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The Wartime Memories Project - Remembering those who served during The Great War

The Wartime Memories Project - The Great War

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Those Who Served


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Pte. Joseph La

Canadian Expeditionary Forces 22nd Btn. Canadian Infantry

(d.3rd Jul 1917)

Pte. Joseph La served with the Canadian Infantry 22nd Battalion. Ater going absent for one month, he was executed for desertion on 3rd July 1917 and is buried in Aix-Noulette Community Cemetery Aix-Noulette, France


Sergeant George Richard Henry Labrom

New Zealand Army Canterbury

from:Pound Street, Newry,

My great uncle, George Labrom, was born in Newry, County Down, Northern Ireland on 12th February 1884. He emigrated to New Zealand and died in Aukland in 1949. From the excellent New Zealand records I can see that he enlisted in the army and on the 13th of November 1916 he was posted to F company 23rd Btn. On the 2nd of April 1917 he embarked from Wellington and on the 10th of June disembarked at Devonport with the 4th Reserves Battalion, Canterbury Regiment. He is listed on the Nominal rolls at Sling camp with the rank of Private. The 4th Reserves Battalion Canterbury Regiment, Proceeded overseas and left for France on the 6 July 1917. On the 9th of July they marched into camp at Etaples. On the 24 July George joined 3rd Battalion Canterbury Regiment and was posted to 12 company in Rouen. In October 1917 he was wounded (gassed) in the field and was admitted no 1 New Zealand Field Ambulance, then admitted no 3 Australian casualty clearing post (gassed - mustard gas shell.) On the 19th of October he was admitted no 10 General hospital Rouen (gas poisoning) and on the 23rd he embarked on the Hospital Ship Essequibo for England. The following day he was admitted to 1st New Zealand General Hospital Brockenhurst. In December he was transferred to New Zealand Convalescent Hospital at Hornchurch and by the 18 January 1918 he had recovered enough to return to duty at the New Zealand Company Depot at Codford. On the 14th May 1918 he rejoined 3rd Reserve Battalion Canterbury Regiment and proceeded overseas from Sling. On the 19th May he joined No 2 New Zealand Ent Battalion and on the 28th transferred to 2nd Battalion Canterbury Regiment and was appointed Lance Corporal. On the 14th of February 1919 he was with the South Island Battalion and was appointed Lance Sergeant. Finally on the 31st of May 1919 he left Plymouth and embarked for New Zealand onboard His Majesty's Troopship Kigoma.

Throughout WW2 George served in the New Zealand Home Defence. He never married and died alone in his room in a boarding house in 1949. He was buried on 7th September 1949 at Waikumete cemetery, Block K, section 14, no 58, soldiers portion. When I was researching George on the Internet I found that his war medals had recently been sold on the Trademe Internet auction site but I was sadly unable to track them down. The details were: British War Medal 1914-1918 and The Victory Medal Reserve met Closed: Sun 29 Apr 2012, 8:49 pm Listing #: 469032204 Awarded to George Richard Henry Labrom who was a member of the Wanganui District (Group 20) detachment for the 23rd Reinforcements of the NZ Expeditionary Force. Both medals are inscribed around their edges: 40017 T/SJT G.R.H Labrom NZEF

My grandfather, Robert Frederick Labron and his brothers, William John Labrom and George Richard Henry Labrom appear on a plaque in St Patrick's Church, Newry. (My grandfather always spelled his surname Labron). All three were in the army in World War One and all three survived.


Pte. William John Labrom

British Army 1st Btn Irish Guards


My great uncle, Wiilliam John Labrom, was born in Newry, County Down on 25 October 1874. He lived at 14 Pound Street, Newry with his parents, George and Margaret. His pension record says he was 24 years old when he enlisted in the Irish Guards in September 1900. (Regimental no. 390). He was 6 foot 2 inches tall, with light brown hair and green eyes. He had been working as a labourer.

In August 1914 he was transferred to the 1st Battalion and went with the British Expeditionary Force to France 23/11/1914 - 18/1/1915. In mid-October the BEF was moved to cover the Channel Ports and from the 21st October to the 12th November 1914 the 1st Battalion fought continuously in the first battle of Ypres, losing more than 700 men.

He was discharged on 25th June 1915 through sickness 'no longer physically fit for war service.' He was entitled to wear the Silver Badge. He married Mary Ann Curran in 1916. I have no idea if they had any children. He died at Drumcashellone in 1948 and was buried at St Patrick's church on 27th May. His wife was buried in the same grave the previous day. I have no idea of the circumstances in which they died so closely together. My grandfather, Robert Frederick Labrom and his brothers, William John Labrom and George Richard Henry Labrom appear on a plaque in St Patrick's Church, Newry. (My grandfather always spelled his surname Labron). All three were in the army in World War One and all three survived.


Gunner Robert Frederick Labron

British Army 3rd Brigade 103 Bty. Royal Garrison Artillery

from:Pound Street, Newry, County Down

My grandfather, Robert Frederick Labron and his brothers, William John Labrom and George Richard Henry Labrom appear on a plaque in St Patrick's Church, Newry. (My grandfather always spelled his surname Labron). All three were in the army in World War One and all three survived. Robert Frederick Labron 1885-1956 Born Newry Died Plymouth. William John Labrom 1874-1948 Born Newry Died Newry Buried St Patrick's. George Richard Henry Labrom 1884-1949 Born Newry Died Auckland, New Zealand.


Spr. John Small Laburn

British Army 7th Divisional Signals Company Royal Engineers

from:Bellefield Avenue, Dundee

At the outbreak of World War I on July 28 1914, the Austro-Hungarian Empire invaded Serbia, beginning a world war that would last four years, result in millions of casualties and change the world irrevocably. Jack Laburn was a GPO telegraphist who lived at 8 Bellefield Ave. Dundee, Angus with his wife Eva (nee Bell: funny if you are a telegraphist!) and his baby son Jimmy (born in May 1914). Jack was born Oct 21st 1884 in Dundee to John & Margaret Laburn, the 2nd of 5 children. He attended the Harris Academy and had a good job as Post Office Telegraphist & later as Post Office Supervisor. Jack married Eva Laburn, and they had son James Bell Laburn (May 30th 1914) & later Eva Margaret Laburn.

