PTE JOHN L MACINNES 10TH S.R.
20669 Private John Lang McInnes
10th Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
killed in action 12th May 1916
Ranfurly Church Memorial, Bridge of Weir
Son of Archibald McInnes and Isabella Lang
Burnbrae Cottage, Bridge of Weir
John Lang McInnes was born on 18th August 1879 in Duchal Mid Lodge, Kilmacolm, Renfrewshire, the third of a family of seven (six surviving) born to Archibald McInnes, a ploughman from Iona, Argyllshire and Isabella Lang, from Pennytersal Farm, Kilmacolm, Renfrewshire who had married at Pennytersal on 12th June 1873.
In 1881 Archibald (38), Isabella (37), and three of their children Mary, Donald and John (aged 1) were living in Duchal East Porters Lodge, Kilmacolm. Archibald was a gardener's labourer.
By 1891 the McInnes family of seven had moved back to Duchal Mid Lodge and Archibald was a gardener. Mary was not in the family home.
In 1901 the family was living in Burnbrae Cottage, Bridge of Weir. By then Archibald was a market gardener. Mary, a baker's shop woman, was back in the family home; Donald was a joiner; John (21) was a butcher; Isabella a grocer's book-keeper and Janet a draper's assistant. The family income was quite secure.
In 1911 the family was still in Burnbrae Cottage, although John, Donald and Mary were no longer at home. Archibald senior had retired, Archibald junior was a domestic coachman and Isabella and Jenny were both book keepers for a grocer.
John L McInnes volunteered in Bridge of Weir in early June 1915, although he had been employed for a considerable time prior to that as a butcher in Dingwall. He was enlisted as a Private in the 12th Battalion of the Scottish Rifles, a reserve battalion used to train and replenish troops for active service.
Private McInnes's Medal Index Card does not record when he first joined the theatre of war but he was not awarded the 1914 -15 Star, so he did not see action until 1916. He was attached to the 10th Battalion Scottish Rifles, which formed part of the 46th Brigade of the 15th (Scottish) Division. On 27th January 1916, that battalion suffered losses near Chalk Pit Wood in the Loos sector when the Germans launched a local bombardment and attack, possibly to mark the Kaiser's birthday. John was killed near Vermelles on 12th May 1916 in another German attack, this time on the section of trench known as 'The Kink'. His name is recorded on the Loos Memorial which commemorates over 20,000 officers and men who have no known grave, and who fell in the area from the River Lys to the old southern boundary of the First Army, east and west of Grenay.
Both of John's parents had died before him. His brothers also served, and one of them was home on furlough when news of his death was received.
The field of battle where John McInnes fell on 12th May 1916. The 10th Scottish Rifles were in the central part of the divisional front when the Germans re-took "The Kink.".
Bridge of Weir|
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Scottish National War Memorial
Archibald McInnes and Isabella Lang marriage certificate. 12th June 1873. Regd Kilmacolm, Renfrew 14th June 1873
John Lang McInnes birth certificate, 18th Aug 1879. Regd Kilmacolm, Renfrewshire 1st Sep 1879.
1881 UK Census: Parish: Kilmalcolm; ED:3; Page:12; Line:22; Roll: cssct1881_169.
1891 UK Census: Parish: Kilmalcolm; ED:3; Page:3; Line:23; Roll: CSSCT1891_185.
1901 UK Census: Parish: Kilbarchan; ED:2; Page:16; Line: 4; Roll: CSSCT1901_188.
1911 UK Census: Parish: Kilbarchan; ED: 2; Page 12, Lines 4 to 8: 559/0B 002/00 012.
Divisional History: The Fifteenth (Scottish) Division 1914-1919. J. Stewart and John Buchan. 1926. pp 68-72.May 1916: Undoubtedly at this period of the war the Hohenzollern section had for its size by far the worst reputation of any on the British front in almost every respect. The explosion of mines was of daily and nightly occurence, and it was only by dogged perseverance and almost superhuman efforts that the sappers at last established superiority over the enemy. The whole section was overlooked by the enemy, either from mine craters in his possession, from the Hohenzollern Redoubt itself, or from Fosse 8 behind it. From all these points accurate observation could be obtained, and the fire of artillery and trench-mortars directed.
