This Weeks New Research

There are Four new research pages this week in WW1 Lives, three junior officers in Infantry units and a Private in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Click on the Description Heading to find out more on them.

Training Accident

Philip Amyas Vaile (22), a 2nd Lieutenant in the London Regiment. Following injury at the Front Line in Flanders, he thought he was safe training others to fight.

John Henry Willis

John Willis was a British born soldier from Portsmouth who had gone to Canada to find a new life. At the start of the Great War, he answered the call to arms and joined the 24th Canadian Infantry Battalion (Quebec Regiment) as a Private. To find out more about his life click on the photo title.


Havelock Arthur Terence Plunkett, a young 19 year old Lieutenant, born and brought up in India, who joined the the 2nd Black Watch (Royal Highlanders) and who faced strong Turkish forces in Iraq.

Gordon Highlanders outside the ruined Cathedral in Arras, 24 January 1918. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: (Q 7261)

A Pill-Box in France

George Stewart Duncan (26) a 2nd Lieutenant, in the 6th Gordon Highlanders. A farmers son from Banffshire, who along with others, sought shelter from the artillery in a Pill-box.

Private, 46948, William Sayers (18) – Died of Wounds

19th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, 29th September 1918 

Grave of William Sayers at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, West-Vlaanderen, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. – ©International Wargrave Photography Project.

Military and Civilian Research

  • William Sayers was born in the first quarter of 1900 at Pendleton, Lancashire. His Army Attestation Record has his date of birth as 4 December 1899. (I’m not convinced this is the actual birth date, he may have given an earlier date in order to join the army earlier.)
  • 11 July 1900 – He was baptised at Stowell Memorial Church, Salford.
  • 13 August 1917 – He enlisted at Rotherham and was placed on the Reserve. At that time his description was given as follows :- Height – 5’8″, Weight – 123lbs, Chest – 36″ with 4″ expansion, Hair – Brown, Eyes – Brown, Complexion – Fair, Religion – Church of England. He gave his occupation as Screen Hand.
  • 4 January 1918 – He joined the Regular Army and was re-examined at Pontefract, West Yorkshire and was placed into the 53rd Battalion, Durham Light Infantry and given the service number 170443. This was a battalion for (Young Soldiers) who had reached the age of 18 years and 1 month. They conducted their basic training before moving onto a (Graduated) battalion where they completed their training. This training was held at Rugeley Camp, Cannock Chase, Staffordshire.
  • 19 April 1918 – Transferred to the 52nd (Graduated) Battalion, Durham Light Infantry to complete his training at Stockton-on-Tees.
  • 26 July 1918 – He transferred with his battalion to France from Folkstone to Boulogne.
  • 2 August 1918 – He joins the 19th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry as number 46948.
  • 29 September 1918 – He died from wounds at No.2 Canadian Casualty Clearing Station, Anvin, France and was buried at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. He had been in ‘Z’ Company, 19th Durham Light Infantry.
  • His property containing Letters, Photos, a religious book, 2 postcards, a charm and pencil were returned to his mother following his death.
  • In the Register of Soldiers Effects, his mother Sarah was the sole legate to the compensation payments for his death.
CASUALTY CLEARING STATIONS (CO 3151) A panoramic photograph showing wounded British and German soldiers as they await treatment in the sunshine outside a Casualty Clearing Station (CCS) near Duisans, September 1918. On the left, a large tent can be seen and several huts are visible on the right. Copyright: © IWM.


William Sayers was born at Pendleton, Lancashire, in the first quarter 1900. The following family information is taken from the 1911 Census and his Army Service Record.

