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Archibald McNichol was born in Spean Bridge Inverness-shire, son of Archibald and Ann McNichol he was married to Elizabeth McNichol from Sighthill Edinburgh. He was employed as a forester at Borgie forest; Skerray War Memorial says that he lived at Brecko.

He was called up by the Army and served with the 5 /7 Battalion Gordon Highlanders, in the reformed 51 (Highland) Division during World War Two. In June 1942 the 5/7 Gordon Highlanders sailed for North Africa and duty with the 8 Army in the desert campaign against the German General Rommel and his Afrika Corps. After two months training in desert warfare the battalion was soon in the thick of the fighting.

The battalion fought at the Battle of El Alamein on the 23 of October 1942, a battle that proved to be the turning point of World War Two. The 51 (Highland) Division attacked at 9:40pm in the evening and by 12:40am on the 24 had taken their objective. The Gordons then dug in continuing the attack the next day, driving on until the battle was won; by the 3 of November the enemy was in full retreat. British Tank and Infantry Divisions now pursued the Germans and Italians across the desert capturing the enemy held towns of Tobruk, Benghazi and Tripoli. The rout of the German forces took three months and the capture of 1,400 miles of enemy held land, before the Germans were forced to surrender. The last of the Germans surrendered on the 13 of May in Tunisia, a total of 250,000 enemy troops were now prisoners of war.

On July the 9 1943 the British and Americans attacked the island of Sicily, coming ashore in landing craft and quickly advancing inland. The landings were initially met with little resistance from the enemy but this soon changed and bitter fighting took place before the island was secured.

In November the 5/7 Gordon Highlanders were withdrawn from Sicily sailing home to the United Kingdom to train for the Second Front and the attack on Germany. The battalion soon settled into an intensive training period in preparation for “D-Day” and the attack on occupied France.

On the afternoon of the 6 of June 1944 the 5/7 Gordon Highlanders came ashore on the Allied landing beaches in Normandy during “Operation Overlord” the D-Day landings. The battalion landed on Sword beach, in reserve with the 51(Highland) Division holding the left flank of the allied attack on the River Orne.

The 5/7 Gordons suffered heavy casualties in fighting east of the river near the villages of Touffreville and Escoville in an area called the “Triangle”. The battalion remained in close contact with crack German Divisions until it was relieved on July 15 and entered the reserve lines.

In August the British and Americans eventually managed to break out from Normandy and began to pursue the retreating German back towards Paris and the River Seine. The Gordon Highlanders captured St Valery-en-Caux on the 9 of September and the 51 (Highland) Division took revenge for itsdefeat in 1940. The Gordon Highlanders then took part in the attack on Le Havre and the capture of the town is credited to the 5/ 7 Battalion Gordon Highlanders. The Gordons then moved on and fought around the Scheldt-Maas canal in Holland and at a bridge near Gheel, before the 51 (Highland) division transferred to US Army command in the Ardennes region of Belgium. The attachment to the American Army did not last long and the Gordons soon returned to Holland.

In February 1945 the Allies began to clear the West Bank of the River Rhine in preparation for the attack into Germany. The 5 /7 Gordons ambushed and killed many German soldiers in a concentration area near the Reichswald Forest,then captured the town of Goch on the 19 of February. Heavy fighting in the ruined buildings of Goch caused many casualties to the battalion with three officers and twenty-one men killed, seven officers and fifty-nine men were wounded and one officer and forty-eight men reported as missing.

By March 1945 the American and British Armies were poised on the border of Germany ready to launch the final attacks of the war to destroy the Nazi regime. On the night of the 23 of March a huge smokescreen of 20miles long was laid on the River Rhine as landing craft and amphibious tanks assaulted across the river. Over a million British, Canadian and American troops assaulted across the river in “Operation Plunder” in an attempt to get a foothold on the enemies home territory. The 5/7 Gordons attacked over the river in Buffalo assault vehicles and cleared an island to the right of the town of Rees. The ground was exposed to heavy machine-gun and sniper fire and the battalion suffered heavy casualties before the objective was taken. The Gordons then dug in on the island at the mercy of enemy snipers, unable to move because the bridge from the island across the “Alter Rhine” river had been destroyed.

Private Archibald McNichol was killed in action as his battalion assaulted across the River Rhine into Germany he was thirty-two years of age; his body was not found after the fighting was over. He was one of 15,268 men killed as the Allied Armies crossed into Germany.     

SCOTTISH NATIONAL WAR MEMORIAL EDINBURGH CASTLEPrivate Archibald McNichol 14796334. (b) Inverness-shire. Killed in action in Europe on the 23 March 1945.

COMMONWEALTH WAR GRAVESCOMMISSION McNichol Private Archibald14796334. 5/7 Battalion Gordon Highlanders. 23 March 1945. Age32. Son of Archibald and Ann McNichol of Spean Bridge Inverness-shire husband of Elizabeth McNichol of Sighthill Edinburgh.

Private Archibald McNichol 14796334, 5/7 Battalion Gordon Highlanders has no known grave and is remembered on the GROESBEEK MEMORIAL, HOLLAND.

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