Lost graves of the Royal Scots; the personal stories of three men

In searching the WW1 Army Service Records online I came across a single (torn) page making reference to four isolated graves, in various locations, of men that had died in 1918. The record had been made by a ‘Graves Registration Unit’, but no date was recorded.

The names and details of three of these men were also listed and all men had served with The Royal Scots.

I was intrigued as to whether I could discover the stories of these brave men and find the location of the graves on a contemporary trench map.

335833 Pte Thomas Scott, 8th Royal Scots

“Isolated grave near Hinges, 10 miles S.S.E. of Hazebrouck”

Private Scott was difficult to identify because there was no soldier with that name and regimental number that was killed on the 18th July 1918. However, a further search of CWGC identified 335833 Pte Thomas Scott, aged 22, who was k/a on the 23rd July as the most likely candidate. Unfortunately, it would appear that Thomas’ body was not recovered after the War and he is now Commemorated on the Soissons Memorial.

The Soissons Memorial commemorates almost 4,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom forces who died during the Battles of the Aisne and the Marne in 1918 and who have no known grave.

Thomas was the son of of Robert and Susan Scott of 10 Morningside Square, Newmains, Wishaw in Lanarkshire.

11354 Pte John Henry Poyner, 2nd Royal Scots

“Protestant Cemetery, The Hague”

John Poyner died one day after the Armistice on 12th November 1918, aged 25. He was the son of William and Annie Poyner of 72 Bradbury Lane, Hednesford in Staffordshire and was born at High Town, Cannock, Stafford.

James was a coal miner and enlisted into The Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment) on the 4th January 1913, aged 18, having previously served with the 5th Battalion North Staffs Regiment.

2nd Battalion Royal Scots 1913

He arrived in France on the 11th August 1914 and was captured unwounded by the Germans on 26th August 1914 at Caudry. and was interned in Hamelu and Diepholzer POW Camps.

John Poyner MIC

Caudry town was the scene of part of the Battle of Le Cateau on the 26th August 1914; see here for more details.

26th August 1914

John was originally reported as killed in action on the 14th September 1914 (Casualty List No. 1778), but in November his mother received a postcard from him stating that he was a prisoner of war.

Prisoner of War letter
Post card received from John Poyner

At some point John appears to have been wounded and transported for internment in Holland, where he died.

Army Service Record
Record of John Henry Poyner’s death in the Netherlands

59731 Pte James Park, 11th Royal Scots

“W. side of Row of Pill Boxes, S. of Sans Some South of Roulers Railway, 3 miles E by N. of Ypres

James Park was from Glasgow in Lanarkshire and served overseas with the 16th, 12th and 11th Battalions of the Royal Scots, which suggests that he may have been wounded several times and moved between different Battalions of the Regiment following his convalescence.

BWM and VM entry for James Park
James was killed in action on the 28th September 1918

After the War James’ body was exhumed and reburied in August 1918 in Perth China Wall Cemetery. Interestingly, although the Graves Registration Unit recorded that his was an ‘isolated grave’, he was actually buried alongside Frederick William Bruback of the 27th Field Ambulance RAMC. The record also provides a precise location of their graves.

IWGC reburial record

The War Department trench maps shows that this was a very heavily defenced area and well-known Pill Boxes such as Kit and Kat and Anzac are recorded.

Trench Map from early 1917 showing a strong German position at 0.0 in square J2 C
A line of three blue boxes at 0.0 in Square J2 C may be reference to the ‘W. side of Row of Pill Boxes’ recored in the original grave registration.

What happened on the 28th September 1918?

War Diary entry for the 11th Royal Scots on 28th September 1918

The 11th Royal Scots, which was part of the 9th (Scottish) Division, attacked German positions to the north east of Ypres. The 27th Field Ambulance were attached to the Division.

“5.30am. Battle commenced in terrible weather, torrents of rain, progressive however was good and all objectives were taken.”

Weather cleared at 12 noon and wounded who were numerous were cleared without difficulty by night fall”

“Work for bearers is very heavy and 4 bearers of 27 FA were killed”

It is interesting to speculate that the 27th Field Ambulance had an Advanced Dressing Station in one of the abandoned Pill Boxes and that is were both James Park and Frederick Bruback died and were buried.

A German Pill-box : used as British battalion headquarters, Ypres (Art.IWM ART 542) image: a concrete pill-box, with the entrance on the right side. A soldier stands to the right, while mud and debris is on the left. Communication wires strung between trees are above and to the right of the pill-box. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/12905

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