Anyone passing through the Lanarkshire village of Newmains will have seen the War Memorial. It stands in the middle of the roundabout at Newmains Cross. You can’t miss it but perhaps you might not pay attention to it or consider what it represents.
The memorial was unveiled on 4 December 1921 and it was created to commemorate the lives of the 265 young men from the local area who lost their lives during the First World War. I must admit that, despite growing up in Newmains, I had never taken the time to read the names engraved on it’s panels.
On the panel above you can see the name of Adam Armit. Adam was just 19 years old when he was killed in action in September 1915.
Adam was born at 2 Main Street, Newmains on 21 February 1896. His old home no longer stands but it was situated just a short walk from the site of the memorial. In the image below you can see the memorial in it’s original position on Main Street.
Adam was my grandfather’s cousin. His mother Elizabeth Keenan and my great grandmother, Ellen Keenan were sisters. In the 1901 census while the Armit family were residing at 2 Main Street, the Brawleys lived at number 3.
By the time of the 1911 census the family had moved to 3 Houldsworth Street. Presumably this was to a bigger house for an ever increasing family. Between 1886 and 1912 Elizabeth and John had 13 children! 3 apartment homes were available in Houldsworth Street while Main Street only offered 2 apartment dwellings. The homes were owned by the Coltness Iron Works. The Scottish Mining website shows this description in a report from 1910:
5. Houldsworth Street and Victoria Street, Newmains
24 Two-apartment houses Rental £9 7s
4 Three-apartment houses Rental £13 14s
- Built under the Building Bye Laws 9 years ago – One storey, brick built – Damp-proof course – Hollow walls, plastered on brick – Wood floors, ventilated – Internal surface of walls and ceilings in good order
- No overcrowding – apartments large
- Garden ground for each house, all cultivated – scullery to each house with boiler – coal cellars provided
- One pail privy to every 4 two-apartment houses – the three-apartment houses have each a pail privy
- Outside sinks – one for every two houses
- Gravitation water from standpipes at rear of houses
- Drainage underground
- Scavenged regularly at owners’ expense
In 1911 Adam was employed as a blacksmith striker. He was 15 years old. He may have continued in this trade and perhaps met and married a local girl and set up home close to his family. Perhaps he would have left Scotland like his sister, Jessie who went to America but like so many young men of his time he went off to war. He joined the 12th Battalion of the Highland Light Infantry.
The Battle of Loos took place on the Western Front in France between 25 September and 19 October 1915. The following is an extract from an account of the battle written by Yves Le Maner, Director of La Coupole
History and Remembrance Centre of Northern France
“Before sending in the infantry on the morning of 25 September 1915, the British released 140 tons of chlorine gas from 5,000 cylinders placed on the front line to make up for the ineffective artillery barrage. This was the first time the Allies had used the weapon, coming after the Germans employed gas to terrible effect at Ypres in April earlier in the year, and it was hoped it would annihilate the Germans at Loos who were equipped with only rudimentary gas masks. However a change in the direction of the wind at several points along the front blew the gas back into the British trenches, causing seven deaths and injuring 2,600 soldiers who had to be withdrawn from the front line. Initially the gas attack created panic among the Germans and close to 600 men were gassed. Despite the setbacks caused by the wind 75,000 British infantrymen still flowed out from the trenches when the order came.
The southern end of the attack was a spectacular success on the first day. The British soldiers, under cover of smokescreens, took the village of Loos, Hill 70 and advanced towards Lens; however their progress was halted through a lack of munitions and the late arrival of reinforcements, and this delay allowed the Germans to retake Hill 70. Further to the north the British advance was slowed by the formidable defences of the Hohenzollern Redoubt, a vast complex of trenches, underground shelters and machine gun nests, but they nevertheless managed to take part of the German front line in front of the redoubt. The German machine guns were particularly deadly for the British, killing 8,500 men in a single day, the greatest single loss of life recorded since the beginning of the war. The next day, on 26 September, German reinforcements arrived in great numbers to fill the breaches.“
Adam Armit was one of the casualties of that first day of fighting. The exact circumstances are not known and his body was not identified for burial. In total 553 men from Adam’s battalion lost their lives during the Battle of Loos.