Friday, 11 November 2016

2nd Lieutenant David Alexander Beveridge

Hi and welcome to my blog, 'Dunfermline Men Who Died During WW1'.

This blog highlights the stories of the Dunfermline and West Fife men who sacrificed their lives for us during World War 1 and I aim to feature a new story every 2 months or so.

This blog post is about 2nd Lieutenant David Alexander Beveridge.  David is the son of a well-known Dunfermline man, Erskine Beveridge.  I will be looking at David Beveridge's family and his pre-war life, his war service, and his death. What struck me about David Beveridge was that he came from a well-off Dunfermline family but he was obviously very clever and therefore it was such a tragic waste for him to die, as I have discovered, from disease picked up in Gallipoli.

David Beveridge's family and his pre-war life

David Beveridge was born on 4 November 1886 at Saint Leonard's Hill, Dunfermline the fourth son of Erskine Beveridge, a linen manufacturer, and Mary Beveridge ms Owst.  Erskine and Mary married on 1 May 1872 in Leeds.

I have been unable to work out where exactly the house named Saint Leonard's Hill was in Dunfermline but one of the building's from Erskine Beveridge's linen mill is still standing in Dunfermline and is now a block of flats known as Erskine Beveridge Court.

In 1891 the family were living at Saint Leonard's Hill and it was obviously a huge house with, at that time, 37 rooms with one or more windows.  The family consisted of Erskine Beveridge, head of the household, aged 39, a linen manufacturer, an employer and born in Dunfermline, Mary Beveridge, Erskine's wife, aged 38 and born in England, Mary Beveridge, Erskine's daughter, aged 12, a scholar and born in Dunfermline, James Beveridge, Erskine's son, aged 10, a scholar, born in Dunfermline and David Beveridge (the subject of this blog post), Erskine's son, aged 4 and born Dunfermline.  The family had 5 servants: a governess, a housemaid, a laundry maid, a cook and a nurse.

In 1901 the family were still living at Saint Leonard's Hill - according to the census the house now had 22 rooms with one or more windows so there must have been some sort of building works done on the house between 1901 and 1911!  The family in 1901 consisted of Erskine the father aged 49 who was now a JP in addition to being a linen manufacturer, Mary his wife aged 48, James his son aged 20 who was now employed as a linen manufacturer, David his son aged 14, George his son aged 9 and Frederick his son aged 4.  David and George are scholars and George and Frederick, who had been new additions to the family since the last census, were both born in Dunfermline.  The family now had 6 servants: a governess, a cook, a nurse and 3 general servants.

In 1911 David was staying at his family's second home, Vallay House in North Uist.  Vallay House had 13 rooms with one or more windows.  Vallay House is still standing but is now in an advanced state of decay. The household consisted of David, now aged 24 and a law student, his brother George, aged 19 and also listed as a student and 3 servants: a caretaker, a housekeeper and a general servant.

David's education consisted of 2 schools and 2 universities.  David attended St Ninian's, Moffat a preparatory school, Loretto, Musselburgh, Cambridge University and Edinburgh University.  David played rugby at both schools and at Cambridge University and was a prefect at Loretto which he attended from 1900 to 1905.  David graduated from Pembroke College, Cambridge University with a BA degree in 1908 and, when World War 1 broke out, he was studying law at Edinburgh University. He was living at 2 Atholl Place whilst studying at Edinburgh University.


 This is the gravestone in Dunfermline Abbey graveyard for David Beveridge's paternal grandfather Erskine Beveridge, his 1st and 2nd wives Amelia Boyd and Maria Wilson and 2 of his sons Erskine and David.  The son named Erskine in this grave died in 1839 - evidently David's father Erskine was named after his older brother who had died before David's father was born.

David Beveridge's war service
David was gazetted as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery (54th brigade) on 10 October 1914.  David joined an Irish brigade of the Royal Field Artillery and was stationed in Ireland until he left for the Dardanelles (perhaps better known as Gallipoli) on 7 July 1915 and arrived there on 18 July 1915.  The medals that David was awarded were the Victory, British War and 1914-1915 Star medals which are the 3 standard medals for people who saw overseas service during WW1.

