WW1: Slamannan soldier who came back from the dead

Private James Clark survived a machine gun attack and was saved by German soldiers

Private James Clark survived a machine gun attack and was saved by German soldiers

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The story of Slamannan soldier James Clark has the makings of a Hollywood epic after he came back from the dead during the Great War.

After being hit by machine gun fire on September 25, 1915 – the first day of the historic Battle of Loos – Private James Clark, a coal miner before the war, was presumed dead when his body wasn’t recovered.

His wife Helen received notification dated October 30 that he had been “killed in action” sometime between September 25 and 27 and that she could apply to have his personal effects returned to her.

However, unknown to his brothers in arms, German soldiers had captured him as he lay wounded. But instead of finishing him off, they saved his life by amputating his legs and handed him back to the British before he was officially discharged “in consequence of his being no longer physically fit for war service” on November 15, 1916.

In a letter to his mother dated October 13, 1915, stamped ‘Gepruft, Kommandantur Wahn-Schiessplatz’ he wrote: “Dear mother, Just a few words to let you know that I am still in the land of the living. I am in Hospital shot through the legs.”

Pte Clark served with the 10th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and was part of the forces which attacked the Germans as part of the ‘Big Push’.

His grandson Gordon McKay, also from Slamannan, said: “He enlisted in July 1914 but was reported killed in action in September 1915 during the battle at Fosse. He was captured by the Germans who found him lying in ‘No Man’s Land’, but they amputated his legs and saved his life.”

Following the war Pte Clark took up watchmaking and repairs and passed away aged 76 on October 15, 1971. He is buried in Slamannan Cemetery.

BATTLE OF LOOS

The Battle of Loos raged from September 25 to October 18, 1915

The attack by British forces was the first major offensive of the war and was referred to at the time as the ‘Big Push’

The British offensive was part of an attempt by the French to break through German defences in Artois and Champagne

It was also the first time the British Army used poison gas on the German enemy

Despite the heavy casualties on the first day of the offensive, the British had considerable success breaking deep into enemy-held positions.