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William McEwan

275501 Private

'C' Company, 10th Battalion, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, 26th Infantry Brigade, 9th (Scottish) Division

Age: 25

Date of Death: 12.10.17

Buried: Tyne Cot Memorial Panel 141 to 143

Family History: Eldest son of Henry and Maggie McEwen, Muirhead Place, Stenhousemuir. He had three brothers and three sisters.

Frost Bite, Severe Burns and Wounded

He originally enlisted in the local 1/7th Territorial Battalion on the 7 September 1914 and went with the Battalion to France on 15 December 1914. On the 23 February 1915 he was hospitalised in Steenwerck with frost bitten feet, then transferred to Baillieu and from there went to Rouen and on 9 April to the UK to the 3rd General Hospital in Wandsworth for 15 days. On the 1 September 1915, he embarked from Southampton for France and joined the Battalion in the field. He was then wounded, gun shot wound to the head, on 6 September and went down the line to Rouen being transferred to England on 17 September. On recovering he rejoined his battalion in the field on 12 February 1916.

On the 13 December 1916 he was injured in an accident in his billet. The fire in his billet was getting low and another soldier put petrol on the fire and it blew back setting William on fire causing burns to his left arm and left thigh and he was hospitalised again this time for 52 days. He was granted a period of furlough from 16 to 27 February 1917 from No.2 General Hospital at Swinton Grange from where he was convalescing. He then spent a period in reserve in the UK before he embarked for France on 30 May and joined the 10th Battalion in the field on 19 June 1917 and was posted to ’C’ Company.

The action leading to his death

The scene of the battle was the low, flat country near the northern end of the Passchendaele Ridge. Along the left boundary of the Division was the Lekkerboterbeek stream, and the whole area was studded with fortified farms and houses. There were three objectives; the first two, the Yellow Dotted and the Blue Dotted Lines, were to be taken by the Highland Brigade, with the final objective, the Purple Doted Line, to be taken by the Lowland Brigade. The leading battalions of the 26th Infantry Brigade, the Black Watch and the Argylls, each on a two company front, were to capture a subsidiary objective, the Green Line, and the Yellow Dotted Line, after which the Seaforths and Camerons were to pass through and go on to the blue Dotted Line. The attack was on a wide front for a brigade and was supported by a barrage that was to move 100 yards every eight minutes, with a pause on the first and second objectives, and sixteen Vickers Guns were to form a machine-gun barrage in support of the infantry. The attack was to begin at 5.30am.

(Linesman Map)

On the 11 October the weather broke down and the march to the assembly positions was made under torrents of rain along slippery duckboard walks. The assembly positions and back areas were heavily shelled with HE and gas shells and many of the taping parties were killed or wounded and all had to wear their respirators.

On the left, the Argylls, who were in touch with the 55th Brigade, 18th Division to their left, had been unable to keep pace with the barrage due to the impassable condition of the ground. The two right companies ’A’ and ’C’ and its supporting company had maintained direction, but ’B’ and ’D’ had swung to the left and some men, crossing the Lekkerboterbeek, so churned up by shell fire that it was unrecognisable, had entered the 18th Division sector. ‘A’ and ‘C’ companies encountered a Pill Box, not marked on the maps, near Burns Houses and were held up with machine-gun fire and sniping. With the support of elements from the 11th Royal Scots, 6th KOSB and 5th Camerons they rushed the Pill Box. The occupants had waved a white flag but had continued to fire. All the occupants, some forty in front and another twenty trying to escape, were killed. Four machine-guns were captured.

With the capture of the Pill Box ‘A’ and ‘C’ companies moved forward 150 yards where they consolidated shell holes. A platoon of ‘B’ Company had crossed the Lekkerboterbeek and had gone about 80 yards when they had come under heavy machine-gun fire and sniping from Beek and Meunier Houses and could go no further. Both ‘B’ and ‘D’ companies formed a defensive flank and gained touch with 18th Division on its old front line. The line taken up by the 9th (Scottish) Division ran from the Cemetery near Wallemolen in front of Inch Houses, to Oxford Houses and back to the original front line.

Medals Awarded

1915 Star, The British War Medal, Victory Medal.

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