Monday, March 12, 2007

Arras. Battle of Arras. Logs. WWI. 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers. Lt.Col. Maurice Edwin McConaghey

Battle of the Somme
The Nivelle Offensive

McConaghey fell.
Little Village, Neuville-Vitasse;

Deaths here had no strategic effect on the Western Front as a whole, as it turned out.

"20th April 1917.  The Nivelle Offensive, which includes the Second Battle of Aisne and the Third Battle of Champagne ends in French Failure."
 The History of the Royal Scots Fusiliers (1678-1918) by John Buchan

 Here, the logs of the 2d Royal Scots Fusiliers at Arras, where distant cousin Maurice McConaghey fell.

1.  France was a site of much of the combat of WWI.  Does it matter how many died, comparative mortalities, in weighing wars.  Conflicts produce huge numbers, military and civilian. See FN 1/

By any measure, however, World War I is enormous in its loss of life, 8,500,000 military killed, not counting civilians, see;  With that devastation of place and family, turn now to details of some battles in France and bordering Belgium.

2.  The Nivelle Offensive.  The Battle of the Somme.  The Battle of Arras.  France. Get behind the statistics.

What was it like for a specific officer at the Somme, a relative from Devon, England, who served in the Boer Wars and then at the Somme, near Arras, where he was killed. See  FN 2.

2.1  Read John Buchan's book, History of the Royal Scots Fusiliers (1678-1918).

2.2  Sample.  From The History of the Royal Scots Fusiliers (1678-1918) by John Buchan --
[p.380][1917 April 13-23]

"*** The 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers were out of the line till 19th April when they returned to occupy a portion of the Hindenburg Line on the south side of the Cojeul River.

The first stage of the battle of Arras concluded on 11th April, and thereafter for more than a week our front was improved only by small local movements, while the enemy showed vigour in his counter-attacks.  On the 16th came Nivelle's great adventure on the Aisne, and it was incumbent on Haig to press his advance so as to divert the German strength.  So far as the British armies were concerned, the main task was finished, and their duty now was subsidiary -- to distract the enemy from Nivelle rather than to win their own special objectives.  Accordingly at dawn on the 23rd Haig attacked on an eight-mile front on both banks of the Scarpe against the line Gavrelle--Roeux--Guemappe--Fontaine-les- Croiselles.


 [p.381][1917 April 23-May 3]

On the 23rd, too, the 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers were engaged with the rest of the Thirtieth Division in an attack on the high ground overlooking Cherisy in the Sensee valley.  The batallion advanced at 4.45 a.m. on a two-company front, and was immediately caught and checked by a terrific machine-gun barrage.  At six a.m. the enemy counter-attacked, but was held; at six p.m. the 21st Brigade attempted to repeat the morning's attack, but it too suffered disaster; at nine p.m. the survivors of the Scots Fusiliers were withdrawn to reserve positions.  The day depleted the battalion by more than one-half.  The commanding officer -- Lieut.-Colonel M. E. McConaghey -- fell, and with him Second Lieutenants J. Spears, J. McLeod, T. Leishman, H. F. Smith and J. C. Cameron, and 55 other ranks; 4 officers and 195 men were wounded; 4 officers and 209 men missing.  On 26th April Major W. L. Campbell took over command [emphasis supplied].

The close of April marked the end of the battle of Arras as originally planned.  It was an action complete in itself -- that is to say, it attained completely its immediate objective; but owing to events outside the control of the British Command, it did not produce a strategical effect upon the Western front as a whole which was its ultimate design. ***

3.  Family Trees. As any tree, the perspective depends on the looking post. No tree can all be seen all at once. Ours has widely veering branches including those in colonies, relative peacetime, or war. This branch has roots in colonial India. After Maurice Edwin was killed, his widow, Cynthia Estcourt 1886-1981, what happened? where did she go?  She was from the Isle of Wight, he, from Westward Ho!, Devon, but born in India.  Did they return to India for their marriage?  Colonial ties:  economic, family, roots taking hold.

If we think that any of us are unconnected to the larger globe, think again, is that so?


FN 1 Congo Free State 1886-1908:  80,000,000
World War I 1914-1918:  15,000,000
Russian Civil War 1917-1922:  9,000,000
World War II 1939-1945: 66,000,000
Peoples Republic of China, Chairman Mao: 40,000,000


FN 1  Catalogues of death.  Are battles worth it.  What is it? Read the technical result of the battle in which Maurice McConaghey died at  Memorializing the dead. The issue here is how and who gets recalled, in all the deaths of a conflict.  If cultures and families let people fall unnoticed, circumstances unexamined, are they more likely to recur.  Wikipedia: a good place to start on analyzing casualties, at Eighteen million dead, total, see breakdowns by cause.

Racism. Another issue, in looking at comparative mortalities -- five million dead in the Congo, 1998-2011 or so alone, unsung.  See  Iraq, modern US warfare, has seen far smaller numbers at  But is there a deliberate exclusion of civilian casualties, or any reasonable effort to catalogue them? It is culture that determines whether people are remembered or not.  Numbers killed do not determine impact on history or people. 

FN 2 Maurice Edwin McConaghey is buried at London Cemetery, named for the Division, near the village of Neville Vitasse, in the department of the Pas-de-Calais, and some five miles south of Arras. There, the Royal Scots Fusiliers fought in 1916, including Lt.Col. Maurice McConaghey 1877-1917. With the "e".
  • Maurice Edwin had served in the Boer Wars in 1899, was wounded and returned to Great Britain on a hospital ship; all those are available online.  He was wounded in March 1917, and returned to battle a month or so later at the same place, near Neuville-Vitasse, and was killed.

This Regiment, the Second, was founded in 1678.  The  Colonel-in-Chief was H.R.H. The Prince of Wales, Edward, son of King George V; but Edward's position was that of staff officer of the XIV Corps on the Somme position, see The Prince of Wales was not involved in the fighting either there or at Arras.

However, Prince Edward's preface is given at John Buchan's book, History of the Royal Scots Fusilers (1678-1918).  Buchan's book is online in pdf at'S.doc.  Find Buchan at

The 56th London Division attacked Neuville-Vitasse on April 7, 1917, and captured it two days later. The 56th (London) Division itself made the cemetery, and it was extended after the Armistice, with remains brought from other burial grounds.  The London contains 747 burials or commemorations:  of that, 318 are unidentified.  Others, graves destroyed by shelling, appear on a panel representing other areas nearby.

1 comment:


Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

Your article is very well done, a good read.