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William McDonald

267684 Private

2nd Battalion Seaforth Highlanders, 10th Infantry Brigade, 4th Division

Age: 35

Date of Death: 4.10.17

Buried: Tyne Cot Memorial Panel 132 to 135

Family history: Son of John and Ann McDonald, 166 West Carron, Falkirk.

His brother John, a Private serving with the 1/7th Battalion Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, was killed in action on the 24 May 1915 and is buried at White House Cemetery III.C.7. See his entry

The action leading to his death

The 4 October was the opening day in the Battle of Broodseinde and the 4th Division, part of 5th Army, were attacking the village of Poelcappelle which was on the left of the main attack by the ANZAC Divisions, who were tasked with taking Broodseinde Ridge. The 4th Division was to attack on a 750 yard front, 500 yards in front of Eagle Trench, between White Mill on the lower Langemarck to Poelcappelle road and Schreiboom on the upper road. The first objective was 1,000 yards forward, and the final objective was 250 yards beyond on the Poelcappelle to Houthulst road. Both the 10th and 11th Brigades were to be used in the attack.

(Linesman Map)

The Seaforth’s were in the line and formed up for the attack in front Eagle Trench with the objective of capturing 19 Metre Hill, with the 3/10th Middlesex in support. The 1st Battalion Hampshire’s on their right and the 1st Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers on their left. The leading platoons of the Seaforth’s carried trench boards in case of difficulty in crossing any water or marsh found between the German trench known on British maps as ‘Kangaroo’ and the ‘Laudetbeek’ The leading Companies were ’A’ and ’C’ with ’D’ and ’B’ in support, and had moved off at 6am forward under the cover of a creeping barrage.

The leading Platoons began to find great difficulty in keeping in line due to the state of the ground and this caused confusion especially on the left of the line were ’A’ company had walked into their own barrage. The attack reached the Kangaroo Trench and any Germans showing resistance were bayonetted and ‘C’ Company had taken twenty five prisoners, some of whom were killed by their own barrage on the way back down the line. The left assaulting companies met with some resistance and did not take any prisoners with Company Sergeant Major Bain killing fifteen Germans with his bayonetted.

Casualties were light in the advance to Beek Street Trench but from this point forward they came under machine gun fire from two bunkers near 19 Metre Hill and fire from the left flank coming from across the Broenbeek and this caused considerable casualties.

Both company commanders of the two left companies, ‘A’ and ‘B’, and six of the eight platoon commanders were casualties. The advance continued with ‘C’ company moving on to the reverse slope of the Hill and on the left ‘A’ Company captured a fortified house. At this point ’C’ company was down to one officer and thirty other ranks. ’D’ Company came up in support of ’C’ Company but came under heavy machine gun fire and the advance came to a halt some 150 yards short of the crest of the Hill. With the Middlesex brought up to reinforce the Seaforth’s both battalions were mixed up and under murderous machine gun fire with movement impossible with the only safe way to dig between the shell holes.

At 1pm the Germans began to heavily shell the British positions and they mounted a counter-attack from the direction of Olga Houses some 400 yards to the north. The Seaforth’s fought this off however, the one officer left in ‘C’ Company, Captain Wood, was killed when distributing Lewis Gun ammunition. The Germans mounted another attack at 4pm and again this was repulsed.

The fighting for 19 Metre Hill had been severe and confusing and the Seaforth’s casualties were 342, of which 94 were killed or missing.

Medals Awarded

The British War Medal, Victory Medal.

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