Kaiserschlacht - the opening day

March 20th , 1918 was a  pretty normal day for the men of the 8th Royal Scots, they were quietly working on the roads near Beugny which were in need of repair, they turned in that for a night's good sleep, for many it would be their last.

At  5am on 21st March, a bombardment , the like of which had never been heard off by man, commenced. The Germans had started their much anticipated spring offensive, thick fog shrouded many areas and most Battalions were under strength due to politicial skullduggery at home.

Word rapidly spread that the Germans were attacking in huge numbers and were making ground towards the general direction of the 8th.

At 6am the battalion receive orders to advance to Lebucquiere and took cover at the sunken road near to the sapper camp. Immediately they came under shell and casualties were  caused. One of these was the battalion Medical Officer John Morgan MC and 2nd Lt  William Edward Gladstone Lawrie from Douglas Crescent in Edinburgh, he had joined the Battalion the previous year during 3rd Ypres.

 

Amongst the ranks men were hit as well, Pte 335565 John Archibald, a native of Muirkirk was killed, he was originally with the Highland Light Infantry and had transferred to the 8th. Pte 325452 John Blackshaw*  from Ormiston hit and fell mortally wounded and died the next day. The sunken road was a death trap, Pte  James Meldrum Marchbank recalls in his (illegal) diary.

"The enemy barrage started at 3am, using gas, I was in bed. At 6am we left our Billets at Beugny and went to the sunken road near the railway, to the right of the Corps line. There were many casualties, Cpl Corunel (sic)  Newtongrange, Willie Scott from Bonnyrigg, Sergeant Blyth ,'Johnny' Willis and a great many more wounded, 8 killed in all"

Corporal 330142 Peter Cornwall* MM (Newtongrange / Gorebridge) ,
Pte 330100 William Scott,  (Lasswade),
Sgt  325003 Archibald Blyth * MM (Gilmerton),
Pte 335830 Thomas Willis (an HLI man),
Pte  330479 Peter Lothian * from Lothian Bridge,
Pte 302658 Aubrey Maiden an English lad from Staffordshire,
Pte 330151 James McGarva (Lasswade),
Pte 330543 Thomas Logan , Burnbank, Lanarkshire,
Pte 335232 John Drummond * , Musselburgh were all killed.

Those marked with an asterisk are buried in the cemetery, at Lebucquiere, the other poor souls were lost without trace and are commemorated on the Arras Memorial.

The coming days and weeks would see the 8th face their sternest test of the whole war, they would revert to what they had trained for first and foremost, they would fight as infantry  men and the 8th Royal Scots would uphold the finest traditions of the 1st Regiment of Foot.

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