Lieutenant-Colonel D.W. Cameron of Lochiel, commanding the 5th Battalion Cameron Highlanders, during his recent short furlough at Achnacarry gave some details to a correspondent regarding the valiant part played by the 5th Camerons in the notable advance, made in France.
"Our objective," began Lochiel, "was -, and with the Seaforths on our right we started our advance at 6.40 on the 25th, the two local Inverness-shire companies being in the front line. We had to cross a long open ridge, which was subject to a heavy enfilading rifle and machine gun fire from the left, and when headquarters came up it was found that line after line of our men were simply mown down. The men faced the ordeal bravely, and when the remnants had been gathered together we succeeded in reaching our objective, where we found a few of our lot who had come up on the left of the Seaforths.
The place we were ordered to hold was about 1300 yards in front of our lines. Our left was 'in the air' the whole day, and the only thing which prevented the Germans getting in behind us was the action of our machine gun sergeants, who most heroically defended our left flank from our position in rear. A battalion of the Black Watch came on splendidly in our support, but they too, unhappily, were considerably thinned. These were moments which can never be forgotten, and undoubtedly will tend to bind closer the very friendly ties which have always existed between the Camerons and the Seaforths. Defending what we had taken, we remained on here until we were relieved by another Brigade early the following morning.
"On the 26th we remained in our trenches all day, but on the afternoon of the 27th the battalion was ordered again to charge to reinforce the brigade in front of us who were being hard pressed by the Germans. This last charge was probably the finest thing a battalion had ever done, because the ranks, enormously attenuated in the action of the 25th, had on this occasion to go forward with few officers to lead them. As it was, they went forward out of their trenches as though nothing had happened in absolutely perfect alignment as if on parade.
"This charge having had the desired effect, the battalion was withdrawn into billets early the next morning. It was addressed by Sir John French, who thanked us for what we had done; but what pleased the men most was the words used by the Brigadier when he said that from Sir John French downwards, amongst those who had been out during the whole war, nothing finer had been seen than the advance of the Camerons through that bullet-swept zone on the morning of the 25th.
"To me," continued Lochiel, "it was at once the saddest and the proudest day of my life. I do not suppose any Commanding Officer ever, in the annals of the British Army, had better or braver men to serve under him, and Inverness-shire may rest absolutely contented that the Highlanders of the 5th Battalion proved themselves in every way worthy of their gallant forefathers. In saying this, I do not underrate the part played in the advance by the Highland Brigade as a whole, and when the story comes to be written, the country will doubtless learn how valiantly each unit fought."
Instances of personal bravery in my battalion are far too numerous to recount, but two might be cited as examples. A lance-corporal, finding the telephone connection between the Brigadier and myself cut, climbed to the top of a slag heap to get into visual communication. Here he went on waving his flags amid a perfect tornado of shell fire, until finally a shell burst right over him, and all that was found of him afterwards was a piece of his kilt and his notebook.
Another corporal did yeoman service as a bomb-thrower. The German bombers were coming along a trench, and owing to the presence of snipers it was courting death for our men to get out of the trenches to check them. The corporal in question, however, volunteered to go, and taking up a bag of bombs he managed to get near to the parapet of the enemy trenches and continued to throw the bombs down on the Germans. While so occupied he was exposed to fire from all directions, but he succeeded in driving back the bombers until he himself was wounded."