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42ND. BLACK WATCH / PIPER / WWI / M. M.

The Germans could not get over the perfidy of it. It was unbelievable that the British, having degenerated to the stage where suffragettes heckled the Prime Minister and defied the police, were going to fight.
Barbara Tuchman, "The Guns of August".BLACK WATCH PIPER MEDALS WORLD WAR I.
Total war is no longer war waged by all members of one national community against all those of another. It is total...because it may well involve the whole world.
Jean-Paul Sartre
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Medals named to 9723 CORPORAL PIPER JAMES DAWSON M.M. 1st & 1/7th ROYAL HIGHLANDERS (THE BLACK WATCH).
James Dawson was a regular soldier, who enlisted into The Black Watch before the outbreak of the First World War - and held the appointment of "Piper".As a Private, he ws with the 1st Battalion Royal Highlanders when it landed in France on 13 August 1914. He most probably served at the Battle of the Aisne that September and was reported wounded on 18 November 1914. These wounds were most likely received at the First Battle of Ypres and confirm, beyond any doubt, his entitlement to the clasp for 1914 Star.
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Guarding Ypres.
He returned to the front at some point and is then reported wounded on 17 October 1915, perhaps at the Battle of Loos.Piper James Dawson also served with the 1/7th Royal Highlanders and may have joined that battalion on his recovery from the above wounds. On 11 December 1918, he was awarded the Military Medal "for Bravery in the Field", at which time his place of residence was given as "Clackmannan", a village east of Alloa. Thereafter, he must have been promoted to Corporal.Sources Used:* "The London Gazette", 11 December 1918, P.14660 (Military Medal).* Medal Index Card* "Black Watch Casualties of the Great War, 1914-18", Fred J. Carss (Wounded 18 November 1914 and 17 October 1915).* Note: No Soldiers Papers Found. (WO 363/D445 and WO 364/774 were search with no trace.
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Photo of Pipe Band of 1/7th Batt. The Black Watch. France 1917.


A tribute to pipers who faced death with a tune

According to Corp. Dawson's grandson, James Dawson, his grandfather is furthermost right in the back row.

When the whistle blew they went over the top with the rest of the men. Their defiant display of unshakeable bravery and their stirring tunes inspired their comrades and struck fear into the hearts of the enemy. there is no memorial to the pipers of the Highland regiments who gave their lives in the worst single battle the world has ever seen, the Battle of the Somme.

More than 500 pipers were killed and many more were wounded during the Great War.

Lanarkshire-born James Richardson was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for piping his men up to the German barbed wire when their attack was being beaten back.

n action in India, Piper George Findlater, of the Gordon Highlanders, was shot through both ankles but continued to play the regimental march, The Cock O’ The North, as his fellow troops charged towards the enemy guns.

In action in India, Piper George Findlater, of the Gordon Highlanders, was shot through both ankles but continued to play the regimental march, The Cock O’ The North, as his fellow troops charged towards the enemy guns.
His Victoria Cross now has a proud place in the regimental museum. and those he inspired included Bill Millin, Lord Lovat’s famous "Mad Piper", who led the charge at the D-Day landings when Europe went to war again.

The horrendous death toll among the pipers during the First World War had forced the government to ban the practice and he was the only one to consistently defy the official edict to lead his comrades into battle.
Mr Millin says: "The men were ordered over the top; they had no option, but the pipers went voluntarily. That had a major effect on morale. I noticed it my self when I played.

"Before we went I noticed they were hesitant and anxious but when I started to play they had a different look on their faces. They were determined and resolved to do what needed to be done.

"It must have been the same for the pipers in the last war. I often thought of them as I played in battle, men like Findlater, and that gave me the conviction to go on."

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Piper’s Memorial, Longueval, France. This memorial was unveiled July 20, 2002, and dedicated to all pipers who fell during the First World War. Longueval was the scene of very heavy fighting by the 9th (Scottish) Division during the Battle of the Somme in July 1916.


25 September 1915



The Battle of Loos began, in which Piper Daniel Laidlaw, The King's Own Scottish Borderers, won the Victoria Cross for mounting the parapet during heavy bombardment and playing his regiment "over the top".



Battles: The Battle of Loos, 1915:
The Battle of Loos formed a part of the wider Artois-Loos Offensive conducted by the French and British in autumn 1915, sometimes referred to as the Second Battle of Artois (the First Battle of Artois having been launched against Vimy Ridge - unsuccessfully - in May 1915, whilst Second Ypres was still being fought).

