Australian Infantry, 56th Btn.  

Rank & Number:     
Private, 2646  

31 March 1892; Rutherglen, Lanarkshire  

02 April 1917; Louverval, France (killed in action)  

Brother of Daniel Duncan

PETER DUNCAN was 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). 

He was 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 Parish Church.  

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 Agnes (11)    


He 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.

Extracts from books about the ANZACS, from the Lest We Forget website:-  

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.   
Louverval - 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.  

2 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.

  © Commonwealth of Australia (National Archives of
  Australia) 2015.
  © Commonwealth of Australia (National Archives of
  Australia) 2015.


Fairlie Community Association SCIO
Scottish Charity No. SC028785