‘B’ Company, 1st/6th Gordon Highlanders, 16th May 1917
Alexander McConnachie Lawrence enlisted at Keith, Morayshire. He served within the Gordon Highlanders, the 6th Battalion and his military numbers were 12312 followed later by 266384 and achieved the rank of Lance-Corporal. He served in the France / Belgium Theatres of War.
The 1/6th Gordon Highlanders were engaged in a major defensive operation on the 15th and 16th May 1917, the day of Alexanders death when the Germans carried out a major barrage which included gas shells, and followed that up with an attack with large numbers of troops.
The War Diary of the 6th Gordon Highlanders describes the operation in depth in a 6 page Report. A small section of the Report is attached in relation to ‘B’ Company, which Alexander was a part of :-
“This Company was to relieve one Company of Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders holding CORONA from junction of CEYLON and CORONA Northwards with two platoons. One company of 1/5th Seaforth Highlanders between junction of CEYLON and CORONA and the river Scarpe with two platoons. This line consisted of a series of posts which ran in front of the cemetery and through the centre of ROEUX.
Two platoons of this Company, under 2nd Lieutenant J.M. McLeod proceeded up CEYLON TRENCH to relieve one Company of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in CORONA. They had reached the junction of CEYLON and CAP when the enemy barrage opened, and shortly afterwards the Germans were seen advancing between CORONA and the CHEMICAL WORKS. Some men of these platoons occupied CAP, and went forward later with Captain D.G. CLARK when he advanced. The remainder, under 2nd Lieutenant J.M. McLeod, occupied the trench between the South East corner of the CHEMICAL WORKS and CORONA, and opened fire. The enemy retired. Two platoons, under Captain CLARK, advanced along CRUMP and entered CUSP. The leading platoon was in CUSP, the rear platoon was still in front when the enemy barrage opened – also machine gun fire from the right bank of the river. Seeing that relief was impossible under these circumstances, Captain CLARK occupied CUSP and CRUMP with his two platoons.”
Alexander was killed in action around the time of this attack near Fampoux, Pas de Calais, France on 16 May 1917 and is commemorated at the Arras Memorial, Pas de Calais, France as either his body was never identified or was never recovered.
Letter of Thanks to the Brigade
The following is a Letter of Thanks to the Brigade following the attacks of the 15th and 16th May 1917, from the Brigadier General, Commanding 152nd Infantry Brigade.
“I wish to place on record my high appreciation of the very gallant conduct of all ranks and all units of the Brigade on the 15th and 16th May, 1917, when the German attack on ROEUX and the CHEMICAL WORKS was driven off with very heavy losses to the enemy.
The hostile bombardment which preceded the attack, and which continued throughout the 15th May was heavier and of longer duration than any bombardment I have yet seen, and to have withstood this and then to have so thoroughly defeated the enemy is a performance which calls for the highest praise.
In an action where all did so well, it is invidious to mention any special unit or detachment, but I would make an exception in the case of the Headquarters of the 1/8th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, who, led by Lieutenant Colonel CAMPBELL personally, vigorously attacked a party of the enemy who had broken through our lines and turned the flank of our position, killing some 25 of their number and capturing 50 others, thus restoring the situation. My congratulations and thanks are due to all Commanders and men for their great gallantry in this battle.”
Alexander Lawrence was born circa 1897 at Keith, Banffshire.
In the 1901 Census his family was shown as:-
- Father – James Lawrence, born c.1869 at Cairnie, Aberdeenshire.
- Mother – Ann Spence McConnachie or Lawrence, born c.1873 at Strathdon, Aberdeenshire.
- Brother – James, born c.1900 at Aberlour, Banffshire
Prior to the war his occupation was shown as an Apprentice Engineer at Mirrlees Watson Engineering Company, Glasgow.
- In the 1901 Census, the Lawrence family including Alexander were residing at Gladstone Villa, Aberlour, Banffshire.
- Following his death, his family was shown at The Mount, Craigellachie, Banffshire.
Links to Additional Information
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission – Alexander Lawrence
- Lives of the First World War – Alexander Lawrence
- Find a Grave – Arras Memorial
- Find a Grave – Aberlour Cemetery, Morayshire.
- A Street Near You website – Alexander McConnachie Lawrence
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission
- Medal Index Card – Alexander McConnachie Lawrence
- Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914-1919
- 1901 Census
- Lives of the First World War website
- War Diary of the 6th Gordon Highlanders
- Vincent Stuart