Lord James Thomas Stewart Murray (1) was the youngest child of the 7th Duke of Atholl and was born on 18th August 1879. He served a total of twenty-three years in the Cameron Highlanders and attained the rank of Major. As a Lieutenant in the 3/ Cameron Highlanders he took part as an ensign in the presentation of new colours to the battalion in 1909. During the Boer War (1899-1902) he was seconded to the Scottish Horse, a Yeomanry unit raised by his brother, Major John George Stewart-Murray, DSO.

On 12th August 1914 he left Edinburgh Castle as a Captain and adjutant in "D" Company, 1st Battalion, Cameron Highlanders. On 27th August, during the retreat from Mons, he was ordered to secure the bridge at Guise and prevent the French from blowing it up and cutting off the I Corps of the British Expeditionary Force. This was successfully done.

Captain Stewart-Murray's first letter was written aboard a ship returning to Britain with many of the BEF's first casualties and describes what happened to him and his battalion:

lord-jamesAsturias
Sept. 24th 1914.

My dear Father,
Perhaps you will wonder why you have not heard from me. The fact is that the censorship is so strict that I hardly thought it worthwhile, as I was not allowed to mention the names of any of the places or what we were doing. It seems a year since the regiment left Edinburgh, though it was only on August 12th, not much more than six weeks ago. So much has happened since then. I am now on my way back again, having been invalided with a slight wound in the right fore-arm, received on the 14th [September] at the battle of Aisne. A short time previously the regiment had been ordered to concentrate in order that they might take the place of the Munster Fusiliers in the 1st Brigade, that regiment having been cut up during a rear guard a short time previously. My company ["D"] actually joined the Brigade on the 8th [September], the day two companies of my regiment had a bit of a skirmish with a party of Jaeger Guards who formed part of the German rear guard who were opposing our passage over the Marne. Poor Johnstone (2) was killed. He had married Lord Ruthven's grand daughter only two months previously. [Captain Charles Antoine de G.] Dalglish and [Lieutenant Ewen Holmes H.J.] Wilson in the Black Watch were killed and Maurice Drummond severely wounded.

On the 13th we crossed the Aisne at Bourg and found the enemy occupying a strong position on the other side. On the 14th the Brigade took part in the attack on this position near a village called Van-dresse. I care to say little about the battle, as my poor regiment suffered so severely. They lost 17 officers and about 450 men. We fear 9 of these officers have been killed, 21 officers and about 900 men having been actually engaged. We were ordered to attack across an open plateau, exposed to the most awful shell fire. My company was the leading one, and suffered most severely. We went into action with 5 officers and 221 men, the roll call after the battle showed no officers and 86 men, I fear Mackintosh (3), Alastair Murray (Polmaise) (4) and Hector Cameron (5) are all gone, Iain Maxwell (6) (Lovat's nephew) was severely wounded, and I myself slightly. My Company Sergeant Major (7) was killed. I felt his loss very much, as we had done 10 years' service together continuously in the same company. Part of the Black Watch (who were on the right) and most of my company got almost as far as a sugar factory held by the enemy, only to be beaten back with tremendous losses.

It was reported to me that Geordie [Major Lord George Stewart-Murray, Black Watch] had been wounded in the head with a shell close to this place, but I never could find any trace of him. I did not report sick myself for four days, in order that I might make enquiries, and search the hospitals. I see he is reported in the casualty list as wounded, so he must have been picked up by the stretcher bearers of some other brigade. I was forced in the end to go sick myself so I trust as is well with him.

The casualties in the first brigade were about 50 officers and 1,100 men. On the 15th, 16th and 17th the battle still continued though it was little more than an artillery [duel] and the enemy had a heavy gun a long way off which sent an enormous amount of lydite percussion shells in our direction. She was nicknamed by the troops "Black Maria" from the black clouds of smoke made by the shell, or "Sighing Susan" from the whistling of the shell overhead. She was little harm, however, I was in a hospital at Vendrea which got shelled with shrapnel one piece entering through my window. The patients were moved to Villies, on the south side of the Aisne. On Saturday the 19th the 1st Brigade was withdrawn to Bourg, being relieved by another one, and I was removed with the other wounded in a very uncomfortable motor lorry to Brain, where we were put into an ambulance train, which proceeded at a snail's pace via Versailles, Angers and Mantes to St. Nazaire in the Bay of Biscay, arriving there Tuesday morning (21st September) over two days and two nights in the train. We reach Southampton tomorrow morning and proceed straight to London, where we shall be transferred to one of the military hospitals.

I expect to be discharged with short leave almost at once and hope to arrive at Blair Sunday or Monday. In any case I will send a wire. I enclose a rough sketch of the battle of the Aisne showing the disposition of my regiment [not reproduced] and some of the Black Watch only. It may be all wrong, but there was some confusion which can only be straightened out later. I believe the Coldstreams were originally on our right and the Scots Guards on the left. The third brigade seemed to have come up too late on the left. I got detached with a mixed lot of our men. No. 15 platoon of my own company on the extreme left, and realised that I was quite unprotected. We were fired at by the enemy from the front and left, and by our own troops on the right after which we had to retire which I did down the valley, the shell fire being too heavy on the crest line. I came up again in the new alignment, and had to take up rather an exposed position on the left of a quarry. It was here I got shot.

