Remembering those who fought in the Great War.

5th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders

Gallipoli, Egypt, Palestine, and France

Towards the end of July 1914 a special detail of the 5th was dispatched to Fort Matilda, and within twenty-four hours of the fateful signal “ Mobilise “ being received the entire Battalion was assembled on August 5th. After three months’ duty on the Clyde defences the 5th Argylls were moved to the East Coast, where the Renfrewshire Territorials spent eight days on the Tay defence works. They were then ordered to replace the 1st/9th H.L.I., Glasgow Highlanders, in the 157th Brigade of the 1st/2nd Lowland Division (later renumbered the 52nd Lowland Division).
On 1st June 1915 the Battalion left Devonport bound for Gallipoli, and arrived at Alexandria on the 12th. The 1st/5th Argylls sailed for Mudros on the 28th, and transhipped on July 2nd for Cape Helles. On the night of July 2nd/3rd the Argyll and Sutherland Highlander volunteers entered the British defences, and on the 5th lined the trenches at Ghurka Bluff. There followed tours of duty in Nelson Avenue and Pymouth Avenue, and a brief respite in the rest lines near Pink Farm.

In the Gallipoli campaign the Allied troops joined battle with an acclimatised foe vastly superior in numbers and guns, who was rested and reinforced regularly, maintained in the field by an abundance of war supplies, and who had secure lines of communication. Behind the Allies stretched submarine-infested seas, and stores and ammunition had to be landed at improvised wooden piers under bombardment by the Turkish batteries.

The terrain lent itself to defence, and the enemy artillery positions and machine-gun emplacements were skilfully placed and cleverly camouflaged. The Turkish trench-works were on higher levels, and their artillery, machine-guns, and snipers ranged the Cape Helles and Krithia defences with a hail of death. The Allies fought doggedly on, enduring the stifling heat, thirst, and plague of flies, but were long, worn down by sickness and fatigue, they succumbed in hundreds to dysentery, enteric, and jaundice—this in addition to heavy battle casualties.

To the skirl of the pipes and with bayonets glinting in the sun, the 157th Brigade attacked up the slopes of Achi Baba in the battle of July 12th/13th. The objectives were three enemy trenches, but it was discovered by the attackers that only two trenches existed. As a result the Scottish Territorials had again to brave the murderous enemy barrage as they retired to the second objective.

Two officers and some forty Argylls consolidated in a circular stretch of trench known as the Horseshoe and hurled back repeated enemy attacks for thirty hours until relief was forthcoming on the night of the 13th. Several Argylls picked up Turkish bombs and threw them back among the enemy with considerable effect, and there were many hectic bayonet onslaughts against the enemy infantry and machine-gunners in the series of bitter struggles which developed for the possession of isolated posts. Casualties in this attack, calculated to divert Turkish attention from pending landing operations at Suvla, were severe, and the Commanding Officer of the 5th Argylls, Lieut.-Col. Duncan Darroch, was among the wounded. Lts. Miller and Rowan, 2nd Lts. Nicol and Wilson, and C.S.M. M’Lachlan distinguished themselves in this engagement, the last named earning the D.C. M.

The Battalion experienced a spell of duty in the much- disputed Vineyard area until the end of September. In Krithia Nullah during November and December the Argylls and their H.L.I. comrades had several exchanges of fire with the enemy. A Turkish attack was anticipated, and when it materialised it was shattered at the outset by a withering fire from the Brigade.

The troops on Gallipoli were now exposed to the lashing fury of a Balkan winter. As a result of rain squalls, biting cold, blizzards with driving sleet and snow, the hillside trenches became raging torrents. Despite such conditions the Allies grimly “soldiered it out,” and took heavy toll of the enemy.

A contingent of the 5th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders participated in the 157th Brigade’s attack in December to nip off an enemy salient in Krithia Nullah. The grenadiers of the Battalion, though at heavy loss, carried out a series of raids and succeeded in bombing the Turks out of sections of their trench-works. Turkish reaction was immediate, and several determined counter bombing raids, supported by infantry and machine-gun fire, were hurled back by the depleted force of Argylls and H.L.L This attack had the effect of focusing Turkish attention on the Krithia—Cape Helles sector while plans were put into operation for the withdrawals at Suvla and Anzac.

The Renfrewshire Battalion was represented in the final garrison at Cape Helles, while the British troops were evacuated early in January 1916—operations that were carried out without loss, though all that stood between the 52nd Division and annihilation was a few hundred do-or-die infantrymen.

In the “outpost warfare” to defend the Suez Canal the 5th Argylls garrisoned Hill 70 and Canterbury Hill. After the Turkish débacle at Romani in August 1916, the Renfrewshire Territorials advanced on Abu Hamra to engage the enemy, but drew blank as the Turks were now in full-pelt retreat. Then commenced the long sweltering trek across the sandy wastes of the Sinai Desert.

