Lieutenant, Havelock Arthur Terence Plunkett (19) – Killed in Action

2nd Royal Highlanders (Black Watch), 7th January 1916

Havelock Arthur Terence Plunkett from the Edinburgh University Roll of the Fallen.

Edinburgh University Roll of the Fallen

Extract from the above publication :- PLUNKETT, HAVELOCK A.T. (b. 1896) St Paul’s School, Darjeeling. Officer Training Corps Cadet Sergeant. University Officer Training Corps Infantry, April to August 1914, Cadet. Military College, Sandhurst, 1914. 3rd and 2nd Royal Highlanders (Black Watch), 2nd Lieutenant December 1914. France March 1915. Lieutenant May 1915. Indian Expeditionary Force, Mesopotamia, December 1915. Killed at Sheikh Said on 7th January 1916. (Ed. note – should say Shaik Saad, present day Iraq)

2nd Battalion Royal Highlanders (Black Watch) War Diary

The following is an extract from the above diary from the dates 7th and 8th January 1916, the former being the date of Havelock’s death.

  • 7th January 1916 – Battalion moved off at 8 a.m., in two columns, 100 yards apart, 6th Jats and 2nd Black Watch leading. Advanced about 2 miles and halted. Enemy had taken up entrenched positions at right angles to river, with a frontage of about 1500 yards, left flank thrown back. He had a further entrenchment some 800 yards out on his left flank, from which enfilade fire could be directed on any frontal attack. The 35th Brigade was sent forward to hold the enemy on our left, the 19 Brigade was to make a wide detour, get round the enemy’s left and roll up his line, the 21st Brigade was to support the 19th Brigade.

The 21st Brigade moved off, in artillery formation, to the right, 2nd Black Watch and 6th Jats leading. To enable the 19th Brigade to get round the enemies flank, the 21st Brigade was halted. Brigadier General Norie gave orders that the brigade would halt for some considerable time and that hot dinners, prepared in 2nd line transport, would be brought up. This was about 1.20 p.m., in another 5 minutes, General Norie came over to Lieutenant-Colonel A.G. Wauchope, DSO, (in command of the Battalion) and informed him that owing to the 19th Brigade having gone too far to the right, he was going to throw the 2nd Black Watch and 6th Jats, into the gap, and attack to his front. (This, General Norie did on a direct order from Colonel Emslie)

’18 pounder battery in action at Battle of Shaik Saad on right bank’, 7 January 1916
[Image number: 94411](National Army Museum – Out of Copyright)

2nd Black Watch and 6th Jats at once moved forward to attack in artillery formation. The order to attack and execution of orders were all hurriedly done, that no Scouts were sent out in front, and the Battalion Commander had no information of the enemy whatsoever. Magazines were only charged during the actual advance to the attack. Number 2 and 4 Companies formed the two front lines, 3 and 1 Companies, the third and fourth lines, each line being of two platoons, moving in fours. After advancing some 200 yards the leading lines came under extreme range rifle fire, and extended into line.

The advance was continued in ‘Quick Time’ for some 300 to 400 yards when fire from front and flank became too severe to admit of a continuance of this order. Hostile shrapnel now opened on the 3rd and 4th lines, causing considerable losses. Rifle fire was now heavy and continuous, and the advance was continued by frequent, fast, short rushes.

The most casualties occurred at from 1700 to 1200 yards from the enemy. The sun being in our faces, made observation of our own fire practically impossible, whilst the effects of mirage rendered the location of the Turkish Trenches very difficult. Lt-Col. Wauchope and all Company Commanders (excepting Lt. G. Curdie No.3 Company) were wounded early in the action. The advance continued till a point within 400 yards of the enemy was reached, by this time all the Supporting Lines had been absorbed and no reinforcements could be observed behind. The attacks on our right and left had also been brought to a stand still, so Captain D.C. Hamilton-Johnston, who was now left in command, stopped any further advance. The Battalion maintained this position until dusk.

The following officers, only, had reached this point :- Captain D.C. Hamilton-Johnston, Lt. G. Curdie, Lieutenants D.C. Stewart-Smith, R.H. Dundas, A.Douglas, F.H. Soutar, W.A. Young, J.C. Paterson, J.A. Henderson and J.F.C. Dixon – (ed.4th Argylls, attch 2 BW). The last four officers were wounded. About 120 men, only were left in action. During this period, the Ammunition Carriers did excellent work, running the gauntlet, under heavy fire, as many as three times. The machine-guns came up, until after dark, though Lt. A.B. Cumming, machine gun officer, who was wounded, early in the action, came right up and attempted to bring the guns with him.

