Information about birth

Date of birth:
Place of birth:
Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland, United Kingdom

General information

Commercial Traveller

Army information

Scotland, United Kingdom
British Expeditionary Force
Service number:
Enlistment place:
Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland, United Kingdom
 —  Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment), 13th Bn.  (Last known unit)

Information about death

Date of death:
Place of death:
Vampir, Zonnebeke, Belgium


Tyne Cot Memorial
Panel: 12

Distinctions and medals 2

Points of interest 3

#1 Place of birth
#2 Enlistment place
#3 Place of death (approximate)

My story

James Alcorn, a former commercial traveller, was born on 7 July 1880 in Edinburgh, Midlothian, Schotland. He was the son of James and Isabella Alcorn. In 1906 he married Louisa Munro, but she died in January 1914. This left him a widower with three children. In April 1917 he enlisted at Edinburgh, Midlothian, Schotland. James served as a private in the 13th Battalion Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment), part of the 45th Brigade of the 15th (Scottish) Division.

On 22 August 1917 the 15th Division took part in the Battle of Passchendaele. It planned to attack with the 44th Brigade on the left and the 45th Brigade on the right. The 45th Brigade would attack with the 11th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders on the left and the 13th Battalion Royal Scots on the right. Since the plan called for the clearing and capture of German strongpoints, a part of the 6/7th Royal Scots were in support were attached to the attacking battalions as clearing parties. These strongpoints were Potsdam, Vampir, Borry Farm and Beck House. The 6th Battalion Cameron Highlanders were placed in reserve. The objective for the 13th Battalion Royal Scots was a line running south from a point between Mitchelle Farm and Bostin farm to Potsdam.

On the night between the 20th-21st August 1917 the Battalion relieved the 7/8th Battalion Kings Own Rifle Brigade. This was complete at 3:50 a.m. “B” Company and “D” Company held the front line. “C” Coy were at Douglas Villa and “A” Coy in trenches at Bill Cottage.

At 4.45 a.m., zero hours, the British barrage and the attack commenced. By 5.30 a.m. the men had reached Potsdam and Vampir, but they were held up by machine-gun- and sniper fire, coming from these strong points. The Battalion suffered heavy casualties, due to the relentless machine-gun fire. In the meanwhile, the advance of the 11th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders had been checked in front of Beck House and Borry Farm. The Royal Scots were still able to capture some buildings along the Ypres-Roulers railroad, but any further advance proved neigh to impossible. The attack stalled and at 1.15 p.m. the new frontline was consolidated and re-organized. It now ran southeast from the road east of Frost House to the Ypres-Roulers Railway, east of Railway Dump. By 2 p.m. the Battalion was forced to retreat a bit further, as allied shells were falling short on their positions, causing casualties. From 2 p.m. on, the situation remained unchanged. In the night between August 22-23rd and throughout the August 23rd the front remained quiet. The 13rd Battalion Royal Scots were relieved on the night between 23-24th.

James Alcorn, aged 37, was killed in action on August 22, 1917. He was likely killed during the attack on Vampir and Potsdam. He was a widower before the war and left three children. Private Alcorn as no known grave and is remembered on panel 12 of the Tyne Cot Memorial. His Brother, Private James M. Alcorn of the 1st Battalion King's Own Scottish Borderers would be killed on December 1st, 1917.

Sources 5

45 Infantry Brigade: 13 Battalion The Royal Scots. (The National Archives, Kew (TNA), WO 95/1946/4).
Sources used
45 Infantry Brigade: Headquarters (The National Archives, Kew (TNA), WO 95/1943/2).
Sources used
Census Returns of England and Wales, 1901 (The National Archives, Kew (TNA), RG13).
Sources used
Samuel Walker, George Heriot's School: Roll Of Honour, 1914-1919 (Edinburgh: War Memorial Committee, 1921).
Sources used
UK Photo & Social History Archive
Sources used

More information 3