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Fyfe, G.W., L/Cpl., 1916

Photo : From a postcard

Medal Index Card

G.W. Fyfe

Pipe Major John Wilson at Backworth War Memorial

In Ovillers Military Cemetery, France, is the Commonwealth War Grave of 20/237 Lance Corporal Garnet Wolsley Fyfe, serving with the 20th Battalion, (1st Tyneside Scottish), Northumberland Fusiliers who died on the 01/07/1916.

Garnet Wolsley Fyfe was born on the 16th August 1879 at 16 Brougham Street, Midlothian, Edinburgh, Scotland, the son of James Fyfe, born 3rd June 1838, Carrington, Midlothian, Scotland], Coal Miner, and his wife, Agnes Hill, [born 1841, 34 Kent Street, Carluke, Lanarkshire, Scotland, died 19th March 1922], who were married on the 3rd April 1865. They had twelve children, however four died,

Thomas born 1862, but died after 1871, Johanne born 1863, died 1940, at Highgate, Saint Catherine, Jamaica, Robert born Carrington, Scotland, 3rd April 1866 , died 2nd quarter of 1929. [He was in the 20th Northern Rifle Brigade in WW1], Ambrosine born 5th December 1867 at Belmont Colliery, Pittington, Co Durham, baptised on the 20th January 1868, at St Marks, died in 1948, [she was married to Pipe Major John Wilson],* and they had three children, James**, John and Frank Wilson. They all served in the Army. James was a Drum Major, Frank was a private and John was a Pipe Major. In 1939, Ambrosine [now a widow], was residing at 12 Grange Estate Wark Avenue , Seaton Valley U.D., Northumberland, with a John Wilson, born 21st November 1910, who was a Butcher shopkeeper.

Walter Hill, born 29th October 1873 at Easington Lane, Durham, died 1956, served in the Canadian Artillery in WW1, [Walter with Garnet emigrated to Canada on the 2nd August 1902, travelling from Liverpool, on-board the Sarmatian, arriving on the 11th August at Quebec City]. Walter Hill enlisted on the 11th October 1915, age 39 years 11 months, he was 5 feet 3 inches tall, Brown Eyes, Dark grey hair with a dark complexion, he also carried an appendix scar, and was a Presbyterian. His marital status was stated as widowed. Service number was 161046.

Garnett Fyfe returned from Canada on the 25th December 1902 to Liverpool on the Corinthian Ship number 111257, Allan Line, from Halifax.

Elvira Robina Morrison was born on the 17th December 1874, at Dalziel, Lanark, Scotland, she went on to marry Ralph Reay, [born 22nd June 1872], in 1939 he was now a (widower) residing at 6 South View, Seaton Valley U.D., Northumberland, with Gordon F. F. Reay, born 10th July 1911, and his wife Grace C. Reay, born 1st March 1916, prior to this they were residing at Benton Square, Longbenton, having at least 3 children. Elvira died June 1938, one of their children named James served in the 3rd Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers, Horatious Bonner, born 9th October 1877 at Edinburgh, died 1952, [by 1939, he was married to Alice Fyfe, who was born 25th November 1879, both residing at 75 Harle Road, Seaton Valley U.D., Northumberland, with two children, Walter H. Fyfe, born 11th November 1912, a Miner, above Ground Heavy, and a Robert Fyfe, born 11th July 1914, also a Miner, above Ground Heavy Worker]. Ashmead, born 1885 at Motherwell, also served in World War 1, as a soldier, service numbers 21328, 112965 and 51586, 16th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment, and the Labour Corps, he committed suicide on the 14th May 1929, and was buried on the 18th of May. [Ashmead was found in the Old Quarry Pond, in Old Hartley, on the 14th May, aged 43, he was formerly residing with his brother [Robert Fyfe], at 19 Percy Street, Shiremoor, who had also died about 3 months ago].

Source : Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail Thursday 16/05/1929.

Garnet's mother Agnes, [who was the eldest daughter to her parents called Hugh and Isabella Hill], was a widow when she passed away on the 19th March 1922, and was residing at 5 Morley Street, Shiremoor, Backworth, Northumberland, at the time of her death. Her son Robert Fyfe was in attendance and he resided at 19 Percy Street, Shiremoor. When Agnes was 19 [approx 1861], she was living with her grandparents at Croft Bank Lanarkshire. John and Agnes Govan. She was employed as a grocer's assistant.

Sometime in 1867, Agnes and James as newly weds moved and were residing at 6 Johnson Street, Wearmouth, Sunderland, Durham.

By 1871, they had five children, Johanne, Ambrosine, Robert, Thomas [died soon after], and Walter.

James was employed now as a Coal Miner, and Thomas aged 9 was a scholar.

In the 1881 census the family, with three additional children, Elvira Robina Morrison, Horatious Bonner, and Garnet Wolsley were residing at 16 Brougham Street, St Cuthberts, Midlothian, Edinburgh, Scotland.

