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Robert McDiarmid

Updated: Feb 10

Sanctuary Wood Cemetery. Ypres Salient. Flanders. Falkirk District
Sergeant Robert McDiarmid. Authors image

326150 Sergeant

70th Siege Battery, 12th Brigade, Heavy Artillery Group, Royal Garrison Artillery

Age: 30

Date of Death: 29.4.18 DoW

Buried: Sanctuary Wood Cemetery II.K.6

Family: Son of Norman and Agnes McDiarmid, 48 Dorrator Road, Camelon. He had a brother Norman and sister Margaret both of whom were older than Robert. Prior to enlisting Robert was employed as a barman.

70th Siege Battery was formed at Dover under War Office Instruction No 144 of 9 October 1915 from one company (probably 1/4th Company) of the Forth Royal Garrison Artillery, a part-time coast defence unit of the Territorial Force based in Edinburgh, Scotland. The remainder of the personnel were New Army recruits.

Forth Royal Garrison Artillery were part-time coast defence units of the British Army from 1908 to 1956. Although they saw no active service, they supplied trained gunners to siege batteries engaged on the Western Front during World War I. The HQ was in Edinburgh at Easter Road Barracks, also Nos 1 to 4 Companies, No.5 was based in Kirkcaldy, Fife, and No.6 Company at Burntisland, Fife on the north bank of the Forth. It was designated as a Defended Ports Unit in Scottish Coast Defences, which was also based at Edinburgh and included the Regulars of No 21 Company RGA at Fort Leith. They manned the guns located on the north and south banks of the Forth estuary and also the various islands located in the Forth. Although complete defended ports units never left the UK, they did supply drafts of trained gunners to RGA units serving overseas. They also provided cadres as the basis on which to form complete new units for front line service.

Inchgarvie Island inner defences. The UNESCO Forth Bridge towers above. Authors image.

Inchcolm island Battery 1 – 2 x 6-inch Mk VII gun pits. Views to Edinburgh in the distance and Inchmickery Island defences in the foregound. Authors image.

70th Siege Battery

The battery went out to the Western Front on 26 March 1916 armed with four 8-inch howitzers. At this stage of the war the 8-inch howitzers in use (Marks I–V) were improvised from cut-down and bored-out barrels of 6-inch coast defence guns, with the recoil checked by enormous wooden wedges.

Royal Garrison Artillery. 70th Siege Battery. Ypres Salient. Flanders. Falkirk District
IWM Image. 8-inch Howitzer near to full recoil

By 1918 HAG allocations were becoming more fixed, and on 1 February 1918 they were converted into permanent RGA brigades. Because of the inclusion of 70th Siege Battery the 12th Brigade was defined as an 8-inch Howitzer Brigade, though the other three batteries were all equipped with 6-inch howitzers. 70th Siege Battery remained with this brigade until the Armistice.

The action leading to his death

12th Brigade was in General Headquarters (GHQ) Reserve from 4 January to 11 February 1918. Thereafter it was assigned to the reconstituted Second Army. The brigade was part of IX Corps Heavy Artillery in the fighting at Mont Kemmel, during the Battle of the Lys (the second phase of the German spring offensive) in April 1918. It was during this action that Robert died of his wounds.

Medals Awarded:

The British War Medal, Victory Medal.

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