Officer casualty. Killed 1st Day of the Somme. Gemmill. Glasgow. Highland Light Infantry.


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Victory Medal to Second Lieutenant John Adshead Gemmill – 16th Battalion Highland Light Infantry Victory Medal 1914-1919 (2. LIEUT. J. A. GEMMILL) John Adshead Gemmill was the eldest son of Mr and Mrs J. Gemmill, of Parkea, Dumbreck, Glasgow, Scotland, and was educated at Glasgow Academy and Glasgow High School, where he won the school cup in 1907, was a good rugby player, and a member of the Officer Training Corps.

He then went on to work for the business of N. Adshead and Son, a wholesale stationers and printers in Glasgow.

With the outbreak of the Great War, Gemmill was commissioned in September 1914 as a 2nd Lieutenant with the Highland Light Infantry, and was posted to the 16th Service Battalion, otherwise known as the 2nd Glasgow City Battalion. Gemmill then saw service with the 16th Battalion out on the Western Front from 23rd November 1915, and was wounded in early 1916. Present on the 1st July 1916 in the infamous first day of the Battle of the Somme, he was killed in action on this day when his battalion attacked towards Thiepval.

One of his more senior officers wrote to his father: “We have come through very hard fighting in what the French call the Battle of Picardie. I fancy it will be known by the same name, although sometimes I hear it referred to as the Battle of the Somme. Our battalion had assigned to it a most important role in the leading attack, and naturally suffered a good deal, as we were up against Germany’s best troops. Your boy, Second Lieutenant John A. Gemmill, was last seen urging on his platoon when those in front had fallen. It was a situation which might have unnerved any one as the fire was terrific, but with one hand in his trouser pocket, and with a switch in the other, he was last seen urging on his men to close with the enemy. His last words I understand, were, ‘Come on the good old 16th. Come on the good old H.L.I.’ He then fell mortally wounded. No better soldier ever wore His Majesty’s uniform. Had he been my own son, I could not have loved him more. Quiet, unassuming, thorough, adored by his men and beloved by his superiors, he made the great sacrifice for King and Country without flinching, and has shed a halo round his name which cannot perish. I cannot express myself in words. I would rather congratulate you on being the father of such a boy. If God had given me such a son, I should have been the proudest man living.”

On 1st July 1916 his battalion went over the top at 07.30 am, ‘A’ Company leading on the right with ‘C’ Company in support. On the right were the 17th HLI and on the left the 16th Northumberland Fusiliers, with the 2nd KOYLI in support and the 11th Borders in reserve. The Germans opened a heavy machine gun and rifle fire as soon as the men jumped over the parapet and manned their parados with bombers with men at 2 yards interval. Our platoons advanced in waves in extended order and simply mown down by the machine gun fire and very heavy casualties resulted. On the left the support company got close up to the German wire but were unable to advance. On the right some men of the battalion succeeded in entering the German trenches and joined up with the 17th HLI and remained there till relieved by the 2nd Manchesters. On the left the men took what cover they could in shell holes firing upon the enemy whenever he showed himself. One of the Lewis Gunners fired 24 magazines of ammunition. When it was finished, being the only one of his section left he crawled back under cover of darkness, being the gun with him. The battalion suffered 20 officers and 534 other ranks as casualties. Gemmill is buried in Lonsdale Cemetery. Aged 25 at the time of his death, he was the son of John Lieper Gemmill and Lily Russell Adshead Gemmill, of 16, Dargarvel Avenue, Dumbreck, Gemmill

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