Three cyclists died in air raid 3 January 1918

This article was inspired by the naming of a Charles Mackie at the Great War Forum’s daily “remembered today” feature on 3 January 2024. My eye was taken by his unit being given as 2nd Battalion of the Army Cyclist Corps, which although it comes from information provided by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, is not quite accurate.

Lance-Corporal 4378 Charles Mackie is buried at Duhallow Advanced Dressing Station Cemetery, a short way north of Ypres. Aged 20, he was the son of David and Celia Mackie of Main Street, Springfield, Fifeshire. He belonged to II Corps Cyclist Battalion, a unit of the Army Cyclist Corps, but attached to the headquarters of 39th Division. His service record no longer exists, but “Soldiers Died in the Great War” adds that he had been born in Tayport and enlisted in Cupar, initially serving as Private 3632 of the Royal Highlanders (Black Watch).

From the “Dundee Courier” of Tuesday 15 January 1918 (British Newspaper Archive, my highlight)
From the “St. Andrews Citizen” of Saturday 19 January 1918 (British Newspaper Archive). It appears that Lieutenant Blunden had informed Charles’s parents that he had died as the result of explosion of a bomb: I found (below) that it was during an air raid made on 39th Division’s headquarters.
The registration of Mackie’s grave (Commonwealth War Graves Commission) shows that he lies alongside two comrades of II Corps Cyclist Battalion who were also attached to 39th Division’s HQ. All died on 3 January 1918; casualties of an air raid.

Private 4847 Charles Fowler had enlisted into the 9th West Yorkshire Regiment on 17 August 1914, aged 19. He was unmarried and from Marton le Moor in North Yorkshire. Charles went to Egypt as an orderly with 11th Divisional Cyclist Company in July 1915 and soon served at Gallipoli. In September 1916 he was transferred to France and he joined II Corps Cyclist Battalion on 7 November 1916.

Pte 17579 Arthur Stones was from Clitheroe in Lancashire, and at the age of 24 he attested into the Group System in December 1915. He was mobilised on 16 April 1917 and went to France on 12 October. Arthur joined II Corps Cyclist Battalion on 5 November 1917 and joined it two days later. He was married to Eleanor.

From the “Clitheroe Advertiser” of Friday 11 January 1918, an extra detail. (British Newspaper Archive)
From the “Clitheroe Advertiser” of Friday 18 January 1918 (British Newspaper Archive)
Fowler and Stones both died of wounds. Charles Fowler had been hit in the head; Stones in both legs. (From Fowler’s army service record, National Archives WO363). Their deaths were reported next day by 107th Field Ambulance, which was manning the II Corps Main Dressing Station at Duhallow. Charles Mackie was reportedly killed outright.

On 3 January 1918, II Corps Cyclist Battalion was located at St. Jan-ter-Biezen. Its was diary only reports 1 “other rank” killed in action by a hostile bomb, 2 died of wounds and 1 wounded.

The war diary of 39th Division’s General Staff is also terse, in that it only reported a hostile air raid at 5.30pm and that there had been casualties at headquarters. It had taken up position on the Ypres canal bank on 31 December 1917.

The location of the men’s graves. Plan from CWGC with my highlight.


Army Cyclist Corps

39th Division

II Corps

Great War Forum