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lest we forget

a GlescaPals tribute to 'oor forces'

Highland Light Infantry 

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 photographs from GlescaPals

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16th Battalion Highland Light Infantry    


During World War One, in response to Kitchener's Call to Arms, volunteer  battalions were formed. 
One such battalion was the 16th Battalion HLI which was formed mostly of members and ex-members of

The Boys' Brigade
on the 2nd September 1914 by the Lord provost & the City of Glasgow.   
The 16th (service) (2nd Glasgow)  Battalion HLI

HLI George SQ 1914
16th Highland Light Infantry on parade at George Square in 1914


The Battalion was raised in Glasgow on 2nd September 1914 as the 2nd Glasgow by the Lord Provost and City with many recruits from the Glasgow Boys' Brigade. 
In May 1915 the Battalion moved to Prees Heath, in Shropshire, where it joined the 97th Brigade of the 32nd Division HLI
The battalion suffered grievously during the first day of the Somme when the 32nd Division attacked Thiepval, and when 16th HLI came out of the line on the evening of July 3rd its casualties totalled 20 officers and 534 other ranks. The chapter describing this is titled "The Shambles of the Somme." And they were there again at the final battle at the Ancre in November when their casualties amounted to 13 officers and 390 other ranks. The 16th HLI was with the Army of Occupation. It was a good battalion and this history does them credit.
and sailed for France in November 1915. It served with that brigade on the Somme, on the Ancre and on the Flanders coast. In February 1918 it became the divisional Pioneer Battalion. There is useful information in the appendices: the Roll of Honour (36 officers and 795 dead), Honours and Awards, roll of officers and of other ranks who embarked for France with the Battalion on 23rd November 1915, and a list of officers who served with the Battalion overseas (135). 

16th Highland Light Infantry church parade


The plaque below is on the frontage of the Church of Authuille.
This village had a strong connection with the Highland Light Infantry during the years 1915-1916. 
The plaque, inaugurated on 1st July 1996, is dedicated to three battalions of this regiment who carried out fatal attacks against Thiepval and Leipzig Salient on 1st July 1916 : 
15th (Glasgow Tramways), 16th (Boys Brigade) and 17th (Glasgow Commercials).

The plaque exposes the extract of a speech of the chaplain of the regiment, Rev A.H. Gray, during a memorial service in Glasgow in July 1917. The plaque exists thanks to the initiative and to the efforts of GlescaPal Charlie McDonald, of the Thistle and Poppy Society, who launched a subscription..


To the eternal memory of the officers, NCO's and men of the
15th (Glasgow Tramways), 16th (Boys Brigade) and 17th (Glasgow 
Commercials) Battalions of the Highland Light Infantry who fought
and died near the village of Authuille during the opening days of
the Battle of the Somme on the First of July 1916
"From a hundred lonely graves in that foreign field - from the spots where they fell,
and which now are sacred spots for us - our dead men are asking us when we mean to 
erect that monument
From trench and shell hole where death found them, their voices call - young, musical
voices, the voices of boys still in their teens, the voices of martyrs on life's threshold.
Scarce a wind can blow that will not waft to these voices. And they ask a better
Britain as their monument. They ask it of you and me.
Shall we not go from this place resolved to build it?"

1916 - Authuille, France - The Battle of the Somme 
was, in fact, a series of battles, commencing with the Battle of Albert. It was fought to gain possession of one of the strongest parts of the German line, known as the Leipzig Redoubt, and the 15th, 16th and 17th H.L.I., in the trenches before Thiepval, all went into the attack. 
The 16th H.L.I. came up against intact wire, untouched by the bombardment, and lost 19 officers and 492 rank and file within a few hours. 



