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  cap badgePrivate Alexander Allan

17th (Service) Battalion (3rd Glasgow) Highland Light Infantry
Service No: 18297

Alexander Allan grave

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Personal details

Family Information

Son of William (1852-11/01/1888) and Janet Clark Allan (1849-16/10/1941). Husband of Mary Ann Allan (12/06/1886- ) of 37a Whifflet St (Reivers Land), Coatbridge. Father of 3 children, William Allan born 25/03/1909, Samuel Fraser Allan born 23/02/1912 and Elizabeth Allan born 18/03/1913. A Will made by Alexander dated 21/05/1915 left all his property and belongings to his wife. From the 1901 Census - Address - 31d Whifflet St, Coatbridge - Janet Allan aged 52, Robert S C Allan aged 32, William Allan aged 23, Mary Allan aged 18, Alexander Allan aged 16, Agnes Allan aged 13. From the 1891 Census - Address - Watts Land, Coatbridge - Janet Allan aged 42, Robert Allan aged 20, William Allan aged 13, Mary Allan aged 8, Alex Allan aged 6, Agnes Allan aged 3. Alexander's Pension was awarded to his wife Mary on the 02/08/1917.

Born / Resided

Coatbridge / 37a Whifflet St (Reivers Land), Coatbridge.

Died

Killed in Action on the 18/11/1916 at Beaumont Hamel during the Battle of the Ancre (the last part of the Battles of the Somme 1916)

Enlisted

Hamilton Barracks

Employed

Clerk in Speedwell Shell Works, Coatbridge.

Age

32

Buried / Remembered

Thiepval Memorial (Pier and Face 15c), Somme, France.

Cemetery / Memorial Information

The memorial commemorates more than 72,000 men of British and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave, the majority of whom died during the Somme offensive of 1916. On the high ground overlooking the Somme River in France, where some of the heaviest fighting of the First World War took place, stands the Thiepval Memorial. Towering over 45 metres in height, it dominates the landscape for miles around. It is the largest Commonwealth memorial to the missing in the world. On 1 July 1916, supported by a French attack to the south, 13 divisions of Commonwealth forces launched an offensive on a line from north of Gommecourt to Maricourt. Despite a preliminary bombardment lasting seven days, the German defences were barely touched and the attack met unexpectedly fierce resistance. Losses were catastrophic and with only minimal advances on the southern flank, the initial attack was a failure. In the following weeks, huge resources of manpower and equipment were deployed in an attempt to exploit the modest successes of the first day. However, the German Army resisted tenaciously and repeated attacks and counter attacks meant a major battle for every village, copse and farmhouse gained. At the end of September, Thiepval was finally captured. The village had been an original objective of 1 July.

Additional Information

The Battalion arrived in Boulogne on the 23/11/1915 and were part of the 97th Brigade, 32nd Division when Alexander fell at Beaumont Hamel : The attack which commenced at 6.10 on the morning of November 18th - a day of ice-covered slushiness - was held up owing to the insufficiency of the artillery barrage and the heavy enemy machine gun fire. At 7.42 a.m. the message came into the Battalion from the right-hand Company that the Company Commander was wounded and that a Sergeant and about ten men were holding the right flank. The jumping off trench known as New Munich Trench, was manned by the Battalion machine gunners with a view to concentrating some of the Companies in it back across "no man's land" to form a rallying point. At 8.30 a.m. the following message was received from 2nd Lieut. Macbeth of the right Company, "Am holding old front line with remainder of Battalion and have established a bombing post on the right. There are only Lieut. Martin and myself in the trench." The left Company was also being hard pressed. It was reported by one of the Battalion Officers that when the barrage opened a great number of shells fell just in front of New Munich Trench where the attacking companies were lying out, killing and wounding a large number of the Battalion. When the barrage lifted on to Munich Trench for the last four minutes, it was still short, and when the leading waves came up to about 50 or 60 yards from Munich Trench followed by the barrage, the Germans could be seen lying in the trench in force. When the barrage was on the Munich Trench, the enemy machine guns played on the attackers from both flanks all the time. The failure of the attack was due to the inefficiency of the British supporting barrage, together with the condition of the ground-thaw having set in and rain falling on the snow, making it exceedingly slippery-the targets the men formed against the snowy background, and the intense cold. Describing the attack one of the members of the Battalion writes: - "The preliminary bombardment opened with its awful messages of destruction, and the rapid reply of the enemy's artillery indicated ominously that our intentions were not unknown to him. When our barrage lifted, and the first wave of our men attempted to go forward, their dark forms showed up against the snow. They were met by machine gun fire, by rapid fire from the enemy trenches, and by snipers in skilfully chosen holes. Our bombardment had failed. It was impossible to get to close quarters with the enemy-hopeless to advance-dangerous to retire. Many of our men were killed in the attack, others in the attempt to carry in the wounded. Many remained all day in exposed positions, beside their wounded comrades, in hope of rescuing them when darkness fell. Beaumont Hamel will not be remembered by us as bearing any resemblance to the official description. We look back upon it now, from the personal point of view, as a touchstone of the individual soul, as a prominent landmark in the vast monotony of death and horror-a chapter of inspiring deeds. It represents to us the heroism of a forlorn hope, the glory of unselfish sacrifice, the success of failure. Tis too easy to despond " while the tired waves" visibly gain no " painful inch," hard to believe that " far back through creeks and inlets making, comes silent, flooding in, the main." This was part of the Battle of the Ancre, 13th – 18th November 1916 : The Battle was now extended northwards across to the far side of the River Ancre. The British force attacked in fog and snow on the 13th November from the very same front lines from which the attack had failed so badly on the 1st July. Beaumont-Hamel was finally captured but Serre once again proved an objective too far. Considerable casualties were sustained before the Battle was called off. This was the end of the Battles of the Somme 1916. SEE PHOTOS x 10 FOR THE BATTALION WAR DIARY FOR NOVEMBER 1916. Alexander's Medal Index Card states 10th Battalion and that he arrived in France on the 12/05/1915 with the Battalion. The 17th Battalion (3rd Glasgow) was nicknamed The Featherbeds. They got this name after being given cushy billets in Troon when their camp at Gailes was wrecked by a storm. He is also remembered on the Coatbridge Technical College and Whifflet U.F Church Rolls of Honour (see photos). See photos for Alexanders Medal Index Card, his Army Register of Soldiers Effects, his CWGC Grave Registration, his Service Medal and Award Rolls x 2, the Highland Light Infantry Cap Badge and Alexander's Pension Records x 2. Finally, this book is the Record of War Service 1914-1918 of the 17th (Service) Battalion - https://ia800306.us.archive.org/29/items/17thHLI00glasuoft/17thHLI00glasuoft.pdf

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War Diaries

The battalion War Diary is available on the National Archives website.

Creative Commons License

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