Robert Mackay was born in
Tongue, son of Roderick and Isabella Mackenzie of Erribol Tongue, the
War Memorial says that he came from Torrisdale in Skerray. He enlisted in the
Territorial Army at Golspie sometime before the outbreak of the First World
War, he was then called up by his battalion, 5th (Sutherland
& Caithness) Highlanders on mobilisation.
The 5th Seaforths
left Wick on the 5 of August 1914, joining the 1
Highland Territorial Division near Bedford England. The 1 Highland
Division was renamed the 51 (Highland) Division before it crossed
to France in April 1915. (See also A Clarke, Tongue.)
On the 2 May
1915, the 5 Seaforths arrived in France and spent so time in
reserve near Richebourg during the 2 Battle of Ypres. On the 15
of May the 51 (Highland) Division was moved close to Estaires and
attached to the Indian Corps, for the attack on Festubert.
The attack on Festubert took
place over a 3,000yard front after a short artillery bombardment, the attack
failed with heavy British losses.
British suffered a loss of16,000 men against enemy losses of 5,000, this shows
that the intention of the British High Command to wear down the enemy by
inflicting heavy casualties on him was doomed to fail.
At 6:15pm on the 15
of May 1915, the 5 Seaforth Highlanders charged the enemy line in
front of the village of Festubert. The enemy wire was found to be uncut by
British artillery fire, German machine-gunners decimated the Highlanders as
they bunched up trying to find a way through. The enemy line was finally taken
to a depth of six hundred yards, losses were heavy with the 51
Division suffering casualties of 1,500 dead, wounded and missing.
For the next month the Division took over the
line near Laventie about 10 kilometres North of Bethune, remaining in this
sector of the front until the 26 of July and a transfer South to
the Somme. On the 1 of June the 5 Seaforths were
stationed in Billets West off the village of La Couture, carrying out routine
training in bayonet fighting, weapon handling and gas warfare drills.
The battalion remained in
billets training until June 4 then moved to reserve trenches in
front of an area called Indian Village, ‘A’ and ‘B’ Companies entered the old
German trench with ‘C’ and ‘D’ Companies in the old British line. A
communication trench was constructed during the day on the 5 and 6
of June with working parties supplied to improve trenches in the front line.
The 7 June
was a quiet day with sporadic shelling by enemy guns, very little damage was
caused, some repairs were carried to the trench line. On the 8 of
June the battalion was shelled for most of the day, the casualties list shows two
men were killed and twenty-two wounded, one dying from his wounds later. The
Seaforths were relieved that night by the 6 Battalion, Argyll and
Sutherland Highlanders to return to billets near La Tombe Willot.
Private Robert Mackay was one
of the two soldiers killed by shellfire on the 8 June 1915; he
was twenty –two years of age. Skerray War Memorial and the Roll of Honour in
Tongue church both say that he was awarded the Military Medal, I have been
unable to discover how or when he was honoured with this medal.
SCOTTISH NATIONAL WAR MEMORIAL EDINBURGH CASTLE
Mackay Robert 3641.
Private. Killed in action F&F
COMMONWEALTH WAR GRAVES COMMISSION
Mackay Private Robert. 3641. 5 Battalion Seaforth
Highlanders. Killed in action 8 June 1915. Age 22. Son of Roderick
and Isabella Mackenzie Mackay of Erribol, Tongue, Sutherlandshire.
Plot IV. Row E. Grave 11.
Private Robert Mackay 3641, 5 Battalion Seaforth
Highlanders is buried in a war grave at WOBURN ABBEY CEMETERY, PAS DE CALAIS,