Bad as was the whole of this part of the line, the centre, known as "The Kink," and the trenches in its immediate vicinity, were decidedly the worst. Here the British line formed a slight salient, and was overlooked from both north and south by the enemy. This part of the line always received more than its share of enemy "frightfulness."
Loss of "The Kink": The climax was reached on May 11, when the enemy attacked and captured nearly the whole of "The Kink," thereby straightening out the salient.
Early in the morning of May 11 the enemy subjected the whole Divisional line to a considerable bombardment. This died down about 10 A.M., only to increase again at intervals during the day. Whilst these bombardments were going on, the 46th Brigade were relieving the 44th in the Quarries sector, the relief being completed by 2.30 P.M., when the latter brigade proceeded on its way to Divisional reserve at Sailly Labourse, Labourse, and Bethune.
The two brigades in the front line were then disposed as follows:-
Quarries, Right Sector, 46th Brigade -
Right Sub-Sector, 8th K.O.S.B.
Left Sub-Sector, 10th Scottish Rifles.
Brigade Support, 7th K.O.S.B.
Brigade Reserve, 12th H.L.I.
(at Vermelles and Noyelles)
Hohenzollern, Left Sector, 45th Brigade:-
Right Sub-Sector, 13th Royal Scots.
Left Sub-Sector, 11th A. and S. Highlanders.
Right Brigade Reserve, 6/7th Royal Scots Fusiliers.
Left Brigade Reserve, 6th Cameron Highlanders.From the above disposition it will be seen that the 10th Scottish Rifles, 46th Brigade, and the 13th Royal Scots, 45th Brigade, held the centre of the Divisional line. It was against these two battalions that the attack was directed. Throughout the morning and afternoon the craters in front of "The Kink," and particularly the trenches occupied by the 13th Royal Scots, were subjected to severe artillery and trench-mortar fire, the front line being almost obliterated in many places. A few mines had been blown by the enemy the night before and he had been more than usually active with machine-gun fire during the darkness, in order to prevent the British from wiring the craters. There was therefore very little in the way of obstacles at this particular point to stop an enemy attack.
At 5.45 P.M. the enemy's artillery fire increased still further in violence, and at the same time began counter-battery fire on the Divisional artillery positions around Philosophe and Vermelles, battery positions round Annequin receiving particular attention....
At 6 P.M. the enemy launched his attack on a narrow front, his flanks protected by machine-gun fire from Hohenzollern Redoubt and the craters near the Quarries, and succeeded in penetrating the British line at "The Kink" on a front of about 600 yards and to a maximum depth of 400 yards (from G. 5 d. 1 2 to G. 5 c. 2 3). That he was able to do as much as this was due to the fact that the 13th Royal Scots had suffered severely during the preliminary bombardment. Their commanding officer, Lieut.-Colonel R. B. C. Raban, his second-in-command, Major H. T. M. Worthington Wilmer, and the machine-gun officer had been killed, and the remainder of the headquarter staff wounded by one shell that penetrated the entrance of their dug-out, and killed or wounded every occupant. This was all the more unfortunate, as it had been decided to move battalion headquarters farther back that same afternoon. In addition, other officers had been killed; the adjutant, Captain Francis, and several more wounded; and about half the battalion either killed ot wounded during the bombardment.
