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 Members of the Baird family of Peterhead who died in
the Great War.

Five members of the Baird family of Peterhead died during World War I.  These were:

All five men were originally members of the Gordon Highlanders, which was the "local" Regiment of the North East.  William was later transferred to the Army Service Corp were he was a driver.

1. George Baird, Service Number 240761 was a sergeant in A company Ist Battalion Gordon Highlanders. 

The Buchan Observer newspaper carried the following report about George on 16th April 1918. "Sergeant George Baird (Gordons), wounded in the left arm, the second son of Mrs William Baird, 2 Port Henry Road, Peterhead, was a granite polisher with the Great North of Scotland Granite Co. Peterhead."

A report about his brother John Stuart Baird in the same newspaper in October 1918 stated that George had had his left arm amputated.

On 21st May 1918, George's death was announced: "BAIRD - Died of wounds in 26th General Hospital, Etaples on 11th May 1918, Sergeant George Baird, second son of the late William Baird, carter contractor, and of Mrs Baird, 2 Port Henry Road, Peterhead, aged 23.  Sadly missed and deeply mourned."

He is buried at Etaples Military Cemetery.  The inscription on his grave states:"God takes our Loved One from our homes, but never from our hearts."

George Baird is mentioned in a book about the Gordon Highlanders " Life of a Regiment": "The 1st Gordon's took some part in repulsing this counter attack (in 1917). Captain Alexander, Lieutenant Campbell and Lance Corporal Baird did a fine job helping to rally troops...". George was promoted soon afterwards.

2. John Stuart Baird, (service number  240878) the brother of George Baird,  was a corporal in the 2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders, which was part of the 7th Division.  He was killed in action on 26th October 1917, the opening day of the second battle of Passchendale.  His body was never recovered and his name appears on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the missing.

Sadly, he was not declared dead until 1919 as the following articles from the Buchan Observer show:

16th April 1918 (in the article about the wounding of George Baird) - "His (George's) brother John Baird, wounded and missing since October last, was a cooper with Mr John Sinclair, fishcurer, Peterhead."

October 1918 - Prioner of War - "Mrs Baird, 2 Port Henry Rd., Peterhead, has received information from official sources that her son, Corpl. J.S. Baird, Gordons, has been a prisoner of was at Sennelager since 26th October 1917.  In civil life Corpl. Baird was an apprentice cooper with Messrs Sinclair and Buchan, fishcurers."

Elsewhere in the same edition: "The good news was received in Peterhead on Saturday that Corpl. John S. Baird, Gordon Highlanders and Pte Alex. Murray Shewen, Royal West Kents, who were reported missing on 26th October last, are now prisoners of war in Germany.  Corpl. Baird is the youngest son of Mrs Baird, 2 Port Henry Road."

However John did not come home with the other returned prisoners of war, including, presumably, Alexander Shewan as there is no record of his death.

On 24th June 1919 the Buchan Observer ran the following notice:  "BAIRD - Reported missing on 26th October (1917), now reported to have died on or since that date, Corpl. John S. Baird, 2nd Gordon Highlanders, youngest son of the late William Baird, carting contractor, and Mrs Baird, 2 Port Henry Rd Peterhead, aged 21 years."

3. William George Baird (5th Gordon Highlanders No. 2692; later Army Service Corp, M354029) was born in 1895, the son of David and Jane Baird.  He enlisted in the local  territorial force in late 1915.

The Buchan Observer of November 1918 reported the details of his death. "BAIRD - Died at Balgowan V.A.D Hospital, Kent, of pneumonia on 30th October, Private William G. Baird, A.S.C aged 25, third son of Mr and Mrs David Baird, 8 North Street Peterhead."

The V.A.D. (Voluntary Aid Detachment Hospital was run by the Kent/96 V.A.D and was situated in the Balgowan Road School and was part of the Beckenham Hospital.

William is buried in the Peterhead Cemetery.

4. Alexander Anderson THOM, (born 13 March 1897)  was the son of John Thom and Georgina Gibson of Peterhead.   John Thom was the son of  Jane Baird and James Hogg Thom. Jane Baird (born 28/3/1848) was the daughter of William Baird, born 1812.

