George Mackay was
born in Tongue, son of Hugh and Barbara Mackay of Island Roan, Skerray,
Sutherlandshire. He lived with his wife Janet and four chidren at Number 7 Henrietta Street,
Wick and was the only man from Island Roan to join the Army, he was also the
only man from the Island from the nineteen to join up to be killed (See Skerray
Roll of Honour).
George enlisted in the Army in Wick at the
outbreak of war and was sent to the 7 Battalion Royal Scots
Fusiliers serving with the 45 Brigade, 15 (Scottish)
Initial training for the Division was
carried out at the Aldershot Training Centre, before assembling on Salisbury
Plain in November 1914. The Division suffered a terrible shortage of weapons
and equipment but by improvising with wooden weapons and borrowed uniforms; it
soon reached a high standard of military proficiency. In January 1915 the 15
(Scottish) Division was inspected by Lord Kitchener and the French Minister of
War, only enough rifles were available to equip the front rank for the parade.
The Division embarked overseas in July
1915, arriving in billets at Tilques near St-Omer France by the 13of
the month. The 15th(Scottish) Division was one of the first New Army units
raised by General Kitchener to cross over the English Channel and would soon
face its baptism of fire in battle.
On the 25 of September 1915
after many days of bombardment, the British attacked the Germans around Loos
the attack was assisted by the first British use of poison gas. The 15(Scottish)
Division attacked Loos village and then onto Hill 70, taking all objectives.
Units on the divisional flanks however failed to keep up with the Scots and the
attack was never fully exploited. (See also Piper William D Mackay, Skerrabeg).
The 15(Scottish) Division
spent the winter of 1915-16 in trenches at Loos holding the lines at
Hohenzollern and Hulluch. The 7 Royal Scots Fusiliers spent most
of their time carrying out routine trench holding duties, under heavy shellfire
and in the most terrible conditions imaginable.
Battalions would normally take over the
trenches during the night so that the enemy would not know that a relief had
taken place. As soon as the companies took over the trenches the sections were
usually numbered off for guard duty and to prepare to fend off any enemy trench
raids or larger attacks. The men in the sections worked one hour on sentry duty
followed by one hour on work detail including the digging trenches to make them
more secure, they also repaired dugouts and fixed the barbed wire entanglements
damaged by shellfire.
The men usually rested during the day trying
to sleep on ledges cut along the edge of the trench, standing to at dawn and
dusk ready to repel enemy attacks. Once morning stand to was over the men were
given breakfast, cleaned their weapons and received an issue of service rum
before trying to get some sleep. The days sleep was usually broken up by spells
on guard duty, watching over no-mans land with a trench periscope and trying to
avoid the constant bombardments lasting from a few minutes to many hours.
Artillery from both sides constantly fired
shells on the trenches, a rain of steel that attempted to shatter the morale of
the defenders and soften up the ground for future attacks. An enemy artillery
barrage usually fell on one end of the British line, working its way along a
few yards at a time. The British soldiers waited for the artillery to begin its
move along the line then made a dash for the area that had already been
shelled, they sat in the shelled area until the barrage died away then returned
to their posts.
Battalions usually spent four days in the
frontline pulling back to rest billets for the same period, whilst in the
billets picture shows, concerts and inter unit football leagues were laid on. A
great deal of rivalry existed between the various Regiments, and unit pride
rested on those that took part in the football matches. Scottish Divisions were
famous for laying on Highland Games behind the lines and many units sent along
their finest athletes to compete in the tug of war and sports events.
In March 1916 the 7 Royal
Scots Fusiliers were involved in trench holding duties close to Loos village,
the battalion spent its time in the trenches improving the general living
conditions under heavy shellfire. The battalion remained in and out of this
sector of front line trench until August when it was sent to join the Battle of
Private George Mackay was killed by shellfire
in the trenches east of Loos on the 12 of May 1916 at the age of
thirty-five years, his body was not found after the fighting was over. His name
does not appear on the Roll of Honour that is inside Tongue church, this may be
because he had moved to live in Wick and his family did not inform whoever had
made the scrolls that are behind the pulpit.
NATIONAL WAR MEMORIAL EDINBURGH CASTLE
16830. (b) Tongue Sutherlandshire. Died in F&F on 12-5-16.
Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers.
WAR GRAVES COMMISSION
George. 16830. 7 Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers. 12
May 1916. Son of Hugh and Barbara Mackay of Island Roan, Sutherlandshire and
husband of Janet Mackay of 4 Henrietta Street Wick.
Mackay 16830, 7 Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers has no known grave
and is remembered on the LOOS MEMORIAL, PAS DE CALAIS, FRANCE. (See also Piper
William D Mackay, Skerrabeg.)