b. 15/03/1893 Wigtown, Scotland. d. 04/10/1918 Wytschaete, Belgium.
Louis McGuffie (1893-1918) Louis McGuffie was born on 15th February 1893, the first-born son of Edward McGuffie and Catherine (Gilmour) McGuffie. Edward was a general labourer and, at the time of Louis’ birth, the family lived at 23 High Street and included children from Edward’s earlier marriage to Elizabeth McCallum. As the family grew with the birth of twins in 1895 and Louis’ brother, Robert, they moved from home to home in Wigtown (in 1901 at 20 Low Vennel, 1905 at 19 Low Vennel, 1915 at 21 Low Vennel). Before the war Louis played football for Wigtown Utd.
Although his military record does not survive, we know that Louis was a member of the 1st/5th Battalion of the Kings Own Scottish Borderers, a Territorial Battalion of part-time soldiers and that his service number was 2255 (later 240693). At the outbreak of war in August 1914 the 1st/5th were mobilised and made ready for service. On 11th May 1915 the Battalion sailed from Liverpool for service at Gallipoli in Turkey, landing there on 6th June 1915. Casualties at Gallipoli were high, with some of Louis’ fellow Wigtown men losing their lives. It was at Gallipoli that Louis McGuffie’s mettle was tested, being wounded twice. The Battalion War Diary on 29th December 1915 reported a skirmish with the Turks: “… and on the counter-attack by the Turks we manned the parapets and assisted in repelling the attack. Near us our bombing detachment, also attached to the Fusiliers, did magnificent service. Lance-Corporal McMurray was shot through the head by a sniper whilst throwing a continuous series of bombs during a strong Turkish counter-attack. He was ably seconded by Pte McGuffie, who later won the VC in France.”
In January 1916 the Battalion moved to Egypt for service in Palestine and Gaza before transferring to France in April 1918. By this time Louis had been promoted to the rank of Corporal and was soon to be further promoted to Sergeant. In September Louis’ brother, Robert, was severely wounded and had his left arm amputated. Barely three weeks later Louis was killed. The Galloway Gazette reported: “Mrs E McGuffie, Low Vennel, Wigtown, has received official intimation of the death in action on 4th inst of her son, Sergt L McGuffie, KOSB. The Chaplain in writing to his mother says that the Commanding Officer told him that in her son he had lost his best and bravest man. During the fighting recently Sergeant McGuffie took 40 prisoners single-handed, and released ten men of a British regiment that had been taken prisoners by disarming the enemy escort that was leading them off. He was killed instantaneously by shell fire.”
Just before Christmas 1918, the Galloway Gazette carried the news that he had been awarded the Victoria Cross: The Victoria Cross has been awarded to the late Louis McGuffie, 1/5thBattalion, KOSB (TF), Wigtown “for most conspicuous bravery and resourceful leadership under heavy fire near Wytschaete on September 18th 1918. During the advance on Piccadilly Farm, he single-handed, entered several dug-outs and took many prisoners, and during subsequent operations dealt similarly with dug-out after dug-out, forcing one officer and twenty-five other ranks to surrender. During consolidation of the first objective he pursued and brought back several of the enemy who were slipping away, and he was instrumental in releasing some British soldiers who were being led off as prisoners. Later in the day, when in command of a platoon, he led it with the utmost dash and resource, capturing many prisoners. This very gallant soldier was subsequently killed by a shell.”
In January 1919 Catherine McGuffie, then living at 1 North Main Street, received a letter from the King inviting her to London to be presented with Louis’ Victoria Cross. As her husband had died in 1917 and with an invalided son at home, she did not have the money to afford a trip to London. When they heard of this the people of Wigtown banded together to fund her trip. Upon her return the whole town met her at the railway station and paraded up to the County Buildings, led by the Town Band. Later a brass plaque, which can still be seen in the County Buildings, was provided by public subscription.
Louis is buried at Zandvoorde British Cemetery, 8 miles from Ypres in Belgium. His Victoria Cross was presented by his family to the Kings Own Scottish Borderers Museum in Berwick.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: KINGS OWN SCOTTISH BORDERERS, BERWICK UPON TWEED.
BURIAL PLACE: ZANTVOORDE BRITISH CEMETERY, BELGIUM.
PLOT I, ROW D, GRAVE 12
Kevin Brazier – Cemetery Map.
Andrew Swan – Image of the McGuffie VC Medal Group at the KOSB Museum, Berwick upon Tweed.