Sergeant, 2431, Alexander Mitchell, D.C.M. – Survived the War

1st Royal Highlanders (Black Watch) and King’s African Rifles.

Private Alexander Mitchell, 1st Royal Highlanders (Black Watch) – © D.C.Thomson & Co. Ltd.

Dundee Courier – 26 September 1931

The following is an extract from the above publication relating to the death of Alexander Mitchell :- DUNDEE’S FIRST D.C.M. IN GREAT WAR – Death of Sergeant Alexander Mitchell – After a short illness, Mr Alexander Mitchell, labourer, 3 Morgan Street, Dundee, has died in Dundee Royal Infirmary. Mr Mitchell had the distinction of being the first Dundee man to win the Distinguished Conduct Medal in the Great War. Mr Mitchell, who was a son of the late Mr Andrew Mitchell, stevedore, 84 Ferry Road, Dundee, joined the 1st Battalion of the Black Watch in 1912.

He crossed to France on 13th August 1914, and his first action was Soissons. He took part the battle of the Aisne. He gained the Distinguished Conduct Medal near Ypres, by carrying a wounded comrade safety while under fire. The man was Mr James Mackie, of the same battalion, who now lives at 46 Hilltown, (Dundee).

During an action Mitchell bent down to pick up a map. As he did he heard a bullet pass him. He turned round and saw his chum fall. He went to Mackie’s assistance and carried him into a ditch. Afterwards placed him in an old wheelbarrow which was lying in the ditch and conveyed him to a place of safety. Mackie had been wounded through the shoulder. 

Private Mitchell took part in severe fighting shortly afterwards, and he was with Captain Fortune when that officer was the only officer left of the 1st Black Watch. Private Mitchell was wounded by an explosive bullet, which entered his back. He soon recovered, and when the war finished he held the rank of sergeant in the King’s African Rifles. 

Mitchell, who was 40 years of age, leaves a widow and two young children. His brother is Mr W. Mitchell, 75 Glenmarkie Terrace, Dundee, who joined the 9th Black Watch as a ranker and received a commission.

King’s African Rifles Cap Badge, similar to the one which would have been worn by Alexander Mitchell.

Further Military and Civilian Research

  • Alexander was attested at Perth on 18 October 1912, he was 19 years old and 9 months, joining the 1st Battalion Royal Highlanders (Black Watch).
  • In the Dundee evening Telegraph dated the 1st January 2015, prior to his presentation of the Distinguished Conduct Medal, he was interviewed and was unsure the exact reason for his award and gave a couple of possibilities why he may have been awarded it. The article is as follows :-
  • Private Alexander Mitchell, Dundee, who has been awarded the D.C.0.(note – This was actually the D.C.M.), has returned to Dundee. He is connected with the 1st Black Watch, and has not yet had official intimation of the honour bestowed on him, but thinks it must either have been awarded for standing by a machine gun during the attack of the Prussian Guard or for carrying a wounded comrade through shell fire to a place of safety. Interviewed today, Private Mitchell said he was attached to a machine gun section. Reaching the gun on 11th November, he found there was no ammunition. A six-foot Prussian dashed up intent on bayonetting him when Mitchell picked up a bully beef tin, and throwing it at the Prussian struck him full in the face, and before he could recover himself he was accounted for by another British soldier. On another occasion when kneeling to hand a water-bottle to a wounded soldier Mitchell was hit by a German bullet on the bandolier. The missile embedded itself in a cartridge case in the third row and exploded mine, and yet due to the position of his body he escaped with but a slight scratch on the knee, the nine bullets going right into the ground.
  • Alexander Mitchell was officially awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal on 16 January 1915 as stated in the London Gazette.
  • During the First World War, he became a bit of a celebrity in his home town during the early part of the war sending a series of articles from the front which were published in the local newspapers. One of these was an interesting article on the subject of fear when fighting in the trenches, which describes in some detail how he and others coped with the fear or he tells of an incident when one of his friends didn’t cope.
Black Watch Tartan, similar to what would have been worn by Alexander Mitchel.

Family

Alexander Mitchell was born or baptised in Dundee on 4 August 1891, the location is shown as Dundee, St.Clement although this area is unknown. The following family information is taken from the 1901 Census, at the time, Alexander and the family were residing at 13 Victoria Street, Dundee.

His family is shown as follows :-

  • Father – Andrew Mitchell, born c.1867 at Cameron, Fife, occupied as a Stevedore (Dock Labourer).
  • Mother – Isabella Mackie or Mitchell, born c.1864 at Dunino, Fife.
  • Sister – Mary, born c.1886 at Kilconquhar, Fife.
  • Brother – William, born c.1896 at Dundee. (Later was commissioned from ranks into the 9th Black Watch).
  • Sister – Charlotte, born c.1897 at Dundee.
  • Sister – Elspeth, born c.1899 at Dundee.
  • Sister – Elizabeth, born c.1900 at Dundee.

Addresses

  • In the 1901 Census, he was residing at 13 Victoria Street, Dundee.
  • At the time of his death, Alexander Mitchell was residing with his wife and children at 3 Morgan Street, Dundee.

Medals

Alexander Mitchell was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for bravery, the 1914 Star with Clasp and Roses, Victory and the British War Medals for his service in the Great War.

Medal Index Card – Alexander Mitchell

Links to Additional Information

References

  • Medal Index Card.
  • Medal Roll – Gordon Highlanders – Victory and British War Medals.
  • Medal Roll – Gordon Highlanders – 1914-15 Star.
  • Sunday Post – 11 July 1915.
  • 1901 Census.
  • 1891 Census.
  • Scotland, Births and Baptisms.
  • Edinburgh Gazette – dated 19 January 1915.

Contributors:-

  • Vincent Stuart
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