I dare say you would like to know something about our movements at the beginning of the war. The battalion as you know, were detailed as army troops, and my company ("D") were selected as escort to GOC 1st Army [Corps], i.e.. Sir Douglas Haig (not General Grierson as originally intended) [sic]. Captain Mackintosh commanded and I was second in command. We had three subalterns, Hector Cameron, Iain Maxwell and Alastair Murray, who commanded 14, 15 and 16 platoons respectively. We left Havre on August 15th and proceeded by train via Amiens and Rouen to Wassigny near Le Cateau. Here we halted for four days, while the concentration of the army took place.

On the 21st we accompanied General Haig north to the Belgium frontier, half the company being in picquette six miles south of Mons on the 23rd, the day of that disaster to our troops. We took part in the subsequent retreat, covering nearly 200 miles in 12 days, an average of nearly 17 miles.

The marching was terrible, but it had to be done. Our men stuck it splendidly. We were in Landrecies with the 4th Brigade at the time it was attacked [25/26th August] by a raiding party of German cavalry and infantry in motor lorries with two or three guns. It was a night attack and an anxious time. The Germans attacked with extraordinary determination, but were mown down by the Coldstream machine guns. About 800 of their dead and wounded were picked up by our own doctors. The losses of the 4th Brigade (second battalion Cold-stream, Grenadiers and Irish Guards) being about 130. Though the marches were long and trying, we were always well off for food, the country abounding in eggs, fruit, milk and butter. The people were very hospitable and we usually billeted in villages. As the army retired, all the inhabitants fled from their houses and followed us. It was a pitiful sight, women and children tramping alongside the troops or riding in farm carts when they could get them.

Our line of retirement was through Guise, Soissons and Leaux.

On the 5th September, two days previously I saw Geordie with his regiment in Coulommiers; he was very pleased because he had captured a party of Uhlans who had ridden into a wire entanglement round his picquettes. I believe he collected their lances for you. The last time I saw him was on the 13th during the midday halt after we crossed the Aisne at Bourg.

I expect to be home only a very short time as my wound is trifling and my regiment is badly in need of officers.

Hoping to see you soon.
Hamish

maj-lord-jamesThe second letter was written by Captain Stewart-Murray while he was recovering from his wound at his father's home, Blair Castle. It was sent to the father of Lieutenant Nicholson (8), who was killed in action during the battle of Aisne on 14th September 1914. Lieutenant Nicholson had distinguished himself during the battle of Le Cateau, when in command of two platoons of "C" Company he had assisted the Scottish Rifles in an ambush of a German cavalry column. During the fighting on the 14th, Lieutenant Nicholson was killed north of the Chivy-Cemy road.

Blair Castle
Blair Atholl 7 Oct. 1914

Dear Mr. Nicholson,

I will indeed let you know anything I find out about Stuart. As you know he was originally my subaltern and there was no officer in the regiment I was more attached to. On rejoining he was posted to Capt. Miers company ("C") much to my disappointment.

At the beginning of the war "C" Company was detailed as escort to G.O.C 2nd Army [Corps], Sir H. Smith-Dorien, and as such took part in the advance to the Belgium frontier and in the subsequent retirement. They rejoined the regiment on Sept. 11th only.

Three days later they took part in that fatal battle north of the Aisne. My company ("D") was leading on that day and consequently suffered the most severely.
With the arrival of reinforcements, units became mixed. I last saw your son somewhere about the centre of the line not far from Major Maitland. He was then un-wounded. I was on the extreme left on the line.

I have had to write this or a similar story so often lately that it has become almost mechanical and I hardly realise it has all really happened. The casualties on the 26th [September] were caused by a shell falling in the trench where the officers were.

I received from my brother [Colonel John George Stewart-Murray, Scottish Horse] a copy of Capt Allison's letter, the account is incorrect in every particular and shows how much reliance can be placed in the stories of private soldiers in hospital.

My brother has now been officially reported wounded and missing, which I knew must be the case all the while.

I am
Yours Sincerely,
James Stewart-Murray

Major Maitland (9) was the commanding officer of "A" Company and was killed in action during the battle of the Aisne. Colonel J.G. Stewart-Murray was the oldest living son of the Duke of Atholl. He became the 8th Duke when his father died in 1917. The second brother mentioned was Major George Stewart-Murray of the Black Watch. Instead of being missing, he was later listed as killed in action on 14th September. In the early days of the war it was quite often difficult to confirm the deaths of soldiers on either side as large amounts of land changed hands before the long lines of trenches were constructed.

The brief reference to casualties on the 26th September, concerns when the headquarters of the 1st Battalion, Cameron Highlanders, was wiped out on the 25th when German artillery shells caused the collapse of the cave in which the HQ was located. Five officers were killed, including the commanding officers of the battalion, "A" Company and "B" Company. An additional twenty-four enlisted men died and four were severely wounded.