In 1891 Garnet was a scholar, and gave the address Clapperhowe Row, Bothwell, Lanarkshire, Scotland.

Garnet married in June 1906 Rachel Burrows, [born the 2nd quarter 1887 in 18 Church Street, Backworth], and they resided at 25 Maude Terrace, West Allotment, Longbenton, Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1911. They had three children but two died. Henry Burrows Fyfe, born and died April 1908 and another unknown, Ronald was born 1st May, 1910, died 1976, he was married to Elizabeth Fyfe, born 14th January 1909. [In 1939, they were residing at 45 Waterloo Road, Seaton Valley U.D., Northumberland. Ronald's profession was described as a Grocer Travelling Shop ?].

In 1901 Rachel was residing at 13 South View, Shiremoor, with her five brothers, and two sisters. Her father was a Hewer, and by this time was 41 years of age.

Also in 1901, Elvira, Garnet Fyfe's sister, was by now married to Ralph Reay, with three children, Agnes, Joseph, James, and nephew John H. Leather [Lether] born 15th July 1890. [In 1939 he was an Shipyard Tank Cleaner residing at 325 Dean Road, South Shields, Durham]. Previous they were all residing at Benton Square, Longbenton.

Rachel parents were a Henry Burrows, [born 1859, Bilston, Staffordshire], a coal miner hewer and his wife, who was also named Rachel, born 1861. They were residing in 1891 at 18 Church Street, Backworth, with their Mother-in-Law Sarah Jane Burrows, a widow aged 57. [Also were three lodgers as well working as Coal Miners]. They had 9 children at least all born in Backworth.

By 1901 they had moved to 13 South View, Shiremoor.

James Fyfe, Garnet's father died before 1901.

In 1911, Agnes Fyfe was 68 years of age and was living at 5 Morley Street, Shiremoor, with her youngest son Ashmead Fyfe [now a Stonemason], and grand daughter Jessie Fyfe.

Garnet was a coal miner before he enlisted at Newcastle-upon-Tyne in November 1914. Service number 20/237, in the 20th Battalion (1st Tyneside Scottish) Northumberland Fusiliers.

* Pipe Major John [Jock] Wilson and his son Sergeant Piper John Wilson were borrowed from the Tyneside Scottish Battalion band to the Tyneside Irish. The Tyneside Irish were the only band in the Army using the Irish War pipes. The father Pipe Major John[Jock] Wilson liked the Irish Battalion and stayed on to become the Pipe Major of the 24th Battalion, (1st Tyneside Irish), he had previously served in the 2nd Scottish Rifles then as a Territorial with the 6th Royal Scots, the son John Wilson returned to the Tyneside Scottish to become Pipe Major of the First Tyneside Scottish, winning the Military Medal piping the Battalion into action on the 1st July 1916 at the Somme. James the other son became Drum Major. **James moved to the 22nd (3rd Tyneside Scottish) Battalion just prior to going overseas. He was later posted to the 10th Battalion Highland Infantry before returning to the 22nd Battalion.

The 20th (Service) Battalion Pipes and Drums band had a strong family connection for Garnet Wolseley Fyfe, Ambrosine his sister married, Pipe Major John Wilson.

The Tyneside Scottish appealed for equipment to furnish the 1st Battalion with pipers. Mrs Hopkins, The Towers, Ryton-on-Tyne, sent a letter to the Newcastle Journal and stated that Mrs Cochran-Carr and Sir Thomas Oliver have each generously offered to equip one piper. Eight are required for a battalion, and anything over, after equipping Lieut-Colonel Hopkins' pipers, will be passed on to the other battalions. The War Office does not supply any funds towards pipers in non-kilted regiments, and therefore, at the outset, the whole expense-unless, helped by friends- falls on he officers, unless Mr Cowen's donation is draw upon, which my husband is anxious to avoid, so that all of it may be available for the men themselves.

Source : Newcastle Journal Monday 16/11/1914.

Mr Farquhar Laing provided three pipers, [one of these was Garnet Wolsley Fyfe], the Union Club, [based at 72 Percy Street], provided one piper, Messrs W. R. Reid and Co., provided one piper, Mr F. H. Foster one piper, Mr James Deuchar provided one piper, Mr C. Bainbridge one piper, Mr H. Coxon one piper, Mr J. Nisbet one piper, as well as other donors.

The Tyneside Scottish 20th Battalion Drums and Pipes were quartered at St Michael's Church of England School, in Headlam Street, Byker. The playground was used for Drill and Band practising.

The first half of the Battalion were billeted in Rowton House, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the rest were billeted at Simpson's Hotel, Wallsend. On the 10th January, 1915 the Tyneside Scottish had its first uniformed church parade at St Nicholas's Cathedral, Newcastle.