During the First Battle of Gaza the 157th Brigade formed a defensive line on the heights of In Seirat, through which the exhausted attacking troops were forced to withdraw. In the second battle the 5th men were soon in action on Lees Hill under heavy fire. They dug trenches all through the night under threat of an enemy counter-attack. The Argylls were involved in a series of sharp patrol clashes around Tank Redoubt before the third attempt was made to capture the ancient city.

Called out of reserve in the third battle, which ended in the capture of Gaza, a company of Argylls joined a mobile desert column which cleared the Turks from the high ground across the Wadi Hesa, and the Renfrewshire men repeated this operation on Sausage Ridge. Another tour de force by the Argylls and H.L.I. men of the 157th Brigade was the bayonet attack in darkness up the steep slopes of the K.ummam hills. Still operating with the mobile column the Argylls continued the advance to Mansura.

The Battalion was in reserve during the powerful enemy counter-attack at Beit Ur El Tahta, but was soon called upon to play a major part in stemming the Turkish offensive. After the dour campaigning in the steaming mists of the rugged Judean hills, the 5th was well to the fore in the night crossing of the River Auja in December, and quickly surprised and routed the Turkish defenders in the Tel El Rekket trenches.

The Turks had been out-generalled, out-manoeuvred, and out-fought by the Egyptian Expeditionary Force. Gallipoli had been avenged in full. Jaffa, Ludd, Ramleh, and Jerusalem were captured, and the Holy Land freed from the Ottoman yoke. With the end of the campaign in sight the 52nd Division received another call. In the spring the fighting-Lowlanders were dispatched to France to stem the mighty German 1918 offensive.

On infantry brigade strength being reduced from four to three battalions, the 5th King’s Own Scottish Borderers(155th Brigade), the 8th Cameronians (156th Brigade),and the 5th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (157th Brigade) were dispatched from the 52nd Division in June to form the 103rd Brigade of the 34th Division. This Scottish brigade was destined to further the Auld Alliance with the French. The 34th Division, concentrated at Senlis, was under the orders of General Henri-Philippe Pétain, then in the heyday of his military career. General Pétain, of Verdun renown, was in command of the 30th Corps of the 10th French Army (General Mangin) on the Marne front.

The Argylls participated in the bitter fighting for Beugneu village and ridge, and in the assault on Hill 158. The Scottish brigade carried its objectives in face of stubborn resistance and losses were severe. Lieut.-Col. C. L. Barlow, d.s.o., commanding the 5th Argylls, was killed at the head of his Battalion during the attack on Hill 158.

In August the Scots were located near Ypres. Red Château, Grand Bois, Zero House, Rose Wood, and Denys Wood fell in turn to the 103rd Brigade, which had a leading role in the advance over Kemmel Hill and in the assault across historic Wytschaete Ridge. The German Army was now in full retreat, and, after crossing the Lys, the Scots entered Anseghem. The Armistice signed, the Battalion took part in the march into Germany and was transferred to the 51st (Highland) Division.

Decorations gained by the 5th Argylls during yeoman service on three fronts were 2 Distinguished Service Orders; 6 Military Crosses; 7 Distinguished Conduct Medals; 14 Military Medals; I Serbian Gold Medal; 1 Médaille Militaire; 4 Croix de Guerre (French) ; 3 Croix de Guerre (Belgian) ; 1 Order of the White Eagle (Serbian) ; and 2 Meritorious Service Medals.

5th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders

This Territorial Force (TF) battalion was headquartered at Finnart Street, Greenock. The Annual TF Return for 1913, amended to February 1914 reveals that A, B, C, D, F & G Companies drew recruits from Greenock; E Company from Port Glasgow and H Company from Gourock. There was a drill station at Inverkip. (Source: The Territorial Force 1914 - Ray Westlake)

The 5th (Renfrewshire) Batttalion, Princess Louise's Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders was created in 1908 out of what had previously been the 1st Volunteer Battalion, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders. Close to 600 men from this battalion chose to join the new Territorial Force battalion (and were re-numbered from 1) and around 30 of these men were still on the battalion rolls when the Territorial Force was re-numbered nine years later in 1917.

Here are some sample army service numbers and corresponding joining dates for the 5th A&S Highlanders.

675 joined on 11th June 1908
795 joined on 23rd March 1909
1033 joined on 14th March 1910
1136 joined on 15th February 1911
1287 joined on 26th January 1912
1476 joined on 17th February 1913
1812 joined on 26th May 1914
1846 joined on 6th August 1914
2107 joined on 3rd September 1914
2392 joined on 21st October 1914
2423 joined on 3rd November 1914
2483 joined on 12th January 1915
2528 joined on 3rd February 1915
2578 joined on 6th March 1915
2643 joined on 27th April 1915
2677 joined on 13th May 1915
2703 joined on 1st June 1915
2836 joined on 5th July 1915
2941 joined on 4th August 1915
2999 joined on 12th October 1915
3135 joined on 2nd November 1915
3213 joined on 21st January 1916
3643 joined on 30th March 1916
3777 joined on 1st June 1916
3854 joined on 4th July 1916
4158 joined on 8th November 1916

Argyll & Sutherland Museum

Service men and women of 5th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders