Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1918, Sergeant Louis McGuffie V.C., 1st/5th Battalion, the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, was killed in action at Wytschaete in Belgium.
The eldest son of a labourer, Sergeant McGuffie had been a member of the 1st/5th (Territorial) Battalion of the Kings Own Scottish Borderers before the outbreak of the Great War. They were immediately mobilised, and in May of 1915 sailed for Gallipoli. He was wounded twice and witnessed the deaths of some of the men from his home town, and also received a mention in the war diary: “On the counter-attack by the Turks we manned the parapets and assisted in repelling the attack.....Lance-Corporal McMurray was shot through the head by a sniper whilst throwing a continuous series of bombs during a strong Turkish counter-attack. He was ably seconded by Pte McGuffie, who later won the V.C.”
In January of 1916 Sergeant McGuffie served in Palestine and Gaza, and arrived in France in April of 1918. On the day of his death he exhibited the bravery which won him the posthumous award of the Victoria Cross. He took forty prisoners single-handed, and disarmed the enemy as he secured the release of ten British soldiers. The citation tells the story of the award for “most conspicuous bravery and resourceful leadership under heavy fire near Wytschaete” – “During the advance on Piccadilly Farm, he single-handed, entered several dug-outs and took many prisoners, and during subsequent operations dealt similarly with dug-out after dug-out, forcing one officer and twenty-five other ranks to surrender. During consolidation of the first objective he pursued and brought back several of the enemy who were slipping away, and he was instrumental in releasing some British soldiers who were being led off as prisoners. Later in the day, when in command of a platoon, he led it with the utmost dash and resource, capturing many prisoners. This very gallant soldier was subsequently killed by a shell.”
Sergeant McGuffie’s widowed mother, caring for one of her other sons who had fought and returned home with the loss of one arm, could not afford the fare to travel to be presented with his Victoria Cross. The townspeople paid her travel expenses, and when she returned home she was met with a parade and a brass band. He is honoured on a brass plaque on the County Buildings, and lies buried in the Zandvoorde British Cemetery, a few miles from Ypres in Belgium.
Louis, from Wigtown in Scotland, was 25 years old.