7th Gordon Highlanders, 13 November 1916
Synopsis of Life and Military Service
Benjamin Marshall was born on 27 May 1895 at Tomintoul in the Parish of Kirkmichael, Banffshire. Very little is known about his early days and his military service as his Military Record was destroyed, however, it is known that he was the illegitimate son of Annie Ross, a Domestic Servant and Robert Marshall, a Tailor and as a result from a very young age, he was resident with his Grandmother in Tomintoul.
On 22 July 1896, his mother brought a Paternity case to court against Robert Marshall and he was found to be the father.
In January 1916 the Military Service Act was passed. This imposed conscription on all single men aged between 18 and 41, but exempted the medically unfit, clergymen, teachers and certain classes of industrial worker.
Conscription was not popular in the country and like many others, Benjamin claimed exemption to having to join the military.
He attended a Military Tribunal in late May 1916 at Dufftown, made up of local leaders and land-owners to gain exemption from conscription as noted below.
The Dufftown News and Speyside Advertiser – Saturday 1st April 1916
Extract from the above publication –
Upper Banffshire Military Tribunal
Meeting At Dufftown
A meeting of the Tribunal for Upper Banffshire was held at the Masonic Hall, Dufftown, on Tuesday – Mr McLean, Drumin, factor to the Duke of Richmond and Gordon, presiding. The other members present were Messers James Sheed, Aldunie, Cabrach; Simpson, Stripeside, Grange; R. McCulloch, Newton, Mulben; Charles Kemp, Auchencrieve; Yool, factor, Ballindalloch; Grant, Tomintoul; Landale, factor, Aberlour; ex-Provost Cameron, Keith; and Dr G. C. Grant, Dufftown. In attendance – Colonel Fleming, military representative, and Major C.D. Murray, Edinburgh, advisory recruiting officer for Scotland.
Benjamin Marshall, Tomintoul, applied for exemption on the ground that he was the sole support of his grandmother. Mr Stuart, Huntly, who appeared on his behalf, stated that applicant would have gone to farm service, but he would have been unable to assist his grandmother, and he accepted casual employment.
Colonel Fleming said the applicant was a young man of 20 years of age, and it was a most outrageous proposal to say that he was going to stay at home to nurse his grandmother. He held that his grandmother would be much better off with a separation allowance.
In all, 87 cases were disposed of that day, the majority of the others being granted temporary exemption usually until 29th May. 85 cases were left to a future court to decide.
Following the result of the Tribunal, Benjamin enlisted into the army at Banchory, Deeside, Aberdeenshire and following training was placed into the 7th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders as Private, service number 4343. Following numerous weeks of training he moved to his unit to France / Flanders and his service number was updated to 291348. On 13th November 1916, he took part in a major attack with his regiment in the Somme area of France. The regimental diary notes the attack below.
War Diary of the 7th Gordon Highlanders – 13th November 1916
Extract from the above publication:-
Report of Attack of 13th November 1916
The Battalion was formed up for the attack as shown below.
Zero was at 5.45 a.m. and at 6 minutes before the leading platoons left their positions behind the parados where they had lain since midnight and crawled out in front of our own wire – The whole line immediately got away and was into the first German trench almost before our barrage lifted with practically no casualties.
The right half battalion (C and D Companies) kept up with the barrage the whole way and arrived at their objective (the SUNKEN ROAD) without a hitch.
Seeing a considerable number of enemy leaving the trench on the summit of the hill, about 300 yards beyond objective, they made for them and captured 1 officer and 50 men. The right company got in touch with the R.M.L.I. at German first trench and kept in touch all the way to SUNKEN ROAD.
In the meantime the two left companies had both been held up by Machine Gun fire from German first and second trenches, bombing parties crawled forward from the left of ‘A’ (extreme left) and the right of ‘B’ and after an hour of Bombing and hand to hand fighting three machine guns had been silenced and a number of snipers killed. These two companies then advanced, the second wave making straight for German 2nd line but had again to seek Shell-hole cover owing to Machine Gun fire from vicinity of 3rd German line. No one can be found to say as to how 2nd line was ultimately taken, but evidence from various individuals tends to show that the men advanced one by one, from shell hole to shell hole till the trench was captured. This trench was in our possession about 10’30 a.m. having taken five hours to capture. The third wave of these left companies now attempted to take the third German line but were obliged to seek shell-hole cover from Machine-Gun fire mostly from the rear.
Two bombing parties went back from the 2nd line to the 1st and found enemy had brought 2 Machine Guns into action. These guns and their crews had been concealed in mouth of a tunnel and were not found by the first clearing up party. There were six men to each gun, one firing and one assisting him while the others formed a bombing block of two, some distance from each side of the gun. One of our men was seen to crawl over the open to within ten yards of one of the machine guns and then charge it laying out the team with the butt of his rifle (This man cannot be traced now and probably became a casualty). After the silencing of these guns the third and fourth waves of ‘A’ and ‘B’ Companies commenced moving forward at the crawl as many snipers and two machine guns were still active in front. As soon as the men began to get a footing in the third trench about noon the enemy garrison began to show signs of surrender and ultimately over 800 put up their hands and the third line was immediately occupied.