The Artois campaigns comprised the major Allied offensive on the Western Front in 1915.

Along with the attack against Loos by the British, French troops launched offensives at Champagne (the Second Battle of Champagne), and at Vimy Ridge in Arras. The French and British High Command, notably French Commander-in-Chief Joseph Joffre, relied upon numerical supremacy - 3 to 1 in favour of the French at Champagne - to overpower the Germans.

The Loos offensive began on 25 September following a four day artillery bombardment in which 250,000 shells were fired, and was called off in failure on 28 September. Presided over by Douglas Haig, the British committed six divisions to the attack. Haig was persuaded to launch the Loos offensive despite serious misgivings.

He was much concerned at both a marked shortage in available shells (sparking the shell shortage scandal in Britain in 1915), and at the fatigued state of his troops; he was further concerned at the nature of the difficult terrain that would need to be crossed. All considered, he favoured a delay before the offensive at Loos was put underway, while these concerns were addressed.

Set against these concerns however was the reality that the British enjoyed massive numerical supremacy against their German opposition at Loos, in places of 7 to 1. Once the preliminary artillery bombardment had concluded, Haig's battle plans called for the release of 5,100 cylinders of chlorine gas (140 tons) from the British front line. The quantity of gas used was designed to entirely overcome the primitive state of German gas mask design in use at the time.

Unfortunately the release of gas was not without mixed results. In places the wind blew the gas back into the British trenches, resulting in 2,632 British gas casualties, although only seven actually died.

Haig's strategy involved the deployment of I and IV Corps in the gap between Loos and the La Bassee Canal, while II and III Corps formed diversionary attacks. Once the first German position fell reserves from IX Corps, aided by cavalry, would pass through the gap and attack the German second line.

The southern section of Haig's attack, conducted by IV Corps, made significant progress on the first day of the battle, somewhat to Haig's surprise, capturing Loos and moving onwards towards Lens. However, supply problems, and a need for reserves brought the advance to a halt at the end of the first day.

Haig had asked the British Commander-in-Chief, Sir John French, to make available IX Corps for potential reserve use the same day, but French had argued that they would not be required until the following morning. The troops were eventually released during the early afternoon but delays whilst travelling meant they only arrived at night, IX Corps consisting of two 'New Army' divisions (21st and 24th), fit but untested in battle.

Meanwhile, north of the Hulloch-Vermelles road, which ran across the battlefield, I Corps made less progress, with the British gas attack far less effective than in the Loos Valley. Even so, 7th and 9th Divisions managed to establish a foothold on the Hohenzollern Redoubt.

The delay in making available the reserves was however crucial. The Germans, whose lines of defences at Hulloch and Hill 70 were in any case formidable, poured in reserves to counter-attack the following day. Indeed, the German defences on the second day were stronger than those available at the start of the battle: except that by day two, 26 September, the British no longer had the benefit of a preliminary artillery bombardment.

Advancing towards the Germans that afternoon without covering fire, they were decimated by repeated machine gun fire, the Germans astonished that the attack had been launched without adequate cover.

After several days of sporadic fighting the British were eventually forced to order a retreat. It was during this battle Rudyard Kipling's son, John, was lost believed killed; the fact that he was listed as missing sparked a crusade by his parents to locate his body and give it a proper burial, without success.

The Loos attack was renewed by the British on 13 October, when further heavy losses combined with poor weather caused the offensive to be called off.

During the battle the British suffered 50,000 casualties. German casualties were estimated much lower, at approximately half the British total. The British failure at Loos contributed to Haig's replacement of French as Commander-in-Chief at the close of 1915.

Elsewhere at Champagne and Vimy Ridge, French progress was initially good, but solid defence by the German Third, Fifth and Sixth Armies (under General Einem, Crown Prince Wilhelm and Prince Rupprecht) prevented the French front achieving any long-term gains.

A PIPER'S TALE

On the afternoon of Christmas Day, 1915, three pipers, of whom I was one, went into the trenches at Loos, and after playing at our Battalion H.Q., proceeded to the front line, where we played some selections for the benefit of the Germans, whose trenches were very close at this point.

Probably thinking that an attack was imminent, they sent up innumerable Verey lights, but, deciding later that we had no such intention, they responded by singing and playing on mouth-organs.

Having finished our performance, my friends and I proceeded on our way back, and presently, passing some men of another regiment, were asked by one of them: "Was that you playin' them bloomin' toobs?" We admitted it.