His family is shown as follows :-

  • Father – William Sayers, born c.1879 at Salford, Lancashire. – Brewery Labourer.
  • Mother – Sarah Jane Sayers, born c.1880 at Langdale, Yorkshire.
  • Sister – Lydia, born c.1902 at Pendleton, Lancashire.
  • Brother- Farry, born c.1906 at Weaste, Salford, Lancashire.
  • Brother – Thom, born c.1908 at Langdale, Yorkshire.
  • Sister – Frances, born c.1911 at Salford, Lancashire.
  • Sister – Ada, born c.1913
  • Brother – Frank, born c.1914
Family Grave of William Sayers at St. Leonard New Church, Rotherham, South Yorkshire. © Mark Pepper


  • In July 1900 at the time of his baptism his address was given as 10 Embridge Street, Salford, Lancashire.
  • The 1901 Census gives William and his family’s address as 13 Ashantee Street, Pendleton, Lancashire.
  • The 1911 Census gives the family address of William Sayers as 35 Robinson Street, Regent Road, Salford, Greater Manchester.
  • The Parental address during his attestation into the army in 1917 and following his death was given as 28 Doncaster Road, Whinney Hill, Rotherham.


William Sayers was awarded the, Victory and the British War Medals for his service in the Great War.


William Sayers is honoured and remembered on a number of memorials. They are as follows :- 

  • Thrybergh Working Mens Club, Roll of Honour, Thrybergh, Rotherham, South Yorkshire.
  • St. Peters, Whinney Hill Conventional District Memorial Window and Tablet, Thrybergh, Rotherham, South Yorkshire.
  • Dalton Main Colliery Ltd, Silverwood and Roundwood Collieries Memorial Column. Previous location – near Silverwood Colliery, Thrybergh, Rotherham. Current Location – Thrybergh Parish Hall, Park Lane, Rotherham, South Yorkshire.
  • Thrybergh Parish Hall, Roll of Honour, Park Lane, Thybergh, Rotherham.

Links to Additional Information


  • Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
  • Medal Index Card.
  • Soldiers Died in the Great War.
  • Register of Soldiers Effects.
  • Find a Grave – William Sayers.
  • Medal Roll – Durham Light Infantry – Victory and British War Medal.
  • 1901 Census.
  • 1911 Census.
  • Stowell Memorial Church, Salford – Baptisms.
  • Military Pension Cards – William Sayers
  • Weekly Casualty List dated 5 November 1918.
  • British Army Service Record.

Lance-Corporal, 265707, Malcolm McDonald (24) – Killed in Action

6th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, 23rd September 1917 

Grave of Malcolm McDonald at Tyne Cot Cemetery, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. – ©International Wargrave Photography Project.

Morayshire Roll of Honour

Extract from the above 1921 publication :- MCDONALD, Malcolm, No.265707, Lance-Corporal, 1st/6th Gordon Highlanders; born at Fyvie, Aberdeenshire, 14th March 1897, educated at Knockando; joined at Keith, September 1914; served in France; killed in action, 23rd September, 1917. Son of John and Isabella McDonald, Relugas, Dunphail. Occupation – Farm Servant.

Diary of the 6th Gordons – 23 September 1917

The Diary of the 6th Gordon Highlanders for the 23rd September 1917 reads:-

No.14 Platoon’s Headquarters – a small ‘Pill Box’ – received a direct hit and 2nd Lieutenant G.S. Duncan and his two signallers were killed. “D’ Company had 16 other casualties.  With the other companies the casualties were slight. Very heavy barrage put up by us and a fairly heavy one by the enemy at 6.15p.m. Which lasted until 8 o’clock.

(It is unclear if Malcolm was one of the signallers killed in the Pill Box but it is certainly a possibility.)

Diary of the 6th Gordon Highlanders for 23rd September 1917 – © National Archive.

Further Military and Civilian Research

  • Malcolm McDonald went to France/ Flanders on the 4th February 1915.
  • He was initially given the service number of No.11038, and was later given the number 265707 when he was promoted to Lance/Corporal, all in the 6th Gordon Highlanders.
  • He is buried at the Tyne Cot Cemetery, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.
  • In the Register of Soldiers Effects, compensation payments for his death was given to his father John and his sister Alice.


Malcolm McDonald was born at Fyvie, Aberdeenshire, on 14th March 1897. The following family information is taken from the 1901 Census and ‘Lives of the First World War website. At the time of the 1901 Census, the family were residing at 28 Conval Street, Dufftown.

