A WEBSITE DEDICATED TO THE SOCIAL HISTORY OF THE SEABOARD VILLAGES

David MacKay’s War.

David MacKay was born in Hilton in 1897, his father, William, was a fish dealer, his mother was Elsie, the family lived at 3 King Street, in the 1901 census an older sister Hannah and a younger sister Katherine also lived in the house.

David was a Coachman to trade, working for Mrs Fraser, Ballin?, the last part of the location is burnt off [the WW1 records were damaged by bombing in WW2]. At the age of seventeen, on the 23rd of March 1914, five months before the war started, David joined the Lovat Scouts, his enlistment papers show he was 5ft 4ins tall and although most Lovat Scouts were game keepers, David, being a Coachman would have been good with horses.

When war broke out the Lovat Scouts moved to England for training. David and the Lovat Scouts left Devonport on the 7th of September 1915 bound for Gallipoli in Turkey and landed at Sulva Bay. The troops at Sulva Bay beachhead were pinned down by gunfire from the Turkish forces on the cliffs above and Australian, New Zealand, British and the rest of the Allied forces never really got of the beachhead, casualties were huge, 198,000 to 215,000 with 46,000 dead. The Allies changed commanders, the new commander said it would be better to get out of Sulva Bay, Lord Kitchener was sent to see what the problem was, he agreed that withdraw was the only answer, the campaign was going nowhere and the casualties mounting. The problem was how load all the troops back on to ships and not come under attack when the Turks saw what was going on. A plan was hatched to withdrawn troops at night but keep the illusion that they were still there. The Lovat Scouts were used to keep guns firing from the trenches at intervals to make believe the trenches were fully manned. The ruse worked and the Allied forces withdrew with minimal casualties, between the 14th and 18th of December 80,000 troops along with guns and stores were taken off the beachhead in secret. David and the Lovat Scouts left Sulva on the 28th of December 1915, some of the last troops out. They moved back to Egypt and on the 8th of January 1916, in Cairo, David became part of the Highland Mounted Brigade, Mounted Police. On the 28th of March 1916 he was returned to his unit.

The Lovat Scouts embarked from Alexandria, Egypt, to Salonika, Greece, on the 17th of October 1916 arriving 3 days later. On the 17th of November the Lovat Scouts were transferred to the Cameron Highlanders to be used as an Infantry Battalion, not something they were trained for. The conditions in Greece were harsh with Malaria and other diseases causing 505,024 non battle casualties. David was probably in the battle for Tumbitsa during December 1916, when the Scouts captured a bridge leading to Tumbitsa but were then pinned down on the bridge and the banks of the river by withering machine gun fire. Corporal Murdo MacRae from Pitkerrie was killed in this action. David was in Greece until his Battalion was moved to France on the 30th of June 1918 where he fought out the rest of the war.

David’s medical records show how lucky he was, four years of war in some of the worst places you could be for disease but never caught any and was never wounded. The only item on his record in December 1914 presumably in England is a cold, but he was in hospital for 19 days [must have been man flu].

His records also show David was careless or unlucky, in November 1916 he lost a telescope belonging to the Regiment and was sentenced to 3 days marching behind the guard and first for fatigues until further notice. In August 1917 he lost a pull through [a piece of rope with metal attached to the end to clean the barrel of your gun], sentenced to 3 days CE[?] and make good the loss.

David was given 2 weeks leave from France on the 27th of August 1918 and his record shows a letter was put out from France on the 16th of September saying that David was a week late in reporting back and the authorities in Britain were asked to look for him. Another letter from France later states that they had never received the Chief Constable of Inverness’s letter stating this soldier was in hospital and are now assuming he’s back with his Battalion.

David’s records all list him as MacKay but it is noticeable that where David signs his name, he always signs McKay. David received his medals at the end of the war, the 1914/15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. David was demobbed in Kinross in 1919. He rejoined the Territorial Army in Sidcup, Kent on the 6th of March 1939, 6 months before WW2 broke out, there is no records for him in WW2.

Katie Ross’s memories of people living in Hilton have 3 King Street [half house] occupied by David MacKay [Davaan Charlie] and his wife Bella Davaan, the other half occupied by Hannah Wood [Hannah Beelak] probably his older sister and their brother Puffer.