Arbroath’s darkest day remembered

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This weekend marks the centenary of the most costly day of the Great War for Arbroath, when fighting claimed no fewer than 17 Lichties.

On May 9, 1915, the first assault of the Second Battle of Artois saw British troops attack Imperial German Sixth Army positions at Aubers Ridge.

The Arbroath Herald was contacted by Derek Robertson who explained what happened that fateful day 100 years ago.

He said: “It’s of note that the upcoming May 9 will mark 100 years since the single most costly day for Arbroath in that four years of warfare.

“That one day accounts for 17 of the 491 names listed on our town’s war memorial, 10 of which have no known grave, being remembered with an inscription on memorials in France and Belgium.

“Although the battle in which Aubers Ridge was but one event is not as well known as those of Loos, the Somme or Passchendaele, in which it must be said a great many men from Arbroath took part, their legacy on this corner of Angus was not as stark.

“The story of the attack on Aubers Ridge is a sad one. Suffice to say it was an unmitigated failure, achieving none of its goals, costing thousands of lives and was one of many harsh lessons the British Expeditionary Force had to learn before the successes of 1918 broke the stalemate.

“It’s remarkable that all but one of these unfortunate men served in battalions of the Black Watch, the local infantry regiment, the exception being a Queen’s Own Cameron Highlander.”

The 17 men who lost their lives were: 1st Black Watch - William Arthur, Alexander Beatts, Charles Gowans, Alexander M. Smith, William Stuart DCM and Edward Yeaman; 2nd Black Watch - John Hutchison and Samuel Todd. 5th Black Watch - Hay Duncan, John Maxwell, George E. Miller, Peter Mostyn, Alexander Speirs, Harry Spink, Robert White and John Hagan.

Lastly, James Wilkie of the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders.

In total at Aubers Ridge, British forces suffered over 11,000 casualties.

However, German losses are thought to have been less than 1,000.