Photo of a PoppyCorporal Charles Boyd

 1st Battalion Cameron Highlanders

 Died 14 September 1914

With the war barely two months old, Wigtown heard of the first of many deaths from amongst the young men associated with the town. Charles Boyd was the son of Charles Boyd, a baker in Wigtown, and his wife Janet. Charles jr showed himself to be a promising pupil at school here and enlisted with the Cameron Highlanders at Edinburgh Castle around about 1911. It appears he had quite a talent as an instructor and soon became assistant teacher before moving to the Cameron’s barracks at Blackness Castle where he led a squad and achieved the rank of Lance Corporal.

Within a week of war being declared the 1st Battalion, including Corporal Boyd, landed at Le Havre as part of the British Expeditionary Force. By the beginning of September the German Imperial Army had swept through much of Belgium and north eastern France and was fast approaching Paris. By 3 September, the British and French forces had been retreating south west for over two weeks and German victory was a definite possibility. As night fell on 5 September, the men of the British Expeditionary Force began to halt approximately 40 kilometres south east of Paris and their gruelling retreat was at an end. For the next two days the British advanced north eastward, encountering only minor resistance from the German forces in the area. On 8 September, British infantry brigades advancing toward the River Marne came under heavy machine-gun and artillery fire from German units in La Ferté sous Jouarre. After heavy fighting they crossed the Marne on 10 September.

The Battle of the Marne, referred to in the French press as the ‘Miracle of the Marne’, halted the month-long advance of the German forces toward Paris and decisively ended the possibility of an early German victory. The battle also marked the beginning of trench warfare and by November battle lines had been drawn that would remain virtually unchanged for almost four years. The British Expeditionary Force suffered almost 13,000 casualties during the Battle of the Marne, of whom some 7,000 had been killed. Although the Battle ended on 12 September 1914 sniping and occasional shelling will have continued and it is possible that in this way, on 14th September, and only a month after arriving in France, that Charles Boyd was killed in action, the first of Wigtown’s soldiers to die. His body was never found and his death is commemorated on La Ferte-Sous-Jouarre Memorial. This Memorial commemorates 3,740 officers and men of the British Expeditionary Force who fell at the battles of Mons, Le Cateau, the Marne and the Aisne between the end of August and early October 1914 and who have no known graves.