Private Thomas McCheyne
2nd Battalion, Canadian Infantry
Died 26 April 1916
Private 81625 Thomas McCheyne was born on 18 August 1889 at Kirkinner, the son of Thomas Candlish McCheyne (a gamekeeper) and his wife, Elizabeth (nee McClelland). He was one of four local men to die in the war who had emigrated to Canada, and enlisted when war broke out, returning to fight for the mother country. Thomas had emigrated in about 1906 along with some of his siblings and enlisted on 12 December 1914 having had 3 years service with the 12th Manitoba Dragoons. He was a member of the 2nd Battalion, Canadian Infantry (Eastern Ontario Regiment).
The first contingent of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, (including the East Ontarios) sailed on October 3 1914, comprising the 1st to 17th battalions. (By the end of the war there would be two hundred and sixty numbered battalions in existence.) Training and reorganization commenced upon arrival in the United Kingdom and it was not until 26 January 1915 that the Division was officially organized and moved to the Ypres Salient in April. The Canadians withstood German attacks – aided, for the first time on the Western Front, by the use of poison gas – and finally retired to secondary positions on 26 April, where they held on until 4 May.
Two weeks later, the Division was in action again at Festubert. Aiding in a diversionary offensive by the British armies, the Canadians suffered 2,204 casualties for gains of only 600 yards. Another futile attack was launched at Givenchy in June 1915, after which the Division moved to Ploegsteert. The Canadians began a long period of static warfare which would last them throughout the winter. Active operations resumed again in the spring of 1916, participating in the Battle of Mount Sorrel, and then restoring the situation at Sanctuary Wood. It was at some time during this resumption of activities that Thomas McCheyne fell, dying on 26 April 1916. He is buried at Woods Cemetery at Ypres in Belgium which contains 326 First World War burials, 32 of them unidentified. John McDowall, also from Wigtown, died on the same day and lies close to Thomas in the Cemetery.
Thomas McCheyne had no fewer than five cousins who were killed in the war; four are commemorated on Kells Parish War Memorial, New Galloway and one on Kirkmabreck Parish Memorial, Creetown.