The story of Private Hugh McIver VC MM and Bar
Last month my blog recorded the early history of My Tommy, Private Hugh McIver, and how he spent over two years abroad with 12th Battalion Royal Scots, before suffering shrapnel wounds to his leg and returning home in October 1917. Later, his service record, held in series WO 363, confirms that, via the Scottish Command Depot and the 3rd Battalion, Private McIver disembarked for France once more as part of the 2nd Battalion Royal Scots on 12 February 1918.
The two relevant War Diaries (that cover the period Hugh served abroad with the 2nd Battalion Royal Scots) are in WO 95/1423/5 and WO 95/1423/6. Both are held by The National Archives and you can view them online. Through these day-to-day recordings of the work carried out by the battalion, one can get a real understanding of the conditions and overall experience of men in the trenches during the First World War.
It is interesting to note that, while battles and enemy engagements are written up in detail, some entries are short and succinct stating simply âsituation quietâ, âenemy quietâ and ânothing special to reportâ. These records suggest that even amidst the chaos of the First World War there are some days where men only had the excitement of a âkit inspectionâ or a âdrillâ to fill their time. We can only imagine whether these quieter days were considered a treasured commodity amongst the men or if the thick of the action was easier to deal with than the calm before the storm. On 15 July 1918 an entry in the War Diary states that âdaylight patrols were successful in capturing four of the enemy. This patrol consisted of 4 other ranks under 2/Lieut HM Somervilleâ.
Just 12 days later, an entry in the battalion War Diary informs us that âthe following awards were granted for âdaringâ and initiative during daylight patrols in the enemy lines on 15th July…â. One of the awards was a âBar to Military MedalâŚ[for]Private H McIver (12311) MM of âCâ Coy 2nd Battalion Royal Scotsâ.
The man who we learned last month was once considered âunlikely to become an efficient special reservistâ had just been awarded his second decoration for bravery. The Bar to Hughâs Military Medal appeared in the London Gazette on 21 October 1918 (past issues of The Gazette are fully searchable online), however Hugh had died over a month previously and his entry reads âNo. 12311 Private Hugh McIver, M.M., late R. Scots (Newton)â.
One month later the 2nd Battalion Royal Scots were involved in a significant attack at Courcelles-le-Comte that started on 21 August 1918, and severe fighting with the enemy continued until 25 August when the men are recorded as âresting and clearing upâ.