"'Ear that, Joe?" he remarked to his pal. "These blokes 'ave bin givin' the 'Uns a toon."

"Serve 'em right," said Joe, "they started the blinkin' war."

Robert Donald Marshall (late Piper, 1st Bn. London Scottish), 83 Cranley Drive, Ilford

Published in London in 1921, The Best 500 Cockney War Stories comprised, in the words of its newspaper publisher (The London Evening News) "a remembering and retelling of those war days when laughter sometimes saved men's reason".

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Memoirs: A Highland Battalion at Loos

by Thomas McCall

For a whole week before the Battle of Loos, the artillery of our Division were bombarding the German trenches night and day, smashing up the barbed wire. On September 24th, 1915, my battalion, a Highland one, was moved up into covered-in trenches ready to attack on the morning of the 25th.

At 3 a.m. we marched up the communication trenches under a heavy shell-fire from the enemy guns. Nearing the front line, we began to step over dead and wounded, and knew that it was no picnic, and that some of us would never return.

Arriving at the trench, it was over the top and the best of luck. Then we got our first taste of the real thing. Men of different battalions were lying about in hundreds, some blown to pieces lying mangled in shell holes. The platoon I belonged to arrived at a German trench, where about nineteen to twenty Jerries were shouting for mercy, after pinking some of us as we came forward. Someone shouted "Remember the Lusitania!" and it was all over with Jerry.

We moved on towards the village of Loos, where machine guns were raking the streets and bayonet-fighting was going on in full swing. Prisoners were being marshaled in batches to be sent under guard down the line. The most of the houses were blown in, but their cellars were strongly built and it was in these cellars that many Germans were hiding.

Two other sergeants and myself ran down into a cellar. To our surprise we found an old fellow in a white jacket, apparently an officers' cook. The table was laid with plenty of eatables and wines. The officers had a pressing engagement elsewhere. As we were feeling rather hungry, and to guard against being poisoned, we forced the cook to eat and drink first, and then we all had a good tuck in and felt the better for it; and took old Jerry upstairs a prisoner.

Leaving the cellar, I kept well into the side of the street to escape the flying metal, and came to a little estaminet. By the noise going on inside I thought they were killing pigs. I went inside and opened a door where blood was running out from underneath. It was certainly a pig-sticking exhibition. I saw some Highlanders busy having it out with Jerry with the bayonet. My assistance was not required, so I set off for Hill 70, our objective.

Through some misunderstanding about 500 of us went straight ahead towards Lens and passed a German redoubt, where they were all holding up their hands in surrender, but, as things were going well at the time we did not bother with them, as we were sure they were our prisoners, and we could take them any time.

Making our way through gaps in the German barbed wire, we got into the outskirts of Lens, but were held up by machine gun and rifle-fire and had to lie down and take cover, and try and dig ourselves in with our entrenching tools, which is not an easy job when you are lying flat. The ground was soft and muddy with the rain and seemed to have been a cornfield trampled well down.

The soldier lying next me gave a Shout, saying, " My God! I'm done for". His mate next him asked where he was shot. I did not catch what was said, but he drew himself back and lifted his wounded pal's kilt, then gave a laugh, saying, " Jock, ye'll no dee. Yer only shot through the fleshy part of the leg." 0

Suddenly we got the order to retire and then saw the Germans sending forward strong reinforcements, and it is a wonder that any of us had the luck to get back, as the bullets were cutting the grass at our feet and flying round our heads like the sound of bees. I made for the gap in the wire I came through and found it piled with dead.

However, I made a jump and landed on top and rolled over on the other side. I felt something hot pass my neck. Putting my hand up I found no blood; the bullet had cut the neck of my tunic - a near thing.

But worse was to come. When we again faced the redoubt on the return journey, the Jerries were working their machine guns on us, knocking us down like nine-pins - a lesson never to leave prisoners behind with arms and ammunition. Only about fifty returned out of the 500 that advanced too far over the hill. I got back to the hill, and there got a chance to get my breath again. After midnight, our Division was withdrawn gradually, to allow another to take its place.

Our battalion was taken to a little village not far behind the line. There we had breakfast and a wash-up, and expected that we were going further back for a rest and reinforcements, as our strength was down to about 160. But our hopes were dashed, as the Division (what was left) was ordered back to the trenches that night, as things were not going too well on the hill. We held the trenches until the next morning when the Guards arrived and helped to put things in a stronger position.

