Private David Buchan

This is part of a series of essays about the First World War casualties commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in New Hampshire.

The grave of David Buchan
The grave of David Buchan

Like his nine siblings, David Buchan was born in Scotland; he emigrated to the United States before the war. Buchan served in France with 42nd Battalion (Royal Highlanders) in 7th Brigade, 3rd Canadian Division, where he was wounded in the war’s latter stages during the ‘advance to victory’.

He was born on 30 May 1889 at Buckie in Banffshire where he lived until he emigrated to the United States on 10 June 1907. His sister had arrived in the United States in 1904 and the remainder of his family emigrated over the next 20 years.[1]

Recruiting Poster for the 1st Reinforcing Company, 5th Regiment, Royal Highlanders of Canada
Recruiting Poster for the 1st Reinforcing Company, 5th Regiment, Royal Highlanders of Canada

Buchan and other members of his family lived in Concord, New Hampshire but at some time prior to the war he moved to Montreal, where he worked as a baker.[2] He enlisted on 28 August 1916 and joined the 1st Reinforcing Company, 5th Regiment, Royal Highlanders of Canada, which had been on a recruiting drive since July for men of highland connection for service with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He was allocated the number 228871 and after a period of basic training was dispatched to England with the reinforcement draft.

He sailed on the SS Olympic, arriving in England on 26 December 1916 and was taken on strength of the 92nd Battalion at Shorncliffe; in January 1917 that unit was absorbed by the 5th Reserve Battalion. On 20 January he was posted to 20th Reserve Battalion at Shoreham in Sussex. Finally, on 3 April he sailed for France where he joined the 42nd Battalion (Royal Highlanders) at the end of the month.

The Battalion had been in France since October 1915 and when Buchan arrived the Battalion was out of the line at Villers au Bois recuperating after the Battle of Vimy Ridge. His first month was spent on work parties or training but in early June the Battalion moved into the line and on 8 June took part in a large, and successful, brigade raid. 420 men of the Battalion were involved in the raid itself but there is no way to know Buchan’s part. Six men were killed, two officers and 68 men were wounded and one man was missing, with 46 prisoners and two machine-guns captured.

On 26 June 1917 Buchan was admitted to No. 18 General Hospital at Comiers suffering from tonsillitis; he was discharged to the Canadian Command Depot at Etaples on 9 July. He remained at the Depot until the end of the month when he was posted to another unit. He did not rejoin 42nd Battalion until 12 December.

Once again, the Battalion was in the rear when he joined it but a few days later it went into a reserve position near Lieven. Christmas was spent here in reportedly ‘very comfortable quarters ’ before the Battalion moved into the line on 29 December. The routine of life for an infantry battalion, including a number of raids, occupied Buchan and the men of the 42nd Battalion until mid-May when the Division moved out of the line and conducted training. This period lasted for six weeks before the routine in the line began again.

In August the Battalion took part in the secretive and successful move of the Canadian Corps to the Amiens area, where the Canadians attacked alongside the Australian Corps for the first time. The Battle of Amiens was a major success for the Allies and marked the beginning of the mobile final phase of the war. The attack by 42nd Battalion, and the follow-up actions, were also successful, at a cost of 42 killed and 106 wounded. The Battalion’s account of this action may be read in the extract from the war diary in the gallery below.

Cambrai and the area of operations for 42nd Battalion on 29/30 September 1918
Cambrai and the area of operations for 42nd Battalion on 29/30 September 1918

By the end of the month the Battalion was in billets in Arras but on 4 September it moved back into the line, this time at Vis-en-Artois, south-east of the town. On 26 September the Battalion moved forward with the Division to the area around Raillencourt, west of Cambrai from which the next major attack by the Canadians would be launched. During the attack over the railway line at Tilloy, north-west of Cambrai, on 30 September, Private Buchan was shot in the right arm. He was one of 293 casualties, of whom sixty-one had been killed. The Battalion’s account of the attack north of Cambrai may also be read in the extract from the war diary in the gallery below.

Buchan was evacuated to hospital in England; his wound was not severe and he was soon discharged from hospital and was posted to the 20th Reserve Battalion. On 19 February 1919, he arrived at Kinmel Park in Wales in preparation for sailing home from Liverpool. He sailed on 25 February on the SS Megantic and arrived at Halifax, Nova Scotia on 5 March.

Buchan was taken on strength of the Casualty Company and sent on leave pending his discharge. While he was on leave he died of heart failure in a temperance hotel on Windsor Street, Montreal on 16 March 1919, aged 29. His remains were returned home and he was buried in Blossom Hill Cemetery, Concord in a small family plot on 22 March. The grave is in Block BB, Lot 72, which is near the centre of the cemetery. Also buried in that lot are his parents and his brother Francis; those graves are unmarked.

The Canadian Book of Remembrance showing the entry for Private David Buchan
The Canadian Book of Remembrance showing the entry for Private David Buchan

Private David Buchan is commemorated on page 530 of the Canadian First World War Book of Remembrance; that page is displayed on 11 November.

For his service in France he was awarded the British War Medal 1914-20 and the Victory Medal. His medals, and memorial plaque and scroll were sent to his father. His mother received the Memorial Cross.


1. (Back) Robert Falconer Buchan (26 May 1856-5 February 1933) married Sarah Ann Rennie (1859-11 May 1932) on 27 July 1878 at Skene in Aberdeenshire: Robert Anthony (20 August 1878–29 May 1961); William (29 July 1880–NK); Alexander Rennie (21 July 1883–16 March 1967); Marion Rennie (later Barrieau) (16 June 1885–NK); Francis (30 May 1887–26 August 1934); Elizabeth Robertson (later Howser) (15 August 1891-8 January 1977); Sarah Ann (later Hodgson) (30 May 1894–28 January 1985); James Falconer (20 August 1896–3 June 1959); and Charles Harvey (13 August 1899–1968).
2. (Back) Records indicate that Buchan lived with Mrs Irene Walker on Mance St, Montreal. He allotted some of his pay to Mrs Walker and in March 1919 her address (by then on Clark Street) was given as his leave address.

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