With the centenary of the First World War fast approaching, and as we work towards completing the first phase of Cumbernauld Community Memorial Peace Garden, we’d like to share a story of one Cumbernauld man who lost his life in service of his country during World War One.
Private Frank McGuire was the eldest child of Peter McGuire and Agnes Maxwell and lived in The Wynd in Cumbernauld Village. Frank, like many local people at that time, was a miner, working at Knowehead Colliery for the Banknock Colliery Company, having previously worked as a Booking Clerk at Cumbernauld Railway Station for the North British Railway. As conscription did not come into force until the British Government passed the Military Service Act in 1916, Frank voluntarily joined the British Army shortly after the outbreak of war and was assigned to the 10th Battalion of the Highland Light Infantry.
The 10th Battalion Highland Light infantry was formed in Hamilton in August 2014 and was posted to Hampshire for training and military exercises. Leaving Bramshott on the 12th May 1915 and travelling by rail to Folkestone, the Battalion boarded the SS Victoria and landed in Boulogne, south-west of Calais in Northern France, at 12:30am the following morning. The 10th Batallion then travelled from Boulogne to Armentieres; via Pont De Briques, Acquin, Wizernes, St Omer, and Bailleu; marching over several nights in difficult conditions for a distance of 80 miles. For the next several months the 10th Batallion marched throughout much of that region, north-west of Lille, continually receiving orders to move out at short notice, often while under heavy fire and shelling from closing enemy lines, experiencing heavy casualties along the way. By late September, the 10th Battalion Highland Light Infantry were billeted at Annequin, south-east of Bethune.
At 1am on the 25th September 1915, disposition and orders for attack were issued by Lieutenant Colonel Grahame, a recipient of the Distinguished Service Oder (DSO). The disposition ordered A, B, C, and D companies of the 10th Batallion Highland Light Infantry to the lines at Vermelles. The first objective was Le Briques Trench, the second objective was Lone Farm, and the third objective was the German 2-line trenches west of Haisnes, all of which were key strategic locations. These orders marked the beginning of the Battle of Loos, a mining town located north-west of Lens.
This battle was to be the first time the British used poison gas in their attack however, at 5:50am on the 25th September 1915 the gas cylinders were opened but the expected wind wasn’t there and the gas lingered around the British trenches, causing alarm and distress to British soldiers and forcing them to go over the parapet to escape the noxious gas.
At 6:30am the attack was launched and all British lines rose out of the trenches and moved simultaneously toward the opposing forces. The Battalion War Diary notes that the attack encountered very heavy machine gun and rifle fire and shelling and the first line was practically wiped out less than 20 yards from their trenches. On that one day, of that one battle, at that one location, from one British battalion, 160 soldiers and 9 officers were killed, 199 men were missing, 179 were wounded, and 50 had been gassed. Among those killed at the Battle of Loos were Captain Fergus Bowes-Lyon, brother of the late Queen Mother, and Lieutenant John Kipling, son of author Rudyard Kipling who wrote “My Boy Jack” for his late son. There was a total of 59,247 British casualties and around 26,000 German casualties during the Battle of Loos.
Private Frank McGuire was also one of the men who were killed during the battle, on 25th September 1915, at the age of only 19. His body was never recovered. Frank is one of over 20,000 casualties from the Battle of Loos who are commemorated at Dud Corner cemetery, just north of Loos. He is also commemorated at the Scottish National War Memorial in Edinburgh Castle and on the Cumbernauld War Memorial in Cumbernauld Village, and at the opening ceremony of Cumbernauld Community Memorial Peace Garden on Sunday 3rd August Frank McGuire is just one of the men who we will be commemorating.