Contributed by: Sandra Ross, on 2008-11-04
|Year of Birth||1888|
|Year of Death||1917|
|Place of Wartime Residence||Wick, Highland|
Guardsman Alexander Jack was killed at Poelcappele on 9th October 1917. His daughter was 9 years old. His son was 3. Since I was very small I was told the story that my grandmother(who also died before I was born) had bought a new hat and kitted out the children and was going down to the station to meet the trains as grandfather was due leave. A lot of Seaforths arrived back and were surprised to see her there. One took her on the side and told her that my grandfather had been on the line to come home; they had come under fire and as a sniper, he had been sent out to deal with it and had been killed. The news was in Wick with returning troops before the official notification.
On the train coming home on leave;came under fire;as sniper sent out and killed
As I grew up, it seemed odd to me that a sniper was sent out after 'big guns' from a train, but did not question this as Mum never really got over the early loss of her father whom she worshipped. The family struggled to cope, but as a Guard's widow my grandmother's pension was a bit more than some and mother won a scholarship which meant her brother was educated through university and she got a good job too. I was also told that his name was in the Menin Gate. When I visited Belgium I found that this was not the case and that he was commemorated at Tyne Cot on the wall there.
Thank you to the kind Belgian who saw my distress and sent us to the correct location.
Since my mother's death and the internet I have learnt a lot more. I now have the attestation papers and the plaque and the commemoration roll given by the King as well as the medals. Only last year, we found a wee booklet published in Belgium regarding the Poelcapelle action which we were beginning to think was the forgotten sector. By then, thanks to Kiplings Irish Guard's book we had established where the Scots Guards had been based and found the remains of the narrow gauge line which the troops had been using as access to the front across the quagmire of the Salient. Now we know that the Guards achieved their objective on 9th October (was it because it was a success that it is ignored?), but late in the day had come under heavy fire from the woods and snipers had been sent out to deal with this. We have even now worked out where this happened but that is for the next trip.
Now the story makes sense. Grandfather had been on a line - the access line to the front and he had come under fire and snipers had been sent out and there had been cinsiderable losses. We've even learnt that there must have been a field grave, but as the area changed hands several times after 9th October, the location was lost. But the account we found last November, states clearly that the Germans had 'tidied' the area and we wonder if by any chance, Grandfather did find a resting place in Poelcapelle Commonwealth Cemetery where there are a lot of Scots Guards and the majority of graves are unknowns. It would be nice to know he was 'safe'. We will continue to search for more information and maybe retrace his journey to the sniper attack and make a video and photo record of our researches.
Yes he was on the line(as his leave had been cancelled or postponed) and yes he was a sniper sent to deal with troublesome firing. Not quite as the story was handed down, but still truthful.
Lest we forget.