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  • Christina Drummond

Second Lieutenant William Barclay Binning, Machine Gun Corps, 9th Battalion, The Scottish Rifles

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1916, Second Lieutenant William Barclay Binning, Machine Gun Corps, 9th Battalion, the Scottish Rifles, died from wounds sustained during the fighting on the Western Front, fatally wounded in the abdomen by German machine-gun fire. He had been supervising machine-guns going into their emplacements, preparing for the firing line at nightfall; the trench they were in was in an open piece of ground behind Le Touquet station. He was taken to a clearing station where he asked the Sister-in-Charge to write to his parents to send his love; she did as he asked but also prepared them as his wounds were so grievous.

He had excelled at school and was accepted to Edinburgh University to study medicine in October of 1914; his father had hoped he would follow him into the family plumbing business but recognized his son’s high intelligence and academic abilities so encouraged his application for university. William had already begun his studies, but quickly decided to postpone them and join the army, as his great-grandfather had done before the Battle of Waterloo. He obtained a commission in December of that year, and arrived in France the following October.

The Minister of the Binning family’s church in Cowdenbeath wrote this tribute: “William Binning was one whose kindly nature and humble bearing endeared him to us all. He was affectionate to a degree, loyal in all his friendships, and unfailing in his courtesy. I had the previous privilege of reading his last letter to his parents, written as with his last breath and in the agony of death. I shall never to my dying day forget the strong sense of peace in God, the calm assurance of duty well done, and the yearning love and undying affection to the dear ones at home.” His mother never wore anything but black for the rest of her days. He is buried in the Bailleul Cemetery in France.

William, from Cowdenbeath in West Fife, was 19 years old.

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