Lance Corporal Gavin Watson McARTHUR

Cameron Highlanders
(Formerly: Gordon Highlanders, 42nd T.R. Battalion)
7th Battalion
Service Number:
(Formerly: 7401 Gordon Highlanders)
Date of Death:
31 July 1917 - Killed in Action
Cemetery / Memorial:
Memorial Reference:
Panel 38 and 40.

Personal History:
Gavin was born in Strathavon, Lanarkshire, the eldest son of Colin Alexander (Draper Shopkeeper) and Elizabeth McArthur, of 49 Milton Park, Lesmahagow, Lanarkshire. He had five younger siblings, Lizzie W., Mary P., Agnes W., Nellie R. and Colin A. (1901 Scottish Census)

In 1911 (Census RG 14/21232) he was lodging with Joseph and Martha Sellers of 33 Heath Grove Buxton, employed as a "Tailor Maker". In the December quarter 1913 Gavin married Edith Adams later of 11 Midland Terrace, Fairfield Road, Buxton. In the September quarter 1914 their daughter Mary Elizabeth was born. A son, Colin A., followed in the March quarter 1917 - who Gavin may not even have seen before his death in July.

Military History:
Gavin enlisted into the Gordon Highlanders in November 1914 at Buxton and his service records do not appear to have survived. William's Medal Index Card does not show when he entered the war with the Battalion which usually suggest after 1915, as he was not eligible for the 1914-15 Star medal.

His first Battalion, The 42nd Training Reserve Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, had converted from the 11th (Reserve) Battalion
on the 1st September 1916 and formed part of the 9th Reserve Brigade at Bridge of Allan. Perhaps looking for front line service Gavin transferred to the 7th Battalion, Cameron Highlanders, according to 'The Buxton Advertiser' in May 1917.

In 1917 as part of 44th Brigade in 15th (Scottish) Division, Gavin probably took part in The First and Second Battles of the Scarpe in which the Division captured Guemappe as part of the Arras offensive, but clearly Gavin had not joined them at that time.

On 31st July 1917 the Third Battle of Ypres commenced with the Battle of Pilkem, which lasted until 2nd August. Gavin's Battalion was part of General Watts XIX Corps. On July 23rd  the Battalion moved up to the front line, relieving the 8th Seaforths at the Railway Dugout at Southlane. Over the next few days raids took place on enemy trenches, from which the Battalion suffered many losses.

The War Diary for the 30th and 31st July 1917 reads:

"July 30 In reserve. Battalion marched to position of assembly of attack, being 20 officers and 588 men strong. The Battalion was in reserve to the 44th Infantry Brigade. Disposition : A Coy. 2 platoons "A.R.A." Dump, 30 men "A.R.B." Dump (Thatch Bam), 30 men Half Moon trench, B Coy. St. James trench, C Coy in Half Moon trench Right of West Lane, D Coy. Hedge trench south of West Lane. H.Q.I. 10. d.5.5. (South Lane). Route to trenches via " F " Track.

July 31 Brigade reserve. Zero hour 3.50 a.m. Shortly after zero hour Thatch Barn dump (A.R.B.) was blown up, inflicting considerable casualties to one platoon. This necessitated platoon detailed for A.R.A. Dump carrying forward to A.R.C. Dump. Heavy casualties among carrying parties. At 10 a.m. Battalion less A Coy. moved forward into German front system and came under heavy shell fire. At 1 p.m. H.Q. went forward to German reserve line. At 2 p.m. one platoon went forward to construct a strong point on Black Line under R.E. officer, but owing to heavy shelling it had to retire. One Coy. went forward into the Blue Line constructing and occupying five strong points."

In reporting his death 'The Buxton Advertiser'  quoted a letter received from "Pt. W H Stanley", which said, in part:

"The Germans counter-attacked us on July 31st about midday. We were standing in a pill-box when we had orders to advance. As soon as we got in the open Lance Corporal MacArthur shouted 'Come on my section', then a few seconds afterwards he dropped with a bullet through his head. I can assure you he suffered no pain as his death was instantaneous."

Gavin was killed in action along with 25 other men of his Battalion. 42 more were to give their lives as the actions continued in the following week. His body was subsequently lost and he is commemorated on The Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres.

· "The History of the 7th Battalion Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders" - Col. J. W. Sandilands & Lt. Col. N. MacLeod (1922)
· 'The Buxton Advertiser' - 5 January 1918


Link to CWGC Record
The openin of the Menin Gate Memorial
L/Cpl McArthur's name on the Menin Gate
L/Cpl Gavin MacArthur