1918-2008: Ninety Years of Remembrance

Soldier Record

Ewen MacMaster

Contributed by: Ceitidh MacMaster, on 2008-11-07

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First Name Ewen
Surname MacMaster
Year of Birth 1897
Year of Death 1980
Regiment Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders
Place of Wartime Residence Leslie, Fife

Ewen's Story

"We jumped ower the back o' the first German trench and went all oot for the next ain. There was a lot of shellfire and shrapnel was knocking lads ower as we charged, and before we reached the wire the machine guns started. The wire was thick and it wisnae broken. We ran back and forwards along the wire, trying to find a gap, and all the time lads was falling ower, killed or wounded. All the officers was doon.

'They were braw, braw lads...'

"Jock Leslie was oor sergeant, he was a richt tough lad, and he and ain or twa others threw themsel's on the wire so we could run ower them, but the wire was ower thick, ye just got stuck and killed in it. Those o' us who were left had tae go back; we went back a hunder odd yards and got what cover we could in shell holes and the like, and shot at the trench. Shells, theirs and oors, screamed ower for the rest o' the day, and the German shrapnel was hellish, bursting above us; they kent exactly whaur we were of course.

"When it got dark we were able to get back to the first trench. There was a hell o' a lot o' lads oot front, wounded, some shouting for help, swearing, and ae lad was screaming for his mither. The Germans cam oot through the nicht and took in those o' oor lads who were still alive; we could see them noo and again when a flare went up, and some o' us wanted tae fire at them, but we got orders tae let them be, and that was richt enough because they'd likely get looked efter, same as we would dae for them.

"In the morning we could see Jock, and a' the others, hangin' on the wire. By God, he was a strong, hard man and a' the others, they were braw, braw lads. You could tell where the Argylls, Camerons, Black Watch and Seaforths had attacked by all the different tartans on the kilts of men that were left hangin' deid on the wire."

Hugh MacMaster, my great-great uncle, was 18 years old when he fought in the Battle of Loos in October 1915. Luckily, he survived the war, due to a serious head wound as a result of shrapnel at Loos, and was invalided back home. He was one of three brothers who fought and who all came back. My great-great grandmother watched three of her sons go to the Great War, I cannot imagine how she must have felt. Luckily for her though, her three boys came back safe having done their country a great service. Sadly however, she lost her youngest son in the war that was to follow 20 years later.

I've been to the battlefields in France and Belgium. I was even privileged enough to have the honour to speak the Exhortation at the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate. It was a very moving and humbling experience which left a great impression on me. What got to me the most however, and the one thing I had difficulty in truly comprehending, was that every headstone and every name etched into the memorial walls of the Menin Gate, Thiepval and Tyne Cot is a single person. A human being that lived and breathed the same air that I do, someone with a family, a person with hopes and fears like we all do. Its easy to look at hundreds of rows of crosses or the names that stand on the memorials, but its staggering to think that each one was someones husband, son, father or brother. I hope that we never forget them because we owe them all so, so much.

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