His family is shown as follows :-

  • Father – John McDonald, born c.1858 at Cromdale, Elginshire – Joiner.
  • Mother – Gabella Glass or McDonald, born c.1864 at Mortlach, Dufftown.
  • Sister – Annie Jane, born 10 April 1884 at Glenrinnes, Banffshire – Nurse (Domestic).
  • Brother- Charles George, born 25 September 1885 at Glenrinnes, Banffshire.
  • Brother – James Alexander, born 18 March 1887 at Glenrinnes, Banffshire.
  • Sister – Isabella McDonald or Shand, born 25 October 1890 at Glenrinnes, Banffshire.
  • Brother – George Lobban, born 30 March 1891 at Grange, Banffshire.
  • Brother – William, born 27 September 1892 at Fyvie, Aberdeenshire.
  • Sister – Catherine Margaret Sim McDonald or Webster, born 19 November 1895 at Grange, Banffshire.
  • Sister – Alice, born 11 December 1898 at Mortlach, Banffshire.
  • Sister – Helen, born 6 December 1900 at Mortlach, Banffshire.

His brother James Alexander McDonald was killed in action on the 29th July 1916, while fighting in the Australian Imperial Force and his brother William McDonald was killed in action fighting for the 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders.

Medal Index Card for Malcolm McDonald.


  • The 1901 Census gives the family address as 28 Conval Street, Dufftown, Banffshire.
  • On his brother James’s initial application, the fathers address is given as Ballentomb Cottage, Dulnain Bridge, Grantown-on-Spey.
  • Later in the war the fathers address is given as Rowan Cottage, Dulnain Bridge, Grantown-on-Spey.
  • The address given to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for the family after his death was 50 Balvenie Street, Dufftown, Banffshire.
  • In the Morayshire Roll of Honour from 1921 the address the address of his parents is shown as Relugas, Dunphail Estate, near Forres, Morayshire.


Malcolm McDonald was awarded the 1914-15 Star, Victory and the British War Medals for his service in the Great War.


Malcolm McDonald is honoured and remembered along with his two brothers on the Glenrinnes and Kirkhill War Memorial.

Glenrinnes and Kirkhill War Memorial where William McDonald is honoured and remembered.

Links to Additional Information

Conflicting Information

There is some conflicting information in relation to the place of birth of Malcolm. Most documents have his place of birth as Fyvie, Aberdeenshire but there is a document which has his place of birth as Grange, Aberdeenshire.


  •  Morayshire Roll of Honour.
  •  Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
  • Medal Index Card.
  • Medal Roll – Gordon Highlanders – Victory and British War Medal.
  • Soldiers Died in the Great War.
  • Register of Soldiers Effects.
  • The National Archive – 6th Gordon Highlanders War Diary.
  • Find a Grave – Malcolm McDonald.


  • Vincent Stuart

The Banffshire Herald dated 5th May 1917

The Following is an Extract from the Above Publication from the 5th of May 1917


Ogg – Died of wounds in 26 General Hospital, Etaples on 25th of April 1917, Private, James Ogg, Gordon Highlanders, aged 20 years, eldest son of James and Helen, Main Street, Newmill .

Henderson – Died in Number One Casualty Clearing Station, France, from wounds, Private, George Henderson, Gordon Highlanders, aged 22 years, son of Mr and Mrs Henderson, Woodhead, Edingight, Grange.

Mann– Killed in action in Northern France on the 12th of April, Alexander Mann, Royal Scots, beloved husband of Maggie McIntosh, Craigellachie, and son of the late Robert Mann, Old Town, aged 24 years.

Horne– Killed in action on the 10th of April, Private James Horne, third surviving son Of Mr Frank Horne ,24, Fife street, Fife-Keith, Aged 22 years.



Intimation came to hand this week of the death of Captain, J. Matheson, Military Cross, Headmaster, Clenterty School, Banff, as having taken place from wounds received on 24th of April. Captain Matheson was a very capable and popular officer. He joined the Gordon Highlanders as a Private at Keith, where he was stationed for some time, and the news of his death will be sincerely mourned by the wide circle of friends which he made here. He was a son of the late Mr James Matheson, Easter Bog of Cullicudden, Resolis, and was educated and trained as a teacher at the parish school there . He was Assistant Teacher at Larkhall, from there he went to Avoch Public School, and then was appointed headmaster of Clenterty Public School, Gamrie.

