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7122: Searching for the Grave of James Cyness McGhee, Killed at the Battle of Passchendaele

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posted on 2024-01-17, 17:23 authored by Lest We Forget Project Team

James Cyness McGhee was my grandfather. He was born in 1881 at Crimmond to George McGhee and his wife, Mary. Before the war he made his living farming. James and his wife, Louisa, had five children when he went to war.

James was in the 9th Battalion of the Gordon Highlanders. It is not known when he began his service. On 22nd August 1917 he was killed at the Battle of Passchendaele, along with twelve of his comrades in the 9th Battalion.

All that we have as mementos of his time at the Western Front are his belt, his silver cap badge, a beautifully sown handkerchief and medals. The handkerchief is embroidered with the emblem of the Cameron Highlanders so it has been donated to the Cameron Highlanders Museum at Fort George. The belt and cap badge have been donated to the Gordon Highlanders Museum, Aberdeen. The belt is adorned with badges from different regiments.

James McGhee's widow, Louisa, died in 1958 and never knew where he was buried, despite several attempts to find out. The reply from the war Office to a letter she sent soon after his death just vaguely said it was at a point North of Frezenberg (North-east of Ypres). The family have been searching for many years. They didn't know which grave due to having no number. Eventually they learned that James McGhee lies in a mass grave at Aeroplane Cemetery, near Ypres, Belgium. They were led to the site by a headstone for Sergeant A Ross, who also died on 22 August 1917 and who was laid to rest alongside the men.

There are articles in the Press and Journal of June 12, 2014, and August 22, 2014, which tell the story.

The following are details from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission about those who died on 22 August 1917 and a few others:

Private James C. McGhee, S/14774, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders who died on 22 August 1917. Remembered with Honour. Tyne Cot Memorial.


Sergeant A Ross, Mentioned in Despatches, 238069, "F" Coy. 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders who died on 22 August 1917 Age 34. Son of Alexander and Jane Wilson Ross; husband of Isabella Thomson Wight Ross, of 101 Chapel St, Huntly, Aberdeenshire. Native of Gamrie, Gardenstown, Banff.

Remembered with Honour. Aeroplane Cemetery.

Lance Corporal John Ross Watt, S/10400, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders who died on 22 August 1917 Age 22. Son of Alexander Watt of Hobsland Cottage, Monkton, Ayrshire. Remembered with Honour. Tyne Cot Memorial.

Lance Corporal Charles Williamson, S/3650, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders who died on 22 August 1917 Age 27. Son of the late Alexander and Isabella Williamson. Remembered with Honour. Tyne Cot Memorial.

Second Lieutenant Norman John Angus, 4th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders who died on 18 September 1917 Age 22. Son of Mrs. Anne Angus, of 115 Clifton Rd., Aberdeen, and the late John Angus. Remembered with Honour. Etaples Military Cemetery.

Private T Rowell, S/12861, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders who died on 17 August 1917. Remembered with Honour. Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery.
Lieutenant Alexander James Bolton Milne, 4th Battalion, attached to 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders who died on 22 August 1917 Age 30. Son of Rev. A. A. Milne and Janet Milne, of Oakfield House, Doune, Perthshire. Native of Lerwick, Shetland. Remembered with Honour. White House Cemetery, St. Jean-Les-Ypres.

Private Thomas Harvey, S/3071, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders who died on 22 August 1917 Age 22. Son of John Harvey, of 145 Castle St., Townhead, Glasgow. Remembered with Honour. Tyne Cot Memorial.

Lance Corporal Hugh Farquhar, S/9050, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders who died on 22 August 1917 Age 28. Son of Henry Farquhar, of 15 Ogilvie place, Arbroath. Remembered with Honour. Tyne Cot Cemetery.

Private D Munro, S/4287, 9th Battalion, Gordon highlanders who died on 22 August 1917. Remembered with Honour. Tyne Cot Cemetery.

Private J Grant, S/10533, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders who died on 22 August 1917 Age 25. Son of Mrs R. Grant, of 19 Well St., Paisley. Remembered with Honour. Tyne Cot Cemetery.

Private John Brown, S/41329, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders who died on 22 August 1917. Remembered with Honour. Tyne Cot Memorial.

Private John Gibb, S/40285, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders who died on 22 August 1917 Age 19. Son of George and Annie Gibb, of Laurence Cottage, Old Rayne, Insch, Aberdeenshire. Remembered with Honour. Tyne Cot Memorial.

Private Alexander Smith, 9285, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders who died on 06 August 1917. Remembered with Honour. Longuenesse (St. Omer) Souvenir Cemetery.

Private George William Heads, S/17790, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders who died on 22 August 1917 age 21. Son of George William and Margaret Heads, of 15 Whitewell Terrace, Ryton, Co. Durham. Remembered with Honour. Tyne Cot Memorial.