David Beveridge's Death

On 1 September 1915 David wrote home to his family and confirmed that he was then in good health and cheerful.  Unfortunately only a few days later David died at St Andrew's Hospital, Malta on 13 September 1915 from dysentery contracted at Gallipoli. Conditions at Gallipoli were terrible due to the landscape and the close fighting.  There were 213,000 British casualties on Gallipoli of which 145,000 were as a result of illness such as dysentery, diarrhoea and enteric fever.
For those who took ill at Gallipoli and were lucky enough to be removed from Gallipoli, hospitals and convalescent homes had been established on Malta and Gozo from Spring 1915.  These hospitals dealt with over 135,000 sick and wounded mainly from the campaigns in Gallipoli and Salonika.  Increased submarine activity from May 1917 resulted in fewer hospital ships being sent to the islands.
David is buried in Pieta cemetery which is around 2 km south of Valetta.
David didn't leave a will but the inventory compiled after he died confirmed that he had £5200 5s 6d in savings which is roughly equivalent to £541,000 today!  His savings included 500 shares in Erskine Beveridge & Co Ltd (ie his father's linen manufactory) and he wrote to his father from Gallipoli on 1 September 1915 to ask that, 'in case of accidents', 400 shares be given to George, presumably his brother, because 'the farming profession is not a paying one' and 100 shares to be given to a Nan Inglis. 
At the time of David's death, a brother-in-law and 2 uncles had also been killed in action - his brother-in-law Lieutenant Alexander B Innes of the 1/7th Gordon Highlanders and his uncles Captain and Adjutant David Inglis 1/4th Gurkha Rifles and Lieutenant Charles Inglis 2/8th Gurkha Rifles.
When David died, 2 of his brothers were also serving in the army - 2nd Lieutenant George Beveridge 2/7th Gordon Highlanders and 2nd Lieutenant Frederick Beveridge 3rd Royal Scots.
David is commemorated on 4 war memorials - Dunfermline, the Faculty of Advocates, Grange cricket club and Pembroke College.
I do hope you have enjoyed reading this blog post - please feel free to share it onwards.

If I can help you with any family history research, please e-mail me at

Best wishes.

Jacqueline Hunter.

Sources used:
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Ancestry (UK De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour 1914-1919, WW1 Medal Rolls Index Cards 1914-1920)
Find My Past, British Newspaper Archive (The Scotsman 23 September 1915)
Scotlands People (Birth certificate, 1891 census, 1901 census, 1911 census, Wills and Inventories)



Thursday, 28 July 2016

Sergeant John Erskine VC

Hi all and welcome to my new blog, 'Dunfermline Men Who Died During WW1'.

This blog will highlight the stories of the Dunfermline and West Fife men who sacrificed their lives for us during World War 1 and I will aim to feature a new story every 2 months or so.

My first blog post is going to be about Sergeant John Erskine VC whom I have always been aware of because he is both on the war memorial and named on his family's headstone in the graveyard in the village of Cairneyhill where I grew up.  I will be looking at John Erskine's family and his pre-war life, his war service, his Victoria Cross and his death.

Here is the side of the family headstone which names John:

John Erskine's family and his pre-war life

John Erskine was born on 13 January 1894 at 6pm at 30 Bridge Street, Dunfermline to William Erskine a master draper and Elizabeth Erskine ms Dick.

In 1901 the family were living at 32 Bridge Street, Dunfermline and the family consisted of: William Erskine aged 50, a draper who was born in Carnock, Fife, Bessie Erskine, William's wife, who was 33 and born in Dunfermline and their children, John aged 7, William aged 5 and Bessie aged 3.  The children were all born in Dunfermline and in 1901 John was attending school.

In 1911 the family (excluding William Erskine senior who had died in 1908) were living in Eskbank, Park Avenue, Dunfermline and the household now consisted of Elizabeth, 43,  the mother (who was calling herself Bessie in 1901) and children John 17, William 15, Bessie 13, David 9, Gilmour 7, Stuart 3 and Harold 2.  John was already working as a drapery apprentice (see below for further information on who John worked for).

