Artilleryman’s fatal wish
John Alderson Scott, from Arkengarthdale

John Alderson Scott, from Arkengarthdale

In 1891, John Scott, or Jack as he was known, was a two year old, living with his family at the hamlet of Whaw, in Arkengarthdale. His father, James, was a miner in the nearby Arkengarthdale lead mines and had married a local girl, Hannah Caygill.

By 1901 the family was living close to the CB Yard, near Langthwaite, and, as a boy, Jack also worked in the lead mine, but the industry was coming to a close and so the family left the dale shortly after this and went to Ferryhill, 8 miles south of Durham, where the menfolk of the family worked at the Mainsforth Colliery.

Jack met Mather Daglish, a girl from Dipton, near Consett, and they married at Durham.

By the time of Jack’s death they had five children, the youngest being six months old. Despite such a large family, Jack volunteered and was in the army by 1915, joining a siege battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery, whilst Mather and their children went to stay at Langthwaite, in Arkengarthdale.

In July 1917, Jack’s heavy siege battery was in the Ypres Salient and taking part in the 10 day bombardment prior to the Battle of Passchendaele. The British artillery strength totalled 3091 guns, of which 999 were heavy.

The infantry attack on July 31 was relatively successful on the left but was held up on the right. The second blow across the narrow Steenbeek valley towards Langemarck, on August 16, was a diminished replica of the first in its results. It was in this attack that Jack (John) Scott was killed.

In a letter from Major Withers, his CO, he says that Jack volunteered to assist the signallers, who were short handed, in forward observation duties during the attack on Thursday August 16. He had appealed to his CO again and again for permission to go forward and see an attack and this time he reluctantly gave way.

The party were caught by a machine gun and Jack was killed instantly. In the middle of such a large scale battle, with shells exploding all around, it is not surprising that his body was never recovered and John Alderson Scott’s name is commemorated on Panel 6 to 7 and 162 Tyne Cot Memorial.

NO: 157720
REGIMENT: 287th Siege Battery Royal Garrison Artillery
DIED: August 16th, 1917
AGED: 29

Words and pictures from Swaledale & Wharfdale Remembered by Keith Taylor
(A reprint of the book is available at £25.00 post free from