Jack joined up aged 32 in December 1915, after the 1915 Registration Act & Derby Group Scheme made it clear that conscription was just round the corner. He was placed as a Telegraphist Sapper with 2nd Signal Company, Light Signal Corps. Royal Engineers (although only named the Light Division in 1919). I presume he trained at Chatham Training Depot, Kent with his regiment the Royal Engineers, finished basic training & was posted January 1916. He saw action in Flanders, on the Western Front in France throughout 1916-1917.

Whilst on Active Service Overseas Jack sent postcards home to his son Jimmy from:

Postcard: July 10th 1916 Flanders/Western Front (Photo of artillery-wrecked villa taken in 1914) Field post office D7BOC9: This will give you some idea of the havoc wrought by the Huns big guns. I passed this place some weeks ago. Am quite well & hope you are ditto. Best Love J L 10th July No Letter today yet. - FPO D7. postmark. (I am no expert on FPOs, but D7 appears to indicate 7th Division HQ, so he may have initially been with 7th Div Signal Coy.)

Postcard: Frevent 26th April 1917 (British Expeditionary Force: Casualty Clearing station at Frevent. Was he wounded or working?? NB He doesn t say he s OK!) - Dear Jimmy, I havent had a letter from Mamma for two or three days so I dont have anything to write about. Many thanks for your last letter. I am very glad to know you are looking after Mamma and Aunt Ruth. We are having a day of rain after some nice mild days. I hope you are all quite fine. Kiss Mamma for me, Love to you both from Daddy.

Newspaper report: Volunteers held up, factories out & shipyards supplies hampered. PO mail delivering train from Perth. British Gazette

Postcard: Hautment: Rue de Maubeuge 20.11.1918 - En Route for Germany walking all the way across Belgium, should cross border in next few days trek. Weather not too bad am OK & hope you are both ditto Best Love JL - Rue de Maubeuge was probably the road of that name in the town of Hautmont on the River Sambre.

Postcard: Koln am Rhein 18th Feb 1919 Picture of Deutscher Ring, palace & fountains - Dear Jimmy, What do you think of this pretty place? I got your nice letter this morning and am glad to know you are well. I hope you are looking after Mamma all right? Please write again soon. Kisses from Daddy.

Bruxelles book of cards; Namur book of cards; Spa Korsaal book of cards: German Imperial Army Headquarters was in Spa in occupied Belgium, 5 x Beautifully embroidered cards: Flowers from France, 1917 embroidered in allied flag colours Richt is might, embroidered in allied flag colours Message to my wife, Remembrance.

Jack joined 2nd Signal Coy from signal depot (presumably Abbeville) 29th Sept 1916, at which time the Company HQ was at a village called Couin in the Somme sector, where they had been since August 21st after 2nd Division relieved the Guards Division. On 12th October he got a pay rise, becoming a Telegraphist (Office). By this time, the Company HQ had moved 15km south to Hedauville. Now Jack was an office telegraphist it could mean that he was probably assigned to work in the Company HQ section although it is possible that he could also have still been posted from time to time to one of the 3 Brigade sections, whose HQs were closer to the front line. The way army signalling was organised, the Royal Engineers Divisional Signal Companies comprised 4 main sections: HQ and No.1 Section was responsible for communications to the rear between Division HQ and higher echelons, and forward to the 3 Brigades of the Division and the Divisional artillery. No.2, 3 and 4 Sections were based at Brigade HQs and were responsible for maintaining links to the front line. Front line signalling was the responsibility of the infantry, not the Royal Engineers. Later in the war, a wireless section was added as were separate sections to link with the Royal Artillery and Machine Gun Corps. Jack might have seen some action round about at Cambrai, Baupaume & Sambre, judging from his letters & cuttings.

On 20th November 1918, the Company HQ was at Maubeuge and it marched through Belgium, Naumur, into Germany, with the last of the Cavalry units, arriving at Duren near Cologne on 15th December as part of the BEF Occupying Force. On a rather sad note, the Company Commander, Major C.J. Phipps, who had spent most of the war with unit, died of the flu in February 1919 and was buried in Duren. (see Picture & obit)

On 20th April 1919, 2nd Division became the Light Division, and the 2nd Signal Company became Light Division Signal Company. Jack returned to Britain in April 1919 to RE base at Chatham, Kent and was discharged into the Reserves in May 1919 returning to his home, 8 Bellefield Ave. Dundee from No 1 Dispersal Unit Kinross with total pay of £20 15S 6d and a Military greatcoat (worth £1 if returned to army). He was awarded 2 medals: Victory medal & British War medal for service abroad. According to his granddaughter Jack never talked about his war, he returned to his wife & children in Dundee and continued his life as Post Office supervisor. Jack died in 1956 aged 72 in Dundee. Angus Scotland, he now has four proud great grandchildren.

Below is Transcript of Newspaper cutting found with Jacks effects: I wonder if he was among the brave signallers mentioned?

A great Fight: British Heroism near Cambrai (1917) An account of the operations of the 47th London Territorial Division, the 2nd Division & the 56th London Territorial Division in the neighbourhood of Bourlon & Mouvres on November 30th last which we have received from an authoritative source, states that the story of the fighting is so brimful of heroism that it deserves to take its place in English history for all time. The most determined attacks of four German divisions, with three other German divisions to support were utterly crushed by the unconquerable resistance of the three British Divisions in line. After a bombardment of great intensity the German offensive began shortly after 9am, large numbers of the enemy being seen coming over the ridge to the west of Bourlon Wood against the junction of the 2nd and 47th Divisions. Our artillery barrage caught this advance but in spite of their losses the German infantry pressed on. The left of the London Territorials was being forced back. Four posts on the right of the 2nd division were wiped out. The situation was critical. As the enemy's infantry appeared over the crest of the hill, however they were engaged with direct fire by our field artillery. Machine guns in position in a sunken road south-west of Bourlon Wood and in the sugar factory in the Baupaume-Cambrai road swept their advancing lines. The survivors of the 2nd Divisions posts succeeded in getting to shell holes farther back and held out. While the artillery of both British Divisions maintained a constant and accurate fire, rifle, Lewes gun and machine gun fire inflicted enormous losses on the enemy, held up his advance and eventually drove him back after three hours hard fighting.


