This is Dundee's story of those that served in the First World War, and of the people left at home
Alexander Pirie Abbott
- Date of enlistment: January 1895
- Place of enlistment: Dundee
- Service no: 3643
- Rank: Company Sergeant Major
- Service Occupation:
- Regiment/Service: Cameron Highlanders
- Unit/Ship: 1st Battalion
- Place of Death: France
- Age at Death: 37
- Date of Death: 25.09.1914
- Burial Country: France
- Cemetery: La Ferte-Sous-Jouarre Memorial
- Grave/Mem Ref no:
- Date of Birth: 1877
- Place of Birth: Dundee
- Occupation: Trainee Chemist
Margaret Gray Pirie
James Millar Abbott
Jemima, Patricia, Alfred, Ernest, Kate, Margaret & Wilfred
Janet Emslie Abbott, 3 Wellbank Pl, Monifieth
Margaret, born 31.07.07, Patricia, born 25.05.1909 & Jessie, born 30.08.1912
More about Alexander Pirie Abbott
For reasons unknown Alex is not listed on the original Dundee Roll of Honour.
A Braw Sodger of the 79th Highlanders
Company Sergeant Major Alexander Abbott, 1877-1914
Donald M. Abbott, F.S.A. Scot (1695)
This article is extracted from Donald’s paper, ‘Three Braw Sodgers of the 42nd and 79th Highlanders’, concerning his grandfather, his great uncle and the grandfather of his late uncle-by-marriage. The story here is that of his great uncle, Alexander Pirie Abbott, who paid the Supreme Sacrifice in the Great War.
Alexander had been born in Dundee in 1877, the eldest of three sons of James Millar Abbott and Margaret Gray Pirie of Dundee; his four female siblings were older. In his youth, he had not long started a course in Dundee for qualification as a chemist, when he went off suddenly in January 1895 to join the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders. He served in the Sudan, 1898, where the 1st Camerons won the Battle Honours of Atbara 1898 and Omdurman 1898. He served too in South Africa during the Boer War. The 1st Battalion was home in Inverness from 1902-04 and served in Ireland and Aldershot between 1904 and 1913. Thereafter they returned to Edinburgh in 1913 and on 12th August 1914 the 1st Camerons marched out of Edinburgh Castle for France, war having been declared on 4th August of that year.
Sadly, Alexander lost his life early in the Great War. The 1st Battalion of the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders had its headquarters in a cave on the banks of the River Aisne and at 7.30 am on 25th September 1914, two huge German shells exploded, one on the roof of the cave and the other at its entrance. The occupants were entombed and it was speculated that they were probably killed outright. Five Officers including the Acting C.O. and the Medical Officer were killed, as were Regimental Sergeant Major G.S.Burt, Company Sergeant Major Alexander Abbott and Sergeant A. Hutchison, together with two Junior N.C.O.s, and 17 others (five Bandsmen, a Drummer and 11 Private soldiers).
It seems that the H.Q. cave was also in use as a Dressing Station for the wounded, which would account for the presence of the Medical Officer and the Bandsmen, the latter being used in battle as stretcher-bearers. Surprisingly perhaps, there were four survivors.
This Battle of the Aisne was a precursor of the later trench warfare and before the British Expeditionary Force was fully deployed in France. It was a foretaste of Loos, the Somme, etc, that were to follow with resultant carnage as well as deeds of great bravery and sacrifice.
So far as I can establish, the bodies of these brave Cameron Highlanders still lie where they fell.
For his own superb service to Crown and Country, Alexander held the Queen’s Medal and Khedive’s Medal with clasp for Atbara; Queen’s Medal with clasp for Wittebergen, Cape Colony and Transvaal; plus King’s Medal with clasp South Africa 1902. His posthumous Medals for World War I are the 1914 Star with clasp, British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
C.S.M. Alexander Abbott is commemorated at the La Ferté-Sous-Jouarre Memorial at Seine-et-Marne, France, and his name is included in the Books of Remembrance at the National War Memorial in Edinburgh Castle, in the Chapel of Fort George, Ardersier, and on an Anderson gravestone at Crathie. Before the conflagration at Morgan Academy Dundee (now restored) his name for alphabetical reasons topped the School War Memorial which then stood in the vestibule of the main entrance door adjacent to the then Rector’s office. When just newly in First Year in 1950, I went to take a look; this brought down the wrath of the Rector, Peter Robertson, on my head as I was intruding in his “Holy of Holies”. I have no information about a replacement for this Memorial in the restored Morgan Academy. Alexander’s name and death are recorded also on the one remaining Abbot(t) family gravestone within the Western Cemetery, Perth Road, Dundee (beyond the main gate, through the pathway entrance at the centre of the hedge and just a little in to the left). The neighbouring Abbot family gravestone was toppled over and so removed, many years ago.
La Ferté-Sous-Jouarre Memorial commemorates 4000 Officers and men of the British Expeditionary Force who died in August, September and early October 1914 and who have no known graves. It is sited within this small town some 60 kilometres to the east of Paris in a small park on the south bank of the River Marne. The Memorial register is kept in the Town Hall.
Alexander had married Janet Anderson and had three daughters with grandchildren and great grandchildren. Some of his descendants today are in Dundee, Brisbane, Australia, the USA and, I believe, Norway. At the time of his death, his wife and family were resident in Monifieth.
Information supplied by Gary Thomson, additional information and image kindly supplied by Donald Abbott.
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