In Flanders Fields, nineteen men who attended Glasgow University took very different paths - but all are known to have lost their lives at Passchendaele. Three of these men died on the same day, 20th September 1917, the first day of the Battle of Menin Road Ridge, an offensive of the Battle of Passchendaele. The Scottish battalions were fighting alongside the South African Brigade around Poelcapelle and Frezenberg, the defences against them were some of the most formidable on the Western Front.

2nd Lieutenant Alexander Brisbane Muir, 8th Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

Born: 25 August 1891 Girvan, Ayrshire. Died 20 September 1917 Poelcapelle, Flanders Fields. 

Alexander attended school in Buckie where his father was headmaster of Buckie High School and went on to Glasgow University in 1908/9 where he studied Greek and Latin. He was a brilliant student and became the Sandford Scholar in 1912. In 1914 he was awarded a Snell Exhibition, an award set up in 1677 by John Snell to allow Scottish Students to study at Oxford for a period of five years. He was accepted by Balliol College, the Oxford College most closely linked to Glasgow.

Due to his insomnia, he was initially considered unfit for service. In 1916, with the introduction of conscription, he was allowed to join the Inns of Court OTC, based in Richmond. By 1917, his insomnia had subsided to the extent that he was commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant.

In August 1917, he was posted to Belgium, and fell in action at Poelcapelle, on 20th September 1917.

He was 26 years old and was Mentioned in Despatches (MiD) - an official report written by a superior officer that describes gallant deeds - for the action at Poelcapelle in which he died. He is buried in the Cement House Cemetery in Langemarke, a town fought over throughout the war, and only just recaptured in August 1917. 

Private Peter Storm Ross, 4th Regiment, South African Scottish

Born 24 January 1885 Govan, Glasgow. Died 20 September 1917 Poelcapelle, Flanders Fields

Private Ross entered the University of Glasgow in 1902 in the Arts Faculty, studying Maths, English, Latin, Logic and, in his final year, Education, before graduating with his MA on 18th April 1905.

He left Scotland for South Africa and by the time of the outbreak of War he was Vice-Principal of the Boy’s High School in Graaf-Reinet, in Eastern Cape, South Africa.

South Africa raised four infantry regiments in response to the outbreak of war in addition to five batteries of Heavy Artillery, a Field Ambulance, a Royal Engineers Signal Company and a General Hospital. The first three regiments were from South African states and Rhodesia. Peter joined the 4th Regiment, the South African Scottish, which was raised from the Transvaal Scottish and the Cape Town Highlanders, and wore the Atholl Murray tartan. He died on 20 Sep 1917 at Passchendaele, aged 32. He has no named grave but is commemorated on the Menin Gate in Ypres. For actions on the same day a fellow soldier in the South African brigade, Lance-Corporal William Hewitt was awarded the Military Cross.

He had two other brothers who died in the conflict; brother John M Ross was a private in the Highland Light infantry and died on 1st July 1916, aged 27, on the first day of the battle of the Somme and is listed on the Thiepval Memorial. His brother Robert, a Lance Corporal, who was 19, died only 10 days later 10th July 1916, at Loos.

2nd Lieutenant Andrew Stewart, 10th Bn. Northumberland Fusiliers

Born 27 July 1886 Carluke, Lanarkshire. Died 20 September 1917 Poelcapelle, Flanders Fields

Andrew was the fifth son of Mr and Mrs William Stewart and first enrolled at the University of Glasgow in 1905, aged 19, to study for an MA degree. Although he passed his exams in Mathematics in his first year at university, Logic and History in his second, Philosophy in third year, English and Political Economy in his final year, Latin seemed elusive. He passed just a month before graduating on 10th November 1909.

Andrew trained in the United Free Church and became an assistant in the West United Free Church at Hamilton. Later he was inducted to be Minister of the Isle of Whithorn Church in Wigtownshire. When the First World War began, he could have avoided active service but chose not to. In 1915 he signed up as a Private in the Royal Naval Division. A year later he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant and was attached to the 10th Bn. Northumberland Fusiliers.

He was awarded the Military Cross (MC). ‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. Under heavy machine-gun fire he crawled up to within five yards of an enemy strong point and opened fire with a Lewis gun to cover his platoon's attack on the strong point.’ Just two days after this action, on the 20th September 1917, the Reverend Andrew Stewart was killed in action. He is commemorated at Larchwood (Railway Cutting) Cemetery.

The Scottish Ministers War Memorial in St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh records that 14 ordained Church of Scotland Ministers and 6 ordained United Free Church Ministers died as combatants during the First World War. (Scottish Military Research Group)

For more information on these and other stories visit the University of Glasgow’s First World War Roll of Honour website.

Map Key 

(1) Larch Wood (Railway Cutting) Cemetery 

(2) Menin Gate  

(3) Cement House Cemetery 

(4) Tyne Cot Cemetery Visitors Centre 

(5) Poelkapelle 

(6) Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 

(7) Frezenberg

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