Farther west the enemys advance broke upon the 17th Battalion Royal Fusiliers, 2nd Division which was in the act of withdrawing from an advanced sap & trench, judged too exposed to be maintained in the face of so powerful an attack. Owing to the enemy being concealed in some dead ground the attack developed with unexpected speed and the company holding the advanced position was ordered to leave a rear-guard to cover the withdrawal of the remainder. Captain W.N. Stone, who was in command of the company sent back three platoons and himself elected to remain with the rear-guard along with Lieutenant Benzecry. This rear-guard, assisted by our machine guns held off the whole of the German attack until the main position of the 17th Battalion Royal fusiliers was fully organised and THEY ALL DIED TO A MAN WITH THEIR FACES TO THE ENEMY. Before midday the enemy again attacked on the whole front of the right brigade of the 2nd division but was once more hurled back with great slaughter. Early in the afternoon large messes of the enemy attacked on a front of nearly a mile with Bourlon Wood and on the left of the 47th Division a gap was formed between the 1st and 6th Battalions and the 1/15th Battalions London Regiments. This gap was closed by the prompt action of the officers commanding these battalions who with a reserve company and the staffs of their respective headquarters, including runners, signallers, orderlies and cooks led immediate and successful attacks. The garrisons of the three posts on the front of the 2nd Division fell fighting to the last and when the line at this point was restored such a heap of German dead lay in and around the posts it was impossible to found the bodies of our own men. In this locality five other posts held by a company of the first Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment repulsed all the enemys attacks and maintained themselves until our reinforcements had restored the situation. The casualties of this company were 46. They claim to have killed over 500 of the enemy. During the afternoon a strong hostile attack was made upon the 141st Brigade on the right of the 47th Division. The enemy was again hurled with heavy losses. A distinctive feature of the defence was the gallantry of the Lewis Gunners, who when the attack was seen to be beginning, ran out with their guns in front of our line and from positions of advantage in the open mowed down the advancing German Infantry. The ATTACK AT MOEVRES Similar events were happening meanwhile on the left of the 2nd Division and on the right of the 56th Division. I this fighting in the Mouvres area Captain AMC Mc Ready Diarmid of the 17th Battalion Middlesex Regiment greatly distinguished himself. When the enemy had penetrated some distance into the position and the situation was extremely critical he led his company forward through a very heavy barrage and drove the Germans back at least 500 yards. On the following day the officer again lead a bombing attack against a party of Germans who had broken in against our positions and pressed those back 500 yds. On the following day this officer again led a bombing attack against a party of Germans and pressed them back 300 yards himself killing 60 of the enemy. The Battle of Cambrai ranks as one of the most thrilling episodes of the whole war. Tanks at last came into their kingdom. The notion that the Hindenburg Line was impregnable was exploded.

Unit card

Unit card



Coy.C.O.Maj CJ Phipps

Coy.C.O.Maj CJ Phipps


Pte. Frederick Victor Lacey

British Army 19th (St Pancras) Battalion London Regiment

from:16, Church Rd., Gillingham, Kent

(d.14th Oct 1918)

Frederick Lacey was my mother's brother and was killed in action on the 14/10/1918 and is buried in Ration Farm Military Cemetery, La Chapelle-D'Armentieres in France. I am trying to find out how he died and I would be grateful if anyone has any information that can help.


Pte. George W Lacey

British Army 24th (Tyneside Irish) Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers


George Lacey was wounded in 1916 and 1917


Pte. Walter Nicholson Lacey

British Army 9th Battalion York and Lancaster


(d.17th January 1917)


Pte. William Thomas Lacey

Royal Marine Light Infantry HMS Hussar

(d.6th Aug 1914)


Rfmn. Lovell William Lack

British Army 1st/21st Battalion London Regiment (First Surrey Rifles)


(d.25th May 1915)


L/Cpl. James Lackey

British Army 18th Btn. Durham Light Infantry


Pte. P. Lackey

British Army Royal Irish Fusiliers

from:Ballina, Co. Mayo

(d.14th July 1920)

Private P. Lackey is buried in the north-west part of the Ballina (New League) Cemetery, Ballina, Co. Mayo.


Christopher Laffan

British Army Leinster Regiment

from:22 West Essex Street, Dublin, Ireland

I am trying to trace my grandfather's Regiment in the Army from circa 1909-1918. He served in Ranikhet, India. My mother,his daughter, was born there. Her name was Margaret Mary Laffan born February 6 1913. Her mother's name was Annie Laffan, nee Griffin. He served in Ranikhet, India, his daughter, was born there. Her name was Margaret Mary Laffan born February 6 1913. Her mother's name was Annie Laffan, nee Griffin.

Editor's Note: Christopher served with the Leinster Regiment. Regiments can be traced from the WW1 Medal Cards, for further information please see our Family History FAQ page


Private James Lafferty

British Army 1/1st Lothian and Borders Horse


(d.31st Dec 1918)

All I can tell you is that James Lafferty was my mother's great uncle, who went through the whole war and was stationed in Solonaka in Greece and died on the 31st Decmber 1918 of Phuemonia aged just 23. What I can gather is a lot of soldiers over there at that time died from various ilnesses


Pte. Ernest Alfred Laflin

British Army 16th (Service) Battalion, C Coy. Rifle Brigade

from:9 Penryn Street St. Pancras

(d.3rd Sep 1916)

Ernest Alfred Laflin was born in 1886, he married Elizabeth Annie King in 1908 in Richmond Surrey and in 1911 he gave his occupation as General Assistant on the census, he had one daughter Bessie at this time born in 1900 and had a son born about 1915, also called Ernest

Ernest joined the 16th (Service) Battalion Rifle Brigade, C Company as a Private and was killed on the 3rd of September 1916 aged 30 years and is burried in grave V.F.37 Ancre British Cemetary, at Beaumont Hamel. The records note he was the son of Edward and Sarah Laflin of Camden Town, husband of Elizabeth A Laflin (nee King) of 1a Glenwood Road Harringey. This address was also the address of Elizabeth's sister Ada Mary Board and her husband John Henry Board. The two sisters lived together throughout the First World War.


