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11 Nov 2021

Brodie Castle – the community during wartime

A view of the front of Brodie Castle in autumn, on a rather grey day. Fallen brown leaves lie on the lawn in the foreground. The photo is taken from a near-ground perspective.
Brodie Castle
The Brodie family and their estate workers played their part in several wars, seeing active service and sometimes paying the ultimate sacrifice. We take a look at some of their stories.

The Brodie family

Vere Brodie, VAD and Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps

Vere (1881–1971) was the second youngest daughter of Hugh Brodie, 23rd Laird of Brodie (1840–89) and Lady Eleanor Reynolds-Moreton (1845–1925). She first volunteered with the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) in early 1915 and served in a military hospital in Rouen. She later transferred to the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (which was renamed Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps in 1918) and was present when the solemn ceremony took place at St Pol in France to choose a soldier to represent all those who had fallen – the Unknown Warrior – who was then buried at Westminster Abbey on Armistice Day 1920. Vere served throughout the First World War and was one of the last detachments to leave France in 1921. She was awarded the Queen Elisabeth Medal in recognition of her exceptional medical care of Belgian citizens during the First World War.

Her memoirs are held at the National Army Museum.

Captain Douglas Edward Brodie, Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders

Douglas Brodie (1873–1916) was born at Brodie Castle, the fourth son of Hugh, 23rd Laird of Brodie and Lady Eleanor. From the census of 1881, we can see that Douglas was living in the castle with his parents, his Uncle Caithness and six of his seven siblings. There were also 17 members of staff.

Douglas was educated at Winchester College, from 1887–92. In 1897 he joined the British South Africa Company in London and for the next 18 years was closely connected with development work in South Africa. He rose within the company to Joint Assistant Secretary and then Secretary. He also acted as Joint Secretary to the Rhodes Trust (an educational charity that provides scholarships) for a time and was Secretary to the Rhodesian Mashonaland Railway Company and the African Transcontinental Telegraph Company. By 1911 he was living with his uncle and aunt, Caithness and Elizabeth Brodie, in Putney, London.

In July 1914, he embarked on a journey to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), returning to Britain in June 1915. Upon his return, he enlisted at Invergordon and was commissioned in the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders. He was attached to the 1st Battalion and in August 1916 was involved in several attacks on High Wood on the Somme during the Battle of Pozières. Douglas was killed in one of these attacks on 17 August. He had been promoted to the rank of Captain just a few days before. The local newspaper noted that ‘he was the most unassuming and modest of men, of unfailing industry and devotion to duty but his kindly humour, his great charm of manner and his keen human sympathies earned for him the very real affection of the large staff of which he was the head, and also of the Company’s officials in Rhodesia’.

He is buried in Plot XI.C.12 in Caterpillar Valley Cemetery in Longueval, France. He is also remembered on the Highland Society of London Memorial situated in the Town House in Inverness.

Captain Alastair William Mathew Brodie, Seaforth Highlanders

Alastair Brodie (1871–99) was the second son of Hugh, 23rd Laird of Brodie and Lady Eleanor. He was killed in action on 11 December 1899, aged 28, at the Battle of Magersfontein in South Africa, during the Boer War. He gained the rank of Captain in the 2nd Battalion, The Seaforth Highlanders.

Major Ian Ashley Moreton Brodie, Scots Guards and Lovat Scouts

Ian Brodie (1868–1943) was the eldest son of Hugh, 23rd of Brodie and Lady Eleanor.

He gained the rank of Lieutenant in 1899 in the Scots Guards and fought in the Boer War between 1899 and 1902, where he was wounded. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) in 1902. Upon return to Scotland, he held the office of Lord-Lieutenant of Nairnshire from 1903 until 1935. Ian also fought in the First World War, when he joined as a Captain. He gained the rank of Major in the Lovat Scouts Yeomanry, fighting in the Dardanelles, Egypt and Palestine, and was awarded the Military Cross in 1916. After the war, Major Ian became a local Justice of the Peace. Despite his military prowess, Major Ian is perhaps best remembered as a highly successful daffodil breeder, producing over 400 different strains. Many of these can still be admired in spring at Brodie Castle today. He died on 15 February 1943 at the age of 74.

Captain Duncan Reynett Brodie, Scots Guards

Duncan Brodie (1877–1968) was the youngest son of Hugh, 23rd of Brodie and Lady Eleanor. He was educated at Eton College. He served as a Captain in the Scots Guards in France during the First World War, and was also awarded the Military Cross. He died on 24 July 1968 at the age of 90, unmarried.

Brodie Estate workers

Private William Cheyne, 2nd Battalion, The Seaforth Highlanders

William Cheyne (1885–1917) was born at Greenside, Blackhills, Elgin, the fourth of six children born to Charles and Elizabeth (née Hood) Cheyne. In the 1901 census, William was living with his family at Millbuies and was working as a butcher’s assistant. In 1910, he married Mary Archibald at Garmouth, and in the 1911 census, he and his wife were living in the Keeper’s Cottage at Bankhead, Dyke. William was by then working as a gamekeeper on the Brodie Castle estate. He had two sons: Charles, who was born in 1912, and Arthur born in 1914.

