Allan Mackay was born in Tongue, son of John Mackay and Angusina Mackay (married Thurso 1883)of Strathan, Melness, Sutherlandshire. He was employed in Tongue as a shepherd and was also in the Lovat Scouts prior to the outbreak of war.
He enlisted into the Army at the outbreak of war, after a spell with the Lovat Scouts he was transferred to the 6 Battalion, Queens Own Cameron Highlanders which was a part of the 44 Brigade, 15 (Scottish) Division. The Division arrived in France and the trenches of the Western Front on the 10 of July 1915, going into action for the first time at the Battle of Loos in September.
On the 1 of July 1916 the 6 Camerons were in reserve for the Battle of the Somme, moving into the front line for the Battle of Martinpuich on the 15 of September. The 15 Division attacked the village of Martinpuich aided by a tank, seizing the objective as well as a German headquarters complex.
The Division then broke the enemy second line, capturing 700 prisoners from the German 122 and 133 Reserve Brigades, the 17, 18 and 23 Bavarian Regiments, the 40 Reserve Artillery Regiment and the 67th Machine Gun Company. The 15 (Scottish) Division losses were 37 officers and 1,300 other ranks, in some of the heaviest fighting of the Somme campaign. (See also Peter Burr, Tongue and Murdo Mackay, Skerray).
On the 9 of April 1917 the 6 Camerons were in the Arras sector, with the 15 (Scottish) Division attached to the Third Army. The British plan was to attack the Hindenburg Line from out of the Arras suburbs, down the Roclincourt valley with the 15 Division attacking Railway Triangle.
The 6 Camerons sent working parties into the trenches on the 1 of April tasked with carrying Liven’s Gas projectors into firing positions at the front. The remainder of the battalion was placed in the town centre of Arras living in cellars on the Grande Place.
On the 3 of April, working parties began to carry gas shells up to the projectors ready for an artillery bombardment the following day. This bombardment continued for the next four days with the Germans shelling Arras at intervals with 5. 9-inch shells the 6 Cameron suffered light casualties, with seven men killed and twenty- three wounded.
At 5:30am on the 9 of April the battalion moved into the assembly trenches and then attacked the enemy via Income Tax and Inns of Court trenches. The attack faltered under heavy machine-gun fire until a tank named ‘Lusitania’ came up with the reserves and destroyed the enemy positions.
Battalion Headquarters called for artillery support to be fired on the German defensive positions and artillery in ‘Battery Valley’ behind Observation Ridge. The Camerons then attacked at bayonet point, forcing the enemy gunners to abandon their guns in their haste to flee from the charging Highlanders. Forty prisoners were taken in dugouts and the positions consolidated; up to this time only the left Front Company had taken casualties of one officer and forty other ranks.
Battalion Headquarters was set up at Point 12, the remainder of the Cameron Highlanders consolidated the line at Half Trench and Fred’s Wood by 3pm, at 4pm these orders were cancelled and the battalion moved to dig in and garrison the village of Feuchy. The attack East of Arras continued the following day with the 6 Camerons remaining in the forefront of the attack until 2am on the 12 of April when they were relieved and returned to barracks in Arras.
Private Allan Mackay was wounded in action by a sniper on the 9 of April 1917 and taken to a casualty clearing station where he died from his wounds the following day. His parents were initially informed that he was only wounded and for several weeks tried in vain to find out what had happened to him, but with no success. The 6 Battalion chaplain had tried to get in touch with the family during this time but the news of Allan’s death had failed to get through.
Allan Mackay had two brothers who served in the First World War; John served with the Canadian Army and was severely wounded in 1917 but survived to return home. Murdo served with the Lovat Scouts in Gallipoli, Salonika and finally on the Western Front returning home to his family in 1918. There were also two younger sisters who were living in Melness with their parents.