Major. Alexander Malins Lafone VC.

British Army Middlesex Hussars

from:Knockholt, Kent

(d.27th Oct 1917)

Major Alexander Malins Lafone VC served with the Middlesex Hussars during WW1 and was killed in action on the 27th October 1917, age 47. He is buried in Beersheba War Cemetery, Beersheba, Israel. Alexander was the son of Henry and Lucy Lafone, of Court Lodge, Knockholt, Kent.

An extract from "The London Gazette" (No. 30433), dated 14th Dec., 1917, records the following:-

For most conspicuous bravery, leadership, and self-sacrifice when holding a position for over seven hours against vastly superior enemy forces. All this time the enemy were shelling his position heavily, making it very difficult to see. In one attack, when the enemy cavalry charged his flank, he drove them back with heavy losses. In another charge they left fifteen casualties within twenty yards of his trench, one man, who reached the trench, being bayoneted by Major Lafone himself. When all his men, with the exception of three, had been hit and the trench which he was holding was so full of wounded that it was difficult to move and fire, he ordered those who could walk to move to a trench slightly in the rear, and from his own position maintained a most heroic resistance. When finally surrounded and charged by the enemy, he stepped into the open and continued to fight until he was mortally wounded and fell unconscious. His cheerfulness and courage were a splendid inspiration to his men, and by his leadership and devotion he was enabled to maintain his position, which he had been ordered to hold at all costs.


Mjr. Alexander Malins Lafone VC

British Army Middlesex Hussars

from:Knockholt, Kent

(d.27th Oct 1917)

Alexander Lafone was the son of Henry and Lucy Lafone, of Court Lodge, Knockholt, Kent. He was killed in action 27th October 1917, aged 47 and is buried in the Beersheba War Cemetery in Israel.

An extract from The London Gazette (No. 30433), dated 14th Dec., 1917, records the following:- "For most conspicuous bravery, leadership, and self-sacrifice when holding a position for over seven hours against vastly superior enemy forces. All this time the enemy were shelling his position heavily, making it very difficult to see. In one attack, when the enemy cavalry charged his flank, he drove them back with heavy losses. In another charge they left fifteen casualties within twenty yards of his trench, one man, who reached the trench, being bayonetted by Major Lafone himself. When all his men, with the exception of three, had been hit and the trench which he was holding was so full of wounded that it was difficult to move and fire, he ordered those who could walk to move to a trench slightly in the rear, and from his own position maintained a most heroic resistance. When finally surrounded and charged by the enemy, he stepped into the open and continued to fight until he was mortally wounded and fell unconscious. His cheerfulness and courage were a splendid inspiration to his men, and by his leadership and devotion he was enabled to maintain his position, which he had been ordered to hold at all costs."


George LaForest

United States Navy USS Kansas

from:134 East Columbia Street, Detroit

George La Forest, USS Kansas

George La Forest, USS Kansas

George La Forest served on the USS Kansas.


Pte. J. J. Laggan

British Army 24th (Tyneside Irish) Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers


Pte. George Henry Lahmerd MM.

British Army 3rd Battalion Rifle Brigade

from:Douglas, Isle of Man

George Lahmerd served with 3rd Battalion, the Rifle Brigade I would like to have more information on how my grandfather was awarded the MM as no one left in the family seems to know.


Pte. Arthur Laidlaw

British Army 15th Btn. Royal Scots Lothian Regiment

from:Bolton, Lancashire, England

(d.28th April 1917)


Sjt. J. Laidlaw

Army 8th Btn. Durham Light Infantry


Spr. Joseph John Laidler

British Army 344th Road Construction Coy Royal Engineers

from:Shincliffe, Co Durham

(d.27th Oct 1918)

Whilst out taking photographs I stumbled across the grave of Joseph John Laidler in a forgotten corner of the churchyard of St Mary's Church at Shincliffe, Co Durham, the details I have added to this site have been taken from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site. I felt that it was the least I could do to make sure that Mr Laidler was not forgotten and that his sacrifice had not been in vain.



Army 7th Btn. Durham Light Infantry


L/Cpl. Frederick Laing MM & Bar.

British Army 10 Btn. Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment

from:Tunbridge Wells

Frederick Laing was born in 1897 in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. He died on 20 November 1920, Perth, Scotland. He is buried in Arngask New Cemetery, Glenfarg, Perthshire, Scotland, with a grey granite war grave pattern headstone, and I have always been intrigued as to how a man of Kent came to his grave in a small village in Scotland. Although he died after the conflict had ended, it seemed to me that he was as much a casualty of the war as those others who, like him, are buried far from their homes.

His Commonwealth War Graves Commission graves registration documents note that it is a private grave and "Next of kin reside in Tunbridge Wells. The grave was purchased with deceased's own money, and deeds should be with Messrs Macgregor Mitchell & Co, solicitors Perth. Plan at the Inspector of Poor's office, Milnathort, Perthshire. (Sgd) H.G. McCoy Area Inspector Edinburgh Area".

Frederick Laing was born in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, the son of Fanny Saunders Laing who was the daughter of John and Ellen (née Hill) Laing, and who, herself, was born 26 October 1869 in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. Her son Fred Laing's birth was registered between July and September 1897.

The 31st March 1901 census shows him living, aged 3, with his maternal grandparents John (aged 73, a retired gardener) and Ellen (aged 66, a launderer/washerwoman) Laing and with his mother, Fanny S. Laing (aged 31, also a launderer) at 9 Rochdale Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent.

