Ninety-nine years ago today, on 21st November 1917, the 51st (Highland) Division was advancing on the village of Fontaine-Notre-Dame. The lead battalions were 1/4th Gordon Highlanders on the right and 1/7th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders on the left. They were drawn apart as they engaged the enemy and the gap between them was filled by Captain Gray’s No. 4 Company of 1/4th Seaforth Highlanders, in which Alan Mackintosh was a platoon commander. They were held up by enemy fire from Cantaing and Cantaing Mill and took cover in a sunken road. Eighteen-year-old eyewitness Roderick Mclennan was the loader in a two man Lewis gun team. He had just replaced the ammunition pan when Alan Mackintosh said ‘Keep your heads down,’ then raised his own to observe the enemy. A bullet entered his mouth and killed him instantly. He is buried at Orival Wood Cemetery.
Lest we see a worse thing than it is to die,
Live ourselves and see our friends cold beneath the sky,
God grant we too be lying there in wind and mud and rain
Before the broken regiments come stumbling back again.
From Before the Summer, written in Corbie, 1916.
The collection A Highland Regiment, in which Before the Summer was published, can be read online here.
The background photo in the image is Lonesome Tree by Eryl/Flickr, used under a Creative Commons Licence.