Died: 25 September 1915
Service number: 16957
Regiment/Service: Sixth Battalion, King's Own Scottish Borderers
Family information: Son of Edward and Mary McNally and husband of Maria (formerly
Private John Patrick McNally joined the Kings Own Scottish Borderers (KOSB) in Pontefract late 1914- early 1915. He was 31 years old. He was trained at Bramshott with the 6th Battalion and was an infantryman. The KOSB bears the name and stamp of Kitchener. “K.I.” or the “First Hundred Thousand” are the affectionate bynames for the six divisions from 9-14.
The best of this particular division was the 9th, in which the 6th KOSB served throughout the war.
Recruits were sent to the depot at Berwick on Tweed, and in due course sent in batches to a collecting station at Bordon. As there were five battalions already, the “K.I.” became the 6th. Recruits and veterans brought the full number for a fighting unit. The 6th Bn, ready made in manpower, started on the business of learning to be soldiers, as some knew nothing about army life or what awaited them in France.
In May 1915 the 6th Bn were at Bramshott. Orders came to go to Southampton on the 11th, en route for Le Havre, whilst the Infantry went via Folkstone and Boulogne. They gathered at Pont de Briques station, Boulogne on 13 May, then went to St Omer by train.
They marched to Tatingham and rested, and on the 16th set off for the Armentiers sector, passing the hill town of Cassel. The 6th took up residence for a season in Outtersteene 3 miles S.W. of Bailleul. They were making their way to the front, to the fighting.
In June-July 1915 the 6th Bn were 3 miles from the front and it was in this sector that they entered their first firing trench. They relieved the 8th Gordons on 7 July. From and including that date there was a steady drain due to casualties. This tour lasted a week in the fire trench and a week in reserve trenches, succeeded by 10 days at Pont d’Hinges on the La Bassée Canal.
The main orders and objectives for the KOSB was that Haines had to be taken quickly and easily, but it was 3,000 yards away and obstacles lay between it and the KOSB.The first and main difficulty was to get across No Man’s Land. The Germans had the advantage of the ground and the wire opposite the 6th Bn was invisible.
Bombardment on the German line began on 21 September. The wind was favourable for a gas attack. All the men wore gas masks. The guns opened at full force at 5.50 am and the delayed but expected German barrage fell on the British front and communication trenches. Men disappeared into a fog of gas and supporting companies took their places on the front line. As they went over the top of the trenches they were met by machine gun fire and dropped like nine-pins.
The effect of the German barrage was horrific. Disabling wounds, convulsions with the gas and manglings. As they reached the front of the German lines they found uncut barbed wire and a covered ditch filled with barbed wire. Further advance was impossible. There was nothing left but to get back to the old front line.
No unwounded soldiers returned and only the sorry remnants of a splendid band of warriors. 358 were killed or missing on 25 September. John Patrick’s body was never found so it was believed that he had been blown to pieces. 272 were gassed or wounded. 11 officers were killed and 8 wounded. Despite the heroism of the KOSB, no ground was gained at the end of the day. The Battle of Loos, as the action was called, had been a sorry failure.
On the evening of the 29th the 6th KOSB left for good. The Béthune Coalfield which was a grave to so many.
Unfortunately, as my father never knew my grandfather, I cannot find anything else out about his army service. My own father died in 1984, not knowing anything either. His war record was sent to me by the regimental museum to explain how he died. I have only found my grandfather last year. Until then, I did not even know his name; therefore finding him and all his family back to 1881 has been a long journey.
I wanted to join in with this project because I had “discovered” him, and for the children to learn, but also in hope that it may help more with my family history. My hope is to find someone who has a photograph of John Patrick.
John Patrick McNally, my grandfather, was born in Staffordshire in 1884. He travelled to Castleford with his family, probably for work. Most of the men in his family were miners and Castleford and neighbouring districts had collieries. He married my grandmother, Mary Grady, on 23 December 1911. A year later his son Edward was born and in 1914 he also had a daughter, Mary Ellen.
In 1914-15 he joined the army and left his wife of a few years and his two children, who he had not really had time to get to know. Sadly, they never saw each other again.
Life for my grandmother must have been very difficult, alone with two young children, even though her family and John Patrick’s lived near. People were poor and life was hard, and her army widow’s pension must have been meagre.
Unfortunately there is no one left alive to tell me the story, so therefore, one has to speculate and also do research.
I do know, however, that my grandmother remarried in 1919 but died only two years later at the age of 37. She had heart problems, but died at home with her second husband and children. My father, Edward, and his sister Mary Ellen were orphans now but were taken in and looked after by my grandmother’s sister Agnes, who was only 16 at the time. My father and his sister lived with Agnes until they left to get married, as far as I know.
My grandfather’s brother was also killed in action in 1918, leaving their father without his two eldest sons, which must have been devastating. Therefore the war, and the death of my grandfather, caused despair, poverty, hardship and many broken hearts.
Story submitted by Christine Newbould.