The next census, 2 April 1911, shows him, now aged 13, in the household of George Hillman (aged 49, a builder's labourer), whom Fanny Laing married in 1902. Fanny Hillman (aged 42) now has two other children, May and Dorothy Hillman aged 6 and 1 respectively, but Frederick is listed as Frederick Laing, not Hillman. Also living in the household is John Edward Laing (aged 34, town postman) described as 'brother': presumably Fanny's brother. They are living at 9 Rochdale Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent: the same address as his grandparents' in 1901.

No enlistment records survive for Fred Laing, but at the outbreak of WW1 he would have been 17, possibly just 18, and therefore eligible to enlist. The 10th (Service) Battalion (Kent County) Royal West Kent Regiment to which Frederick belonged, was formed in Maidstone on 3 May 1915 by Lord Harris, Vice Lieutenant of Kent, at the request of the Army Council. It consisted of men primarily from the south of England.

Firstly, in July 1915, attached to 118th Brigade in the 39th Division, it was transferred in October to 123rd Brigade in the 41st Division and moved to Aldershot in January 1916. The units of the Division moved to France between 1 and 6 May 1916 and by 8 May they were concentrated between Hazebrouck and Bailleul. It remained on the Western Front until, in November 1917, it moved to Italy and took over a sector of the front line behind the River Piave, north west of Treviso between 30 November and 2 December 1917.

In March 1918 Frederick Laing's Division was back in France and on 23 March 1918 at Vaulx Vraucourt, near Bapaume (the battles of St Quentin, Bapaume and Arras – the first phases of the battles of the Somme 1918) during heavy fighting to hold back a German attack (the 'Spring Offensive'), L/Cpl Laing won his (first) MM.

His medal record card "Awarding The Military Medal", shows that he was awarded a bar to that on 13th of November 1918. When the Armistice brought fighting to an end, Frederick Laing's division was selected to join the army of occupation and on 15th March 1919 was retitled the London Division. These units were gradually dissolved leaving, by February 1920, only regular army units in place.

It seems that, on demobilisation, Frederick Laing went to Glenfarg, Perthshire, at the invitation of a Captain James Aubrey Lilburne Hopkinson to work for him as a groom at Duncrievie House, Duncrievie, Glenfarg. Capt. Hopkinson had himself served in WW1 with the Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment and it is possible that the two men came across each other whilst on active service – both their regiments served as front line troops in the 123rd Brigade 41st Division.

Whilst Capt. Hopkinson had been born in Kensington, London (Feb/March 1895), both his grandmother and mother (Charlotte and Mary Lilburne respectively) were born at Pittenweem in Fife and lived at Duncrievie House, Duncrievie, Glenfarg. In 1893 his mother married Samuel Day Hopkinson and he and his sister (Marian Charlotte Lilburne Hopkinson b. 3 May 1896) lived with their parents at 41 Campden Hill Road, Kensington, London W8. His father died in 1903 aged 44, and the 1911 census shows his mother and grandmother (both widows) at that address, but there is no sign of James. The London Gazette of 7 August 1914 notes the confirmaton of James A. L. Hopkinson's rank to Second Lieutenant, 3rd Battalion The Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment. Capt. Hopkinson's medal index card shows that he entered the theatre of war in France in May 1915 and in 1921 it records that he had changed address from 78a Lexham Gardens, London W8 to Duncrievie House, Glenfarg, and requesting that his medals be sent there.

By that time however, Frederick Laing was dead. He died on 20th November 1920 in Perth Royal Infirmary of 'Sub-acute Nephritis and Uraemia'. His occupation was described as 'Barman' and his usual residence as The Glenfarg Hotel, Glenfarg.

From the Perthshire Advertiser 1 December 1920, page 3:

Military Funeral

The remains of ex-Lance Corporal Fred Laing, West Kents, were laid to rest with military honours in Arngask Cemetery. Deceased, who was only 24 years of age, died in the Perth Royal Infirmary, after an illness of five weeks' duration. He was a native of Tunbridge Wells, England, and on being demobilized came to this district as a groom to Captain Hopkinson, Duncrevie [sic], and was latterly employed as a barman at Arngask Hotel. Corporal Laing was of a quiet and unassuming nature, and was much repected by all who knew him. The coffin was conveyed from Arngask Hotel to the Cemetery by a military escort, and after being lowered the piper played the lament, and the Last Post was sounded.


Fireman John Laing

Merchant Marine SS Cabotia

from:North Belfast

(d.20th Oct 1916)

On 9th of Oct. 1916 when the SS Cabotia left Montreal bound for Manchester, she was loaded with 5,000 tons of cargo and 300 horses. Shortly after leaving Canada the ship sailed into a south-west gale, which lasted the whole voyage. The ship plodded along in the heavy seas day after day, the sea was rough, waves breaking over the decks, the ship constantly rolling, just a terrible voyage for man and beast.

John Mitchell, the master, kept the ship on a zig-zag course and at noon on October 20, 1916 they were about 150 miles from Ireland. At 12:20 p.m. in the tremendous seas the silhouette of a submarine was sighted three miles off the starboard bow, the lookouts had done their job. Mitchell ordered all hands on deck and began to take evasive action. He turned his ship away from the enemy putting the submarine at his stern, trying to make a run for it and giving the smallest target to the German.

The submarine, SMS U-69, fired several shells from her deck gun, but the U-boat's commander, Kapitnleutnant Ernst Wilhelms, had no intention of allowing his prey to escape from him. Shells from the U-boat began to fall, but only every few minuets, this was apparently the best the gun crew could do as the seas were running so high that one of the survivors from the Cabotia said the gunner was awash up to his neck when the waves washed over the boat. Cabotia could not outrun U-69 which could make almost 17 knots while the Cabotia's top speed was 12 knots, neither was running at top speed on this day, but the men deep in the Cabotia remained in the engine room giving Mitchell all the steam he could use.

