Monday, March 26, 2007

James Sweeney - patched up then killed

James Sweeney had no connections with Chailey other than that he was sent to Hickwells to recuperate after being wounded on the second day of the Battle of Loos.

James's entry in Nurse Oliver’s album reads:

Pte J Sweeney 18406
13 Batt Royal Scots
wounded at Hill 70 26/9/15
during the Battle of Loos

He shares this page with entries from fellow Scotsmen 7567 Private John Currie of the 10th Gordon Highlanders and S/7793 Private Andrew Geddes of the 1/7th Gordon Highlanders.

James was born at Newbattle, Midlothian.  He arrived in France on 9th July 1915 with the 13th Royal Scots which formed part of the 45th Brigade in the 15th (Scottish) Division.  He was wounded at Hill 70 on the second day of the battle of Loos, 26th September 1915, the day that 18274 Private Robert Dunsire of the same battalion, won the Victoria Cross.  The following two paragraphs are adapted from my narrative, The Hospital Way. 

James Sweeney may have been wounded by British artillery fire dropping short onto the trenches that the 45th Brigade was holding.  The morning was misty and the artillery had been told that the trenches would be temporarily evacuated.  But nobody had told the Scotsmen and the 13th Royal Scots in particular had suffered casualties.  With classic understatement, The Official Historian would write many years later, that the men upon whom the British shells fell “… were therefore somewhat shaken and not perhaps able to take such a vigorous part in the assault as they might otherwise have done.”

By the time the attack was finally pressed at 9am, the mist had lifted and although parties of the attacking battalions succeeded in breaking through into the German lines where desperate hand-to-hand fighting ensued, they were simply overwhelmed.  The attack failed not due to lack of determination on the Scotsmens’ part but because of heavy machine gun cross-fire from both sides and artillery fire which either killed them as they ran or forced their surviving colleagues to retire.  The few remaining men of the Fifteenth Division could not, on their own, re-take Hill 70.  More help would be needed.

James probably arrived back in England at the beginning of October and after travelling first to the 2nd Eastern General Hospital at Brighton, would have transferred shortly afterwards to Hickwells.  He obviously recovered from his wound and was transferred to the 12th Royal Scots Regiment in the 27th Brigade of the 9th (Scottish) Division.  It was while serving with this battalion that he was killed in action on 26th March 1918; one of four Royal Scots fatalities on that day.  James Sweeney has no known grave and is commemorated on panel 4 of the Pozieres memorial in France.
My thanks to Ken and Pam Linge for taking the photograph of James' name on the Pozieres memorial (above). Medal index card courtesy of Ancestry.

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