Just as nowadays, in 1914 many men from the district moved to other parts of the country to further their education and careers.
One such man was Arthur Neil Simpson (known as Neil) who moved to the Cheshire, he was the son of Joseph and Jessie Simpson, who lived at the Schoolhouse in Cousland.
A few weeks after war was declared Neil Simpson decided that he would enlist in the Army, his choice of unit reflected his new home, and his old one, the 1/10th Battalion of the Liverpool Regiment, the Liverpool Scottish, resplendent in their Glengarries with blue hackles and Forbes kilts.
Ironically the first port of call for the Liverpool Scottish was Edinburgh where they camped up in Holyrood Park for a while. Neil settled into his duties well and became very friendly with William Lavin and Ernie Morris from Liverpool, and Herbert Cooper from Cheshire. The four lads were sent to France on 1st of November, 1914, some of the first Territorial soldiers to arrive there.
They saw action at the end of November and spent the winter fighting in the fields of Flanders. Up until now the lads had been lucky, this would change when they were sent to the infamous Hill 60 at Ypres, William Lavin was standing by mate and fellow journalist, Herbert Cooper on 12th March, 1915 when a huge bang was heard, the Germans had exploded a mine and were now attacking over no-mans-land, Lavin took a bullet through the shoulder and it passed through him paralysing him. He died in Liverpool on 5th May.
Neil Simpson was promoted to Corporal around the same time and a stiff test would soon face him. On 16th June, 1915 the Liverpool Scottish
assembled for an attack at Hooge, their target Bellewaarde Ridge, a tactically-important feature that overlooked British positions and a tough nut to crack.
The day started very badly, the Germans perhaps sensing an attack shelled the Liverpool Scottish trenches for two hours between Midnight and 2am, inflicting many casualties.
The fatal decision is then made to press on to take the German 3rd line, it’s a near impossible task, most of the Battalion’s Officers lie dead, dying or wounded on the battlefield, a mere handful rally their men and with NCOs like Neil Simpson press the attack home. They take the 3rd line and hold it briefly, it’s clear though that it’s impossible to hold on and they retire to the other captured trenches, where they hang on for the rest of the day and into the night. Many men lie badly wounded and the Medical Officer Lt Noel Chavasse, Royal Army Medical Corps, and his stretcher bearers put themselves at great risk rescuing these men. Chavasse will go on to win the Victoria Cross twice during the war, the only man in WW1 to do so.
When the roll call is read it’s harrowing, of the 24 officers and 519 other ranks that went over the top that went over the top that morning, 10 officers and 278 men were killed, another 11 officers and 201 men were wounded. A mere 3 officers and 30 men remain unscathed, one of them is Ernie Morris, he frantically looks for his mates Neil Simpson and Herbert Cooper, however the Battalion bombers were at the spear point of the attack, Simpson and Cooper lie dead in the German trenches having displayed great heroism.
A signal from Major General Haldane is read to the men
“The Major General commanding cannot adequately express his admiration for the gallant manner in which this attack was carried out yesterday. The dash and determination of all ranks was beyond praise, and that some actually reached the objective in the first rush and remained there under most trying circumstances is proof of their superiority over the German Infantry. That the captured ground could not be held is disappointing, more especially as the losses incurred were heavy. But these casualties have not been in vain. The 3rd Division carried out a fine piece of work and fought splendidly, and their Commander is deeply proud of them.”
What of Ernie Morris? He soldiered on without his three mates, but he was wounded, captured and died in German hands on 21st of August, 1916.
At first light the whistle blows and Neil Simpson leads his section over the top, the British shelling is heavy and they soon clear the German front line trench at bayonet point, they press on towards the German 2nd line but are caught by a combination of German gunfire and ‘friendly fire’ from British artillery which is dropping short, signal flags are frantically waved but to no effect, eventually the barrage moves on and they charge on to the 2nd line where the Germans are put to flight.
Copyright © All Rights Reserved