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