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Person Details
29 Oct 1896
West Bridgford Nottingham
He was the son of William Gray Mackay, a commercial traveller and Beatrice Ann Mackay and the brother of Agnes and Robert Mackay. The lived on George Road West Bridgford and later at 31 Compton Road Sherwood Nottingham.
01 Jul 1916
19
803115 - CWGC Website
758
Private
10th Bn Lincolnshire Regiment
He was killed during the assault on La Boisselle which followed the exploding of the Lochnagar mine. Douglas Mackay was a soldier in the 10th Lincolns (the Grimsby Chums) a pals’ battalion, largely drawn from Grimsby, with a nucleus of men from one school in the town. The rest of the men came from other Lincolnshire towns and even a few came from Wakefield. The Chums were raised in 1914 as a local battalion and became part of the Lincolnshire Regiment, “the Yellow Bellies” as they were known. Private C W Mason of the Grimsby Chums described their departure for France thus: “Whilst waiting on the quayside to embark, a huge hospital ship came in filled with wounded. From the upper deck a voice shouted, ‘Are you downhearted?’ To which we replied to a man ‘No-o-o!’. Back came the voice, ‘Then you bloody soon will be!’” The Grimsby Chums had their first taste of trench life near Armentieres in February 1916. Major Walter Vignoles described their first experience: “It has been quite an interesting experience and our men were very bucked and quite enjoyed it, and I must say I did too. The trenches were on the whole in very good condition and there are wooden footboards practically everywhere, and with the dry weather too, it was really quite comfortable. One could not quite get a bath! As of course everything had to be carried up to the trenches by hand, but apart from that one could carry on, at least the officers could, very nearly as well as in camp, with the one exception that one has to sleep in one’s clothes. We had a very quiet time and I will say that the Boche [Germans] behaved in a very gentleman-like manner while we were in, and did not give any shells nor any of his fancy contrivances, only rifle and machine gun fire. One has to look after the top of one’s head, as they are very expert at making the bullets skim the top of the parapet, but they didn’t hit anyone in my company.” Vignoles also had a degree of sympathy for his men, “The men are very fit on the whole but they have a rough time going in and leaving the trenches, carrying heavy loads, slipping and scrambling about, and, I am sorry to say, cursing as a rule in a language that would make a bargee turn pale with envy, but it doesn’t mean anything! No ‘arm!” There were other problems that Vignoles highlighted, rats. “There are millions!! Some are huge fellows, nearly as big as cats. Several of our men were awakened to find a rat snuggling down under the blanket alongside them!” The Battle of the Somme was preceded by one of the biggest bombardments in history. Major Vignoles of the Chums described it: “The noise is terrific, as we are just in front of some of the guns, the shells passing right over us. I cannot describe the noise accurately; it is a series or succession of huge bangs, developing at times into a continuous roar. This ceaseless bombardment of the enemy lines has been going on now for some days, and as our fellows say, we have given him (Germans) some stick…..The whole air throbs with the sound….it seems to come in huge, sudden stabs…It is impressive to watch the vicious puffs of smoke as the shells explode on the enemy’s lines, smoke of all colours from white to green and black and yellow; at night times it is even more impressive as the lines are outlined in the darkness with the bursting shells.” When the Grimsby Chums had to part with the elements of their battalion who were not going over the top, the night before the attack, Major Vignoles, again was on hand to describe the scene. “They shook hands with us all when they left, and went off not at all pleased at being out of the show. We, on the other hand, were in good spirits: I don’t know why, for we all knew that there was a good chance of many being killed or wounded, but we were in good spirits and they were not assumed either – even those who grouse as a rule were cheerful. I think the fact that at last we hoped to get to close quarters with the Boche and defeat him accounted for it.” On 1st July 1916 the 34th Division, of which the Chums were part, were attacking near La Boiselle. Vignoles described the time just before the attack, “We had to wait, so lighted pipes and cigarettes while the men chatted and laughed, and wondered whether the Boche would wait for us. I had a look round but could not see much; the morning was fine and the sun shining, but the enemy trenches were veiled in light mist made worse no doubt by the smoke from the thousands of shells we were pumping into his lines. Nearby I could see our machine gunners, out in the open already, trying to get the best position from which to enfilade certain parts of the Boche line. There was a kind of suppressed excitement running through all the men as the time for the advance came nearer.” The Chums at zero hour, following the blowing of the Lochnagar Mine at 7.28 am under the German front line, managed to beat the Germans to the lip of the Lochnagar Crater. Despite heavy fire they managed to hold on, gaining an important foothold in the enemy frontline. Major Vignoles, waiting in the second wave, watched the Chums attack at zero hour, “The mist had lifted slightly and the picture before me, combined with the uproar, gave me an impression which I am not likely to forget. Looked at broadly, there was nothing horrible about it; the ground fell from where I was into Sausage Valley [Sausage Valley was a name given by the troops to a depression just to the right of La Boiselle. It was so named because the Germans tethered a sausage-shaped observation balloon there. Mash Valley, inevitably was left of the village], rising again beyond covered with enemy trenches. No shells were falling on these, as our barrage had lifted, but dark green figures could be seen moving forward on the right, while No Man’s Land was littered with men apparently lying down. At first it was difficult to realise that these were all casualties, and that what was left of the battalions had pushed on.” They came under sustained and very heavy fire, “I saw a man near me shot through the head. He rolled over and over to the bottom of the crater” (Corporal A. Dickinson, Grimsby Chums). The wounded left in the open were often shot by German snipers if they made any movement. Eighty per cent of the 34th Division became casualties on 1st July 1916. The Grimsby Chums lost 15 officers and 487 men out of 1000, though the attacking force was probably between 700 and 800 on 1st July, so they were luckier than some. Some of the battalions wounded were not brought in from No Man’s Land for days after the battle. Research Simon Williams
Photo Source: The Old Boys of Nottingham High School Killed in the First World War. Unpublished. Courtesy of the school librarian.
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