William Brown Scott was born in Stenhousemuir, Scotland on January 13, 1885. He attested at Falkirk on February 2, 1916, five days after the Military Service Act came into effect. However according to his enlistment papers William was a “Derby Recruit”. The Derby Scheme was introduced in October 1915 to boost enlistment numbers and to give men aged 18 to 40 an opportunity to volunteer but to defer being called up immediately. William was placed in the Army Reserve and assigned Service Number 30276.
On March 20, 1916 William was called up to join The Royal Scots, the oldest and most senior infantry regiment in the British Army. On March 25th he was posted to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion in Edinburgh where he remained until June 13th when he was transferred to the 2nd Battalion. According to his service record on June 12th William was found to be absent without leave for one and a half hours, an offence which led to him being confined to barracks for two days. While we can never be certain why he left the base it may have been related to him having recently found out that he was part of a reinforcement draft that was preparing to head to France.
To the Somme:
William was part of the 35th Reinforcement draft that disembarked in France on June 16th. Within a week he had joined his unit, the 2nd Royal Scots, who had just been relieved from the frontline trenches in the Ypres Salient by the Canadian 28th Battalion. The 2nd Royal Scots were enjoying a brief rest in Moulle, France, just over the border from Belgium and it’s likely here that William joined his battalion.
The 2nd Royal Scots served as part of the 8th Brigade, 3rd Division throughout the First World War and took part in many famous battles along the Western Front. One of the most famous took place on July 1st 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, when nearly 58,000 British soldiers were killed or wounded. The 2nd Royal Scots escaped the carnage that day but were on their way to the Somme, by train and on foot, and would reach their destination, the trenches near Montauban, on July 7th.
As a member of “D” company William took over a reserve trench, one of the old German trenches, in front of Carnoy. While the 3rd Division prepared for an attack between Longueval and Bazentin le Grand the battalion was subjected to increasing German shellfire. The attack, originally intended to take place at night on July 10th, was postponed to the early morning hours of July 14th.
The 2nd Royal Scots moved out of their trenches near Carnoy and quietly dug in to advanced positions in preparation for the assault. They did so without the German’s knowledge and suffered not a single casualty. The battalion would not be so lucky the following day.
The Attack on July 14, 1916:
The British guns opened up at 3:25am and five minutes later the assault commenced. The 2nd Royals Scots were kept in support while the other three 8th Brigade infantry battalions (7th King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, 8th East Yorkshire Regiment and 1st Royal Scots Fusiliers) went over the top. Unfortunately all three battalions encountered two lines of nearly intact German wire and suffered very heavy casualties as a result.
The 2nd Royal Scots were now ordered out of support and into attack however Colonel Dyson refused to order a frontal assault in what was now daylight. Instead his bombers, snipers and other volunteers, working in conjunction with the 1st Royal Scots Fusiliers on the right, attacked the German trenches from the flanks. This tactic proved successful and soon the trenches were in British hands. “C” and “D” companies from the 2nd Royal Scots were quickly ordered to move up and occupy the newly captured trenches.
While they achieved their objective they did so at a cost: Officers – 2 killed, 2 wounded and 1 died of wounds; Other ranks – 11 killed, 47 wounded, 3 missing. Among the dead and missing that day was Pte. William Brown Scott.
Killed in Action:
William was reported killed in action on July 14th 1916 “near Montauban” after only one month in France and one week in the trenches. William has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, one of 72,195 soldiers to have his name etched on this memorial. His Grave Registration Report reads:
SCOTT, Pte. William, 30276. 2nd Bn. Royal Scots. 14th July, 1916. Age 31. Son of James and Elizabeth Scott, of 5, Tryst Rd., Stenhousemuir, Larbert, Stirlingshire.