Military Monday~George Duncan of The Gordon Highlanders

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Following information is taken from a letter sent to the Niece of George Smith Duncan  from the Gordon Highlanders Museum regarding his service in WWI.


George Smith Duncan
George Smith Duncan Enlisted in March of 1912 with the Gordon Highlanders for a term of 12 years of which 7 years were to be spent with the colours and 5 years with the reserves. He carried out his basic training at Castlehill Barracks in Aberdeen, and then posted to the 1st battalion then stationed at Colchester in Essex, soon to move to Plymouth Devon.
  Mobilisation was declared the day before war was declared on the 5th of August 1914 and the battalion of 1017 (all ranks) landed at Boulogne, France on the 14th of August. A week later George would have taken part in the Battle of Mons on the 23rd of August during which the Gordon Highlanders suffered light Casualties and retired in good order before the numerically superior German Army. The retreat continued over the next two days closely followed be the Germans until the British forces in danger of being overwhelmed stood and fought at Le Cateau, and although suffering heavy losses, caused the Germans to pause sufficiently to enable the retreat to continue.

 Unfortunately, the 1st Battalion did not receive the order to retire on the 26th and after further fighting and being surrounded by the German forces, the bulk of the battalion went into captivity in the early hours of the 27th of August 1914.  George along with the rest of his comrades would have been taken through Belgium and into Prisoner of War camps in Germany, probably in the north west of the country. In absence of other information, it is likely that he had been wounded at La Cateau though not sufficiently to be repatriated to the UK in exchange for similarly badly wounded German solders who had been captured by the British. Perhaps he initially recovered from his wound but is health had subsequently deteriorated during his long spell in captivity during which he would have been exposed to considerable privations and increasingly short food rations as the war went on, culminating in his death almost three years to the day since his capture.

George Duncan is my 1st cousin twice removed. He was the son of James Duncan and Mary Murray Smith, born on the 7th of May 1893 in Lanarkshire Scotland.

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