Gunner William Irvine
Royal Field Artillery
Died 3rd September 1917
An examination of birth and census records does little to indicate any Wigtown background for William Irvine yet his name appears on the town’s War Memorial. He was born on 9 January 1879 at Chapelheron, Whithorn, the son of farm servant William Irvine and his wife, Jane Martin. The Irvines continued to live at Chapelheron Cot House through the 1880s and 90s until William jr left home to work as a farm shepherd at Shaddock Farm House, Whithorn (1901 census). We lose track of him then until he enlisted in the army.
Military records indicate that William enlisted at Wigtown where he had his home. By that time he would have been relatively old, in his mid-thirties. He joined the Royal Field Artillery as a Gunner. The Royal Field Artillery provided artillery support for the British Army. It came into being when the Royal Artillery was divided on 1 July 1899, it was re-amalgamated back into the Royal Artillery in 1924. It was the largest arm of the artillery and was responsible for the medium calibre guns and howitzers deployed close to the front line and was reasonably mobile. It was organised into brigades, attached to divisions or higher formations. Gunner 125978 William Irvine served with D Battery of the 64th Brigade. During the First World War a whole new form of artillery was developed to meet the unusual conditions of war on the Western Front: the trench mortar. The lighter weapons being manned by the infantry, the Royal Field Artillery provided the manpower for the heavier mortars.
On 3rd September 1917 William Irvine, aged 39, died of wounds received in action. He is buried at Brandhoek New Military Cemetery No 3 in Belgium, not far from Ypres. During the First World War, Brandhoek was within the area comparatively safe from shell fire which extended beyond Vlamertinghe Church. Field ambulances were posted there continuously. Until July 1917 burials had been made in the Military Cemetery, but the arrival of the 32nd, 3rd Australian and 44th Casualty Clearing Stations, in preparation for the new Allied offensive launched that month, made it necessary to open the New Military Cemetery. The New Military Cemetery No 3 opened in August and continued in use until May 1918. Brandhoek New Military Cemetery No 3 contains 975 First World War burials.