Lochbroom Folk

Lochbroom's Sacrifice in the Second World War

Page 10

In September 1915 the Battalion was preparing trenches near Vermelles prior to the Battle of Loos.  On the 24th orders were received for an attack on German trenches before FOSSE 8 on the morning of the 25th September.

The War diary reads:
The attack commenced at 6.30 am and took up our position in RESERVE TRENCH.  We made our way in two parties to saps K and L respectively, and immediately began to connect these two saps with HOHENZOLLERN REDOUBT.  I [Lt John Cook] with Lieutenants Graham and Fraser took K.  Some difficulty was experienced just at first as I did not consider it safe for the men to go down the covered sap L owing to the prevalence of gas.  We had to scramble up the side of the trench which was very high and some of the men got left.

These however were soon recovered and the party were lined across to the REDOUBT and digging was commenced in exceedingly quick time, every man working his very best.  At times we were exposed to considerable shell and rifle fire and considering this I think we were very lucky to get off with so few casualties.

27th September: Orders were given to carry SAA [small arms ammunition] from Brigade HQ (26th) to the Quarry under 2 Lt Fraser.  He was sent up after this to “LITTLE WILLIE” with bombs and he succeeded in delivering them, much I believe to the satisfaction of General Ritchie.

It is suggested that these actions prompted consideration for the award of the MILITARY CROSS on 3rd June 1916 in George V Birthday Honours list. 

On 29th September the Battalion withdrew from the trenches and marched to Bethune for rest and recuperation.  Promotion for Simon to Temporary Captain took place on 5th January 1916. 

The next time he is mentioned in the War Diary is in July 1916 during the Battle of the Somme.


9th July: At Battle Street
Platoon under Captain Fraser was detailed to dig shelter trenches for 2nd South African Infantry at NW corner of Bernafay Wood.  He reported to the Commanding Officer who said it was out of the question to dig shelter trenches at position given and that they would be untenable if dug.  Captain Fraser offered to do any other useful work required and was sent on to Captain Clifford, OC Company, at NE corner of wood and there made a communication trench, under considerable shell fire.

16th July: at Oxford Copse. 
The company detailed to wire east side of Delville Wood from Princes Street Northward – to work in reliefs of 2 platoons.  Captain Furneaux was moved by MO to Dressing Station and handed over the Coy to Capt. Fraser.

and again in 1917 -

1st to 8th April 1917: At Arras – B Company completing heavy trench mortar emplacements in SPRING and SUMMER Tramways, also clearing rear loop trench.  Clearing and relaying duckboards in AUGUST AVENUE.

9th April 1917: At Arras - B Company Right half left billets at 1.45 a.m. and took up their assembly position at top of AUGUST AVENUE.  At zero the half company followed up the first wave “moppers up” of 12th Royal Scots to dig a communication trench MAXWELL AVENUE between CUTHBERT SAP and German Sap V.13.  About 8 a.m. a party of the enemy which had been overlooked by the “moppers up” opened rifle fire on the half company.  Captain S K FRASER who was in command and two other Officers were immediately wounded; all invalided to England.

According to his obituary in the Times (see below), Simon was severely injured and lost an eye. 

What did he do before WW2?  He served with the Territorial Army in the Ross-shire Battalion and retired in 1937.  He played golf at Ullapool Golf Course and was Captain in 1929.  The family lived at Leckmelm and his mother cultivated the gardens which are now open to the public.

Simon married Margaret Moubray at St Ann’s Church, Catterick in the summer of 1937, daughter of the late John J Moubray of Naemoor, Scotland, and Killerby, Yorkshire.  John Moubray was noted in his obituary as "a distinguished agriculturalist, and generous benefactor," He became a member of Kinross County Council in 1889 and retired 1925.  He was also Lord Lieutenant of Kinross-shire.

In 1939 Simon rejoined the army as a Major in the position of Commanding Officer of ‘B’ Company, 4th Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders.

Simon c.1921.      Photo Courtesy of Peter Newling

Simon was killed in action at the Battle of Abbeville on 4th June 1940 and lies buried in Mareuil-Caubert Communal Cemetery alongside other members of the 4th Seaforths, in 
Plot 2, Row C, Grave 1.

Death is swallowed up in Victory.  Thanks be to God. 1 Corinthians XV, 54-57         Photo Courtesy of M & S Templin
He was Mentioned in Despatches posthumously on 20th December 1940.
Probate details:

Fraser, Simon Keith of Wood Cottage, Leckmelm, Garve, Ross-shire,. died 4 June 1940 on war service.  Confirmation of John Fraser, commander RM.  Sealed Llandudno 15 August.

Obituary in The Times on 7 May 1941:

His commanding officer writes:  Major Simon K Fraser, MC, served in the Seaforths in the last War, got a MC, was severely wounded and lost an eye.  Later he became a Territorial, served for several years in the Ross-shire Battalion, and retired in 1937.  When in the summer of 1939 he felt the certainty of war, he applied to rejoin.  He might well have stood aside, but not so Simon Fraser.  He had a great love for that West Coast with its lochs and forests and glens, but above all he loved the men belonging there, and he wanted once more to go where they went.  And so he joined up again in September 1939, at the head of the men from Loch Broom, Ullapool, Achiltibuie and Gairloch, and in due time, after those few weeks of fighting in the Saar and on the Somme, he led them forward into the battle for Abbeville on June 4, 1940.  I talked to him on the starting line at zero hour that morning.  Always erect, imperturbable, and with a grand sense of humour, Simon Fraser seemed to stand straighter, look less anxious and move slower as the strain of battle grew.  It was well-nigh impossible not to follow him, and I am sure those were the feelings of his men.  There were heavy losses that morning, and when the supporting tanks were all out of action and his company were casualties almost to a man, he refused to admit defeat and was last seen on a forward reconnaissance in his firm endeavour to get on and gain his objective.  He has been missing ever since, and is now presumed killed.  I shall never see a better or a more gallant leader of men.

Continued in page 11

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