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Scotch’s first sacrifice in World War I

ABOVE: Guy Neal Landale Labertouche as an Indian Army officer

When did the first Scotch boy sacrifice everything in World War I? Surely it was when Australia was ‘born’ as a nation as members of the AIF swept across the shores of the Gallipoli peninsula on 25 April 1915 – the day since commemorated as Anzac Day?

The answer to the second question is no. The answer to the first question is 14 April 1915.

Surely this means a member of the AIF died en route to the battlefield, as several Scotchies did during the war?

Again, the answer is no.

Scotch’s first son to lose his life in World War I – as far as can currently be ascertained – was Guy Neal Landale Labertouche, Indian Army.

Labertouche was an Australian, albeit born in the then-colony of Victoria at Strathearn Lodge, Powlett Street, East Melbourne on 21 June 1871, the son of public servant Peter Paul Labertouche and his wife Eleanor Annie (nee Scales) Labertouche. An Anglican, Labertouche entered Scotch on 2 May 1881 while living at 2 Canterbury Terrace, Powlett Street. As he did not star scholastically or in sport and as accounts records of the period have not survived, we have no way of knowing when he left Scotch.

On 9 January 1892 Labertouche received his first commission in the British Army, in the Suffolk Regiment. On 1 June 1895, as a lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment, he was appointed aide-de-camp to Sir John Madden, the acting governor of Victoria. He graced the social pages of Melbourne’s newspapers until his brief but no doubt memorable appointment ended and he left Melbourne on 16 November 1895 for Bombay.

In 1896 Labertouche transferred to the Indian Army, in which he served on the North-West Frontier in 1897 and 1898. In 1900 he served in China, which suggests he was likely to have been one of about 3,000 Indian troops who were sent to quell the Boxer Rebellion. If so, he was not the only Scotchie there. In India on 17 July 1908 Labertouche married Janet (Muriel) Christina Campbell Stewart. He was then a captain in the 122nd Rajputana Infantry at Ahmedebad, and on 9 January 1910 attained the rank of major.

Details of Labertouche’s World War I service are unknown, other than that he remained with the 122nd Rajputana Infantry, with his secondary regiment being the 119th Indian Infantry (Mooltan Regiment). At Shaibah, Mesopotamia (now Iraq), near Basra, on 14 April 1915 he was killed in action. On that day, in the Battle of Shaibah, British forces (including Indian troops, as Indian independence was yet to come) left Shaibah to pursue Ottoman forces which had fallen back to Barjisiyeh Wood, after the Ottomans’ unsuccessful attack on Shaibah on 12 and

13 April.

After furious fighting the day was won when a bayonet charge by the 2nd Dorsets was followed by the Indians. It is probable that Labertouche died in this action. The Ottomans never threatened Basra again and thereafter the British held sway in Iraq. Labertouche was buried in the Basra War Cemetery.

Looking for his name in Memorial Hall is futile. Scotch did not know of his death until I discovered it on 25 March 2010 as part of the ongoing process of tracking down the fates of every Scotch boy. His is one of at least 22 Scotchies’ names which are missing from the Roll of Honour. Although we know that many of them survived into the post-war period, the dates of death of 283 Scotch boys born between 1860 and 1900 remain unknown (the oldest known Scotchie thus far who died in World War I was born in 1862), so it is likely that more victims of World War I remain to be discovered.

Updated: 31 December 2014