The following is an extract of a letter sent by Captain James Brown in June 1915 to Mrs Bannatyne at Milheugh, Blantyre. A letter from the frontline telling the story of brave Blantyre soldiers. Just one month later, James Brown himself had died in battle.
I’ve recently discovered that the soldiers in this letter referred to in B company were Auchentibber soldiers, ‘a pals’ brigade no less. The names are all local to Auchentibber and indeed, thanks to Barb Hicks, we have a photo of James Potter (standing), one of the surviving brave soldiers. James and John were brothers. Their other brother Thomas was not so lucky, and died in War and noted on the Auchentibber memorial.
Captain Brown wrote a little about the bravery of James Potter…..
“But I must ask you to go back a bit with me to the pont where the regiment on the right left us to go forward to the attack. Shortly after it had gone on, a message was received that our bombing party was wanted, and it is with particular reference to the bombing party I wish to deal. We had blown up a mine, and to prevent the crater being held by the Germans we rushed it with the bayonet and seized it. The garrisoning of the crater fell to the bombing party. In B.Coy, the men’s names were Cpl. Thomson, Ptes. James Potter, J. Reddiex, R. Blane, J. Graham and W. Strang. Graham, Strang and Blane were successful in getting into the crater and establishing themselves.
One of the Sixth Scottish Rifles fired 900 rounds in defense of the place, doing up three rifles in doing so. But Potter and Reddiex did not get into the crater, and could have retired without the slightest disgrace to our trenches in the rear. They were having no retiral, but went straight on into the German trenches, being first to get there and with Potter throwing the bombs and Reddiex feeding them, those brave fellows bombed their way unaided and alone along the German trenches, clearing out the two traverses as they went, and I daresay gloating with a certain amount of satisfaction on the result of their handiwork, for as James said, they did not throw bombs for nothing. But they had to stop, as they could go no further.
The people on their left in the crater kept the Germans from closing in on their rear, and a machine gun on their front kept them from getting on. They were stuck. What did they do? Lose their heads? No! Reddiex went into a German dugout and slept, whilst Potter stood guard with his bombs. Then Potter went to sleep and Reddiex guarded. It reads like fiction, but it is true. They were physically exhausted, and nature asserted herself, and they sought rest.
Just think about it Mrs Bannatyne, they are Blantyre men. It makes one proud to be associated with such brave fellows. When speaking to Potter about it I asked him if he was quite pleased with his day’s work. ‘Yes’, he said, with his good-natured smile, but a Sergeant kept me from making short shrift of a fat German they had collared. It was coming on for night and they had to make up their minds what to do. The crater folks sent word they were going to retire, and as the Germans were closing on them, the pair of them made up their minds to run for it. To get up to one’s full height meant death, so crawling on their stomachs one time, and up to the waists in water at another in the old trenches, they go to our parapet, which they climbed over, and were safe.
We were all glad to see them back, and I am glad to say that all the bombers get back safely except W. Strang whom we have to report missing. Their action may not have made any effect on the battle that is not for me to say, but it was a splendid bit of work, and I am sure their friends would like to hear of their lad’s bravery. Would you think it a great trouble, after perusing this letter to send it to Miss Clark, Infant Mistress, Auchinraith School, as I would like her to read it to the children, just to let them know what their friends are doing in the field of battle. The conduct of every man under shellfire was magnificent. Yours very Sincerely, JAMES BROWN.”
Featuring Blantyre Project Social Media with permission. Strictly not for use by others on or offline, our visitors said:
Lisi BurnJames is my grandfather. He was a Corporal in the 10th Battalion Scottish Rifles when he married my grandmother during the war. My Grandfather was a private man and never attended any War commemorations. Instead he would march in the hallway in remembrance of the fallen. He didn’t want to glorify nor dignify the part war played in his life. I am fortunate to have 1 of his medals, a copy of this story, and a few photos. But mostly I cherish the gentle giant my grandfather was.
Lisi BurnThe Potters and Reddiex were related. My Grandfathers brother, Robert (who has also appeared on this page previously) middle name was Reddiex. The Reddiex family emigrated to Australia also, residing in Queensland.
Sheena KingGreat to read, keep them coming!
Jeanette TurveyMy gran was Elizabeth Reddiex she was born in Auchentibber thanks for sharing this story I’m not sure but j Reddiex could have been her brother She married John Lamond in 1932 in high Blantyre they moved to Fife in 1950s.
Jessie CaldowUsed to go on Sunday walks with my Dad from Burbank to Blantyre and Auchentibber to read the names on the war Memorial. Thanks for the photo and names of these young heroes
Richard StrangJeanette Turvey my dad moved to leeven Fife in the 50s for the pits bet he knew you’re gran small place auchentibber.
Jiae JiaeMy great auntie Mary McCrum married a Potter and they emigrated to Australia where a lot of their family still reside.
Lisi BurnJiae Jiae Mary McCrum married John Wilson Potter, pictured above with my grandfather, James.
James is pictured below