Private John Grierson Kerr

Private John Grierson Kerr served in the Scots Guards during WW1. He is entitled to the 1914 Star with clasp, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. His enlistment number is 4723. He is also entitled to the Silver War badge.

Born on October 23rd 1879 in Liverpool, England

Trade : Clerk      Religion : Presbyterian        Eyes : Hazel

Height : 6 ‘0”      Weight : 151 lbs.                 Hair : Sandy

December 19th, 1902: He enlisted in Liverpool, England in the 2nd battalion Scots Guards

November 25th, 1905: He was imprisoned by the Commanding Officer. He returned to duty on December 3rd.

December 19th: Transferred to the 3rd battalion Reserve

May 22nd, 1914: He married Catherine Mary Simpson

August 4th: The regiment received the order to mobilize. August 9th: The Brigade route march

Private John G Kerr Medals Index Card WW1

August 13th: The battalion entrained in the morning. They embarked on the SS Dunegan Castle and sailed to France at noon.

August 14th: They arrived in Le Havre, France at 1 pm, disembarked and marched 6 miles to Honfleur Camp.

August 15th: They left Camp Honfleur at 9pm to Le Havre Station and entrained at 4 am on the 16th in route to Le Nouvion.

August 17th: They marched in direction to Boué where the 1st Guards Brigade was assembling with the 1st Coldstream Guards, 1st Black Watch and the 1st Royal Munster Fusiliers.

August 23rd: They arrived in Belgium and it is on that day that they’ve heard the first sign of war, an artillery barrage. They were sent to the trenches on the 24th, expecting an attack.

August 26-27th: For the first time for the war, the battalion was put on the Front Line. Their actual first contact came on the 27th when they were shelled by artillery on that day.

September 6th: Baptism of fire for the battalion, they came under enemy fire but they had to retire

October 21st: The battalion was in trench near Poperinghe and they were attacked by the Germans. They were involved in heavy fighting until the 24th. They made 250 Germans prisoner on the 23rd and endured a German artillery attack on the 24th.

October 31st: First day of the First battle of Ypres.

November 8th: Heavy shelling, followed by a German infantry attack that broke the British line. The German remained in the trench just right of the Scots Guards.

November 11th: According to the regimental diary, they came under a terrific artillery barrage that started at 6:30 am and lasted for 3 hours followed by a German infantry attack. Many men of the regiment did not escape the German attack.

Scots Guards were pulled out of the line on November 17th and rested until December 20th. The battalion casualties for that period alone were 114 killed, 158 wounded and 435 missing. From The Scots Guards in the Great War page 44 “The German bombardment was terrific, Lord Darymple and his CSM counted over 120 shells bursts within 100 yards round them in two minutes” 

January 10th, 1915: The British bombarded the Germans with such intensity that according to the battalion diary, the ground seemed alive with shelves.

January 13th: They were pulled out of the Front Line after 4 months of fierce and intense fighting with little rest between the battles.

January 25th: They heaviest engagement since their return to the Front Line. The Germans bombarded their trenches for 30 minutes and then detonated 2 mines under them, many casualties.

By March the heavy fighting is less considerable and you see in the battalion log book that they do have more rest behind the Front Line. Although there are still some heavy engagements, the number of encounters is less than what they saw for the first five months of the war.

March 2nd: Returned to England and transferred to the 3rd battalion.

May 10th: He deserted until June 5th and was convicted to 42 days for absence without a leave on June 18th.

May 25th: He arrived back to France

November 16th: He returned to England

December 18th: He was discharged after serving for 13 years

I am not sure what happenned to him but it was a very uncommon practice to discharge someone without physical wounds so early in the war. Considering that he died at the age of 54 in a mental institution, I think he was a case of severe “shell shocked” or as we call it today, PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)

July 30th, 1934 : Died at the Rainhill Mental Institution

If you know more information on this gentleman, please leave me message so I can add it to his small biography.

John Grierson Kerr cause of death 1934

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  • Rob Alexander  On 2012/05/05 at 23:43

    Even without further information, It’s a heartbreaking story regardless.

  • Medic  On 2012/05/06 at 16:59

    Indeed it is a heartbreaking story and what’s more unfortunate he was not alone to have a story like that

  • Doc Alexander (@_DocAlexander_)  On 2012/05/07 at 22:01

    That’s what makes what you are doing with this blog so important – the more we know, the better we understand. Especially when it comes to the medical corps. I’ve always felt the stories of medical personnel get lost in the shuffle. Not to take anything away from the infantry or airmen, for example, but that’s generally where the attention goes. My grandfather served with the 11th Field Ambulance, Canadian Expeditionary Force and during the Second World War, he was the medical officer for the 14th Canadian Army Tank Regiment (Calgary Tanks).

  • Medic  On 2012/05/08 at 17:46

    I think the 14th Canadian Army Tank landed at Dieppe. Was your grandfather at Dieppe? If you do have a story, I would love to add to my blog/website

  • Rob Alexander  On 2012/05/08 at 23:06

    My grandfather was at Dieppe. He was on the Calgary Tanks command landing craft. His two ambulances were at the back of the Tank Landing Craft behind three of the Calgary Tanks Churchills Ringer, Regiment and Rounder. My grandfather, his medics and his vehicles never left the landing craft. I’d be happy to provide something for you. Have a look at this link on the blog I have going about my grandfather’s WW2 journals and let me know if that would work. I could modify it as well. I’m planning to share his full account of his experience at Dieppe on August 19 as part of the 70th anniversary of the raid.

  • Medic  On 2012/05/09 at 22:49

    I will do a small post that link directly to your grandfather website.

  • Rob Alexander  On 2012/05/10 at 23:06

    That’s excellent, thank you. I’ll return the favour and point readers your way as well. Can I supply any photos or other info for you?

  • Medic  On 2012/05/11 at 18:28

    I have only one question, can you tell me the highest army rank he reached. I would like to include that in my small text. On the picture on your blog I think he is a captain

  • Rob Alexander  On 2012/05/11 at 19:04

    By June 1943, he had been promoted to Major and given command of the 6th Canadian Field Dressing Station.

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