Alexander enlisted in Clydebank, which was where Jane and her family were living. (She is shown there in the 1901 census and in 1915 Jane was in receipt of relief of 5 shillings per week from the Parish of Govan.)  It seems likely that Alexander was staying in Glasgow with his relatives when war broke out.  He enlisted in 8th (Service) Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, which was formed in August 1914 as part of Kitchener’s New Army (K1).  The 8th Battalion was attached to the 9th (Scottish) Division and arrived in France in May 1915.  To quote from  “Scotland and the Great War” by Catriona Macdonald:

“If Gallipoli represented the ‘blooding’ of Scotland’s territorial battalions, for the New Army volunteers, this came at Loos in September 1915 – a battle which Terraine has termed ‘the true beginning of the martyrdom of the British Army’.  Two Scottish volunteer Divisions, the 9th and 15th, were committed to the attack: the 9th lost almost 3,000 men killed and missing from 25 to 28 September…”.
Alexander Thom was one of the missing.  He died on 25th September 1915 and his body was never recovered.  His name is recorded on the Loos Memorial.

5. Alexander Selbie, (Service number 3546) born at Longside on 11th July 1897, was the son of Jane Davidson Baird (born15/8/1868) and James Selbie.  Jane Baird Selbie was separated from her husband in the 1901 census and she died in the Fetteresso Poor House, Stonehaven in February 1914.

Alexander enlisted in the 1st/5th Battalion Gordon Highlanders in Peterhead early in the war.  The 1st/5th Gordons, a territorial unit,  was part of the 51st Highland Division that arrived in France in May 1915.  Their first major engagement was in the Battle of the Somme the following year.  They were involved in the attacks on High Wood (July 1916) and the battle of  Ancre (13-18 Nov 1916) which included the capture of Beaumont Hamel on 13th November during which attack Alexander Selbie was killed.
He is buried in the Serre Road Cemetery.

The following is a story I found on the Elphinstone Kist website.  (I have contacted the copyright owners for permission to reproduce part of the article here.)  The story, written in the vernacular of the North East tells of two Aberdeenshire brothers who enlisted in the Gordon Highlanders and who died in the Great War, a story no doubt repeated in many households during these years.

I mind the day the letter come. It wis in a big lang envelope.' I'm very sorry ,Mrs Middleton,' the man said fa brocht it. 'I'm very sorry.' I watched my ma open the envelope. She read fit wis inside it. She wis staunin afore the fire, facin the mantlepiece. Her face gid white. Pure white. Nae a pikk o colour in't ava. An then, she jist gid doon, clean doon an strukk the fleer.

Grannie wis bidin wi's an she wis hard as nails, nae greet in her. She niver grat ava. Grannie gied ower tae the box bed an turned doon the bedclaes. Then she liftit my ma frae the fleer an beddit her wi aa her claes on, an happit her up wi the sheets, and an auld tartan rug that wis mither's quilt. Then ma grannie gied ower tae the press an took oot a pyntie o whisky, an screwed aff the tap. She liftit up a feather an dippit it inno the whisky, an dichtit the feather roon ma mither's lips till she come roon.

Willie wis 19 year auld fin he wis killed...he deed on the 9th April at the battle o Arras. They beeriet Willie at Passchendaele.A wee while efter, the Tarland minister come tae the hoose. The war office sent a bit paper askin ma fowk tae write doon fit they winted tae say on Willie's grave. Weel, ma mither cudna think fit tae say...she wisna jist richt fur a lang time efter Willie deed..bit the minister said 'Good night beloved, not farewell, that's a good thing to put.' And that's fit it says, jist that. My fowk traivelled doon tae London, and gid ower tae Passchendaele tae see the place far Willie wis lyin, an it helpit ma mither, ye ken, tae see thon, Willie lyin wi aa the ither young loons, a hale generation. An they say the graves are weel keepit, ye ken, weel keepit. She wis mair at peace wi hersel fin she come hame.

They cudna beery ma brither John, tho. John wis sittin at the side o the road newsin wi ither Tarlan loons an twa laddies frae Logie Coldstone, jist sittin newsin, fin they war shelled. There wis naethin left tae beery o peer John. It wis a sair time, a sair time. I sometimes wish I'd geen tae Passchendaele tae say cheerio tae Willie. I miss that noo, nae haein that in my memory. It's like there's somethin missin, somethin missin.

 Belle Green

The two brothers mentioned are William and John Middleton.  Below are their details:

William James Middleton, Service Number 266834, was born in Tarland, Aberdeenshire the son of William and Isabella Middleton of Mill Cottage, Tarland.  He enlisted in the 1st/6th Battalion (Banff and Donshire) Gordon Highlanders at Crathes,  was killed in action on 9th April 1917 and buried at the Highland Cemetery, Roclincourt.

His older brother John also enlisted in the Gordons – the 7th (Deeside Highland) in Aboyne, Service Number 2974.  He died on 18th June 1915 and is commemorated on Le Touret Memorial. (Over 13,000 names are listed on the memorial of men who fell in this area before 25 September 1915 and who have no known grave.)