Band of Rosewell brothers’ war stories retold

Andrew,  Jim and Stewart Renwick at the grave of Archie Renwick at Bouchoir Cemetery
Andrew, Jim and Stewart Renwick at the grave of Archie Renwick at Bouchoir Cemetery

A Loanhead man has told the story of his four uncles’ involvement in the First World War, almost a century on from its conclusion.

In response to our WW1 story appeal paying tribute to our local war heroes, Jim Renwick (66) has passed on his family’s story from the war.

Renwick family circa 1916. John (seated left). The three boys standing at the back, left to right, John, Sandy,'Archibald

Renwick family circa 1916. John (seated left). The three boys standing at the back, left to right, John, Sandy,'Archibald

The Renwick family at the time of the outbreak of WW1, were living at Midfield cottages, near Rosewell. Brothers Archibald, John, Sandy and William were all called up.

Archibald served as a Corporal with the 5/6th Battalion Royal Scots. In August 1918, the battalion were brought by bus via Amiens to St Nicholas , where they camped overnight. The next day they marched to Maison Blanchy, near Beaucourt, again camping overnight. The next day they marched to Le Quesnoy, where they deployed into artillery formation.

Jim said: “On 11 August 1918, they received orders to attack German positions at Parvillers. They moved forward to the front line, where they prepared to attack: ‘B’ company on the right flank; ‘D’ company in the centre; and ‘A’ and ‘C’ companies on the left flank. Archie was in ‘A’ company.

“The whistles blew at 9.30am and the men rose from their trenches to attack.

“A thin and ragged barrage had little effect on the strongly wired positions of the enemy, who had no difficulty repelling the attack.

“The enemy machine gun fire was heavy, inflicting heavy casualties on the battalion and Archie was sadly fatally wounded along with 106 men in his battalion, 11 of whom were officers.

“He was initially buried close to where he fell, however, following the establishment of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in 1917, new cemeteries were built for the soldiers who perished during the conflict. Archie’s body was exhumed in May 1920 and reburied in January 1921 at his final resting place at Bouchoir New British Cemetery, France.

“In October 2010, along with my brothers, Andrew and Stewart, we visited the grave of our Uncle Archie, a brother our dad Douglas never knew.

“Andrew said a few words of remembrance and we observed a minute’s silence.”

As for Archie’s brothers, Jim said: “John served with the 7th Battalion Cameron Highlanders and embarked for France on 8 July 1915, landing at Boulogne the following day. His battalion soon saw action in the Battle of Loos. The offensive began on 25 September 1915, the first to use gas as a weapon, and on the first day, John suffered bullet wounds to his thigh, typical of machine gun fire, which the British bombardment had failed to knock out. He was lucky to survive, unlike 687 of his comrades, one of whom was James Hodge Speedie, a Heart of Midlothian player

“It’s likely that Sandy would have been conscripted on reaching his 18th birthday on 8 July 1917. He joined the 8th Battalion Royal Scots and it’s likely that following around 12 weeks training, he would have joined his battalion in September of that year in Ypres salient (Passchendaele).

It’s not known which Regiment William served in.

“Luckily John, Sandy and William all returned home living their lives into old age.”

Archie is also commemorated on a plaque in Rosewell Memorial Hall, along with 49 other men from Rosewell and surrounding area who perished. A special service will be held in Rosewell Church on November 11 at 6.30pm to remember those who fell, with the final act of remembrance being the ringing of the church bell at 7.05pm, joining churches across the country as the Nation remembers.

To share your stories send an email – entitled World War One – to midlothianadvertiser@jnlothian.co.uk.