Fitter Luther McKechnie

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Supported by the National Lottery's Heritage Fund, our project intends to submit about 120 names for peer review to add them to the book which is kept at Keighley Library. The unveiling of the book with it's new names is planned for November 2024, 100 years after the unveiling of the original war memorial.


Fitter. "A" Battery, 156 Brigade, Royal Field Artillery No. 88759

Luther McKechnie.

Early life:

Luther was born on the 29th April 1893 and baptised on the 9th September at St Michael and All Angels Church in Haworth.
He was the youngest of eight children of James William McKechnie, a manager at a worsted mill, and Jane Elizabeth McKechnie. They lived at 4, Garden Street, Cross Roads. By 1911 Luther was working as a switchboard attendant for Keighley Corporation Electricity Works. Later he worked at Barrow Power Station.

War service:

There are no Army service records for Luther, but local newspapers and other sources give us some details. According to his obituary, he enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery in February, 1915 and after a period of training, he disembarked in France on 13th December 1915.
The battalion war diary (WO-95/2413/3/1) for the 156th Brigade (33rd Division) states that it began recruiting on 3rd February 1915 and the personnel of the brigade were complete by 31st March. The Brigade was then known as "The Camberwell Gun Brigade" They were based at Grove Vale, East Dulwich in London. The Division was moved from Waterloo to Bulford and the 156th Brigade were to entrain on the night of the 7th/8th August 1915 in five trains. The last brigade arrived on the night of the 10th/11th August and their intense gunnery training commenced.
Between October and November 1915, they carried out Divisional exercises and batteries carried out gun practice and between November 5th and 9th each battery fired 100 rounds.
They received orders for overseas service on 6th December. On the 10th, the ammunition column left Southampton on HM Transport Miadan, arriving at Harve at 1.30 am on 12th. There were two transport vessels used to transport the Division which were the 'Thiennes' which left Southampton on 13th and arrived and disembarked on the 14th and the 'Nirvana' arriving on 12th and disembarking on the 13th, so it's likely that Luther travelled aboard the Nirvana.

A black and white, head and shoulders portrait of a man wearing an Army jacket and field cap with the badge of the Royal Artillery

Fitter Luther McKechnie.

In 1916, the 156th Brigade served at the following locations overseas: Mazinghem from 5th to 27th February, Bethune from 28th February to 29th, Annequin from 1st March to 31st May. (the June 1916 diary pages appear to be missing) During the battle of the Somme, the 156th Brigade were at Givenchy from 1st to 15th July, then at Mametz Wood until 31st July, then they were at Bazentin le Grand until 23rd August then Montauban from 24th to 5th September when Luther was killed with three other men when their gun position was hit by enemy shell fire.

Luther was 23 years old when he was killed in action by an explosion which killed three other comrades, including a father and son serving together. An enemy shell had landed on their deep trench position located just behind their guns.

The 156th Brigade war diary WO-95/2413/3/1, only states that four 'other ranks' were killed on 5th September 1916, and this is in a monthly casualty return, nothing is mentioned on the actual date.
However, they were attached to the 7th Division at the time and that divisional war diary does give more information.

WO-95/1639/3/1. Commander, Royal Artillery - war diary entry for 5th September 1916:

7th Divisional Artillery
DAILY REPORT from 10 pm 4th to 10 pm 5th September.
WEATHER:
Wet, cloudy and windy, observation fair.
HOSTILE FIRE
A quiet night. During the morning 10.5 cm howitzers shelled two of our brigades in CATERPILLAR VALLEY from the direction of LES BOEUFS. About noon, a 21 cm howitzer battery between LES BOEUFS and MORVAC shelled squares S.22.b and d., and dropped a salvo of three into one of our batteries; two of the rounds fell in the deep narrow trench dug behind the battery and caused heavy casualties.

The area where they were operating in squares 22 b and d:

Trench map showing the Delville Wood area on the 3rd September 1916.