Troops landing at Shaik Saad, Mesopotamia, 1916
[Image number: 133233](National Army Museum – Out of Copyright)

Telephone communication had broken down, visual signalling was impossible under the heavy fire, and all messages had to be sent by hand. Casualties were pretty heavy in the firing line, as the enemy’s fire was heavy and accurate for a period of four hours. At dusk, the line to the left of the Black Watch, retired some 250 yards, to the right was only scattered parties of 6th Jats and Seaforth Highlanders. Captain Hamilton-Johnston went back to find the 2nd Brigade Headquarters and get orders, but failed to find it. Failing orders, and finding that the Black Watch were left entirely unsupported, Captain Hamilton-Johnston gave orders to retire some 250 yards and entrench.

Lieutenant Soutar was sent back to bring up ammunition, rations, water and tools. Lieutenant Dundas was sent on the same errand as it was considered likely that the position of the Line Transport would be difficult to find. Lieutenant Dundas found the Battalion First Aid Post, with Captain Duncan overwhelmed with work, and eventually got 12 mules with ammunition, which he took up to the firing line. Entrenching Tools came up later.

The night was spent in consolidating the position and collecting the wounded. There were no arrangements other than the Battalion stretcher bearers, for removal of casualties. Running to our rear, at right angles to our line, was a shallow dry ditch, into which many wounded had crawled or were placed for shelter. All night, they cried out for water and help, but owing to the uncertainty of obtaining a further supply the limited amount available, could not possibly be given them.

Later in the night, mule carts and men from 2nd Line Transport came to a point some 200 yards behind the line and commenced the removal of the wounded. This work was just completed at dawn. Water and rations were brought up and issued, just before daybreak. During the night, there was little firing and no alarms from the Battalion Picquet, posted 250 yards in front, and withdrawn at dawn, when firing recommenced. All ranks were so exhausted that they fell asleep, and sentries had to be posted for the security of the line.

  • 8th January 1916 – The 8th was hot throughout. Being well dug-in, the Battalion sustained no casualties during the day. At dusk, 2nd Lieutenant Stewart-Smith with a party, commenced the task of collecting and burying the dead. The dead had to be sought for, over a wide extent of ground and the work was only completed at dawn. The work was arduous owing to lack of stretchers or blankets in which to carry the casualties.

The bodies of Lieutenants I.O. Hutchison and H.A.T. Plunkett, killed in action on 7th, were brought in and sent down MANDALIYEH REACH on the left bank of the river, and were buried there, by Reverend A. Macfarlane, Chaplain. The body of Lieutenant R.S. Morrison, who died of wounds, on 8th, was also interred here. (Ed. note – all these three soldiers buried are all mentioned on the Basra Memorial, Iraq, sadly it is likely they were never found after burial.)

Further Military and Civilian Research

  • In the London Gazette dated 15 December 1914 he appears in the Special Reserve of Officers in the Black Watch (Royal Highlanders)
  • In the London Gazette dated 23 November 1915, his name is mistakenly shown as Herbert A.T. Plunkett and promoted from 2nd Lieutenant to Lieutenant from 10 May 1915.
  • His brother Arthur Lancelot Bonner Plunkett was a 2nd Lieutenant in the Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway Rifles.

Family

Havelock Arthur Terence Plunkett was born on 15th April, 1896 at Bolarum, Madras, India. The following family information is taken from family ancestry trees.

His family is shown as follows :-

  • Father – Arthur James O’Leary Plunkett – Station Master.
  • Mother – Alice Ellen Bonner or Plunkett.
  • Sister – Marguerite May St John, born c.1885, d.1955.
  • Sister – Mary Josephine, born c.1889.
  • Brother – Arthur Lancelot Bonner, born 18 March 1890 at Secunderabad, India.
  • Sister – Ellen Bonner, born 20 December 1891 at Chudderghat, India.

Addresses

  • His mothers address in 1926 when applying for his medals is given as C/O Hilton, District Engineer, Sultan, Punjab, India.

Medals

Havelock A.T. Plunkett was awarded the 1914-15 Star, Victory and the British War Medals for his service in the Great War.

Memorials

Havelock Arthur Terence Plunkett is honoured and remembered on the Basra War Memorial, Iraq as his body was either never found or was unidentified, although the war diary does mention the area he was buried.

Conflicting Information

On researching several family trees, his name appears as Arthur Terence Havelock Plunkett.

Links to Additional Information

References

  •  Edinburgh University Roll of the Fallen.
  •  Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
  • Register of Soldiers Effects.
  • Medal Index Card.
  • Medal Roll – Back Watch – Victory and British War Medals.
  • Soldiers Who Died in the Great War.
  • National Army Museum.
  • 2nd Royal Highlanders (Black Watch) War Diary.
  • London Gazette – 15 December 1914, page 10696.
  • London Gazette – 23 November 1915, page 11595

Contributors:-

  • Vincent Stuart
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