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Not just another Tommy … remembering Lt Tommy Stout

By on November 7, 2014

Ahead of Remembrance Sunday and just a few days before 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, Hugh Barrow reminds us of the story of Lt Tommy Stout.

The term Tommy was synonymous with WW1 but it was the name of Tommy Stout that tragically helped to bring it all home to Anniesland rugby. He stood for a generation of young sportsmen who never took to the fields of Anniesland again.

The tragedy of WW1 started to unfold in the autumn of 1914 and in June 1915 it really hit home not this time on the Western Front but on Gallipoli’s far shore. Gallipoli is often seen as an ANZAC Campaign but the British had contributed 468,000 in the battle for Gallipoli with 33.512 killed, 7,636 missing and 78,000 wounded. The French were next most numerous in total numbers and in casualties. The Anzacs lost 8000 men in Gallipoli and a further 18,000 were wounded.This was where one of the most tragic events for Anniesland took place.

Tommy Stout was born in 1892 and lived at 16 Huntly Gardens, just off Byres Rd. He was a very talented player who played in the Glasgow Accies back division in a team that won the Scottish Club Championship in 1912-13.  He also played for Glasgow and was an international reserve for Scotland 1912/14.

Tommy played his last match for Glasgow Accies on the 28th March 1914 in a game Hawks commemorated a century later in March 2014, when both 1sts and 2nds lined up with our opponents from Aberdeen Grammar in a joint act of remembrance. Of the 15 who took the pitch in 1914 eight were killed and six were wounded by 1918.

The significance to GHK is that today they wear the colours of The Cameronians, The Scottish Rifles the very regiment that suffered the horrific losses as part of the 52nd Lowland Division-156th Brigade described in the piece below, written for the Gallipoli Association.

The Scottish Rifles have another connection with sport in Glasgow having drilled at Burnbank where Glasgow Accies and Rangers once played and the Inter City match was born – and of course forming a football club that was to carry their name, Third Lanark FC. It is hard to believe what these young rugby players faced when they exchanged the fields of Anniesland for the very different fields of Gallipoli and Flanders.

The following paragraphs, (with a shocking description of Tommy’s death) quote excerpts from J. M. Findlay, With the Eighth Scottish Rifles, 1914-1919 (London: Blackie & Son, 1926), relating the personal experience of Major James Findlay, 1/8th Scottish Rifles, 156th Brigade, 52nd Division, who had just taken command a week before these events. The book and this article, on gallipoli-association.org/on-this-day/june-28th, describe how Tommy Stout made the ultimate sacrifice.

June 28th, 1915: The Gallipoli Association

“I do not think that many of us got much sleep – I know that to me the night was slow in passing – but dawn came at last, cool and beautiful, with a hint of the coming heat, and the dried-up sparse scrub had been freshened by the night’s dewfall. One was impressed by the good heart of all ranks, but, whether it was premonition or merely the strain of newly acquired responsibility, I could not feel the buoyancy of anticipated success.

“I remember going round the line in the early morning and finding that there was some difficulty about the planks which the support and reserve companies had to put across the front trenches to facilitate passage, but these eventually arrived in time. The artillery bombardment which took place from 09.00 to 11.00 was, even to a mind then inexperienced in a real bombardment, quite too futile, but it drew down upon us, naturally, a retaliatory shelling. How slowly these minutes from 10.55 to 11.00 passed!

“Centuries of time seemed to go by. One became conscious of saying the silliest things, all the while painfully thinking, ‘It may be the last time I shall see these fellows alive!’ Prompt at 11.00 the whistles blew.”

Over the top went his men, to be met by a deadly stream of fire from all sides. Findlay soon realised that the attack was breaking down in No Man’s Land. He sent back to brigade for reinforcements and moved forward up a sap with his Adjutant, Captain Charles Bramwell, and his Signal Officer, Lieutenant Tom Stout, to try and establish a forward headquarters. They did not get far; rank was no defence against bullets.

“Bramwell and I then pushed our way up the sap, which for a short distance concealed us, but got shallower as we went along, until first our heads, then our shoulders, and then the most of our bodies were exposed. We soon arrived at Pattison’s bombing party, which I had sent up this sap. He had been killed, and those of his men that were left were lying flat; they could not get on as the sap rose a few yards in front of them to the ground-level, and the leading man was lying in only about 18 inches of cover.

