This story focuses on the life of Lance Corporal James Huskie, one of the many soldiers remembered on the Bothkennar war memorial, and the first in the area to be killed in action.
Name: Lance Corporal James Huskie
Birthplace: Carronshore, Stirlingshire
Place of Enlistment: Larbert, Stirlingshire
Regiment: Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, 7th Battalion, B. Company
Service Regimental Number: 2334
Based in France: 15 December 1914 – 26 April 1915.
Date of Death (killed in action): 25/26 April 1915
Place of Death: St Julien Ypres, France and Flanders
Age at Death: 32.
Life in Britain
James Huskie was a pattern-filer at Mungal Foundry, part of Carron Company. He was the third son of James and Catherine Huskie, of Flesher’s Close, Carronshore; brother of David. He had been for four years to the local Volunteers (the predecessor to the Territorial Force). On 8 September 1914, James enlisted in the Territorial Battalion of the 7th Battalion, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders. The battalion had begun formation at Stirling on 4th August as part of the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders Brigade of the Highland Division.
In August 1914, the division moved to Bedford where they stayed until December. The people of Bedford had fond memories of the division, including “B” Company in Bedford, with a large camp in Ampthill Park, to the south of Bedford. Their time in Bedford is described in some detail online on the Bedford Highlanders blog.
In December 1914, James and his battalion were mobilised for war and landed in France. Once in France the Highland Division was transferred on the 6th of January 1915 to the 10th Brigade of the 4th Division. Subsequently James and his comrades in the 7th Argylls underwent a period of battle training - trench familiarisation in the Ploegsteert area between January and February 1915 - before being engaged in various actions on the Western Front.
The battalion were involved in the 2nd Battle of Ypres as part of the 4th Division, which saw the 7th Argyll’s first experience of gas warfare. He was killed in the Battle of St Julien (25 April -4 May). This battle, which was the first major scene of fighting the battalion was involved in, was the second phase of the Second Battle of Ypres (22 April-5 May, 1915). Casualities included twelve officers and 425 "other ranks."
Exactly a week before his death, James was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal. James Huskie was the first man to be killed in action from the Bothkennar area.
Writing to his family
Research on Ancestry.co.uk, which includes war records and a letter from a comrade to James’ parents, indicate the circumstances of James’ death. The battalion war diary records that six officers and one hundred other ranks were killed, but one hundred and fifty men were posted missing, and this was to double the number of other ranks who were killed in this attack. The total number of casualties in the battalion was over five hundred.
The next day, the battalion was to be in support but did not leave the trenches they held. This was just as well for the 26th April 1915 was “a truly disastrous day.” There were 4,000 casualties on a mile-wide front.
“Men were lost in totally fruitless and ill-prepared attacks against an enemy that was reasonably well-prepared and was superior in numbers and artillery” (Ancestry).
A letter, which clearly indicates that James Huskie’s death occurred on 25 April, (the first day of the battle), was sent to his brother by Private Robert Lindsay, dated April 28:
“It is with great grief that I write to let you know that James fell on Sunday in a charge, but he fell a fearless death. I am very sorry to be the first to convey the news to you but I thought it best... and my heart goes out in sympathy to you in this trying time. We buried him last night with some of his comrades, and he had a pleasing smile on his face. I shall never forget this as long as I have breath in me. I don’t know how I escaped, but thank God I am alive today. I was looking for ‘it’ every minute, but the Lord knows best when to call us home.”
Lance Corporal Huskie’s grave was lost in the subsequent fighting. His death is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial, Ieper, Belgium, Panel 42 and 44.
By Russ Edwards, Hidden Heritage Online: Statues and Monuments volunteer 2020.