Great Uncle Charles’ First World War

Charles Moore Bell was my great uncle.  He was born on the 15 Oct 1898 in 19 North Street, Addiewell, which meant he was the perfect age for the First World War.  All 5 foot and 1 inches of him served in the Salonika (today called Thessalonika) campaign in 1917, which you can read about here.

Basically, the Greek Prime Minister asked for British and French hep for the Serbs in their fight against Bulgarian aggression.  1917 saw a fair amount of fighting;

  • The First Battle of Doiran (22 April – 8 May)
  • The Capture of Ferdie and Essex Trenches (near Bairakli Jum’a) (15 May)
  • The Capture of Bairakli and Kumli (16 May)
  • The Capture of Homonodos (14 October)
  • The battle of Tumbitza Farm (17 November – 7 December)

His army record shows that he was there, and that he ended up with the bog standard British War Medal 1914-1918 and the Victory Medal.

The War medal was given to a member of the fighting forces had to leave his native shore in any part of the British Empire while on service. It did not matter whether he/she entered a theatre of war or not.   However, the Victory medal was awarded to all those who entered a theatre of war. It follows that every recipient of the Victory Medal also qualified for the British War Medal, but not the other way round.

It doesn’t say what regiment he served in, but the Salonika campaign seems to have featured the 1/1st Lothians and Border Horse and the Seaforth Highlanders.  The former seems more likely as they recruited locally, and on 11 May 1917, A and D Squadrons formed the XII Corps Cavalry Regiment in Salonika, where they remained until the end of the war.

So he survived that, came home, became a grocer and died 2 years later from TB, aged only 21.  So no happy ending there.

Charles Moore Bell WW1 record


Great Uncle Wullie – William Joseph Muir, WW1 casualty

My Great Uncle, William Muir, was working as a labourer when he enlisted in the reserves of the Argyle & Sutherland Highlanders in 1907. He must have liked it / hated his job, because he became a full-time soldier in 1911, signing up for 12 years in the Royal Scots. His Grandfather had been in the army, so maybe it was a family thing. Bad timing is everything in my family, because his experience would have had made one of the first to be sent over to fight the Germans when World War 1 broke out. And, indeed, the 19th December 1914 saw him arriving in France.

He lasted just 10 months, until October 1915, being killed in action 50 years to the day, before I was born on 12 October. He died a private in Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment), 11th Battalion in Flanders. This would have been the Third Battle of Artois, also called the Loos-Artois Offensive, where “11/Royal Scots lost direction and in correcting it ran into a deep wire entanglement, where they were caught by machine-gun fire and virtually wiped out”. You can read more here Third Battle of Artois

I doubt his posthumous medals would have been much consolation to his family. You can see his British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards below. That’s a Victory Medal, a British War Medal and a 1915 Star. The telling comment is “K in A” scrawled in the remarks section. Killed In Action.

It was a bad year for the family, as his father, my Great Grandfather had died from nephritis, less than three weeks before he was sent to France. Probably the Irish in him, that caused his kidneys to pack in. Anyway, here is William Muirs Medal Rolls Index Card.

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Here’s the extract from the roll of honour at the Scottish War Memorial.


Surname MUIR
Firstname William Joseph
Service Number 10853
Date Death 12/10/1915
Place of birth Edinburgh
Other 11th Bn.
Rank Pte
Theatre of death

Certificates and Extracts from the Roll of Honour