Brigadier-General William SCOTT-MONCRIEFF


Regiment/Service:
Commanding 156th (Scottish Rifles) Brigade
(Formerly: The Cameronians [Scottish Rifles])
(Formerly: Middlesex Regiment)
(Formerly: 57th Regiment of Foot)
Unit:
General Staff
Service Number:
n/a
Date of Death:
28 June 1915 - Killed in Action
Age:
57
Cemetery / Memorial:
Grave/Mem. Number:
Sp. Mem. C. 132.
Awards:
South Africa (Zulu War) Medal [1879 Clasp]
Queen's South Africa Medal [1 Clasp]
King's South Africa Medal [1 Clasp]
Mentioned in Despatches


Personal History:

William was born in Chelsea, London, on the 15th June 1858, the only child of Rev. William (Vicar) and Hannah (née Overton) Scott-Moncrieff. Three years later (1861 Census RG 9/2293) William was living/staying with his mother, Hannah, and his older siblings, Robert and Susan Mary, at the home of his Grandparents, Robert and Elizabeth Overton, at 13 New Walk, Leicester.
William's father, William Snr., was still in Chelsea working as a 'Curate' (Census RG 9/39). Three more children were born to the family, Margaret Anna, Charles Elliott [see Footnote below] and Jane. By the time of the 1871 Census of Scotland (Roll CSSCT1871_164) the family had moved to live at 14 George Square, Edinburgh, and William's father was now listed as a "Landowner". By 1881 (Census RG 11/4994)  William Snr. was back to being employed as  a "J.P. and Vicar of Christ Church" and the remaining family had moved to 7 The Cloisters, Bishopwearmouth, Sunderland. William Jnr., by this time, had been Commissioned in the 57th Regiment of Foot [see below] and was engaged in the Zulu Wars in Africa.

On the 14th July 1886 William married Alice Margaret Cassels at Eton, Buckinghamshire. They had two sons, Robert, born in 1887, and William, born on the 29th April 1888, both in Kamptee, Bengal, India [see Footnotes below]. William had been posted to India after his marriage and in time for the birth of his son. However, the 1891 Census (RG 12/4134) shows the family back living at 7 The Cloisters, Bishopwearmouth, with William designated "Vicar of Christ Church".

In 1901 (Scottish Census CSSCT1901_384) 42 year old William and his wife were staying with David Moncrieff and his family at 24 George Square, Edinburgh. His occupation was recorded as: "Major, 2nd Battalion Middlesex Regiment". William cannot, as yet, be traced on the 1911 Census, but was probably living at the family seat, Fossoway, Perth and Kinross.

N.B. There is no obvious link between William and Buxton, or evidence that he ever lived there. However, his brother, Charles Elliott, was Vicar of St John's Church and dedicated the Town Memorial on The Slopes.

Military History:
William first saw active service in the Zulu War of 1879-80 having been commissioned from Sandhurst into the 57th
Regiment of Foot (later Middlesex Regiment) the year before. The London Gazette (30 April 1878) had announced
that "Gentleman Cadet William Scott-Moncrieff, from the Royal Military College, to be Second Lieutenant".

The old 77th Regiment of Foot was in India in 1881 when the 57th and 77th merged to form the two Battalions of the
Middlesex Regiment. It became the 2nd Battalion, The Duke of Cambridge's Own (Middlesex Regiment), and only
returned to Britain in 1898. In 1897 the 1st Battalion, Middlesex Regiment, arrived in South Africa, where it was
replaced in 1899 by William's 2nd Battalion, which spent four years there during the Boer War (1899-1902).

William served in South Africa as a Major in the 2nd Battalion, the Middlesex Regiment, in the Natal Field Force. He
was severely wounded at the Battle of Spion Kop on the 24th January 1900, which left him lame. From then on, he
needed to use a stick when walking. On the 17th February 1904 William was promoted from Major to Lieutenant
Colonel (London Gazette, 16 February 1904) and on the 7th January 1908 he was Gazetted full Colonel (London
Gazette, 6 November 1908).

Under a Commission signed by the Lord Lieutenant of the County of Kinross, on the 25th March, 1913: "Colonel William Scott-Moncrieff, of Fossoway Lodge, Fossoway" was to be Deputy Lieutenant for the County of Kinross. (London Gazette, 1 April 1913)

William was recalled from retirement in 1914, and given command of 156th Brigade, in the 52nd Lowland Division. On the 5th April the 52nd Division was warned that it would go on overseas service; confirmed on the 7th May. The units embarked at Liverpool and Devonport between the 18th May and the 8th June, with the destination being Gallipoli.