Mar.2008, Info sent from GlescaPal Geordie, Thailand.
Frankfurt Trench Incident
The 16th Highland Light Infantry had been well and truly blooded on that catastrophic first day of the Somme battles which cost the Glasgow Boys Brigade Battalion over two-thirds of its strength, including 20 out of 25 officers. Now, on 18th November, 1916, heavily reinforced, mostly from the Highland Cyclist battalion, the Glaswegians peered through swirling snow at the heights of Beaumont-Hamel. At 6.10 a.m. the barrage lifted and each man, laden down with half a hundredweight of arms and equipment, including six bombs, 220 rounds of ammunition and a trenching spade, heaved himself out of the jump-off trench and into No Man's Land.
On the left flank the 2nd Manchesters, 2nd K.O.Y.L.I. and the 11th Borders, after initial successes, were heavily counter-attacked and beaten back. On the battalion's half right front an enemy strong point of six to eight machine guns pinned down "A" and "B" companies. Only "C" and "D" companies on the half left penetrated the German front line, Munich trench. Three platoons of "D" company, leaving the rest to clear their captured trench, pushed on to their second objective, Frankfurt trench. Despite heavy shelling and vicious machine gun fire, the second trench was stormed and its 50 surviving defenders made prisoners and sent back under escort. This group reached Munich trench in time for the guards to be shot down and the prisoners freed as the mopping-up party, attacked from three sides by overwhelming numbers, was rushed and destroyed. The attempted capture of the German first and second trenches and the subsequent command of Beaumont-Hamel spur had failed after heavy casualties (the 16th alone had lost 13 officers and 390 other ranks).
Now, with Munich trench cleared, the Germans no doubt considered that the 32nd Division's assault had been completely repulsed. However, unbeknown to the Germans, a battered remnant of Frankfurt trench was still garrisoned by three officers and about 60 other ranks of the 16th H.L.I., together with a few men from the 11th Borders. This party, with Munich trench once more firmly held by the enemy, was now deeply implanted in Gernlan territory.
By nightfall a number of stragglers had reached Frankfurt trench and the community had grown to about 45 effectives and a similar number of wounded. A dusk reconnaissance revealed that the trenches in front and behind, together with the communication alleys on either flank, were occupied by Germans and the garrison was isolated with very limited resources. Two dugouts still existed in the battered trench, one was allocated to the wounded, in charge of a corporal, and the fit men accommodated in the second. There were four Lewis guns with a limited number of rounds which were implemented from bandoliers of the dead lying in the open. In addition, the men handed their own small arms ammunition to the machine gunners and then armed themselves with captured German rifles and cartridges. The machine gun N.C.O., Lance Corporal Veitch, the son of a sergeant in the Scots Greys and a survivor of the Somme holocaust, was to prove himself a tower of strength and be recommended for the Victoria Cross. Bombs were not too plentiful and food and water were both scarce, but in worst case of all were the wounded. There were insufficient field dressings to cover all the mangled flesh and, apart from occasionally easing the sufferer's position, nothing could be done for those unfortunates with broken bones and limbs.
By the second day the garrison had settled to a state of siege. Collapsing trench walls had been revetted and machine gun emplacements set at vital points. The senior N.C.O., Sergeant Lee, a Glasgow Corporation roads foreman before the war and an original member of the battalion, cheered and encouraged his men through the day. He too would later be recommended for the V.C. That night a sergeant of the 11th Borders crept through the enemy lines to bring succour. At dawn on the third day, supported by trench mortar fire and bombs, the Germans made a determined attempt to wipe out the puny garrison. By the time the attack melted away the balance of strength in the trench had shifted and there were now more wounded than fit men. Accordingly, the line was shortened, the smaller dugout evacuated and, after dark, the routine search for shell-hole water assumed a fresh urgency. That night a heavy British barrage fell round the garrison, but after the first bursts of small arms fire there was silence, the first relief had failed. Fresh hope came on the fourth day when torch signals flashed from British planes urged the garrison to hold out as help was on the way. The fifth day saw the promised relief attack beaten back with over 300 casualties. Once again the garrison was driven underground by heavy shelling, which blew in the dugout entrances and destroyed much of the revetting.
Conditions in Frankfurt trench were rapidly worsening. Many of the wounds were gangrenous and lack of sleep and food was blunting the efficiency of the active men. On the afternoon of the sixth day, 23rd November, the Germans launched a powerful attack from front and flanks which almost succeeded. Unusually heavy shelling and the sentries' warnings aroused the defenders, but it was difficult for exhausted men to run up half-destroyed dugout steps. After a hand-to-hand struggle with entrenching tools and bayonets the Germans were routed, leaving behind them eight prisoners. One of the heaviest blows to the defence was the loss of the indefatigable Lance Corporal Veitch, after the fight was over, killed by a sniper's bullet as he manned his Lewis gun. On the morning of the seventh day an Inniskilling Fusilier, captured in one of the unsuccessful relief attempts, appeared waving a white flag with a message from the German divisional commander. Roughly translated it read "Surrender and get good treatment or stay where you are and be killed".
After a short pause, presumably for reflection, the occupants of Frankfurt trench were subjected to the heaviest bombardment they had yet endured; one of the casualties was Sergeant Lee, killed by shrapnel. That night the searchers found a pool of precious water and several bottles were stealthily filled and passed back to the trench. However, when it was poured it was so discoloured and gave off such a villainous stench that the corporal in charge of the wounded refused to give it to his casualties, in spite of their pleas. Just as well - those who drank it contracted a virulent form of typhoid.
The promised German attack came on the eighth day, in force and from every point of the compass. Sentries and machine gunners were shot down or bombed as the listless effectives struggled from the dugout. The process of sheer annihilation was only halted by screams from the eight enemy prisoners. The last stand of "D" Company of the 16th H.L.I. was over. Fifteen sick and exhausted men stumbled into captivity; the remainder were painfully manhandled out on stretchers or buried where they lay. Two of the wounded died on their way to prison camp and yet another was shot by the Germans for accepting a piece of bread from a Frenchwoman.
In 1919 the recommendation under Army Order 193 was sponsored by no less a personage than General Sir Hubert Gough, commander of the Fifth Army. The closing sentence of his letter to the War Office reads, "I consider that these men deserve great recognition for the magnificent example of soldierly qualities they displayed". It seems probable that every survivor was decorated because the 16th received one D.S.O., two M.C.s, II D.C.M.s and 22 M.M.s-the highest number of awards, by far, to any one battalion. The two N.C.O.s, both recommended for the Victoria Cross, each received a posthumous mention in despatches.
Distinguished Service Order Lieut.John Stewart
Military Cross Lieut. Malcolm M. Lyon , Lieut. Frank Scott
Distinguished Conduct Medal (0) 14952 Cpl. P. E. Browne, (0) 14811 Sergt. J. M. Buchan, 3579 L/Cpl. J. Eastop (0)
14661 L/Cpl. A. C. Fletcher, 43183 Pte. I. Fraser,  26203 L/Cpl. G. McArthur, (0) 14493 Pte. J. McLay 27274 Pte. R. K. Mansen,
43155 Pte. D. Millar, (0) 14388 Pte. J. Mitchell, 43163 Pte.J.Smart
Mentioned in Despatches (0) 15154 Sergt. G. A. Lee, (0) 14545 L/Cpl. J. Veitch
Military Medal 27252 Pte. G. Cairns 43161,  3563 Pte.J. Duncanson, 28779 Pte. G. Grant, 9345 Pte. W. Gunning 40546 Pte. A. Hay, 43144 Pte. J. Hughes, 45105 Cpl. (A/L. Sgt.) H.J. Lamb, 32681 L/Cpl.J. McAllister, 24571 Pte. R. McBride,  27250 Pte.J. W.M. McGregor, (0) 14823 Pte. J. McGrottie, 30325 Pte. R. McKinley
(0) 1451 Pte. H. McInnes, (0) 3524 Pte. A. McPhee, 27270 Pte. J. F. Manson, (0) 14398 Cpl.J. Reid, 43181 Pte. R. Shaw, 43161 Pte.J. Smart, (0) 14287 Pte. A. Smith,  30306 Pte. J. Stevenson, 40542 Pte. T. G. Steward, 43165 Pte. D. Whittet

