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William John Finlay

Updated: Apr 1, 2023

42488 Private

2nd Battalion Royal Scots, 8th Brigade, 3rd Division

Age: 19

Date of Death: 12.4.18

Buried: (Royal) Berkshire Corner Cemetery Extension Panel 1

Family history: Son of William and Annie Finlay, Foredale Terrace, Carriden, Bo’ness. He had six brothers and sisters. Prior to enlisting he was employed as a coal miner’s shunter at one of the coal mines in Bridgeness.

He initially enlisted on 2 March 1916 however, he was not called up for service until 2 July 1917, at Glencorse Barracks in Penicuik, Midlothian, in the 3rd Battalion Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), age 18. He arrived at the Base Camp at Etaples in France on 11 November 1917 and on the 13 November was transferred to the Royal Scots.

The action leading to his death

This action took place well outside the confines of the Ypres Salient. However, the missing are commemorated on the (Royal) Berkshire Corner Cemetery Extension.

The 2nd Royal Scots became involved in what was to be termed the Battle of the Lys or as the Germans called their offensive Operation Georgette. On the 12 April the Battalion, as part of 8th Brigade, were ordered to relieve 154 Brigade along a line that ran from Lawe south of Locon and up to La Tombe Willot. By 6am the Battalion was in position and by 10am the Germans were laying down a sustained and heavy artillery barrage that paralysed the whole area from Locon to Hinges. At 1.15pm the Officer commanding the 1st Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers, on the Battalions left, reported that the enemy had broken through at the north end of Locon, and that the right Company of the Royal Scots Fusiliers had been surrounded and cut off. Similarly two companies of the 2nd Battalion Royal Scots had been cut off and annihilated. By 1.45pm both Battalions had become fragmented with a few men trying to fight their way out of Locon. The remnants of the Battalion gradually withdrew to the area of Avelette Bridge.

(Linesman Map. A modern map showing the location of the action)

Casualties for the 12 April were Officers, 1 killed and 8 wounded and missing. Other Ranks 14 killed, 107 wounded and 247 missing.

His father, also William, was killed on the 28 June 1915, while serving with the 5th Battalion Royal Scots during the Gallipoli Campaign and his name is listed on the Helles Memorial. Williams death, for administration purposes was recorded as missing on 12 April 1918, was officially confirmed to his family on 28 August 1919.

(National Archives. Official notification of his death)

William would also have known William Robb Wallace who also lived in Bo’ness and died in the same action.


The British War Medal, Victory Medal

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