Village hero died at Passchendaele

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campbell-greenhill-wA DECORATED war hero from Garelochhead was among the many thousands who lost their lives in the World War One Battle of Passchendaele in Belgium.

Lieutenant Campbell Greenhill, who was born at his parents home in Glencairn Terrace on November 4 1885, was 31 when he died in what was also known as the Third Battle of Ypres, one of the major battles of the war.

It involved British, South African, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand units, and the battle started as a campaign to force a breakthrough in the front and to capture the ports on the Belgian coast.

It eventually got stuck in the village of Passchendaele, now part of the Flemish community of Zonnebeke, and lasted from July to November 1917.

The name Passchendaele has become synonymous with the utter horror of this kind of warfare, of living and dying in trenches of liquid mud, and for months of fierce fighting for little or no advantage.

passchendaeleThe battle took place on marshland flooded with heavy August rains. When it ended the Allies had captured a mere five miles of new territory at a cost of 140,000 combat deaths. Many did not die from their wounds, but drowned in the mud.

The village man was killed at Zillebeke on August 10 1917 when his battalion, who were in reserve, were ordered forward to attack and capture Westhoek.

They experienced heavy machine gun fire but still took their objectives, and the counter-attacks were repulsed. But he and eleven comrades died.

Campbell was the son of medical student Robert Greenhill and his wife Flora Fletcher, who had married in Glasgow on March 31 1884.

When his father graduated with a medical degree in 1887 he became a GP in Rutherglen, where the family set up home.

When he grew up Campbell became a commercial traveller and was a scoutmaster with the 113th Scout Group. He was also a member of the Glasgow University Officers Training Corps.

When war broke out he joined the Lowland Division of the Royal Engineers in Rutherglen and served as a driver.

He was granted a commission in the 12th Worcestershire Regiment on May 14 1915 and was posted to France on March 14 1916. He moved to the 3rd Battalion in December.

It was on June 2 and 3 the following year that his gallantry won him the Military Cross, when he was a member of a raiding and reconnaissance party at Wulverghem, near Messine, during preparations for the Battle of Messines Ridge which took place a few days later.

menin_gate_memorialThe London Gazette of July 26 1917 gave a brief account of the bravery which won him the prized decoration. It stated: "For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during a raid upon enemy trenches.

"Finding his party suddenly attacked by a machine gun, he attacked it with bombs down the flank and front, putting it out of action and saving his company from many casualties."

Just 15 days later Campbell was killed. He is remembered at the Menin Gate Memorial (right) at Ieper, a town in the Belgian province of West Flanders.

The site was chosen because of the hundreds of thousands of men who passed through it on their way to the battlefields.

Each night at 8pm hours the traffic is stopped at the Menin Gate while members of the Ieper Fire Brigade sound the Last Post in the roadway under the Memorial's arches.

  • The picture above is a famous image from the battle and shows Australian gunners on a duckboard track in Château Wood near Hooge.