Sept.2012, email from Alistair McBride, England
Hi - I wonder if you can help me? I read with great interest an article on the Frankfurt Trench action of November 18th, 1916 written by GlescaPal Geordie from Thailand. My name is Alistair McBride; my grandfather was Pte Richard McBride, one of the brave men captured after that horrific action. Would be very keen to get in touch with Geordie and find out any more details - do you have an email address?
Many thanks.Alistair McBride

Webmaister : Geordie was happy to speak to Alistair and I passed on the email addresses, however thus far I haven't heard back from them.

Apr.2021, email from Richard McMillan, Age 45, London,  England
I am the great-grandson of Lance-Corporal John Veitch's eldest brother, Nathaniel Veitch, who survived the war. He was still alive when I was very young but I never met him. I found your article most interesting, for which I thank you.

GlescaPal Geordie, Thailand. HLI medal collection

..   .

HLI George Sq 1914
16th Highland Light Infantry on parade at George Square in 1914






Extract from e-mail, June 2005, Celia, Canada
.........the new National War Museum at Edinburgh Castle. One Article stood out, I knew would mean a lot to you Webmaister. One of the most prized exhibit's is a battered trophy, shield competed by the 62nd Glasgow Company. of the Boy's Brigade, in memory of ex-member's killed in action in 1916, whilst serving with the 16th Battalion, Highland Light Infantry. It was known as the PALS BRIGADE, as it was raised almost entirely, from boy's, who had been in the BB. My husband, a Dalmarnock Rd guy, was a member of the BB
Extract from e-mail, Nov 2005, John Cooper, Glasgow
.......... a memorial honouring the 16th HLI was placed in BB House (Bath Street) a number of years ago... It is now in the new BB HQ at Ibrox Church, Clifford Street, Glasgow. 