The four men killed in this hostile fire incident were:
11715 Gunner W. G. Hockey RFA aged 30
88759 Fitter L. McKechnie RFA Aged 23
6029 Sergeant G. Lee RFA aged 44 (father)
71939 Corporal R. Lee RFA aged 19. (son)
All four are buried in adjoining graves in Dartmoor Cemetery, Becordel-Becourt, France.

 

 

Keighley News report dated 30th September 1916:

LEES AND CROSS ROADS
Mr & Mrs James McKechnie, Garden Street, Cross Roads, have received from Woolwich the announcement that their youngest son, Fitter Luther McKechnie, aged 23, of the RFA, was killed in action on September 5 in France. Joining the RFA in February 1915, Fitter McKechnie was drafted nine months ago to France (13th Dec 1915), his last letter home having been written on the day of his death. He was peculiarly well qualified for the highly skilled work on which he was employed, for after leaving Lees Council School as a boy, he spent three years at Keighley Trade and Grammar School, and then obtained employment with the Shipley Tank Co. at St Dunstan's, subsequently proceeding to the Keighley Corporation's electricity works, and later being selected from 156 candidates by the Barrow Corporation for their electrical power station, Of a most cheerful disposition, he was highly intelligent, observant, and energetic, and a most promising craftsman. During his period of training and active service he had won the esteem of his officers and men. His eldest brother, Private Alec McKechnie, A.S.C., has been on active service in France for some months, and his late brother-in-law, Lance Corporal Raymond Tilbrook, fell in action at Armentieres twelve months ago.

Keighlian Magazine transcription:

Luther McKechnie. Fitter. R.F.A.
Luther McKechnie was at School from 1905 to 1908. He was the son of Mr. James McKechnie, Cross Roads, Keighley. After leaving school he entered the employment of the Shipley tank Company, Bradford, but afterwards entered the Keighley Corporation Electricity Works, where he worked for some years. He was in the employment of the Barrow Corporation in their Electrictiy Power Station - a position which he won in competition with 156 candidates - when he joined the Army.
Luther McKechnie was killed on September 5th, 1916, by the bursting of a shell whilst he was engaged in repairing one of our guns which was in the line.
He was a modest and unassuming young man, and was greatly liked by all those who knew him. This testimony to his memory is given not only by his old masters at School but also by his fellow-workmen at home.

McKechnie family grave memorial to Luther McKechnie and Raymond Tilbrook, his brother in law.

Luther was awarded the 1915 Star, The British War Medal and the Victory Medal for his war service and these would have been sent to his father or mother as next of kin. They would also have received the bronze memorial plaque and certificate inscribed with his name.

The Soldier's effects records shows that his father James received his outstanding Army pay of £11 18s 3d on 16th December 1916. A war gratuity payment of £6 10s on 21st November 1919 was spilt between his mother and co-executor Jane Mckechnie, and co-executor Edgar Middleton.

Jane also received a dependant's pension of 2 shillings per week for life from 29th May 1917.

He is remembered on the Roll of Honour in the Keighley Trade and Grammar School Magazine: 'The Keighlian', also on the Cross Roads War Memorial and on the family grave at Penistone Hill, Haworth which also remembers his brother in law, Raymond Tilbrook, who had been killed in action about a year earlier, on 15th September 1915.
His Commonwealth War Grave headstone in France bears the family inscription: 'Ever Remembered.'

Source information:

Birth, marriage and death records.
1901 and 1911 census.
WWI Service Medal and Award Rolls, 1914-1920.
Army service records.
Keighley News archives, Keighley Library.
National Archives war diary entry: WO95 - 1639-3_1
Trench Maps courtesy of the National Library of Scotland
The Keighlian Magazine of Keighley Boys Grammar School
Photographs by Andy Wade.

With particular thanks to David Underdown and Simon Bendry for their help in researching this man.

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