William was called up at Fort George in June 1916. From September 1916 he served in France as a regimental stretcher-bearer. The First Battle of the Scarpe opened on 9 April 1917, and the British troops, including the Seaforth Highlanders and Canadian Corps, made good progress up to the Hindenburg Line and captured the village of Fampoux as the Germans withdrew. A further attack on Roeux was planned for 11 April, but despite a very heavy barrage, the wire in front of the Hindenburg Line remained intact. Worse, the artillery could not see the German machine guns to target them accurately. The Seaforths attacked very bravely against a large number of well dug-in machine guns. However, the attack was a costly failure. Of the 432 Seaforths who went into the attack, 12 officers and 363 men were casualties by the end of the day. It was in this attack that Lieutenant Donald Mackintosh of the Battalion was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross.

William was reported wounded and missing on 11 April 1917. By June 1917, it was reported that he had been killed on that date. He has no known grave but he is remembered on the Arras Memorial in France as well as the Elgin and Urquhart War Memorials.

A memorial to the 8,432 Seaforth Highlanders who gave their lives in the First World War was erected after the end of the war near Fampoux.

William was one of five brothers. His youngest brother, John, served as a Private in the 4th Battalion, Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders and was killed at Festubert on 17 May 1915, aged 25. His brother James served as a Sergeant in the Canadian Cavalry and died from his wounds in April 1918, aged 34. Both brothers are remembered on the Elgin War Memorial as well.

Captain George James Morrison MC, 9th Battalion, The Royal Scots and 6th Battalion, The Seaforth Highlanders

George Morrison (1893–1918) was born at Brodie, the youngest of five children for John and Margaret Morrison. In the 1891 census, the family lived at the Keeper’s Lodge at Brodie. In the 1901 census, they lived at The Kennels, Brodie. By 1911, George was working as a law clerk. Prior to his enlistment in Edinburgh in 1915, he was working as an estate factor’s assistant in Blair Atholl. He married Aenea Fraser there on 17 July 1916.

George was commissioned Lieutenant in the 6th Battalion, The Seaforth Highlanders in January 1916. As part of the 51st Highland Division, the 6th Battalion fought in most of the major engagements for the rest of the war. In April 1918, George had become a Captain and the Battalion was involved in the Battle of the Lys, trying to stem the German offensive of Operation Georgette. On the morning of 9 April, they were ordered to the village of La Couture by bus. Upon arrival, they took up defensive positions. At 12.50pm the Battalion was ordered forward to fill the gap created by the Portuguese who were in retreat. They were ordered to hold the line of the Canal de la Lawe. The Germans were able to gain a foothold over the canal, because the Royal Engineers failed to completely demolish the footbridge. The fighting was fierce and continuous. During this desperate struggle, George was wounded and he died from his wounds at No. 23 Casualty Clearing Station, Les Lobes Vieille Chapelle on 11 April 1918, aged 25. He was mentioned in dispatches and was posthumously awarded the Military Cross. A newspaper report on his death indicates that an officer in his company stated ‘we have nothing finer on all our records than George Morrison’s work on 9 and 10 April’.

He is buried in Plot VII.C.5 in Lapugnoy Military Cemetery, in France.

Lance Corporal John Morrison, 1st Battalion, Black Watch

John Morrison (1885–1915) was born in Tomintoul, the son of John and Margaret Morrison and brother of George (see above). In the 1891 census, the family lived at the Keeper’s Lodge at Brodie, where John Snr was Head Keeper on the Brodie estate. By the age of 15, John Jnr was working as a gamekeeper at Rafford, near Forres. Prior to his enlistment in Perth on 7 September 1914, he worked as a gamekeeper near Coupar Angus.

He went to France in November 1914 with the 1st Battalion, Black Watch. He was promoted to Lance Corporal just two days before his death at La Bassée on 25 January 1915, aged 29. On that date his regiment was involved in heavy fighting attacking La Bassée, north of Cuinchy. He was wounded in the leg, and a comrade wrote that despite this he went to the aid of his officer, Second Lieutenant L H Willet, who was also wounded. John was helping Willet to remove his pack when he was mortally wounded. Willet said ‘some gallant fellow crawled up to me shortly after I was hit and attempted to assist me off with my pack, but owing to the nature of my wound, I was unable to turn my neck sufficiently to see who it was. I heard he was hit and asked him if it was so. He replied “Yes, Sir”. When I enquired later, I received no reply but could just touch his hand by reaching back and found he was dead … He was one of my most valued men. His end was a gallant one, and his was a peaceful end to a career, which, had he been spared to prolong it, he could have looked back on with justifiable pride of one who has done his work well.’

The Battalion lost 50 men and saw 161 wounded on this one day.

A posthumous burial

The circumstances of John’s death were reported in the local press, where it was stated that he was in the act of helping a wounded officer when he was fatally shot. His parents later received a letter from a Sergeant in the regiment, which said that John had died ‘a hero’s death’.

Lance Corporal John Morrison died in January 1915, but his body was only recovered and repatriated in 2016 when a farmer in Arras uncovered his remains. He was finally laid to rest on 27 July 2016, when he was buried at Woburn Abbey Cemetery in Cuinchy with full military honours, more than 100 years after his death. The ceremony was led by Rev. Mackay, Chaplain of The Black Watch.

Stories about his recovery and repatriation featured in The Times and on history websites.

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