June 2006 Extract from GP Messageboard, Charlie McD, Glasgow
Due to the response from many of you to my In Flanders Field post and several PM's it is obvious that there are many 'Glesga Pals' out there who have had family members who have been involved in some capacity or another in The Great War. Alas due to no records or other family members still alive to tell the tale you are unsure of where your great uncle's or long lost family members are buried or commemorated.
The Pals Battalions
On the outbreak of war in August 1914 the British Army was a small professional body made up of Regulars and Territorials who formed the immediate reserve. Lord Kitchener was one of the few public officials to refute the idea that the war would all be over by Christmas and set about forming a new army, made up of volunteers. Your Country Needs You proclaimed the recruiting posters and in a frenzy of patriotism thousands joined. Many of these new battalions were made up of men who joined up as a group: perhaps by town, perhaps by trade. They would always refer to themselves as a pals battalion regardless of what the Army wanted to call them.

The 15th Glasgow Tramways ( The Boozy First) , 16th Glasgow Boys Brigade(The Holy Second) and the 17th Glasgow Commercials (The Featherbeds) Battalions were never called 'The Glasgow Pals'...the only one reference I have ever came across calling them that was in the programme for the play 'The Big Picnic' ...this reference was by Professor Hew Strachan but I doubt if the good Professor ever read this anywhere and just used it a generalisation in reference to the Pals Battalions which were being recruited all over Britain though mainly in the North of England.

Anyway I usually get to the small hamlet of Authuille just outside Albert every 1st of July and lay a wreath at the H.L.I Memorial which I had unveiled on the 80th Anniversary in 1996. The wreath is a private and personal thing I do in memory of 'ma boys' from the 15th , 16th & 17th - I have a list of the names and index card of every one of them where they were born , name rank and number and sadly in many cases photos of where they are buried. Authuille is a small rural village and only used as a means to get up to the Thiepval Ridge by many Great War enthuisasts although it does have two beautiful cemeteries - where a certain Private William McBride is buried - there is actually two soldiers of the same name buried there but neither of them are the Willie McBride of Eric Bogle's ballad.

Pipers Memorial - see the story and picture of the Authuille Memorial to the H.L.I. on this webpage ( see above )

Anyway this year apart from my usual wreath laying ceremony at Authuille I will lay one at the Thiepval Memorial To The MIssing and one at the 9th H.L.I. (Glasgow Highlanders ) Battalion Memorial at High Wood - my granda's regiment.
The Thiepval memorial

Which means I have a spare Poppy Wreath to use I will lay it at the Menin Gate Memorial to The Missing in Ipres/ Ypres on behalf of the Glesga' Pals. When we do these wee wreath laying ceremonies we usually read out a wee list of The Fallen and also those who fought and survived in all conflicts that the British Army were involved in from the Great War , the Second World War , Palestine , Korea , Cyprus , Aden , the Falklands , Northern Ireland , Afghanistan and up to the present day conflict in Iraq. So if any Glesga Pals would like to have a name read out in our Remembrance Ceremony then please send me their name , rank and number plus any whereabouts of a grave if they were killed.
Menin Gate Memorial offer is still open to any of you who would like a photo of your loved ones grave in France or Flanders. It will take time but I will get them for you I promise.  Lest We Forget ........... Charlie McDonald


Nov 2006 Extract from GP Messageboard, Charlie McD, Glasgow
.......the 18th of November is traditionally known as Battalion Day in Glasgow in memory of the 16th (Glasgow Boys Brigade) Battalion of the Highland Light Infantry. For many years the veterans of the regiment would form up at the Cenotaph in George Square to remember the deeds and valour of their fallen comrades in the action known as New Munich and Frankfurt Trench in the last week of the Somme in 1916.
So all you former members of the Boys Brigade take sometime out during the day to remember the Boys of the Old Brigade. I will remember them at sometime tomorrow when I visit George Square.............Sure and Stedfast

Feb.2008 Extract from email .. John McKinley webmaster St.James Church Pollok.
I am the current administrator for the St James' (Pollok) Parish Church. I would like to ask if it is possible to either link to your website Forces page 5a for this section on the 16th Battalion Highland Light Infantry as this has some significance to the church.
  St James' (Pollok) Parish Church. has a stained glass window depicting the first and second world wars and since its the Boys Brigades 125th celebrations this year I thought it would be poignant to have this as part of the website as my father was a member of The Royal Highland Fusiliers as the HLI was part of it.
  photo by Dr John Mann - St James' minister/pastor



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