Hiding in the Attic

Recently we were approached with a remarkable object that had lain hidden in an attic for over a hunder years. This increadible diary written by Private John Lockhart McKerracher was found when new owners bought his family’s house and discovered this remarkable heirloom hiding in the loft.

The new owners asked neighbours about the house’s history and were able to track down the family of Private John Lockhart McKerracher. Once reunited with the diary the family approached the museum and asked if we would be interested in this find. As soon as I saw an image of the cover and heard about the contents, I couldn’t respond quickly enough.

Front Cover. The title “With the 7th Battalion A and SH in France, 51st Highland Division” gives a tantalising promise of what awaits inside.

This was a wonderful discovery and I couldn’t wait to work my way through this handwritten little memoir. The memoir starts when John joins the war in April 1918, travelling from Edinburgh to France to serve with the 7th (Stirlingshire) Battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. It mirrors the Battalion’s service until the guns fell silent on the 11th of November 1918.

Daily routine, trench life, shelling, attacks, working parties, the conditions are vividly brought to life through John’s words.

Pages 16 – 17, John relives the moment he was hit by shrapnel.

Pages 18 – 19 Private McKerracher struggles on and finally is medically treated.

A later studio portrait of John in uniform shows him wearing his WW1 medal ribbons on his chest and vertical wound stripe on his sleeve indicating he had been wounded in service.

At times a common duty of the Battalion was supply work parties to carry supplies and ammunition and undertake engineering work repairing trenches and setting out new defensive wiring in front of the trench. A nerve-racking and dangerous job as experienced by John and the small work party.

Shellfire was a constant danger at the front. Here John describes the devastating nature of the enemy shelling.

The attack on Lieu-Saint-Amand stalls and Private McKerracher loses a comrade. Life can be lost in a moment on the battlefield.

The Battalion War Diary officially records the unit’s service however it is diaries such as John’s, that allows us to see the soldier’s experiences through the eyes of the men who fought there.

I am always interested to acquire similar original or copied diaries and letters for the museum archive. Contact us if you think you have a treasure in your attic to share!