The following day our pipe band met us at Mazingarbe and played us down to Noeux-les-Mines, where we went into billets, and had quite a nice time visiting estaminets, eating pomme-de-terres et oeufs, and speaking broken French.

Two or three days later we were entrained for Lillers, and there received our reinforcements. The new arrivals were eager to get up to the fighting line. They had their wish, for in less than a week we were back again for a spell of four days in a front-line trench beyond the village of Loos.

Before we got there we had to march up a communication trench half full of water and mud for a couple of miles, and looked like a lot of sewer rats when we reached the front trench, which had belonged to the Germans.

Then started the hard work cleaning up the muck and water, filling sand-bags and building up parts that had been blown in, and making snipers' posts, and all the time trench mortars were hurling over their shells, causing more muck and casualties.

Being the C.S.M. of my company, my duty was to take over trench stores, post guards, and detail ration parties to go down and meet the Q.M.S. at night, bring up the bully beef and biscuits and the most important of all, the rum. The men always got their tot about 4 a.m., and I can assure you they needed it. Standing about day and night wet and half-frozen, it always put new life into them.

Drinking-water was sometimes very difficult to get, and we had to bring it up in petrol tins. One day the water did not arrive. An officer's servant came to me and asked if he could get some to make the officer's tea. The only water, I told him, was that gathered in a waterproof sheet which was stretched above our heads in the dug-out to keep us dry. It was the colour of stout, and I was not very sure whether there were any dead Germans buried above us or not.

"Never mind; it will do fine. The officers will never know, as I will put plenty of tinned milk and sugar in it," and off he went with his kettle filled. The following night he brought me a small mug of hot tea which I enjoyed very much, but suddenly I remembered the water had not arrived, and asked where he got it. "Oh! just out of your sheet." I flung the mug at his head and chased him along the trench.

One night I detailed a party of bombers to hold a sap. Later on I took a turn up the sap to see if all was well and found every man knocked out by a shell. Another lot had to be detailed at once, and a burial party to take the dead away and have them buried before daylight. This was our usual daily occurrence.0

Early in the morning the snipers were at their posts, with telescopic rifles ready to put a bullet into any German that happened to look over the top.

One morning I stood beside Sniper McDonald, and watched the enemy lines through my periscope. Suddenly opposite us a box periscope went up and, after a survey of our lines, was taken down and put up again further along.

I told Mac to put it out of action next time. But instead of the periscope a Staff officer put his head up and looked around. I heard the ping of the sniper's rifle and saw Herr Von throw up his hands and fall back into his trench. Immediately another officer sprang up and shook his fist. Another ping and that was two he bagged that morning.

I am sorry to say that sniper was killed by a shell a week later. He was sitting with me and two or three others in a cover-in, down a support trench, when a shell hit the rear of our shack, nearly smothering us with muck. He darted to the opposite side to another shelter and the second shell, following hard on the first, got him.

One night in the front line the men were sitting about the fire-trench or wading about in the water, which was up to their knees, trying to keep themselves warm. It had been sleet and snow all day, and we had another two days to go before being relieved. I was walking along in the dark when I plumped into a hole full of water up to the hips.

Some of the boys had dug it during the day to give them a drier place to stand on. I had just managed to pull myself out, when I heard a splashing and someone running towards me, shouting, "Stand to, men! And, Sergeant-Major, come quick. The enemy are advancing in thousands on the right." I immediately ran towards the direction the noise was coming from, and found it was a young officer running about with a revolver in his hand.

How he expected me to stop them I don't know. The men got up at once on the fire-step, getting their rifles ready and blowing on their hands.

The officer still kept shouting to me for God's sake to come quick. I thought it was funny, if an attack was on, that the Germans still kept throwing up their Verey lights.

I looked over the top and could see nothing. Neither could the sentries. The Captain came on the scene, gave him a telling off and ordered him back to his platoon, and passed the word along for the men to stand down. I think the young officer had got a touch of the "jumps", as it was his first spell in the front line.

C.S.M. Thomas McCall joined up at Inverness, September 1914, in the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders. After training at Inverness, Aldershot, and Salisbury, sailed for Prance, July 4th, 1915, with 44th Highland Brigade, 15th Scottish Division, and was with them at Loos, Somme, Arras, and the Belgian Front. Held the rank of company sergeant-major from September 27th, 1915, until the end of the war. Was fortunate in never being wounded, or on the sick list, though he had many narrow escapes. Left France December 11th, 1918, and was demobilized January 11th, 1919.

First published in Everyman at War (1930), edited by C. B. Purdom.