After recovering from his wound Captain Stewart-Murray rejoined the Cameron Highlanders and on 8th November 1914 he led a draft of 160 enlisted men as reinforcements for the 1st Battalion. They joined the Camerons in France on 22nd November, and Captain Stewart-Murray was given command of "B" Company. Due to a lack of officers he was then given command of the "right half-battalion" ("A" and "B" Companies) on 7th December 1914. On the evening of 22nd December 1914, during the battle of Givenchy, Captain Stewart-Murray was attempting to locate the leading elements of his unit when he ran into a German patrol and was made a prisoner of war.

After the war Lord James Thomas Stewart-Murray was promoted to Major and retired in 1921. In 1942, upon the death of his older brother he became the 9th Duke of Atholl and held the title until his own death on 8th May 1957. At the time of his death, James Thomas Stewart-Murray held twenty-four peerage dignities, more than any other British subject

Notes
1. Lord James Thomas Stewart-Murray, 9th Duke of Atholl. Born: 18th August 1879. Commissioned 2nd Lieutenant: 3rd January 1900. Lieutenant: 29th May 1901. Captain: 14th May 1910. Major; 1st September 1915. Retired: 17th February 1921.

Awards: 'Queen's South Africa Medal' (Cape Colony, Johannesburg. Diamond Hill and Wittebergen clasps), 'King's South Africa Medal' (South Africa 1901 and South Africa 1902 clasps), '1914 Star' (August to November clasp), '1914-1920 War Medal', and 'Victory Medal'.

2. Reginald Fitzroy Lewis Johnstone. Born: 6th June 1884. Commissioned 2nd Lieutenant: 14th May 1904. Lieutenant: 2nd December 1909. Killed in action: 8th September 1914. Lieutenant Johnstone of "A" Company, was the first officer of the Cameron Highlanders to die in the Great War.

Awards: '1914 Star' (August to November clasp), '1914-1920 War Medal', and 'Victory Medal'.

3. Alastair Hugh Macintosh. Born: 19th July 1880. Commissioned 2nd Lieutenant: 27th September 1899. Lieutenant: 21st April 1901. Captain: 14th May 1910. Killed in action: 14th September 1914.

Awards: 'Queen's South Africa Medal' (Cape Colony, Johannesburg, Diamond Hill, Wittebergen and South Africa 1901 clasps), '1914 Star' (August to November clasp), '1914-1920 War Medal' and 'Victory Medal'.

4. Alastair John Greville Murray (Polmaise). Born: 22nd July 1894. Commissioned 2nd Lieutenant 25th February 1914. Killed in action: 14th September 1914.

Awards: '1914 Star' (August to November clasp), '1914-1920 War Medal' and 'Victory Medal'.

5. Hector William Lcvett Cameron. Bom: 2nd September 1892. Commissioned 2nd Lieutenant: 20th September 1911. Lieutenant (Posthumous): 27th September 1914. Killed in action: 14th September 1914.

Awards: '1914 Star' (August to November clasp), '1914-1920 War Medal' and 'Victory Medal'.

6. Ian Simon Joseph Constable Maxwell (Herries). Born: 15th April 1891. 2nd Lieutenant (transfer from Lovat Scouts): 21st January 1914. Lieutenant 12th October 1914. Captain: 1st October 1915. Severely wounded: 14th September 1914. Later posted to 3rd Battalion and transferred to Staff: 15th July 1917 and posted to 2nd Battalion: 1919.

Awards: '1914 Star' (August to November clasp), '1914-1920 War Medal' and 'Victory Medal'.

7. James Wood. Attested as Private (No. 5260): 7th April 1900. Promoted to Company Sergeant-Major: 1st October 1913. Killed in action: 14th September 1914.

Awards: 'Queen's South Africa Medal' (Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal and South Africa 1902 clasps), '1914-1920 War Medal', 'Victory Medal' and French 'Medaille Militaire'.

8. Arthur Stuart Nicholson {Arisaig). Born: 18th September 1889. Commissioned 2nd Lieutenant (Special Reserve): 30th November 1907. 2nd Lieutenant (regular commission): 12th February 1910. Lieutenant: 3rd September 1913. Killed in action: 14th September 1914. Lieutenant Nicholson's father was Admiral Sir A.W. Nicholson, KCB., of Arisaig.

Awards: '1914 Star' (August to November clasp), '1914-1920 War Medal' and 'Victory Medal'.

9. The Honourable Alfred Henry Maitland (Lauderdale). Bom: 9th December 1872. 2nd Lieutenant (transfer from Manchester Regiment): 27th ]une 1894. Lieutenant 6th April 1898. Captain: 27fh November 1899. Major: 12th April 1914. Killed in action: 14th September 1914.

Awards: 'Queen's Sudan Medal', 'Queen's South Africa Medal' (Cape Colony, Johannesburg, Diamond Hill, Witlebergen and South Africa 1901 clasps), '1914 Star' (August to November clasp), '1914-1920 War Medal' and 'Khedives Sudan Medal' (Atbara and Khartoum clasps).

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