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Robert Duncan D.C.M.

S/5634 Sergeant

8th/10th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, 44th Brigade, 15th Division


Date of Death: Killed in Action on 31 July 1917

Buried: Menin Gate Memorial Panel 38

Family history: The son of Mr and Mrs Robert Duncan of 39 Carronview, Polmont. Before enlisting on 9 July 1915, he was a miner at Craigend Colliery, Polmont.

The 10th Battalion Gordon Highlanders left Parkhouse Camp, Salisbury on 8 July 1915 and entrained for Folkestone were they embarked on the SS Victoria landing in France on 9 July at Boulogne The 10th battalion began their trench induction on 20 July 1915, attached to the 7th London Regiment. They joined the 15th (Scottish) Division on August 1, 1915. The 10th Gordons were part of 44th Infantry Brigade, 15th (Scottish) Division, a K2 division. The 8/10th was an amalgamated battalion of the 8th Battalion, 26th Brigade, 9th Scottish Division and the 10th Battalion of the 44th Infantry Brigade. This amalgamation took place from May 1916 and the battalion became numbered 8/10th Gordons, 44th Brigade, 15th (Scottish) Division.

Award of the D.C.M. Battalion Raid 29/30 January 1917 The Butte de Warlencourt is an artificial mound of chalk in height and diameter it measured a hundred yards, it is still visible on the Somme. The opposing lines at this point ran along each side of a shallow valley. On the British side the ground sloped gently down from the ruins of Le Sars village, the front line being half-way down the slope. Immediately behind the German lines lay the Butte 400 yards from the British lines. The raid was to be carried out by ‘B’ and ‘D’ Companies. As the ground was covered in snow the attackers wore white smocks and white washed helmets. Black tapes were used for the lines to form up on. The wire was cut by the artillery, but there was no preliminary bombardment. Zero hour was 1.45am. At zero+25 the barrage, having lifted from behind the Butte and quarry, was to return to the German front-line trench. Three German machine guns, one of them on the lip of the quarry, opened fire. They were, however, relatively ineffective in the dark and were speedily silenced. Parties moved beyond the Butte to cover the men detailed to tackle it and the dug-outs. One of these parties discovered one post of six men, who at once surrendered. On the north side of the Butte several entrances were found. The Highlanders shouted demands for surrender, which brought another dozen prisoners. The prisoners numbered 17; the Battalion losses 1 officer, 2nd Lieutenant Knowles wounded and missing, 2 other officers slightly wounded, 4 men killed and 10 wounded.

The action leading to his death

On 31 July 1917, the 8th/10th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, were located at Gully Farm before the Frezenberg Ridge in the Ypres Salient. They were the leading battalion with the right flank on the Ypres-Roulers railway and attacked on a frontage of 350 yards with two companies, each with two platoons in line and two in support. The third company moved in a similar formation in rear of the two foremost. The fourth company brought up the rear in artillery formation, and with it moved two machine guns and a Stokes mortar. A company of tanks was allotted to the 44th and 46th Brigades, which had the task of capturing the first and second objectives. On the front of the 8/10th Gordons the second was just over a mile from the start-line. It ran across what was called the Frezenberg Ridge, actually only a few feet above the plain. The morning was overcast, so that it was still dark. Apart from the usual machine-gun fire, there was hand to hand fighting short of the first objective. Amid the stumps of a copse known as Wilde Wood the fighting was very sharp. The first objective was secured at 4.25am and the same experience was repeated in the advance to the second objective. The Gordons met a number of machine gun posts protected by concrete ‘pill-boxes’ By 5.55am the second objective was secured. Sometime during the advance to the first and second objectives Sergeant Duncan was killed in action.

Linesman Map

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