Disastrous battle claimed life of gran’s best friend

Thomas was granted a posthumous certificate of recognition from the Carron Works to recognise his war service
Thomas was granted a posthumous certificate of recognition from the Carron Works to recognise his war service

When the buglers mark the 100th anniversary of the Great War, families across Falkirk district will fill with pride remembering loved ones who never came back.

Modern warfare is carried out by trained soldiers who sign up for the right to serve their country, but back in 1914 it was a very different story.

At first there was a rush to sign up, with many even lying about their age to enlist and get the chance to ‘do their duty’

But by 1916 the terrible toll of the conflict and the demand for men led to the introduction of conscription of men aged 18-45. At first married men were exempted but even this was dropped as the conflict wore on.

Most of us will thankfully never experience what the soldiers did 100 years ago and we should always remember and honour the sacrifices made by the men who served.

Louise McCormick (48) from Bo’ness has shared the story of one of those who didn’t return after being killed in action on May 3, 1917 ,aged just 21.

L/Cpl Thomas Hunter, son of William Hunter of Crossburn of Slamannan, was the best friend of Louise’s gran, Lena Ure (nee Blair).

He worked for the Carron Company before enlisting in the Royal Scots in Bathgate and entered the “theatre of war” in France on February 23, 1915.

He was killed during the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Scots’ Arras Offensive, between April 9 to June 16, 1917, when British and Commonwealth troops attacked the German defences near the French city of Arras on the Western Front.

It consisted of a number of confrontations and Thomas died in the Third Battle of the Scarpe on May 3-4. His name is recorded on the Arras Memorial, which means his body was never found.

The day he died is recorded in ‘Pontius Pilate’s Bodyguard: A History of the Royal Scots’ by Robert H Patterson.

It says: “The 2nd’s attempt to advance in the area of Monchy le Preux on May 3 was a disaster. The day was spent lying in front of the enemy’s wire, unable to move forwards or backwards, and having to endure the full force of the sun, as well as enemy rifle and shell fire.

“When night fell those survivors that were still capable of movement made their way back to their original positions. The following night the 2nd Battalion was relieved. Between 24 April and 4 May it lost 12 officers and 254 soldiers.”

Louise said: “The day Thomas Hunter died was a bit of a slaughter. He was my gran’s best friend and she was very proud of him. He received a posthumous certificate of recognition from the Carron Works on August 4, 1919. for his service and it has passed down my family through the years.

“I would like to give it to somewhere local which keeps records like this for the public to view as I think it is so important brave men like Thomas are remembered for ever.”