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Alexander Laird (1872 - 1916)

Jarrow man blown up at the Somme fighting with CEF

Born in Jarrow on 25th May 1872 Alexander Laird McNeill was the fourth of the six children born to Scottish labourer Archibald McNeill and his Carlisle born wife Ann Laird. By the time he was eighteen he had left home, dropped his father’s surname and was boarding with the Alexander family in Jarrow. In the summer of 1896 he married local girl Mary Anne Ruth Wales in South Shields, and the 1901 census shows them living with their two children James and Florence, and Alexander’s younger sister Elizabeth, still using her father’s surname, in Albert Road, Jarrow.

In May 1912 the family of Alexander, Mary and children arrived in Quebec on board the SS Teutonic making for Victoria, British Columbia. On 3rd January 1916 Alexander and his brother George enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) at Victoria and Alex became Private 180874 in “C” Company 88th (Victoria Fusiliers) Regiment. Giving his wife as next of kin five months later Alex sailed with the Battalion aboard SS Olympic from Nova Scotia to Liverpool and an onward posting to camp at Shorncliffe, Kent. In July, a month after arrival, he was transferred to the 30th Battalion based at Sandling Camp, where he stayed for only another four weeks before being posted to the 28th (Northwest) Battalion, which was part of the 6th Infantry Brigade, 2nd Canadian Division. Proceeding with them to France he spent two weeks with the 2nd Entrenching Battalion before joining the 28th on 10th September 1916 at the Brickfields, Albert in the Somme Valley, France.

Alex lasted barely three weeks. On 2nd October 1916, at Kenora Trench near Courcelette, he was blown up by an artillery shell. No remains were recovered. A Lieutenant and three others were also killed, but only two have known graves. The 28th Battalion War Diary states that nothing worthy of mention happened on that day.

Alexander Laird is remembered on the Vimy Memorial

Civil Parish: Jarrow

Birth date: 25-May-1872

Death date: 02-Oct-1916

Armed force/civilian: Army

Residence: 89 Ellison Street, Jarrow (1881 census)
11 Chaytor Street, Jarrow (1891 census)
29 Albert Road, Jarrow (1901 census)
9 Howe Street, Hebburn (1911 census)
454 Hillside Avenue, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada (enlistment papers)

Employment: General labourer (1891 census), Foreman (enlistment papers)

Family: Parents: Archibald McNeill, Ann McNeill (nee Laird)
Siblings: George Laird, John Laird, Susan Laird, Elizabeth Laird, Jessie Laird
Wife: Mary Anne Ruth Laird (nee Wales)
Children: James A Laird, Florence Laird, Jane Ann Laird, George Robert Laird, Mary Ann Ruth Laird, Lily Laird, Samuel Laird

Military service:

Pre-war Service: Royal Navy Reserve
88th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF)
30th Battalion, CEF
28th Battalion, CEF

Medal(s): British War Medal
Victory Medal

Memorial(s): Vimy Memorial

Gender: Male

Contributed by Jean Longstaff, Durham | Jim Busby, Canada

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