Glenfarg War Memorial Project

Frederick Laing MM and Bar

Lance Corporal 6942 10th Battalion Queens Own (Royal West Kent) Regiment

Born 1897 Tunbridge Wells, Kent.
Died 20 November 1920, Perth.

 

Frederick Laing is buried in Arngask New Cemetery, Glenfarg , Perthshire, Scotland, with a grey granite war grave pattern headstone, and I have always been intrigued as to how a man of Kent came to his grave in a small village in Scotland. Although he died after the conflict had ended, it seemed to me that he was as much a casualty of the war as those others who, like him, are buried far from their homes.

His Commonwealth War Graves Commission graves registration documents note that it is a private grave (i.e. rights of exclusive burial acquired by private individual) and:

Next of kin reside in Tunbridge Wells.
Grave was purchased with deceased's own money, and deeds should be with Messrs Macgregor Mitchell & Co, solicitors Perth.

Plan at the Inspector of Poor's office, Milnathort, Perthshire.
(Sgd) H.G. McCoy Area Inspector Edinburgh Area

Frederick Laing was born in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, the son of Fanny Saunders Laing who was the daughter of John and Ellen (née Hill) Laing, who was born 26 October 1869 in Tunbridge Wells, Kent.

Her son Fred Laing's birth was registered between July and September 1897.

The 31 March 1901 census shows him living, aged 3, with his maternal grandparents John (aged 73, a retired gardener) and Ellen (aged 66, a launderer/washerwoman) Laing and with his mother, Fanny S. Laing (aged 31, also a launderer) at 9 Rochdale Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent.

The next census, 2 April 1911, shows him, now aged 13, in the household of George Hillman (aged 49, a builder's labourer), whom Fanny Laing  married in 1902. Fanny Hillman (aged 42) now has two other children, May and Dorothy Hillman aged 6 and 1 respectively, but Frederick is listed as Frederick Laing, not Hillman. Also living in the household is John Edward Laing (aged 34, town postman) described as 'Brother': presumably Fanny's brother. They are living at 9 Rochdale Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent: the same address as his grandparents' in 1901.

No enlistment records survive for Fred Laing, but at the outbreak of WW1 he would have been 17, possibly just 18, and therefore eligible to enlist. The 10th (Service) Battalion (Kent County) Royal West Kent Regiment to which Frederick belonged, was formed in Maidstone on 3 May 1915 by Lord Harris, Vice Lieutenant of Kent, at the request of the Army Council. It consisted of men primarily from the south of England.

Firstly, in July 1915, attached to 118th Brigade in the 39th Division, it was transferred in October to 123rd Brigade in the 41st Division and moved to Aldershot in January 1916. The units of the Division moved to France between 1 and 6 May 1916 and by 8 May they were concentrated between Hazebrouck and Bailleul. It remained on the Western Front until, in November 1917, it moved to Italy and took over a sector of the front line behind the River Piave, north west of Treviso between 30 November and 2 December 1917. [www.1914-1918.net]

In March 1918 Frederick Laing's Division was back in France and on 23 March 1918 at Vaulx Vraucourt, near Bapaume (the battles of St Quentin, Bapaume and Arras – the first phases of the battles of the Somme 1918) during heavy fighting to hold back a German attack (the 'Spring Offensive'), L/Cpl Laing won his (first) M.M..
[See The History of the Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment by Capt. C.T. Atkinson, Naval & Military Press 2003 Vol 2, 371-375.]

His medal record card "Awarding The Military Medal", shows that he was awarded a bar to that on 13 November 1918. When the Armistice brought fighting to an end, Frederick Laing's division was selected to join the army of occupation (British Army of the Rhine: BAOR) and on 15th March 1919 was re-titled the London Division. These units were gradually dissolved leaving, by February 1920, only regular army units in place.

It seems that, on demobilization, Frederick Laing went to Glenfarg, Perthshire, at the invitation of a Captain James Aubrey Lilburne Hopkinson to work for him as a groom at Duncrievie House, Duncrievie, Glenfarg. Capt. Hopkinson had himself served in WW1 with the Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment and it is possible that the two men came across each other whilst on active service – both their regiments served as front line troops in the 123rd Brigade 41st Division.

Whilst Capt. Hopkinson had been born in Kensington, London (Feb/March 1895), both his grandmother and mother (Charlotte and Mary Lilburne respectively) were born at Pittenweem in Fife and lived at Duncrievie House, Duncrievie, Glenfarg. In 1893 his mother married Samuel Day Hopkinson and he and his sister (Marian Charlotte Lilburne Hopkinson b. 3 May 1896) lived with their parents at 41 Campden Hill Road, Kensington, London W8.

His father died in 1903 aged 44, and the 1911 census shows his mother and grandmother (both widows) at that address, but there is no sign of James. The London Gazette of 7 August 1914 notes the confirmaton of James A. L. Hopkinson's rank to Second Lieutenant, 3rd Battalion The Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment.
Capt. Hopkinson's medal index card shows that he entered the theatre of war in France in May 1915 and in 1921 it records that he had changed address from 78a Lexham Gardens, London W8 to Duncrievie House, Glenfarg, and requesting that his medals be sent there.

By that time however, Frederick Laing was dead. He died on 20th November 1920 in Perth Royal Infirmary of 'Sub-acute Nephritis and Uraemia' . His occupation was described as 'Barman' and his usual residence as The Glenfarg Hotel, Glenfarg.

From the Perthshire Advertiser 1 December 1920, page 3:

MILITARY FUNERAL
The remains of ex-Lance Corporal Fred Laing, West Kents, were laid to rest with military honours in Arngask Cemetery. Deceased, who was only 24 years of age, died in the Perth Royal Infirmary, after an illness of five weeks' duration. He was a native of Tunbridge Wells, England, and on being demobilized came to this district as a groom to Captain Hopkinson, Duncrevie [sic], and was latterly employed as a barman at Arngask Hotel. Corporal Laing was of a quiet and unassuming nature, and was much repected by all who knew him. The coffin was conveyed from Arngask Hotel to the Cemetery by a military escort, and after being lowered the piper played the lament, and the Last Post was sounded