6th Gordon Highlanders,
24th April 1917
The Banffshire Herald dated 5th May 1917
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 (1917). 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 on 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.
De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour
An extract from the above publication – Matheson, John Hugh, Military Cross, Captain, 6th (Service) Battalion, The Gordon Highlanders, Fourth son of James Matheson, of Bog of Cullicudden, Resolis, county Ross, Crofter by his wife, Jessie, daughter of Patterson; born Avoch, county Ross, 23rd August 1879; educated Newhall Public School, Resolis; was subsequently headmaster of Clenterty Public School, Gamrie, county of Banff; Enlisted in November 1914; obtained a commission as second lieutenant in April 1915; promoted lieutenant in September 1916, and Captain January 1917; served with the expeditionary force in France and Flanders from 18 October 1915; was wounded at Fampoux, 24 April 1917, and died the following day. Buried at Duisans. His chaplain wrote: “we were all hoping that he would recover, but since this has not been so, I can assure you that your husband played the part of a true British soldier, and leaves behind him an excellent record as a Christian hero,” and a brother officer: “he was a soldier and a man, liked and, what is not always the case, respected by the men of his company, who were proud to serve under him. He was latterly my own Company Commander, so that I can speak from personal experience, and he and I have soldiered together for a long time. We had the same profession; were Privates together in Keith, were officers together, and, finally, I had the pleasure of serving under him. There was no officer in whom the sergeant reposed so much confidence. I have spoken with those who were with him when he was hit, and you can be proud of your husband’s memory, for his men speak of his devotion to his duty.” Captain Matheson was awarded the Military Cross [London Gazette, November 1916], for gallantry in capturing about 30 officers and men. He married at Beaumont Hamel, in November 1916, Mary Jane (May), daughter of Dickson Fraser Fleming, Head Master of Avoch Public School, co. Ross.
Report on 6th Battalion Gordon Highlanders Action in the Operations on 23 April 17
The following is an extract from the above Operations Report from the dates 23rd July 1917, the date of Matheson being wounded and his subsequent death.
The work assigned to the 6th Gordons in the operations on the 23rd April was the capture of a German trench running from I.20.b.7.5. in a north westerly direction to I.15.c.58. (known as the RED LINE); the capture of HAUSA AND DELBAR WOODS and the digging of a support line about 200 yards on the British side of the German trench. The assault on the trench was to be delivered by two Companies in a wave of two ranks and the digging by two supporting companies.
The 153rd Brigade to which the 6th Gordons were temporarily attached to act as follows : The 7th Black Watch on the right of the Brigade front with the 7th Gordons on the left were to take the BLACK and BLUE lines. The 6th Gordons on the right and the 6th Black Watch on the left wee to pass over the other two battalions; the 6th Gordons to take the objectives already mentioned and the 6th Black Watch to dig a line running roughly northward from the trench captures by the 6th Gordons. An elaborate artillery barrage scheme had been prepared for dealing with all objectives. The 6th Gordons were to jump off from the Assembly Trenches PUDDING and PORT.
The Commanding Officer intended to advance his battalion in artillery formation of half platoons in an easterly direction keeping the trenches named HOPEFUL, HUMID and HUDDLE on his left flank and marching on a front of about 450 yards. It was expected that the battalion would reach the CHEMICAL WORKS before an extension would be needed, seeing that the BLACK and BLUE lines were to be taken by a proceeding battalion. When the railway culvert had been reached by the left flank the battalion was to change direction half right and, following closely the artillery barrage, the trench was to establish posts on the eastern outskirts at I.15.0.3.. and I.21.a.74.
The battalion, on the 23rd April, reached the Assembly Trenches without mishap at 2 a.m. and took up its position, starting the advance at ZERO plus 1 (5.45 a.m.) “A’ Company on the right and “B” Company on the left were the assaulting companies and “C” Company followed by “A” and “D” Company, “B” Company in support. The battalion came under heavy shell-fire immediately on leaving the Assembly Trenches, but proceeded without great loss, except in the case of a platoon of ‘B’ Company which was practically wiped out, until it came under violent machine gun fire, which make an extension necessary much earlier than was intended. This extension took place somewhere in H.18.a. and c. and the advance was continued with great difficulty as the front German trench was still untaken (BLACK line) and was held very strongly by the enemy. The delay occasioned by the taking of this line and the CHEMICAL WORKS lost to the attack the advantage of the artillery barrage and the battalion suffered accordingly.
On the left one platoon of ‘B’ Company managed to reach a position about I.13.a.994. but by this time three of the four Company Officers had fallen. ‘A’ Company on the right had also to extend early. In order to escape the edge of FAMPAUX at a point H.17.b.91. which was being very heavily shelled, it closed to the left and then worked round to the right. Part of the company reached a trench which the FAMPAUX – CHEMICAL WORKS road intersects immediately in front of the German front line and were here held up owing to the severity of the fire. By this time the confusion was very great. Platoons, Companies and Battalions were mixed and the accounts of the fighting are very confused. The men managed to advance only by the use of bits of trenches and shell holes. A Tank which came in response to a signal rendered great assistance at this stage of the attack. It attacked the German trench, cleared it and then proceeded to deal with the CHEMICAL WORKS.