Disaster struck on the Division on the 22nd May when a train carrying the battalion HQ and two Companies of the 1/7th Royal Scots crashed in an accident at Quintinshill, near Gretna. In what was the greatest railway tragedy this country has ever seen, 3 officers and 207 men died, 5 officers and 219 were injured. Fewer than 70 men survived this crash unscathed.

The first units landed on Gallipoli (Cape Helles) on the 6th June 1915, and having commanded the Territorial 156th Brigade William had insisted on going to Gallipoli with them. His Brigade was thrown into a badly prepared attack at Helles on the 28th June 1915, in what became known as 'The Battle of Gully Ravine' [see Map right]. After two days of heavy bombardment, the battle began at 10.45 a.m. on the 28th June with a preliminary raid to capture the Boomerang Redoubt on Gully Spur. The general advance commenced shortly afterwards. The artillery fire on Gully Spur was overwhelming and the 2/10th Gurkha Rifles and the 2nd Battalion, Royal Fusiliers advanced rapidly a distance of half a mile to a point named "Fusilier Bluff" which was to become the northern-most Allied position at Helles.

Even though the Royal Scots had taken their objectives, the 1/8th Cameronians had not, with 334
men killed and 114 wounded, so the Divisional Commander, Gen. Sir Henry De Beauvoir De Lisle,
sent the message that the uncaptured portion of the Gully : "… is to be taken at all costs. If
necessary you will forward your reserve battalion.".

It was William who received the order, as C.O. of the 156th Brigade - "… a brave man, well liked
by his men …". Patrick Gariepy's book [see below] describes the events that followed:

"That morning [William] visited his troops … before they went over the top, and he new what had
happened to the 1/8th Cameronians. He also knew what awaited his single reserve battalion, the
1/7th Cameronians, if he followed de Lisle's order. Unfortunately, he had no choice. He had to
send his reserve troops into what knew was a meat grinder. He received the fateful order at
11.47 a.m. and immediately ordered two of the battalion's companies to attack.

It took nearly an hour for the Scots to reach their jumping off point, and it was packed with dead and dying from the previous attack. But at 12.30 p.m. they were ready to go, and go they did. At their head was their gallant general. He knew he was sending his precious men to their deaths and felt it was wrong to ask them to do something he would not. When the order to attack was given, the two companies climbed out into a withering fire of shot and shell. Almost immediately, the brave brigadier was hit in the head by a bullet and instantly killed. The attack failed almost immediately.

When Major General Egerton got word that his friend [William] had been killed, he wrote in his diary: '5 p.m. Wounded are beginning to trickle in and I fear the Brigade has suffered heavily. A wounded man says the Brigadier, Scott-Moncrieff, is killed. I hope not, I have no-one to replace him with.' "  [Major General Granville Egerton, a Seaforth Highlander, commanded the 52nd Division.]

Lt-Col W.C. Peebles DSO wrote  of William:
" ... he personally led the last two companies [of 1/8th Cameronians] by a forward sap, now marked sap 30, and was killed as the sap began to emerge on to the surface level."

The Brigade lost 72 officers and 1,281 men in this battle, including Lt-Col. Henry Monteith Hannan and Lt-Col. John Boyd Wilson, both of the 1/8th Cameronians. The CWGC lists just 115 men of this rank to die during the War. Both lie with Brigadier General Scott-Moncrieff in Twelve Trees Copse Cemetery.


Footnotes:
· William's younger brother, Rev. Charles Elliott Scott-Moncrieff, was Rector to St John's Church, Buxton and this is probably why William's
  name was added to the St. John's Church War memorial Window. The Slopes Memorial was dedicated by Canon Scott-Moncrieff.

· His older son, Captain Robert Scott-Moncrieff, made his career in the Army and served with the Royal Scots, from 24 August 1914 to
  18 February 1915, before transferring to the Nigeria Regiment - West Africa Frontier Force.

· William's younger son, William Scott-Moncrieff, served with the Seaforth Highlanders.

Sources:
· I am grateful to 'The War Graves Photographic Project' for the photo of William's grave.
· "Gardens of Hell: Battles of the Gallipoli Campaign" - Patrick Gariepy, p. 221-2
· 'The Illustrated London News' - 17 July 1915, p. 88 [picture at top]
· Map of Gully Ravine - by Rcbutcher [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Commemorated on:
William's name does not appear on The Slopes Memorial

He is also commemorated on the family Memorial in the Greyfriars
Convenanters Prison Cemetery, Edinburgh [see right]
Crook of Devon War Memorial, Perth and Kinross, Scotland


Link to CWGC Record
poppy
Brig-Gen William Scott-Moncrieff's Memorial
Twelve Tree Copse Cemetery
© copyright Gravestone Photographic Resource 1998 - 2013