Second Lieutenant William Brown MacDuff, the Black Watch (Royal Highlanders attached to 11th Battalion, Border Regiment, born on 15 June 1893, was the second son of Peter MacDuff, a Headmaster, and Mary MacDuff, of Dinsdale, Lundin Links, Fife.

His siblings were Elizabeth, Donald, Margaret and Mary.   

William was employed as a bank clerk. Canadian banks appear to have actively recruited from Scotland and William responded by emigrating.

He enlisted at Calgary on 18 June 1915, three days after his 22nd birthday, arriving in England in 1916, where he was attached to the Pay Office. He applied for a commission in the British Army, and embarked on officer training in May 1917. After his officer training he was commissioned to the 5th Battalion, Border Regiment. However, despite being commissioned to the Black Watch on 28 August 1917, he was attached to the 11th Battalion, Border Regiment (The Lonsdales).

He was killed in action on 2 December 1917, age 24, and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial.

William’s battalion had been part of an attack to consolidate the position north of Passchendaele and capture the remaining high ground on the ridge. The attack had been made on a moonlit night; trying to achieve the element of surprise, the troops advanced without any artillery support. However soon after the attack started the German machine guns opened fire causing many casualties – possibly including William. Although the Battalion succeeded in reaching their objective, they suffered high losses, including most of their officers, and were driven back by German counter-attacks. The area was a morass of mud and shell holes.

This had actually been a fairly significant action, involving ten battalions from two divisions. The whole attack had failed, and over 1,600 casualties were suffered by the British. However despite these losses, the attack seems to have been written out of the official history of the war.


About 100 men from the battalion died during that attack, yet only 14 have a known grave.

Source: Andy Arnold.

For more information, click the following links:

Second Lieutenant Donald MacDuff.

Lieutenant Colonel Peter MacDuff.

 Second Lieutenant William MacDuff

Second Lieutenant William MacDuff.

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