About 6 a.m. when the advance had reached about H.18.b.32., Lieutenant J. Dawson, D.S.O. had been severely wounded and the command had devolved on Captain Hutcheson. When the Tank came on the scene Captain Hutcheson carried the advance forward until the CHEMICAL WORKS were reached. About 9.30 a.m. Captain Hutcheson established his Headquarters at I.13.0.99. and posts were thrown out round the CHEMICAL WORKS. Urgent messages were despatched, by pigeons and runners, for reinforcements but none were forthcoming and as the enemy fire was very heavy and the number of casualties great, while the number of men at Captain Hutcheson’s disposal was small, he decided to withdraw. This he did, at 12 noon, leaving a post at the QUARRY. This post held its ground until a general advance later in the day, assisted by the 6th Seaforths, permitted a line to be dug 30 yards in front of the ROEUX – GAVRELLE ROAD. This advance took place at 8.30 p.m.
The 6th Gordons were withdrawn to the British Front line about 11.45 p.m. and there they remained during the night. They were relieved next day at 12 noon by the 25th Northumberland Fusiliers, (103rd Brigade), and after a period of rest in the Assembly Trenches, were moved back the same night to bivouac in ST. NICHOLAS.
From the foregoing it will be seen that the objectives were not gained. This failure was due to the fact that the BLACK and BLUE lines were not taken, but had to be fought for, and the time taken to do this lost to the attack the protection of our own artillery barrage. The enemy machine gun fire was of an extremely galling nature. The Battalion went into battle 630 strong.
- 28 were killed.
- 194 wounded.
- 28 Missing.
Further Military and Life Research
- John’s award for the Military Cross appeared in The London Gazette dated 10 January 1917 when he was a 2nd Lieutenant and stated “For conspicuous gallantry in action. He led his men with great courage and determination, capturing two enemy officers and 34 other ranks and clearing the enemy trenches.”
- John Matheson was later buried at Duisans British Cemetery, Etrun, Pas de Calais, France.
- In the National Probate Register of 1918 his widow Mary was sole legate to the estate which was valued at £238. She was also sole legate in the Register of Soldiers Effects.
John Hugh Matheson was born on 23rd August, 1879 at Avoch, Ross and Cromarty. The following family information is taken from the 1881, 1891 and 1901 Census.
His family is shown as follows :-
- Wife – May Jane Fleming or Matheson
- Father – James Matheson, born c.1828 at Terintosh, Ross-shire – Farm Labourer.
- Mother – Jessie Patterson or Matheson, born c.1841 at Resolis, Ross & Cromarty.
- Sister – Mary, born c.1863 aat Resolis, Ross & Cromarty.
- Brother – Andrew, born c.1866 at Resolis, Ross & Cromarty – Farmers Servant.
- Sister – Catherine, born c.1868 at Resolis, Ross & Cromarty.
- Sister – Isabella, born c.1870 at Resolis, Ross & Cromarty.
- Brother – William, born c.1874 at Resolis, Ross & Cromarty.
- Sister – Christine, born c.1876 at Resolis, Ross & Cromarty.
- Sister – Lille, born c.1878 at Resolis, Ross & Cromarty.
- Brother – Alex, born c.1884 at Resolis, Ross & Cromarty.
- Cousin – Edward, born c.1890 at Resolis, Ross & Cromarty.
The following addresses have been ascertained from the 1881, 1891, 1901 Census and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
- 1881 – No.3 Ballicherry, Resolis, Ross & Cromarty.
- 1891 – 2 Sprigfield, Resolis, Ross & Cromarty.
- 1901 – Lodging with the Clarkson family at 23 Miller Street, Larkhall, Lanarkshire.
- 1918 – His date on his death and of his wife in 1918 was ‘The School House’, Avoch, Ross & Cromarty.
- CWGC – Address of his wife following his death was at Gollanhead House, Rosemarkie, Ross-shire.
John Hugh Matheson was awarded the 1914-15 Star, Victory and the British War Medals for his service in the Great War and also the Military Cross for bravery.
John Hugh Matheson is honoured and remembered on the following memorials :-
- Gamrie War Memorial, Aberdeenshire.
- Family Headstone at the Old Burial Ground, Cullicudden, Ross & Cromarty.
- Resolis Parish War Memorial, Cullicudden, Ross & Cromarty.
Links to Additional Information
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission – John Hugh Matheson
- Lives of the First World War – John Hugh Matheson
- A Street Near You website – John Hugh Matheson
- Imperial War Museum – Gamrie War Memorial
- Find a Grave – John Hugh Matheson – Duisans British Cemetery
- Imperial War Museum – John Matheson Family Headstone at Resolis
- Imperial War Museum – Resolis Parish War Memorial
- Imperial War Museum – Gamrie War Memorial
- Banffshire Herald dated 5th April 1917.
- Medal Index Card.
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
- De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour.
- Lives of the First World War Site.
- Pension Card.
- 1881 Census.
- 1891 Census.
- 1901 Census.
- Scottish National Probate Register 1918.
- Soldiers Died in the Great War Document.
- Register of Soldiers Effects.
- London Gazette dated 10 January 1917, issue 29898, page 460.
- Vincent Stuart
- Philippe DEGROOTE (Photo of Grave)