“In any case they were still some 50 yards from the enemy trenches. Bullets were spattering all around us, and we seemed to bear charmed lives, until just as we arrived at the rear of this party Bramwell fell at my side, shot through the mouth. He said not a word, and I am glad to think that he was killed outright.

“I made up my mind that the only thing to be done was to collect what men there were and make a dash for it. I told this to Stout, and stooping down to pick up a rifle I was shot in the neck. At the moment I didn’t feel much, but when I saw the blood spurt forward I supposed that it had got my jugular vein. I stuck a handkerchief round my neck and tried to get on, but I was bowled over by a hit in the shoulder. I tumbled back over some poor devil, and for a minute or two tried to collect myself. Up came young Stout and said, ‘I am going to try to carry you back, Sir!’ but I wouldn’t let him.”

It was obvious to everyone around him that his wounds were serious, but Findlay was obsessed with the idea that he had to establish his forward headquarters and co-ordinate the next stage of the attack. In the end Lieutenant Tom Stout simply ignored him.

“I told Stout to send another runner for reinforcements. A few minutes later he came back and took me by the shoulders and some other good fellow lifted me by the feet, and together they got me back some 10 yards, and though a bullet got me in the flesh of the thigh, I was now comparatively sheltered while they were still exposed. It was then that a splinter of shell blew off Tommy Stout’s head, and the other man was hit simultaneously. Gallant lads! God rest them!”

Findlay lay there, out of immediate danger but hardly safe.

“It was insufferably hot, and I recollect having a drink of water, and giving one to a boy called Reid, who lay mortally wounded alongside me. We all remained lying there in that sap, sometimes conscious, sometimes blessedly unconscious. The heat as we lay there was appalling, but things were gradually getting quieter; what we longed for was coolness. Reid, poor lad, was by this time in agony, he had been shot in the stomach, and all I could do for him was to give him a little more water.

“The day wore on into the interminable night, broken by he moans and agonising cries of the wounded and dying, till dawn came coolly and quietly. In a moment of consciousness, I realised I was looking at a Turk who had appeared round a corner of the sap. We gazed at each other, and he went away. One of my own poor fellows was lying dead alongside of me. The Turk returned and again looked at me, and again disappeared. A second afterwards I saw a bomb hurtling through the air – it seemed to be coming straight for me, and with a great fear in my heart I managed to pull myself up, my knees to my chin, and my left arm cuddled round them.

“The bomb landed at my feet, and bursting, bespattered my left leg and arm and portions of my thighs. It seemed, however, to galvanize me into action, and another bomb coming over, I managed to roll over on to the other side of the dead lad and all its charge lodged in him. Somehow I then succeeded in getting to my feet and staggered back down the sap for a few yards over the shambles of dead bodies lying there, until I fell down. Another bomb came over, landing short, and I got up again and got farther back down the trench.”

Findlay finally managed to stagger back to the lines. By then he was in a dreadful state: either very lucky or unlucky depending on one’s viewpoint, having suffered some seven major wounds as well as a liberal sprinkling of minor scrapes from bomb fragments. His battalion had suffered over 400 casualties and 25 of the 26 officers had been hit. All in all the attack of 156th Brigade was a massacre with nothing achieved but a few insignificant gains on the left. Although more attempts to advance were ordered during the day they achieved nothing but further slaughter.

In the University of Glasgow story, universitystory.gla.ac.uk, there is a biography of their former student Tommy.

This extract, in words that may have come from an obituary in The Bonds of Sacrifice Vol II, courtesy of Robert N Smith, relates:

The Medical Officer attached to the 6th Battalion Cameronians described the awful losses sustained under heavy bombardment and the heroic manner of Tommy’s death. He had succeeded in rescuing his severely wounded Major, who was lying in the communications trench, exposed to the bombing. He wrote; “It will be some little comfort to you to know that he met his death while bravely assisting a comrade. He died a true British soldier.”

The Major he rescued also wrote to the family in glowing terms; “Tom was a good soldier and a great favourite with all of us. I do not suppose there was an officer in the Battalion who knew his job better than he did.”

Tommy Stout is commemorated on the panels of The Helles Memorial in Turkey, one of 21,000 men who are recorded there.

“Some were decorated and died heroically; others fought and fell quietly “, The Final Whistle by Stephen Cooper

*Hugh Barrow is a former secretary of Glasgow Hawks. He ran for Victoria Park AAC and in 1961 set an under-16s record for a 4min 10.9sec mile.

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