Arras

REMEMBERING TWO SOLDIERS OF ARRAS

As the centenary commemorations of the Battle of Arras take place in Arras and Edinburgh on Sunday 9th April, we take some time to remember another two of the 18,000 Scots who so tragically lost their lives during the battle, whose stories have been shared by their descendants.

The first is from Eric Moodie, great nephew of Private Alexander Andre Moodie. Private Moodie was born on the 5th June 1897 to George and Janet Moodie and resided at 34 Milton Street, Edinburgh, with his father, two brothers and three sisters after his parents separated.

Alexander was working as a labourer when he decided to enlist with the 9th Scots Battalion on the 27th July 1915, which made him 17 years old and too young to legally serve but he provided a false date of birth so he could join the war effort. He was among the estimated 250,000 Scots who enlisted underage by providing a false name or date of birth.

Private Alexander Moodie Birth Certificate version 2
Private Alexander Moodie’s birth certificate, showing his real date of birth

The first day of the Battle of Arras, 9th April 1917, sadly claimed Private Moodie’s life as he was killed in action.  His death wasn’t reported until nine days later. Although Private Moodie does not have a grave, his name is engraved on a memorial plaque in Arras and on the War Memorial in the Canongate Kirk, Edinburgh. Eric Moodie will be attending the commemorations in Arras and plans to continue researching his family’s wartime bravery.

We also remember the legacy of Private David Wylie, the great uncle of Margaret Barr (nee Wylie). David was born in 1888, the eldest son of Robert and Jane Wyllie of the Heugh Farm in North Berwick. He had four younger brothers and a younger sister. Due to exemptions, which often allowed men working on farms to stay at home and assist with the war effort there, David was the only one of the five brothers to enlist.

David initially served with the 14th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders before he was moved to the 1/7th Battalion Black Watch. Soldiers changed regiments during the war for various reasons but most commonly it was just because they were needed more elsewhere.

Private David Wylie
Private David Wylie

It was after transferring to the Black Watch that Private Wylie was deployed to the Battle of Arras, where he was sadly killed in action on the 24th April 1917. A telegram dated 30th April 1917 was sent to his family informing them of their son’s tragic death.

His parents requested a photo of his grave in Duisans Cemetery in France, and just over three years after his death, in September 1920, they went with Thomas Cook Battlefield tours to see it in person. David’s name can also be found closer to home, on the war memorial in North Berwick.

Margaret Barr is married to the Right Rev Dr Russell Barr, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, who will be leading the commemorative service taking place in Arras on Sunday. Get more information on Scotland’s commemorations for the Battle of Arras here.