John Erskine attended Dunfermline High School and was then employed as a draper with Robert Maule & Son, Edinburgh (again, see below for a quote from Robert Maule) and also with Pettigrew & Stephen in Glasgow.  John was following in his father's footsteps - William Erskine senior was a partner in the Dunfermline drapery firm of W & J MacLaren & Co who were at the unit in Bridge Street, Dunfermline now occupied by Pink String & Sealing Wax.

John Erskine's war service

John Erskine joined the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) first of all as a private and was then promoted to a sergeant.  To be specific he was in the 5th/6th Battalion and he was in D company.  John enlisted in Glasgow and he first arrived in France on 5 November 1914 so he must have enlisted pretty soon after war was declared.  John's regimental number was 7064 and then 20047614.  The medals that John was awarded were the Victory, British War and 1914 Star medals which are the 3 standard medals for people who saw overseas service during WW1 plus the Victoria Cross (see next section).  Unfortunately John's WW1 service record is among the 70% that didn't survive a bombing raid during WW2 so we are unable to discover any more information about John's war service.

John Erskine's Victoria Cross

The Victoria Cross is the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the presence of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Common wealth Forces.

In my opinion, the best way to convey John Erskine's bravery is simply to quote directly from the citation for John Erskine's Victoria Cross as published in the London Gazette on 4 August 1916:

'For most conspicuous bravery whilst the lip of a crater caused by the explosion of a large enemy mine was being consolidated, acting Sergeant Erskine rushed out under continuous fire with utter disregard of danger and rescued a wounded sergeant and a private.  After seeing his officer, who was believed dead, showed signs of movement, he ran out to him, bandaged his head and remained with him for fully an hour though repeatedly fired at, whilst a shallow trench was being dug to them.  He then assisted in bringing in his officer, shielding him with his own body in order to lessen the chance of his being hit again.'

The war diary for the 5th/6th Battalion confirms that the officer was a Lieutenant Stevenson.

I find extremely poignant the reaction of John's mother as reported in The People's Journal on 12 August 1916:

'I know my laddie deserved the VC which his majesty has been pleased to award him for he always worked hard and tried to do his duty happily and carefully even when things looked their blackest'.

I also like the reaction of John's former employer Sir Robert Maule as quoted in the Courier on 19 August 1916:

'To me the character of his exploits seems to touch the very highest pinnacle of courage and self-sacrifice'.

John Erskine's Victoria Cross medal is now in the Cameronian's museum in Hamilton, Lanarkshire.

John Erskine's Death

Unfortunately John died on 14 April 1917 near Arras in France without ever having been personally given his Victoria Cross.  To make this even more tragic, John has no known final resting place.

John is commemorated on the Arras memorial, on his family headstone in the graveyard in the village of  Cairneyhill, on the Cairneyhill war memorial and on the Dunfermline war memorial.

Here is the other side of the family headstone:

Here is the official reaction of the Dunfermline provost as reported in the Dunfermline Journal on 19 May 1917:

'The provost said that they had now a very different and unexpected sequel to that period of rejoicing which was seen in the town when the news first came regarding the heroic action of the young man.  The act of bravery was typical of unselfishness, he (the provost) was satisfied that the act of bravery for which the honour was given would have gladdened the heart of Mr Carnegie for it was one to save the life of others'.

'Mr Carnegie' is Andrew Carnegie, a Dunfermline-born steel baron and philanthropist.

I am gong to finish this blog post with the reaction of John Erskine's mother on being presented with John Erskine's Victoria Cross by the King and Queen on 2 June 1917 at Hyde Park as reported in he Courier on 4 June 1917:

'The King and Queen showed particular interest in her (Mrs Erskine) especially the latter who patted her on the hand when Mrs Erskine showed signs of emotion on the record of her son's bravery being read out'

I do hope you have enjoyed reading this blog post - please feel free to share it onwards.

If I can help you with any family history research, please e-mail me at

Best wishes.

Jacqueline Hunter.

Sources used:
Scotland's People (birth certificate, 1901 census and 1911 census)
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Ancestry (Dunfermline Journal, Medal Roll index card, UK Soldiers Died During Great War, UK Victoria Cross Medals 1857-2007)
British Newspaper Archive (Courier and The People's Journal