He received his commission in May 1915, and has been at the front since October 1915. In November 1916, he gained the Military Cross. In a raid by his company all the other officers were put out of action, and he continued the action and captured a large number of German prisoners. He has been in the thick of the fighting ever since. Captain Matheson was one of four brothers who joined the colours at the outbreak of war. He leaves a widow and family.

Mrs Mann, Duff Street Has received notice from the War Office, that her husband, Private Alexander Mann of the Royal Scots, was killed in action on the 12th of April. He was a son of the late Mr Robert Mann, old town, and was married about a year ago. He had been in France for about a year. He had been in America for four years, and came back to this country on the outbreak of hostilities. 

Mr Horne, 24 Fife Street, Fife-Keith, has been notified from the War Office that his son, Private James Horne, Gordons, has been killed in action. Prior to enlistment Private Horne was a farm servant in the Rothiemay district. He was 22 years of age.

Mr John Greenlaw, Goods Checker, Edithfield Cottages, who received intimation some days ago that his eldest son Private John Greenlaw, Seaforths, had been wounded and admitted to the First Canadian Hospital, Etaples, on the 11th inst, suffering from a compound fracture of the thigh, has now been informed that injuries were so severe that they necessitated the amputation of the left leg. Private John Greenlaw, who is 26 years of age, enlisted in the Seaforth two years ago, previous to which he was a Porter in the employment of the G.N.S.R. at Elgin. He is the eldest of four brothers serving, the 2nd of whom is presently in a London hospital. Private Greenlaw was wounded in August last.

Lance-Corporal F. Webster, Gordons, Second son of Mrs Webster, 7 Duff Street was wounded on the forehead and right arm on 23rd of April. He was wounded at Loos In September 1915, and was home for a short time after his recovery. He was mobilised in August 1914, and prior to that was employed at Buckie.

Information has been sent to Mrs Grant, Bogbain, that her husband, Private John Grant was wounded on the 9th of April, and is now in hospital in England. Prior to being called up he was a postman at Keith.

Private William Barron, Fife-Keith, is in hospital in Edinburgh, suffering from the effects of a gunshot wound in the neck. He joined the Gordons at Maisley Camp, and was attached to the machine gun section. Private Barron received his wound just as he was leaving the trenches for a spell behind the lines. His brother George, was also wounded recently.

Private W. McRobbie, son of Mrs. McRobbie, Auchanacie, Gordons, is reported as wounded in action.


Private James Ogg, previously reported wounded, died of wounds in the 26th General Hospital at Etaples, France, on 25th April. Private Ogg is the son of Mr and Mrs Ogg, Main Street, Newmill, with whom deepest sympathy is felt in their bereavement. Till the end he sent home cheery messages and hopes were entertained of his recovery. By his death, the life of a bright genial lad has been cut short. He joined up at Keith about two years ago.

Mr John Ritchie, Engine Driver, Newmill, received a wire late on Saturday night that his son, Private James Ritchie, was dangerously wounded and in hospital at Boulogne.  Mr and Mrs Ritchie left for France on Sunday morning. Private Ritchie’s three brothers have all been seriously wounded.

Private Robert Brown, son of Mr William Brown, Millwright, Burnside, has been wounded, but not seriously. He is in hospital in London.

It is also reported that private Thomas Charlesworth has been wounded. He makes his home with Mr John Robertson, Main Street, and was previously seriously wounded.

Private John Watt, son of Mr John Watt, Glen of Newmill, is also wounded. He is in hospital in Birmingham.

Private Walton, Glenn of Newmill, is also reported wounded.


Private George Smith, Gordons, missing, was in the distillery office, Minmore, Glenlivet, and belonged to Huntly.

