Over the Top
On the 25th September 1915 the 5th Battalion Cameron Highlanders (Lochiel's Camerons) were attached the 9th (Scottish) Division. It was start of "The Big Push", the first day of "The Battle of Loos", the largest British offensive mounted in 1915 and the first time the British had used poison gas.
The 5th Battalion waited as gas released by the British drifted behind them and hung over the trenches then at 6.40am Lochiel's Camerons went "over the top" into "No Man's Land", their objective was to capture enemy positions at Hohenzollern Redoubt, 1300 yards in front of the British lines.
As the 5th Battalion moved across "No Man's Land" line after line of the men were mown down by German machine-gun positions, still the men bravely pressed on and succeeded in their objectives, however the Camerons suffered horrendous losses, of the 800 men and 20 officers who went "over the top", only 2 officers and 70 men were left.
Lieutenant-Colonel Cameron of Lochiel who commanded the 5th Battalion that day said "To me, it was at once the saddest and the proudest day of my life. I do not suppose any Commanding Officer ever, in the annals of the British Army, had better or braver men to serve under him."
Private John McDonald aged 25, born in Largs and living in Govan was one those brave men mown down that day. John a Dock Labourer at Glasgow Harbour enlisted with 5th Battalion Cameron Highlanders in 1914. He was survived by his father Donald McDonald, 49 Govan Road, Govan.
Private John McDonald was posthumously awarded the British War Medal , Victory Medal and 1914-15 Star and is remembered on Panel 119 to 124 of the Loos Memorial at Dud Corner Cemetery, Loos-en-Gohelle, France.
Hohenzollen Redoubt, 25th Sep 1915.
(© R.B.T Kelly)
"Over the Top" researched & written by Colin Quigley 2014