The 7th Battalion King’s Own Scottish Borderers were a major unit of 46 Brigade, 15th (Scottish) Division. This Division was established by the Scottish Command in September 1914, as part of the Army Orders authorising Kitchener’s Second New Army, landed in France July 1915 and served with distinction on the Western Front for the remainder of the war, participating in most of the significant actions and winning high regard by the Germans as one of the most formidable in the British army. Its first major battle was Loos on the 25th September 1915.
Compared with the small-scale British efforts of spring 1915, this attack of six Divisions was a mighty offensive indeed – so much so that it was referred to at the time as ‘The Big Push’. Taking place on ground not of their choosing and before stocks of ammunition and heavy artillery were sufficient, the opening of the battle was noteworthy for the first use of poison gas by the British Army. Despite heavy casualties, there was considerable success on the first day in breaking into the deep enemy positions near Loos and Hulluch. But the reserves had been held too far from the battle front to be able to exploit the successes and succeeding days bogged down into attritional warfare for minor gains.
On the morning of 25th September Piper Laidlaw’s Company were formed up in forward trenches, under heavy German shell fire and awaiting H hour to assault Hill 70 when a cloud of poison gas drifted over their position. Jocks began to cough and choke and succumb rapidly to the effects of the gas. The Company Commander seeing Laidlaw standing with his pipes awaiting orders to go ‘over the top’ shouted “Pipe them together, Laidlaw, for God’s sake, pipe them together”. Immediately Laidlaw climbed onto the parapet and began marching up and down the length of the trench. Oblivious to shell, machine gun fire and chlorine gas, he played “Blue Bonnets”and “Standard on the Braes o’ Mar”. The effect it had on his company was magical, seeing the Jocks take courage, the Company Commander gave the order to advance and shouted, “Come on, Borderers, who’ll be the first to reach the German trenches”. With bayonets fixed Jocks swarmed up out of the trenches and followed Piper Laidlaw into the assault. He continued piping until near the German lines when he was badly wounded in both legs, he continued to play, managed to get up and hobble after the company.
Piper Daniel Laidlaw was awarded the Victoria Cross. To read the award citation ‘click’ on the link shown on the History Page.
“Always a Borderer”