Mrs Taylor, Church Street, Huntly, has received intimation that her husband, Lieutenant William J. Taylor, Seaforths, was wounded on April 23. Lieutenant Taylor is now in hospital at Newcastle. He is a graduate of Aberdeen University, and got his commission at the beginning of the war. At that time he was on the teaching staff of Gordon Schools, Huntly. Lieutenant Taylor, who is the eldest son of Mr George Taylor, Hallkirk, Caithness, is married to the youngest daughter of Mr George Scott, Church Street, Huntly.


Corporal George S. Murray,Seaforths, has been killed in action. He was the second son of Mr Adam Murray, Hillside, Kininvie, Dufftown, and was 23 years of age. He enlisted in September 1914, and was wounded at Festubert on 13th of June 1915, and has been at the front for over 14 months. Prior to enlisting he was a farm servant in the Morayshire district.


Sergeant James Robertson, Seaforths, 39 High Street, has been wounded in action.


Sergeant John Riach was seriously wounded on April 23. This is the second time Sergeant Riach has been wounded. The first time was at Gallipoli. He was recently awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field.


Mr John Duncan, Parkhead, Cornhill, has received information that his son, Private William Duncan, Gordons, was killed in action on the 9th April. He was about 37 years of age, and previous to enlistment in May of last year he worked in a munitions factory.


Sergeant A.Runcie, Gordons, has been wounded and is in hospital in London. He was previously wounded at Neuve Chapelle.  His parents reside in Fife Street, Banff.

Private John Smith, Royal Scots Fusiliers, whose mother stays in Boyndie Street, Banff, has been severely wounded and is in hospital. He joined the army in April last year, and was previously a farm servant.

Mr James Thorburn, Shoemaker, Banff, has received word that his son, Private James P. Thorburn, South Wales Borderers, has been severely wounded by gunshot. He has been for over a year at the front, and also served in Gallipoli.


Second Lieutenant James Archibald, Gordons, has been wounded in action on the shoulder. He is a son of Mr William Archibald, Burgh Collector, and a nephew of ex-Provost Archibald, Buckie.

Sergeant William Paterson, Highland Light Infantry, killed, was a son of  Mr William Paterson, Tailor, Buckie.

Private Peter Cormack, Gordons, died of wounds, belonged to Buckie.


Private Ernest Edgar, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, son of the late Mr James Edgar, Craigellachie Hotel, has been wounded in the face, and is in hospital in England. Before enlisting he was in the office of the Craigellachie Distillery in Glasgow.

Private James Callum, Shell Shock, is a son of Mr Callum, Station Agent, Carron, and was a Railway Clerk at Craigellachie.


Private W.P. Robertson, Seaforths, Archiestown, has been wounded. He was with Mr Grant, Merchant, Aberlour.

Corporal Thomas Innes, Gordons, Archiestown, wounded, was a Farm Servant.


Second Lieutenant Archibald Macdonald, Seaforths, youngest son of Mrs Macdonald, Inverspey, Fochabers, has been wounded.

Corporal William Corsar, Seaforths, wounded, was a Baker in Fochabers.

Private Robert Anderson, Seaforths, wounded, was a Postman.


Private J. Campbell, Australian, a son of Mr Campbell, 198 Findochty, has been wounded. He emigrated to Australia just after war broke out.

Private James Sutherland, 244 Findochty, has been wounded. He enlisted in the local Territorials soon after the outbreak of the war, and has been a considerable time at the front. He was engaged as a Cooper before the war.


Intimation has been received in Portknockie of the loss of three Portknockie men on a drifter engaged in naval work. A particularly distressing circumstance is that the three belonged to one family.  They are John Wood, who was owner and Skipper of the drifter, and his two sons, John and William.

We Will Remember Them

I am based in the north of Scotland in the small village of Aberlour. Having served in the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards in the 1980’s, I have a keen interest in military history, in particular the stories of those who served. I was a remote volunteer for the Imperial War Museum working on a World War 1 project giving stories to the people who served in the conflict and updating their website, however that centenary project has now finished and I felt the need to continue with my research on The Great War and hopefully it will be of interest to others.