For over an hour and a half the Cabotia tried to escape and U-69 continued to close the distance, the gunner, despite the sea, scored a hit on the Cabotia and Mitchell realized that his ship could not escape, and now that the German had the range and landed several more hits, Mitchell decided that he would abandon his ship. He had the boats swung out, but this was a difficult decision, the gale was still blowing and the chance of survival in small boats in such conditions was slim, but this was the only chance they had. Distress signals that had been continuously been sent since the attack began received no answer until 2 p.m., which must have given Mitchell some small comfort.

Soon after this U-69 was very close and a shot was fired through the funnel, after which Mitchell shut down the engines and signaled to the submarine that he was abandoning the ship, he also tossed his papers over the side, four boats got away with no casualties, which in itself is amazing. The heavy sea made staying together impossible and the boats were scattered almost immediately, one of them was approached by the submarine and there was some kind of conversation between the lifeboat and the Germans, what was said is unknown. After they parted Wilhelms put 12 shells into the Cabotia and half an hour later she went under.

All seventy-four survivors must have seen the steamer that came into the area and they must have been relieved to think that they would soon be picked up and saved from almost certain death, but this was not to be. The unidentified ship which was flying neutral colors, stopped and U-69 came alongside. At least two of the lifeboats were within a couple hundred yards and were signaling with everything they had, but nobody on the ship noticed them or they just ignored them. The reason the ship failed to respond to the distress signals is unknown, it is speculated that Wilhelms told her master that if he picked up the survivors that his ship would be sunk, it is also possible that the ship was actually a German ship disguised as a neutral ship, the truth is not known, but the ship did salute the U-boat with a blow from her whistle before she left.

Four hours after Cabotia was sunk the situation with the weather got worse, not only heavy winds and seas, but now the rain came. The survivors in the four scattered boats fought to stay alive and at 9 a.m. the next morning a patrol boat was sighted and the survivors from one of the boats were rescued. Being told of what had happened a search was begun and shortly thereafter a second boat was found. Hours went by and the search continued, but the two remaining boats and the thirty-two men in them were never found.

The identity of the mystery ship which did not respond to the distress signals of the survivors, to the best of my knowledge was never learned, neither was the content of the conversation between the ship and the U-boat, Wilhelms made no statements after the war because he and U-69 went missing in July of 1917. He had sent over 100,000 tons of shipping to the bottom, and somewhere, perhaps in the Irish Sea, Wilhelms and U-69 have joined them. 2010 Michael W. Pocock

Roll of Honour: In memory of those who lost their lives in SS Cabotia "As long as we embrace them in our memory, their spirit will always be with us"

  • Name
  • Rate
  • Bassoli, Carlo - Able Seaman
  • Caswell, W. F. - Horseman
  • Copp, Arthur - Able Seaman and Lamps
  • Danielsen, Elinar - Seaman
  • Fraser, John W. - Horseman
  • Garrity, Joseph - Horseman
  • Hart, Henry W. - Horseman
  • Henry, John - Wireless Operator
  • Hilditch, Christopher J. - Ordinary Seaman
  • Hubbard, J. C. - Assistant Foreman
  • Isaac, Manuel - Fireman & Trimmer
  • James, William - Horseman
  • Johnston, Edward A. - 3rd Mate
  • Kohlmann, Carl - Carpenter
  • Lang, John - Fireman & Trimmer
  • Lewis, C. - Horseman
  • Lyon, Robert F. - Seaman
  • Maynard, John - Assistant Foreman
  • McArthur, James - Fireman & Trimmer
  • Mitchell, John - Master
  • Muckle, Hugh - Horseman
  • Nichol, R. - Horseman
  • Nilsen, Einar - Fireman & Trimmer
  • Pacheco, Arthur - Seaman
  • Roberts, Charles L. - 2nd Steward
  • Robertson, James K. - Horseman
  • Roy, H. - Horseman
  • Scott, David - Horseman
  • Whitton, D. - Horseman
  • Wise, F. - Horseman
  • Wright, Tom - Assistant Cook


Pte. Robert Laing

British Army 7th Btn. Seaforth Highlanders

from:Coaltown of Wemyss

(d.11th Apr 1918)

Officers Diary notes for 11th April 1918, the day my Great Uncle Robert Laing died - Missing killed in action. He served with the 7th Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders.

Trenches Hollebeke in Camp Vierstraat, April 10th. The Battalion, on completion of relief, was entrained in trucks on the light railway at Spoil Bank and proceeded to Seddon Camp, Vierstraat, the last people in to camp arriving about 2:30am. Up to this date no convincing evidence had been secured to indicate the coming of the enemy offensive on this front and the general appreciation of the situation ran to this. That the enemy was too much engrossed in his enterprise on the Somme to be capable of launching an attack in this sector; that the nature of the country in the Ypres Salient was too difficult to encourage offensive ideas; and that, in any case, the enemy had neither the troops nor the guns to supply an attack. That view, moreover, corresponded with what the Army Commander had said on the occasion of the Divisional inspection on 3rd last.

With this comforting assurance, the Battalion was warned to be ready to return to the line this night (10th November) and relieve units of the 19th Division on the right of the Hollebeke sub sector. This left the prospect of at least one restful day a prospect, however, that was not fulfilled. The news came that Bosche had attacked and made progress South of, and in the neighbourhood of, Wytschate and the old danger of a swinging flank looked like being realised again

Damstrasse: Orders and counter-orders followed in rapid succession. First to reconnoitre an old line of trenches running parallel to Vierstraat by Parrot Farm road from Square N11 into Square N16. The Commanding Officer and others had just allotted the first platoon area on this line when a mounted orderly arrived steaming, with a led horse for the C.O. to ride hot foot to Brigade for fresh orders. These (second) orders cancelled the defensive line mentioned and substituted the orders to get ready to take up a line across the South East aspect of the Wytschaete presumably to fill a gap left by somebody or other! Touch was established with the Royal Scots at The Stable. The 11th Btn. of that regiment still held Oak Support as a front line but its outposts had been forced I, and the 12th Btn. had been dispersed in support and on its flank. Our line was extended along the far side of the Damm Strasse and numerous strong patrols pushed up the rising ground in front into Ravine Wood, through Pheasant Wood and into Denys Wood. A weak company of 9th Welsh Regiment was found in position at the Southern end of the Damm Strasse with some collected oddments of Wilts, with two companies of 8th Black Watch, labouring under misapprehended directions, were busy digging in the wrong place. Not without difficulty these people were sorted out and by midnight or thereabouts we had secured the line form the right of the Royal Scots along the length of the Damm Strasse and 300 yards S.E across the St Eloi - Ostaverne Road, with posts and patrols pushed well forward.