The 20th Battalion were in Camp C at Alnwick after leaving Newcastle-upon-Tyne on the 29th January 1915. The battalion was to march nearly 40 miles, in two stages to Alnwick. The pipe band led the battalion out of Morpeth at 9am. At 4.30pm the battalion had reached the outskirts of Alnwick and they were met by the 16th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers. That night the 20th Battalion were in the Huts at Alnwick.

On the 18th May 1915 the whole 102nd Brigade were reviewed by the Duke of Northumberland. [Honorary Colonel Percy].

On the 20th May at the Town Moor at Newcastle the Kings' Review took place, in which the King His Majesty King George V and Lord Kitchener were to review the whole parade.

On Friday 31/12/1915, the Morpeth Herald carried a story with a heading Patriotic Shiremoor Family. Mrs Fyfe, a well-known and respected resident of Morley Place, Shiremoor, has sons, one son-in-law, and eight grandsons serving with the Colours. Their names and corps are :- Robert Fyfe, 20th Northern Batt, Rifle Brigade; Walter Fyfe, Canadian Artillery; Garnet Fyfe, Lance-Corporal, Tyneside Scottish, piper; Ashmead Fyfe, 16th Cheshires; John Wilson, Tyneside Irish, Pipe Major; John Wilson, Tyneside Scottish, Pipe Major; Frank Wilson, Cycle Corps; John Lether, Naval Division, Salonika; Walter Leather, Green Howards, France; Daniel Moran, Yorks and Lancs, Dardanelles; James Reay, 3rd Batt. Northumberland Fusiliers; John Cunningham, 9th Batt. Seaforth Highlanders.

The battalion moved from the 1st August 1915 to Salisbury Plain with the rest of the other battalions as part of the 34th Division.

1st July 1916.

An unnamed officer "The pluckiest thing I ever saw was a piper of the Tyneside Scottish playing his company over the parapet in the attack on the German trenches near Albert. The Tynesiders were on our right, and as their officers gave the signal to advance , I saw a piper- I think he was a Pipe Major [20/290, Pipe Major John Wilson] - jump out of the trench and march straight over No Mans Land towards the German lines."

Source : Tyneside Scottish Graham Stewart and John Sheen. Pen and Sword Ltd. ISBN 9781473823013 2014.

Private Elliott [20th Battalion], witnessed the attack and said the following:- "I never heard the pipes but I did see poor 'Aggy' Fife [20/237 Lance Corporal Piper Garnet Wolsley Fyfe, uncle of Pipe Major Wilson], he was riddled with bullets, writhing and screaming. Another lad was just kneeling, his head thrown right back. Bullets were just slapping into him knocking great bloody chunks off his body."

20th and the 23rd Battalion's had 800 yards of No Man's Land to cross, into a crossfire of machine guns at Ovillers and La Boisselle.

Newcastle Journal Thursday 26/10/1916.

A War Souvenir.

The Lord Mayor announced that the four hon. colonels of the local brigades, Sir Thomas Oliver, Mr Johnstone Wallace, Mr Joseph Cowen, and Mr Joseph Reed, had presented to the Laing Art Gallery the remnant of the pipes played by Piper Fyfe at the start of the big advance on July 1st. Part of the silver on the pipes had been made into a souvenir and presented to Mr Farquhar Laing, the original donor of the pipes.

The 4th photograph is from the unveiling photograph at [Backworth of its War Memorial,] from a Mrs. Edmonds, in which it shows her grandfather, Pipe Major John Wilson and his son, John Wilson. “At the outbreak of World War I, my grandfather, then aged 51, his three sons and his brother-in-law Garnet Wolsley Fyfe joined the Tyneside Scottish Brigade. My grandfather was asked to transfer to the Tyneside Irish Brigade as Pipe Major and his eldest son, also John Wilson, stayed as Pipe Major with the Tyneside Scottish. On the first day of the Battle of the Somme, my uncle John Wilson piped the men in his section ‘over the top’ and marched ahead across the battlefield, for which action he was awarded the Military Medal. Further along the line Garnet Fyfe piped his section into battle and was killed within minutes. His name appears on the war memorial at Shiremoor."

The pipers wore dirks and were numbered, Piper Fyfe was number 7. "The dirk is meant to have been recovered from Lance Corporal Piper Garnet Wolseley Fyfe's body and presented to his wife Rachel Fyfe".

Source : Antique Swords EU

Garnet Wolsley Fyfe is remembered at Backworth in B1.03 page 2, at Shiremoor, S21.01. where his rank is incorrectly shown.

Footnote : Gordon F.F. Reay name is on the back of a postcard photograph [as top photo], image of Garnet Wolsley Fyfe, which was left in the FAT OX, public house, Whitley Road approx. in 1999, it was on display at the bar for some years, the News Guardian Thursday 27/09/2001 carried an appeal to trace the owner.

Lance Corporal Garnet Fyfe's Dirk no 7
The CWGC entry for Lance Corporal Fyfe

If you know more about this person, please send the details to janet@newmp.org.uk