April 1917; Louverval, France (killed in action)
of Daniel Duncan
born on 31 Mar 1892 in Rutherglen, Lanarkshire to parents Robert, a master
grocer, and Ann Leitch (who
were married in Rutherglen on 6 Aug 1878).
killed in action on 02 Apr 1917 at Louverval, France, aged 25, and is buried at
Vaulx Hill Cemetery, Pas de Calais - headstone inscription “He died that we
might live”. Both Peter and his brother
Daniel (who died in service in 1918) are commemorated on a plaque in Fairlie
Peter, who attended Stonelaw Public School,
Rutherglen, emigrated to Australia in 1913, travelling Liverpool/Sydney in
January of that year. He was aged 21,
and a grocer.
In the 1901 Census, Peter, aged 8, is living
Wardlawhill Cottage, Melrose Avenue, Rutherglen with parents Robert (51, grocer, b. Glasgow) and Ann L. (47, b. Rutherglen) and siblings Isabella (18, pupil teacher), Robert (16, grocer's apprentice), William L.T. (14, grocer's apprentice), Archibald L. (12) and
enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 29 July 1915 (aged 23, from Sydney,
occ. packer). His next of kin is his mother, whose address
is Rutherglen and Alpha Cottage, Fairlie.
He embarked from Sydney in Nov 1915 on HMAT Euripides to a training camp
in Egypt, from where he sailed to Marseille in June 1916 to join the British
Expeditionary Force. He received the
1914-15 Star and the British War and Victory medals.
From “Gallant Company” by H.R. Williams, 56th Battalion
History, Printed by Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1933 Near
Louverval c. April 1917 - The 14th Brigade’s turn to take up the advance came on 29th
March. Peter Duncan was in an ominously
pensive mood during the evening before.
Generally the wit of our sing-song gatherings around the camp-fire he
alone would not sing that night. When we
rallied him about it he broke into that mournful Scotch dirge “The Land of the
Leal.” This closed down our concert as
abruptly as if a 5.9 had landed in our fire.
I went to bed feeling sure that my bosom pal, Peter Duncan, was not
coming out of the fight that we were about to enter, and for weeks afterwards
his voice singing that dirge rang in my ears like funeral bell.
- The author and Peter had a discussion and he was asked to visit Scotland
after the stunt if the both survived. “Yes, Peter,” I
replied, “We will come through the stunt all right, and I will be delighted to
come with you.”
“I wonder?” he said, as he gazed with a
fixed stare into the dancing flames as if they held the answer to the
riddle. Again the feeling that Peter was
going to be killed, and that he knew it - wanted to tell me, but held it back -
came into my mind. Premonition of coming
death was frequent during the war. Many thousands of those who died knew their
end was at hand. In some cases their
best pals knew as well as they did.
April 1917 - After
what seemed years of waiting, and just a faint light began to show in the east,
a company runner came with orders to the platoon commanders to have the men up
on one knee. No sooner was this completed than the word to advance was
completed. Peter Duncan moved out with
his screen of scouts, to meet death just over the rise.
From “Comrades of the
Great Adventure” by H. R. Williams, 56th Battalion History, Printed by Angus &
Robertson, Sydney, 1935.
April, 1917 -
For many weeks prior to his death Duncan was included in every patrol which
left our company trench; every wiring job he was on; and, in short, he saw that
he missed no task which entailed extra risk.
He met his life’s end while leading a screen of scouts, which covered
the advance of our attacking formations, knowing in his heart, as he set out,
that a rendezvous with death awaited him over the crest of the ridge. Steeped in the fighting tradition of his
nation, his pride forbade him to falter; and, perhaps, too, the spirit of the
Scottish hosts which died at Flodden, Culloden and other stricken fields
fortified him to go forth and die like a valiant and brave soldier.