James Aitken likeness

  cap badgeLance Corporal James Aitken

2nd Battalion Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders
Service No: S/3406

James Aitken grave





Personal details

Family Information

Eldest son of Andrew (29/01/1857-13/02/1923) and Mary Leishman Aitken (30/10/1856-21/12/1943) of 66 North Square, Gartsherrie, Coatbridge. Husband of Ellen Harkness Aitken of 35 Eglinton St, Coatbridge and father of Andrew born on the 12/05/1912 and James Harkness Aitken born on the 11/05/1913. James' younger brother Private Andrew Aitken of the 16th (Service) Battalion (2nd Glasgow) Highland Light Infantry was Killed in Action on the 01/07/1916. James had 5 brothers serving with the colours. Andrew (Highland Light Infantry), Robert (Army Service Corps), Alexander (Kings Own Royal Rifles), David (Royal Engineers), John (Royal Engineers). . James' brother-in-law Sergeant James Harkness also fell. James' father received a letter thanking the family for their contribution to the war. Here is the 1901 Census Information on the family - Address - 174 and 175 North Square, Coatbridge - Mary Aitken 44, James Aitken 22, Robt Aitken 20 (1881-03/02/1940), John Aitken 16, Catherine (Katie) Aitken 14, Andrew Aitken 12, Mary Aitken 10, David Aitken 8 ( /02/1893-14/01/1922). James' Pension was awarded to his wife Ellen on the 06/04/1916.

Born / Resided

66 North Sq, Gartsherrie, Coatbridge / 35 Eglinton St, Coatbridge.


Killed in Action on the 25/09/1915 on the opening day of the Battle of Loos


Baird Town Hall, Coatbridge 03/09/1914


Tube Worker in the Caledonian Tubeworks.



Buried / Remembered

Cambrin Churchyard Extension (G.4), Cambrin, Pas de Calais, France.

Cemetery / Memorial Information

At one time, the village of Cambrin housed brigade headquarters but until the end of the First World War, it was only about 800 metres from the front line trenches. The village contains two cemeteries used for Commonwealth burials; the churchyard extension, taken over from French troops in May 1915, and the Military Cemetery "behind the Mayor's House." The churchyard extension was used for front line burials until February 1917 when it was closed, but there are three graves of 1918 in the back rows. The extension is remarkable for the very large numbers of graves grouped by battalion, the most striking being the 79 graves of the 2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and 15 of the 1st Cameronians (Row C), the 35 of the 2nd Royal Welch Fusiliers and 115 of the 1st Middlesex (Row H), all dating from 25 September 1915, the first day of the Battle of Loos. Cambrin Churchyard Extension contains 1,211 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, 8 being unidentified. There are also 98 French, 3 German and 1 Belgian burials here.

Additional Information

The Battalion arrived in Boulogne on the 14/14/1914 and were part of the 19th Infantry Brigade, 2nd Division when James fell. James arrived in France on the 23/02/1915. The Battalion had 330 casualties at the Battle of Loos. The Battle - 6.00am : A diversionary attack north of the La Bassee canal at Givenchy was launched by elements of 2nd Division. At first, the advancing battalions moved easily past well-cut wire and into the German front trench – which they found evacuated. Approaching the second line they were assailed by machine-gun fire and forced to take cover. Shortly after, they were counter-attacked and were among the first units this day to discover that German grenades were much more effective than British ones when it came to close-quarter fighting. Later that day the leftmost 2nd Division attack along both banks of the La Bassee canal met with no success at all, at a very heavy cost in casualties. Its role was to create a protective flank to enable the 9th Division on the right to move forward unimpeded by fire or counterattack from the canal area. On the front of 19th Brigade, South of the canal, two large mines were blown by 173rd Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers ten minutes before zero, which had the effect of putting the enemy on full alert. Here too the gas blew back into the trenches, and men fell. As the infantry advanced, they were forced to bunch together to avoid the craters and were mown down by concentrated machine-gun fire as they did so. The enemy were seen to stand on their parapets in order to take advantage of such an easy target. By 9.00am it was clear that no progress was going to be made, and Brigade gave orders to withdraw to the original front lines. Men of the 1st Middlesex Battalion could not from no man’s land and took whatever cover the could until dark. Some men of the 2nd Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders Battalion occupied an empty German trench, but only 11 returned at night, the rest having been killed or captured. The Battle from the 25th September – 15th October 1915 was the first genuinely large scale British offensive action but once again only in a supporting role to a larger French attack in the Third Battle of Artois. British appeals that the ground over which they were being called upon to advance was wholly unsuitable were rejected. The Battle is historically noteworthy for the first British use of poison gas. Scottish Regiments lost a huge amount of brave men at Loos. Here is a list of Infantry Battalions who lost more than 500 men at the Battle of Loos from 25/09/1915 to 16/10/1915 - 7th Cameron Highlanders 687, of which 19 Officers, 9th Black Watch 680, of which 20 Officers, 6th King’s Own Scottish Borderers 650, of which 20 Officers, 10th Highland Light Infantry 648, of which 20 Officers, 7th King’s Own Scottish Borderers 631, of which 20 Officers, 8th Devons 619, of which 19 Officers, 8th Royal West Kents 580, of which 24 Officers, 8th Buffs 558, of which 24 Officers, 12th Highland Light Infantry 553, of which 23 Officers, 8th Black Watch 511, of which 19 Officers, 5th North Staffordshire 505, of which 20 Officers, 8th Seaforth Highlanders 502, of which 23 Officers. See Directory for James' brother Andrew's page. James was 1 of 87 men from the Coatbridge Memorial who fell during and from injuries from the Battle of Loos. Grave photo donated by Mick McCann at the britishwargraves.co.uk. A big thanks to Scott Fisher and his son Archie for another photo of Scott's Great Great Uncle James' Grave (see photo of Archie at the Grave on the 01/08/2020). They have also visited Andrew Aitkens Grave and collected some soil from both that will be placed at the Family Plot in Old Monkland Cemetery. James is also remembered on the Dunbeth Parish Church Roll of Honour (see photo). See photos for James' Medal Index Card, his Newspaper Clipping, his CWGC Grave Registration x 2, his Army Register Soldiers Effects, his Service Record, his name on the Family Plot in Old Monkland Cemetery x 2, photos of James and his brothers, his Headstone Report x 2, his parents Marriage Certificate, his brother Roberts Service Record x 5, his Service Medal and Award Rolls x 2, Cambrin Churchyard Extension Cemetery, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Cap Badge and James' Pension Records x 2. James' Grave Inscription reads "THY WILL BE DONE".

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This is second one of my great great uncles who fell at the battle of Loos and who came from Coatbridge. My son and I visited his grave on 1st Aug 2020 to pay our respects. Very humble experience , the grave is in a lovely position in the local village churchyard overlooking surrounding fields. Thanks for the general information on this site, this has helped us learn more about our family's history and has been most helpful. LWF Scott Fisher
Scott Fisher, Kent, 02/08/2020 3:56PM

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