14th (Service) Battalion, Highland Light Infantry
Died 24th November 1917
Private W. Hepburn – Can. Ex. Force and Private A. Hepburn – H.L.I.
These two men were brothers. William was born in 1892; Alexander in 1894. Their elder brother Charles also served with the Canadians. William, Alexander and Charles were sons of James Hepburn, Farm Overseer, and Helen Walker who was a native of Lumphanan where the couple married. They lived for a time at Hillhead, Peterculter, then Danestone and, during the war at Milton, Campfield, Glassel. In October 1914 Mr Hepburn contributed to Lady Sempill’s Aberdeenshire fund for motor ambulances for the front in a conflict that was to claim two of his sons in 1917.
Private A. Hepburn – H.L.I.
Alexander Hepburn joined up at Aberdeen and became Private no. 31109 in the 14th (Service) Bn of the Highland Light Infantry – one of the “Bantam Battalions” (George Taylor of the Toll House was in the same battalion). The 14th HLI were sent to France for service on the Western Front in June 1916 becoming part of the 120th Brigade in the 40th Division.
It was reported in November 1917, when Mr and Mrs Hepburn were no doubt still trying to come to terms with the loss of William in March, that their eldest son, Charles, was suffering from gas poisoning and had been admitted to hospital in England. Not long after, they must have received the even worse news of Alexander’s death on 24 November.
It is impossible to know exactly what happened to him, but the War Diary again offers some insights into the events of that day. On the evening of 23 November of 2017 the battalion was ordered up to the Hindenburg Support Line (two or three hundred yards beyond the Germans’ defensive Hindenburg Line) to support the 121st Brigade but were stood down as not required. The Battalion diary records unsurprisingly “Men very tired”. The following morning, under orders to capture the village of Bourlon, they moved to Bourlon Wood through a barrage at Grainourt, and on to Anneux Chapel. In the afternoon the battalion entered and occupied the village. Needless to say there had been casualties along the way, one platoon having been, as the Diary puts it “knocked out” in the barrage.
He is commemorated at the Cambrai Memorial, Louverval.