In the meantime ‘C’ and ‘D’, the right companies in the attack were busying clearing up in 3rd and 4th lines and all evidence seems to show that these two companies were into their objectives before the garrison seemed to be aware even that an attack was taking place. Two officers and approximately 200 men were taken prisoner n the tunnel of third line. These were passed back into charge of the Bedfords as garrison could not afford to send more men as escort. In the third line 3 machine guns and their teams were captured without having fired a shot, the teams being found sitting on the stair steps of dug-outs, while engineers were found tending to large electric motor which provided light for neighbouring dug-outs. All the shelters in third line were fully lighted when our men entered the trench. The German officer captured on the crest of the hill beyond the SUNKEN ROAD (STATION ALLEY) was very communicative and informed the N.C.O. in charge that their was no need for anxiety as there would be no counter attack that day. On being asked why he thought so he replied that the attack was expected ten days ago but as it had never come off the troops who had been lying behind detailed for counter attack if necessary had been removed elsewhere and the trench garrison strengthened.
The ?th Gordon Highlanders followed our 4th wave very closely and ultimately came up strongly on our left half Battalion front. (‘A’ and ‘B’.) Companies.
About 5 p.m. your men in the fourth German line were relieved by the 4th Gordon Highlanders and retired to the third German line which they held from 5 p.m. on the 13th instant till 7 p.m. on the 15th instant when they were relieved by 2 companies of the 9th Royal Scots who took up position in the Ravine Shelters.
The whole operation was rendered most difficult owing to the tremendous depth of mud and the closeness of the heavy mist which prevented all visual signalling and caused a good deal of loss of direction. Communication was completely lost – nine messages are known to have been despatched by the two right companies only one of which reached Battalion Headquarters.
From the left two companies three messages were all that were received but as it turned out there were no unwounded officers remaining, and the men carried on without orders till their objectives were reached.
The Company and Battalion runners were sniped between third German line and our first line.
November 1916 CASUALTIES
Offiers – Killed – 4, Wounded – 14, Missing – 0.
Other Ranks – Killed – 78, Wounded – 196, Missing – 28.
Following the attack, Benjamin was marked as ‘missing in action’ along with another 27 in his unit. Sadly, his body was either never found or remained unidentified and as a result, following the end of the war he was honoured and remembered on the Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France.
His grandmother Elsie is shown as being the recipient of his pension and money due as specified in his Pension Card and The Register of Soldiers Effects.
Benjamin Marshall was born on 27 May 1895 at Tomintoul in the Parish of Kirkmichael, Banffshire. The following family information is taken from the 1901 Census and his Birth Certificate.
It is shown as follows :-
- Father: Robert Marshall, Tailor.
- Mother: Annie Ross, Domestic Servant.
- Grandmother: Elsie Ross, born c.1848 at Abernethy, Inverness-shire : General Servant.
- Uncle: John Ross, born c.1882 at Kirkmichael, Banffshire. Postboy
- Cousin: George MacDonald, born c.1891 at Kirkmichael, Banffshire.
On several documents, the family name is shown as being Rose, however it would appear that the correct name is Ross.
The following addresses have been ascertained for Benjamin Marshall :-
- 1901 – 46 Main Street, Tomintoul, Banffshire.
- 1917 – 82 Main Street, Tomintoul, Banffshire.
Benjamin Marshall is honoured and remembered on the following memorials :-
- Tomintoul Memorial Hall, Banffshire.
- Kirkmichael Memorial, Ballindalloch, Banffshire.
Links to Additional Information
- Find a Grave website – Benjamin Marshall – Thiepval Memorial.
- A Street Near You website – Benjamin Marshall.
- Lives of the First World War – Benjamin Marshall.
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission – Benjamin Marshall.
- Imperial War Museum Memorials – Tomintoul Memorial Hall, Banffshire.
- Imperial War Museum Memorials – Kirkmichael Memorial, Ballindalloch, Banffshire.
- Medal Index Card.
- Register of Soldiers Effects.
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
- Find a Grave.
- 1901 Census.
- Medal Roll – Gordon Highlanders – British War Medal and Victory Medal.
- Pension Card.
- Soldiers Died in the Great War.
- 7th Gordon Highlanders War Diary.
- The Dufftown News and Speyside Advertiser – Saturday 1st April 1916.
- Birth Certificate (Scotland’s People)
- Paternity Case (Scotland’s People)
- Vincent Stuart.
- Alison McColl (Birth Cert and Paternity Details)