11th April: About 1am a company of the 9th Royal Welch Fusiliers turned up out of the blue. All day on the 10th they had remained unmolested in their original position in Denys Wood while the troops on their right and left were on the move before the advancing enemy. They were still in communication with their Btn H.Q. in Onraet Wood until evening and their last message was an order to withdraw. They waited some time, still seeing no sign of enemy and then evacuated the wood, fell back through our advanced posts and were absorbed into our line on the Damm Strasse.

In view of the obscure situation and complete absence of troops to our right (although two coys. Of 8th B.W. were understood to be in line near Wytschete and trying to connect with their other two coys. on our right) Col. Bruce decided to maintain the Damm Strasse line as our line of resistance, drawback the elements of the 19th Div. these into support positions near Ruined Farm and The Mound and so release our D Coy to proceed South west towards Onraet Wood and extend our line. Three coys. of the 9th Seasforths (Pioneers) were also at the disposal of Col. Bruce. Up till now they had formed a reserve line E. of St Eloi, but under Col Bruce's orders they also were put on the move towards Wytshaete to help our D Coy to fill the undoubted gap that existed on the line allotted to the 8th Black Watch. Neither the extent nor the exact location of that gap could be ascertained.

With all the disadvantages of a dark night, unknown country and strange dispositions to contend with this movement was not completed by daybreak. It was practically broad daylight before the 19th Div. troops were relieved from their posts on the Damm Strasse and moved back to support positions. The O.C. D Coy. (Lt. Cotching ) was only able to collect one of his platoons before daylight and with that platoon and his company H.Q. he proceeded to look for his new position.

The other two platoons of D were held in reserve near Ruined Farm until the situation cleared and eventually NO 14 Platoon was sent to join Lt. Cotching. Two Coys. of the 9th Seaforths advanced through Onraet Wood, pushing the enemy before them, and took post on the right of our D Coy. By 9 am the dispositions ran approximately as follows :- From the Canal on the left, to the right: 11th Royal Scots, with 12th in support & reserve, A Coy. 7th Seaforths B Coy covering practically the whole length of the Damm Strasse, C Coy 8th B.W B Coy C Coy to a point about 200-300 ? S.W of the lower end of the Damm Strasse but losing frontage because one company was rather ??? inwards behind the other! 7th Seaforths D Coy two platoons facing almost E, in front of Martens Farm. 9th Seaforths Two coys extended from that point as far as Evams Farm southwards. Beyond that there still existed a gap which was eventually filled by A and D Coys of the 8th B.W. extending from the South. In support: About 200 officers and men of the Welsh Regiment and RWF at Ruined Farm and the Mound; one Coy of 9th Seaforths at Picadilly Farm. The area and garrison described (excepting Royal Scots) was under the command of LT.Col Bruce who had his H.Q. at Shelley Farm and who was under the orders of the 27th Brigade for the time being.

As stated, that was the order of battle into which the troops had been shaken out by 9 am. but while things were still in a state of flux the enemy attacked. This was about 8am. The Huns came over the ridge by Ravine Wood in fairly strong numbers on the position of front held by A and B Coys. Both the weather and the situation were a bit hazy. For all our companies knew the dim figures emerging from Ravine Wood in the morning mist and advancing with shouts down the decline towards the Damm Strasse might have been lost elements of the British Army falling back. The doubt was in some measure a good thing to entertain. The effect of it was to with hold the men's fire till the enemy were less than 150 yards from our line. Then A and B loosed off with rifles and lewis guns and took great toll. The remainder of the Bosche lay down under cover of a patch of wood to reconsider the matter. As the attack seemed to be definitely beaten A and B Coys advanced a counter-blow.

Sergt. Jeffries and a small patrol of four men from B Coy went round the right of the patch of wood while Corporal Mackay A Coy took a strong patrol round the left to drive the Bosche into Sgt Jeffries hands. The Bosche saw the danger and started to run back. Those who got up to run were mostly mowed down by fire from our lines - the youngsters of the draft remembering all they ever knew about rapid fire! The situation however, was one to be greatly improved by rapid handling and Sgt Tait (A Coy) saw to that. He hopped over the bank of the Damme Strasse and ran forward towards the Bosche shouting directions to the A Coy patrol V Get round the b_______s was the order.

Probably the instructions of Sgt Tait completed the Huns terror! Corporal Mackay doubled round the back of Bosche 50 yards ahead of his patrol. Those of the enemy who tried to run away were shot down; others were further deterred by the actions of Sgt. Jeffreis who cam up rapidly on the right and brained one Bosche with the butt of his rifle for the moral effect of it and those of the enemy surviving put up a white flag and sank on their knees in supplication. Another feature of this successful little enterprise was the eagerness of our men to get out at the enemy. When Sgt Tait went forward to issue his decisive directions A Coy got up out of their shell-holes and rushed forward to take part. The result, over and above the heavy casualties inflicted on the enemy, was a bag of 17 prisoners and two machine guns. A third machine gun was found under a heap of Bosche dead and brought in by night patrol later.

