24th September 1915 - 27th September 1915
Deeds of Bravery in the Great Advance - LIEUTENANT WILSON’S FEAT - Every Cameron Volunteered: Temporary Second Lieutenant Joseph Wilson, 6th Battalion Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders, awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry on Hill 70 on September 26, 1915. He collected and rallied stragglers and led them through the troops of another division who were retiring. With these men he remained in the most advanced position during the night. Such is the matter-of-fact, official note of the heroic act by which Lieutenant Joseph Wilson won the Military Cross. Much piecing together of isolated fact and confused detail is necessary to adequately realise the greatness of the feat and the kind of man this was who claimed a handful of volunteers from the crowd which came breaking back in retreat, led them on again to the thick of the battle, fought from Friday night till Monday morning without a meal, and “held the most advanced position” till relieved. But for the war Joseph Wilson would never have suspected that he was of the stuff of which heroes are made. Even yet, indeed, he has a modest doubt that his achievement, which he describes as “only doing my duty” has been overrated. He is a young man and was just winning for himself an assured position in commercial life when the war cloud burst, and the call came. He had been a Volunteer and a Territorial and had shot with considerable success at many local and some of the national rifle meetings. He spent but short time weighing his own interests against what he recognised as his duty. Early in September 1914, he carried his rifle in the 6th Service Battalion of the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders. He was promptly made corporal, and a couple of weeks after wore the sergeant’s stripes. As sergeant, he served till April of this year, when he was given a commission as Second Lieutenant in recognition of good work done. He married shortly before he left for the front. So far it is the record of a thousand others who have answered the call and won their spurs. His chance came at Loos in what seems likely to be recognised as the turning point of the war on the Western front, when the Allies broke the deadlock, and drove the enemy from some of their strongest positions. The general tale of that battle has been already told. Lieutenant Wilson’s share in it is told partly in the official note, and more fully in a letter which he has sent home. He tells how he got separated from the battalion at the very beginning of an attack on a third line German trench and was practically “on his own” most of the time – how he went with two platoons to act as flankers to a bombing party and joined a company of the H.L.I. in consolidating a captured trench. Next morning this trench was heavily shelled, and they went forward and took up position beside an English brigade. At this time, he had with him about 60 Camerons. “Next day,” he continues, “early in the morning we had to shift, being heavily shelled, and went forward to the German second line trench and took up another position alongside an English brigade. We were here for almost three hours, and latterly the brigade in front being forced back, the brigade along with us went back too. About a quarter of an hour afterwards a General of one of our Scottish brigades came up, asked who we were, and said, ‘Don’t you think it would be a good thing to go up and reinforce the firing line?’ “At that time Loos was being heavily shelled, and the undertaking seemed very risky. However, it was practically an order, so I said that I would go. He asked the men who would volunteer. I said, ‘No need to ask for volunteers, sir, they’ll all come,’ and by Jove they did. We got through the village – goodness knows how – without casualties, having been joined by about 40 H.L.I. under one officer. When we got up to the end of the village, where our first line trench was, we found the whole line was retiring. We were forced back to the middle of the village again, when I halted, formed up my men, and was joined by about 20 other Camerons, R.S.F., K.O.S.B., Black Watch, and some English regiments.” “We were back again and took up a line outside the village. At this stage I told my men there was to be no retiring. After about three hours the cavalry brigade came up and took up a position on our right and left. At eight o’clock next day we were relieved, on Monday morning, and I took them down to the centre of Loos and we had breakfast, the first meal since Friday midnight. We are now resting and getting ready for the next attack. It is very sad indeed to be going over the various incidents. About five nights ago we were all so happy together, and now there are so many gaps – so many good men gone.” This is all Lieutenant Wilson has to say of his share in the big advance.
Created by: Christine3721