Private Thomas Scobbie, S/41358, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders who died on 22 August 1917. Remembered with Honour. Tyne Cot Memorial.

Private Stephen Stokes, S/10404, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders who died on 22 August 1917. Remembered with Honour. Tyne Cot Memorial.

History

Name of contributor(s)

Kenneth John Mackie

Subject of the story/individual the object(s) relate to

James Cyness McGhee. Private, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders. A Ross. Sergeant, "F"� Coy. 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders. John Ross Watt. Lance Corporal, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders. Charles Williamson. Lance Corporal, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders. Norman John Angus. Second Lieutenant, 4th Battalion, attached to 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders. T Rowell. Private, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders. Alexander James Bolton Milne. Lieutenant, 4th Battalion, attached to 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders. Thomas Harvey. Private, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders. Hugh Farquhar. Lance Corporal, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders. D Munro. Private, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders. J Grant. Private, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders. John Brown. Private, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders. John Gibb. Private, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders. Alexander Smith. Private, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders. George William Heads. Private, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders. Thomas Scobbie. Private, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders. Stephen Stokes. Private , 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders.

Date(s) the event(s) in the story took place

22/08/1917

Location(s) where the event(s) in the story took place

Battle of Passchendaele, Belgium. Aeroplane Cemetery, Ypres, Belgium.

Object(s)

1. Certificate of death for Private James C. McGhee issued by the War Office. 1 image. 2. Letter from the Ministry of Pensions. 1 image. 3. Letter dated 26th August 1917 to Mrs McGhee from Pte A Findlay expressing the sympathy of the Company to her on the death of her husband. 2 images. 4. Picture of James McGhee's medals. 3 images. 5. Picture of James McGhee's silver cap badge. 1 image. 6. Picture of James McGhee's belt. 1 image. 7. Donation form concerning the donation to the Gordon Highlanders Museum of items that had belonged to James McGhee. 1 image. 8. Newspaper cutting from the Press and Journal. Thursday, June 12, 2014. It carries an article entitled "Search for relatives of grandfather's comrades"�. Ken Mackie has just traced his grandfather's unmarked grave and is seeking descendants of his grandfather's comrades who died on the same day, August 22, 1917 at the Battle of Passchendaele. 2 images. 9. Newspaper cutting from the Press and Journal. Monday, August 11, 2014. 2 images. 10. Newspaper cutting with an article entitled "Summer of great slaughter at a clachan called Passchendaele"� published in 1997, 80 years after the battle. 2 images. 11. Memorial Letter for Pte. James McGhee from Buckingham Palace. 1 image. 12. Picture of James C. McGhee of Hythie, Mintlaw. 1 image. 13. Official letter to Mrs Louisa McGhee notifying her of the death of James C. McGhee on 22nd August 1917, killed in action. 1 image. 14. Letter to Mrs L. McGhee saying that Private J. C. McGhee is reported as buried at a point North of Frenzenberg (North-East of Ypres). 1 image. 15. Menin Gate, Belgium. 1 image. 16. Reconstructed trench. 2 images. 17. Photographs of Tyne Cot Memorial and the panel on which the name of James C. McGhee is recorded. 2 images. 18. List of those killed or died of wounds issued by Lt.-Col. T. G. Taylor, D.S.O., Commanding. Issued 23rd August, 1917. 1 image. 19. Information about James Cyness McGhee, Private, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. 2 images. 20. Information about A Ross, Sergeant, "F"� Coy. 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. 6 images. 21. Information about John Ross Watt, Lance Corporal, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. 1 image. 22. Information about Charles Williamson, Lance Corporal, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. 1 image. 23. Information about Norman John Angus, Second Lieutenant, 4th Battalion, attached to 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. 4 images. 24. Information about T Rowell, Private, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. 3 images. 25. Information about Alexander James Bolton Milne, Lieutenant, 4th Battalion, attached to 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. 4 images. 26. Information about Thomas Harvey, Private, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. 1 image. 27. Information about Hugh Farquhar, Lance Corporal, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. 1 image. 28. Information about D Munro, Private, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. 1 image. 29. Information about J Grant, Private, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. 1 image. 30. Information about John Brown, Private, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. 1 image. 31. Information about John Gibb, Private, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. 1 image. 32. Information about Alexander Smith, Private, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. 3 images. 33. Information about George William Heads, Private, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, from the Commonwealth War graves Commission. 1 image. 34. Information about Thomas Scobbie, Private, 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. 1 image. 35. Information about Stephen Stokes, Private , 9th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. 1 image.

Community Collection Day

Mackie Academy, Stonehaven (23/02/19)

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