At 6.30 P.M. Major Smith, commanding 6/7th Royal Scots Fusiliers, took over command of the right sub-section, and prepared to counter-attack. Bombing parties of the 6/7th Royal Scots Fusiliers up Gordon and Hulluch Alleys, assisted by others of the 10th Scottish Rifles over the open from Boyau 98, and 7th K.O.S.B. along Crown Trench, made no progress, the party of Scottish Rifles, under 2nd Lieutenant Smith, being mown down by machine-gun fire, whilst the other two suffered severely.
As these counter-attacks did not appear to progress, Brig.-General Allgood, commanding 45th Brigade, went forward himself about 8 P.M., and arranged with Major Smith that another counter-attack would be made across the open at 1.30 A.M., bombers of the 11th A. & S. Highlanders co-operating on the right. At 1.25 A.M. the 6/7th Royal Scots Fusiliers, led by Captain Paton, attacked, and were able to retake the western end of Hussar Horn, but beyond this farther progress could not be made. The attackers were caught by cross-fire from enemy machine-guns, and at 3 A.M. it was realised that all hope of retaking the lost trenches before daylight must be abandoned. General Allgood therefore issued orders to consolidate the new line between Boyau 98 and Kaiserin Trench during the remaining hours of darkness. This was carried out by troops in the line, assisted by No. 3 Section, 73rd Field Company, R.E., and 9th Gordon Highlanders (Pioneers). Before daylight much work had been done, and, in view of the fairly heavy enemy shelling, troops in the front line were thinned out, and as many as possible withdrawn to the support trenches....
The casualties sustained by the Division on this occasion were 11 officers killed, 14 wounded, and 2 missing; 97 other ranks were killed, 297 wounded, and 72 missing. Of the latter there is every reason to suppose that most, if not all, were buried during the bombardment. In addition, 61 men attached to the 170th Tunnelling Company were also missing.
May 1916: Undoubtedly at this period of the war the Hohenzollern section had for its size by far the worst reputation of any on the British front in almost every respect. The explosion of mines was of daily and nightly occurence, and it was only by dogged perseverance and almost superhuman efforts that the sappers at last established superiority over the enemy. The whole section was overlooked by the enemy, either from mine craters in his possession, from the Hohenzollern Redoubt itself, or from Fosse 8 behind it. From all these points accurate observation could be obtained, and the fire of artillery and trench-mortars directed.
War Diaries: 10th Cameronians (Scottish Rifles). 1 Jul 1915 - 31 Aug 1919. WO/1954/2. National Archives.1st May 1916. In the trenches. HOHENZOLLERN Section: The Bn remained in reserve in the HOHENZOLLERN Section until 2nd May when it was relieved & came back to SAILLY LABOURSE. During these two days there was still the alarm of gas. Every man seemed to have got it into their heads that the enemy was setting vast clouds adrift. In point of fact none came near us tho' both south & north the enemy continued this form of aggressiveness. The relief on the 3rd was protracted owing to the fact that the Brigade was still finding(?) the local reserve in 10th Avenue to the 16th Division. However on 2nd June [sic] we got back to SAILLY for an 8 days rest which was spent in orthodox fashion training & finding(?) fatigues. There was no event of note:
On the morning of the 11th the Bn moved into the left subsection of the HULLUCH Section with its left resting on RABBIT RUN & not as in paper on RIFLEMANS ALLEY. About 4pm the enemy opened a very intense bombardment, shelling the trenches very heavily & the communications both on this & the far side of VERMELLES. This shelling continued with furious intensity & accuracy for over 4 hours. Some of the shells used emitted a dense black smoke which practically made it impossible to tell what the position of matters was & Very Lights did not much illumine the picture tho' used freely. Telephone communication was cut. Trenches were levelled with the ground. The shelling of 27th Jany was extremely heavy. It lasted only one hour. This time as heavy shelling continued over 4 hours. The result was chaos & darkness. But Discipline instilled with care at CAUCHY kept the Bn intact. At 6 pm the enemy was discovered in our trenches, & at once C Coy on the left started to bomb him out. In this we were not over successful & eventually progress ceased & barriers were erected along the trenches having failed a counter attack over the open started led by 2/Lt J.M. SMITH & some men of B Coy. They came up against machine guns & were mown down. Bombs were being brought up in quantities, carried now over the battered trenches, almost over open ground, men of all regiments were moved up but no progress was made. It was decided to attack again but this order was cancelled & so day broke with our Company front still intact but heavily battered & the enemy in possession of the trenches alongside tho' not as at one time feared along HULLUCH ALLEY.