The prisoners were evacuated by an exposed plank road to Batt. H.Q. and in their ???? were machine gunned by their comrades on the high ground above Ravine Wood and seven were wounded. One jumped into a deep shell hole and was drowned and two had to be left by the roadside till it was dark enough to recover them without danger to the stretcher bearers. Incidentally numerous casualties to the stretcher-bearers and others were caused on the same road in the course of the day. It was the main channel of communications with the front line and was swept by enemy fire. To continue the narrative of A Coys day when the episode described above was completed a line of posts was established under LT J.G. Douglas on the ground just taken from the enemy. By this time, however, the enemy had made his line along the crest in Ravine Wood where he had the advantage of elevation and cover of the wood and several strong pill boxes. On this line he maintained an attitude of great alertness and fired at all movement, while enemy posts on the right flank of A Coy's new formations were able to enfilade the line; and eventually it was decided to withdraw the posts not, however before some resistance had been offered. The company's position there fore reverted to more or less what is was when the day began.

Orders were received to cooperate with a company of 12th Royal Scots on Hun's commanding pillboxes in Ravine Wood. One platoon of Dcompany under 2/LT Gifillan was placed at the disposal of O.C. A Company for the operation and plans were made in conference with officers of the 12th R.S. It was planned that the attack should take place at 3.30 pm the R.S. to take the position in the flank from the White Chateau while one platoon of A (2/LT Mclennan) and the D Platoon should make a holding attack from the Damme Strasse under covering fire from B Company on the right and the remainder of A Coy.

The position to be attacked was kept under intermittent artillery fire from 1 to 3 pm. at 3.30pm the attack began. Our two platoons moved forward by section pushes, under pretty heavy rifle & m.g fire until a position in dead ground about a hundred yards short of the pill boxes. Some casualties were suffered on the way. A halt was made to await a signal from the R.S. showing their position. As no signal (a verry light was expected)was put up a reconnaissance patrol moved left to get information of Hun & saw them in shellholes about 50 yards off the flank of the position. It was impractical for our platoons to come carry the attack further without action from the R.S. The force was already seriously weakened by casualties and any movement drew heavy fire from the front and from Pheasant Wood on the right. An attempt was made to clear up one annoying strong point in Pheasant Wood but the party did not reach its objective. The operation remained at a standstill til dusk, no action or information having come form the R.S the remainder of our two platoons were drawn back to the Damme Strasse, leaving out one strong post to hold the enemy to the line of the wood. That post remained out all night. Both officers who took part in the operation were wounded. The first dispositions of B coy were: Two platoons and coy H.Q. on the centre section of the Damme Strasse with posts on the edge of Pheasant Wood; 2/LT Flemming with one platoon pushed forward through the wood and formed a line in close proximity to the enemy on the far side of the wood. Flemming's platoon evidently made an attempt to force the enemy out of some of his positions but it was too far out to be efficiently supported in this. The enemy got round its flanks and brought heavy fire to bear on the platoon.

Flemming was badly shot through the body and ordered his men to extricate themselves as they could, refusing to allow stretcher bearers to take the risk of carrying him in. The survivors therefore made their way back to the line on the Damme Strasse. Strong patrols then went out to recover the wounded officer, by were unable to penetrate to the place where (he) was left. The enemy then endeavoured to advance his line through Pheasant Wood it was completely repelled and patrols scoured the wood till no Bosche was left in it. The enemy, however, did maintain one strong point on the NE of the wood from which he was able to command the front of A Coy. and, as already mentioned, interfere with the afternoon attack. Vigorous patrol action was maintained throughout the day and Pheasant Wood kept clear of enemy. There was a good deal of shooting to be had and casualties were inflicted on the enemy. The Company, on the other hand, suffered some losses through shell fire on the Damme Strasse from centre to right was occasionally heavily bombarded. By nightfall the company had maintained its position on the Damme Strasse and had established an ascendency on the ground in front of it and was in good spirit as the result of a good days work. When the various elements of the 19th Div. where withdrawn from the front line and into support at Ruined Farm and The Mound C Coy extended its front line to the right and connected with 8th B.W. They also took over and manned some posts of the Welsh Regiment in and beyond Damm Wood. The enemy's morning attack did not develop in any great strength n C Coy's front. The first signs of it were met by heavy fire from C Coy and the promise of a stout resistance probably deterred the enemy from carrying on with his intentions.

It was daylight before Lt. Cotching and the nucleus of D Coy arrived on the line they held throughout the day in front of Marten's Farm and they got there with no time to spare. The enemy advance was already in progress on that position of the front and D Coy repelled(?)the enemy with considerable losses. 2/LT Davies was then only backing No. 16 platoon (2/LT Gilfillan) which was held back in position at Ruined Farm and was used in the afternoon in the attack on Ravine Wood.

In the course of the morning the company was bombarded fairly heavily but met the situation very astutely by moving the line forward out of the bombarded zone. The enemy was very restless all day on the front and gave D Coy frequent targets. Lt. Cotching claimed they caused the enemy about 200 casualties between dawn and dusk, The line, a series of rifle pits and small cuttings in the embankment of a light railway was made continuous during the day by the initiative of the 9th Seaforths who took every opportunity of improving their position on D Coys's right.

Casualties: It was difficult to reckon accurately the number of casualties suffered by the battalion this day (11th April) but probably 130 other ranks were killed, wounded and missing. (the missing were some of LT Fleming's platoon in forward positions.) Officer casualties: Wounded and missing: 2/LT Fleming, Wounded: 2/LTS E. G Sugden, J. Lyon, Maclennan and Gilfillan.

Quite a busy day - Got one paragraph in the official war diary


Pte. Thomas Laws Laing

British Army 14th Battalion Durham Light Infantry


(d.4th Mar 1917)


2nd Lt. Homer Warring Laird

Royal Flying Corps.

(d.8th Oct 1917)

Homer Laird died on the 8th of October 1917 and is buried in the Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension. His father Henry Willoughby Laird, was a lieutenant colonel with the CEF, and at the start of the war was a Major in the Army Service Corps and brother Lieutenant William Clarence Laird, CEF, both survived the war. They will always be remembered and in our family's thoughts and prayers.


Pte. Arthur Lake

British Army 2nd Btn. Northumberland Fusiliers

(d.12th Mar 1915)

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