PRIVATE HENRY MCEWAN
21ST MARCH 1918 AGE 29
BURIED: STE EMILIE VALLEY CEMETERY, VILLERS-FAUCON, FRANCE
The 6th Battalion Connaught Rangers' war diary for the month of March 1918 does not exist. The following is extracted from the report Lt. Colonel Feilding submitted to the Brigade in April 1918.
At 4.30 on the morning of 21 March the Germans began an intense and extensive bombardment that fell on the 6th battalion, in reserve at Villers-Faucon. By lunchtime the village in front of them, Ronssoy, had been lost and the battalion were ordered to take part in an immediate counter-attack with the 1st Battalion Royal Munster Fusliers. The attack began at 3.45 pm:
"It was pressed with the greatest gallantry" but "As C Coy under Captain Norman advanced they saw what at first they thought was the 1/RMF but soon discovered to be the enemy lining the factory ridge to their right front, as well as parties of the enemy approaching along the Ronssoy St. Emile Road." ... "C Coy immediately engaged the enemy forming a defensive flank along the Ronssoy-St. Emilie road, but all the officers and the greater part of the company becoming casualties, they were soon compelled to fall back on the Brown Line, together with the few that remained of A and B Coys who had also suffered very severely,"
Early that evening Feilding reported to Brigade HQ to be told: "that the orders for the counter-attack should have been cancelled: he [the Brigadier] added that they had been cancelled in the case of the 1/RMF, but that he had not been able to communicate with me in time."
Quote from the Connaught Rangers Association website:
"On 21 March 1918 the 6th Batallion Connaught Rangers was caught in the middle of the Great German offensive and suffered such heavy casualties that the battalion could no longer be sustained and was disbanded in April 1918."
Private Henry McEwan served with the 6th Battalion and was killed in action on 21 March. One of the eleven children of Henry and Elizabeth McEwan, he came from Borrowstounness on the Firth of Forth in Scotland. A Mrs Mary M. Millan chose his inscription. I do not know who she was but she may have been his oldest sister, Mary.
It's a strange inscription: "Whispering sister do not fret". Is this the soldier telling the sister not to grieve for him because he is now in a better place, somewhere where age shall not wither him nor the years condemn, or where he is "With Christ which is far better". But the next part of the inscription, "I did my duty to the last", sounds as though he's telling his sister not to fret because she can rest assured that he did his duty by his country until the last and this conjures up the image of the recruiting poster that says, "Women of Britain say 'Go'", or of the music-hall song: 'We don't want to lose you but we think you ought to go'. Had she encouraged him to war?