The following days were spent in organising our positions & preparing for a counter attack. The enemy had marked off the line held by him by a series of flags & at the bombing posts on his flanks a ceaseless interchange of bombs continued.
A counter attack was arranged for the 14/15th to drive the enemy out. Cooperation by heavies & field guns was promised. But the actuality did not much succeed in cowing the enemy. Instead it found him very lively & the result was that the attack cost us much & obtained little result. The Bn at this time were carrying bombs.
For all our work on these two nights & especially for our work on the 11th we were congratulated by the Brigadier. In these few days we had lost a good many men & several officers & when the line was extended farther to the right with the arrival of the new battns from the 9th Division we were not sorry to find ourselves in a new part of the line slightly more peaceful from that we had left. We were now south of the HULLUCH Road - work here was quite of the usual trench nature. We had a good few unlucky casualties in wiring including Capt GLEGG but apart from this there was nothing to report till we came out of the trenches altogether on the 27th May.
1st May 1916. In the trenches. HOHENZOLLERN Section: The Bn remained in reserve in the HOHENZOLLERN Section until 2nd May when it was relieved & came back to SAILLY LABOURSE. During these two days there was still the alarm of gas. Every man seemed to have got it into their heads that the enemy was setting vast clouds adrift. In point of fact none came near us tho' both south & north the enemy continued this form of aggressiveness. The relief on the 3rd was protracted owing to the fact that the Brigade was still finding(?) the local reserve in 10th Avenue to the 16th Division. However on 2nd June [sic] we got back to SAILLY for an 8 days rest which was spent in orthodox fashion training & finding(?) fatigues. There was no event of note:
Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette
5th June 1915: More recent recruits, John L McInnes, Mimosa, 12th Battalion, Scottish Rifles.
3rd June 1916: News has been received this week of the death in action of Private John McInnes (20669) 10th Scottish Rifles, which occurred on 12th May. Private McInnes resided at Burnbrae Cottage, though prior to his enlisting a year ago he was employed for a considerable time as a butcher in Dingwall. He was well known locally and much sympathy is felt for his sisters and brothers. One of the latter has just arrived on short furlough from France, when the sad news was received.
10th May 1919: IN MEMORIAM: In loving and proud memory of Private John Lang MacInnes, Scottish Rifles, who was killed in action near Vermelles, France on 12th May 1916. Burnbrae, Bridge of Weir.
Glasgow Evening Times
o 2nd June 1916: Intimation has been received by Miss McInnes, Burnbrae Cottage, Bridge of Weir, of the death in action of her brother, Private John McInnes, Scottish Rifles. Prior to enlisting about a year ago, Private McInnes was employed as a butcher in Dingwall.
Kilbarchan Cemetery Monumental Inscription:
o In loving memory of ARCHIBALD McINNES who died at Burnbrae, Bridge-of-Weir 28th January 1912 aged 67 and of his wife ISABELLA LANG who died at Burnbrae, Bridge-of-Weir 23rd July 1915 aged 69 also their son Pte. JOHN LANG killed in action in France 12th May 1916 aged 36. ARCHIBALD died 8th May 1971 aged 89 his wife CATHERINE MACKIE died 18th May 1973 aged 81.
Regimental Roll of Honour of the Officers, Warrant Officers, N.C.Os. & Men of The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
o McInnes, J.: Private: 20669: 10th Battalion: France 12/5/16: Kilmacolm.
Medals: Victory, British War.
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