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  • Christina Drummond

Second Lieutenant Thomas Gibbs Gordon Sturrock, 17th Battalion, The Royal Scots (attached to No. 1 S

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1916, Second Lieutenant Thomas Gibbs Gordon Sturrock, 17th Battalion, The Royal Scots (attached to No. 1 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps) was killed in action on the Western Front. He was educated at Daniel Stewart’s College in Edinburgh and took up a post as clerk with the National Bank of Scotland in Leith. At the outbreak of the Great War he joined the army as a private, and was gazetted as a second lieutenant in July of 1915, passing the exams with distinction. He arrived at the front early in 1916 and in July was seconded to the Royal Flying Corps as an observer officer. On the afternoon of his death he and his pilot set off in their Morane Saulnier BB as one of four aircraft escorting a reconnaissance mission from Bailleul to near the Belgian border, north of Lille, behind the German lines. This bi-plane was fitted with a front-facing Lewis machine gun and used as a fighter as well as a reconnaissance aircraft. Second Lieutenant Sturrock’s duties were to navigate, direct gunfire as needed, and be responsible for taking invaluable photographs. The pilot, Second Lieutenant Charles Kelly, wrote this report in March of 1918: “On our return journey, I discovered mine was the only machine returning with the leader. I was in my position to the side and rear of the leader when a hostile machine dived in on me from behind and wounded me with his first burst of fire, the same burst I think killed my observer. I could not get the hostile machine off my tail and I was hit again. I was wounded in four places, one or two of the shots shattering my right fibula. The petrol tank was evidently pierced in several places as the petrol was pouring over my legs in a large quantity. In this disabled state I descended and crashed in enemy territory” The plane was losing fuel and power, and came down near the village of Linselles, where the pilot was captured alive and made a prisoner of war. Second Lieutenant Sturrock was taken to hospital. It is not clear if he was killed in the plane as his pilot thought, or if he died in hospital shortly after arrival, as was reported in his home town newspaper. He was buried in a communal cemetery in Linselles which is now maintained by the CWGC. His colonel wrote of him: “He was uniformly bright and cheery, and ready to do anything that came his way, and cheerfulness is a very great asset to an officer over the other side.” Thomas, from Leith, was 20 years old.

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