1 September 2014

World War 1: - Remembering the sacrifice

Today, the first day of September 2014, marks the 100th anniversary of the death of 28 year old Douglas McCALLIE. 

Douglas Hawthorn McCulloch McCALLIE (Private 8159, 1st Btn, Royal Scots Fusiliers) was born at Whithorn, Wigtownshire, Scotland on the 1st of July 1886. Douglas and I share a common ancestor, my paternal 3x great grandfather James McCALLIE, therefore Douglas is my first cousin, three times removed. But he is also related to me in a second way; he is also my great, great uncle due to the fact that in 1908 he married my great grandmother’s sister Catherine (who incidentally was his first cousin).

War was declared against Germany on the 4th of August 1914 and Douglas was amongst the first of the British soldiers to arrive in France on the 14th of August as part of the British Expeditionary Force. They had their first encounters with the enemy forces on the 21st of August and within ten days of this first fighting Douglas was dead. He was one of the very early casualties of a war that was to last four long years and was to eventually leave over 16 million people dead and 21 million seriously wounded.

The 1st Btn Royal Scots Fusiliers, to which Douglas belonged, was part of the 9th Infantry Brigade, 3rd Division of the British II Corp. One of Douglas’s first encounters with the enemy would have been at the Battle of Mons (23rd - 24th Aug 1914) where 80,000 British soldiers confronted a huge German army who largely outnumbered the British. Although the British fought well and inflicted disproportionate casualties on the numerically superior Germans, they were eventually forced to retreat due to the greater strength of the Germans and the sudden retreat of the French Army.

British infantry marching through a French village, August 1914   *

After the Battle of Mons Douglas’s division was involved in fierce fighting on the 26th of August to the west of Le Cateau. The long slog of the retreat was to last for two weeks and saw the British Expeditionary Force pushed all the way back to the outskirts of Paris. Throughout this time there was often short, sharp rear-guard actions and pockets of very fierce fighting. What other conflicts Douglas took part in during this time I have been unable to accurately ascertain, and although he died on the 1st of September, the same day as the Battle of Néry, as far as I know his battalion was not involved with this action.

La-Ferte-Sous-Jouarre Memorial, France **
Although many British and German soldiers bodies were recovered early on and buried in the very first of the huge number of cemeteries to be established during the war, the body of Douglas McCALLIE was never found. He is commemorated on the La-Ferte-Sous-Jouarre Memorial to the missing at Seine-et-Marne, a small town located 66km to the east of Paris. The memorial commemorates the 3,740 men of the British Expeditionary Force who fell at the Battle of Mons, Le Cateau, the Marne and at the Aisne between the end of August and the beginning of October 1914 and who have no known graves.

Douglas's name on the La-Ferte-Sous-Jouarre Memorial
Sadly, I have no photo of Douglas. Although he was married, he had no children and he died far from his home in a foreign land. I feel so very sad for his mother Annie because not ten months later she was reliving the nightmare all over again with the death of another of her sons, James KEITH, at Gallipoli. To loose her two eldest sons must have been absolute heartbreak for her.

Douglas's name is now but an inscription on a memorial in a small town in southern Scotland, and also on another in eastern France. All those who knew him and loved him on this earth have now joined him in Heaven. He may not be remembered by many anymore but I never want him, nor the sacrifice he made, to be forgotten. 

Great Uncle Douglas, rest assured I will never forget you. Thank you for your bravery and your sacrifice. Rest in peace my brave Scottish soldier.

“Greater love has no man than this,

that he lay down his life for his friends.”

(John 15:13)


(Please note; the photo marked * is not mine and was found online here during my research,
the photo marked ** is also not mine and was found online here during my research)

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