2774 Pte Donald Porteous Royal Scots

Pte Donald Porteous was my great uncle. He was one of four sons of Alexander and Mary Porteous of 8 Jeffrey St, Edinburgh , just off the Royal Mile. Donald had enlisted at Leith, joining the 1/7th Royal Scots, a Territorial Force Bn of the senior Infantry Regiment of the line ( Raised in 1633 and so old it was known as “Pontius Pilate’s Bodyguard” to the rest of the army.)

The 1/7th formed in August 1914 at Leith. On the 24th of April 1915 the Bn became part of the 52nd (Lowland) Division and was warned for service in Gallipoli. On the 22nd May A & D Companies entrained at Leith en route to Liverpool.

At just after 6:30 am a signalman’s error caused the troop train to run into a stationary local train at Quintishill, near Gretna Green. Three minutes later a London to Glasgow express, travelling at full speed, crashed into the wreckage.The Quintshill rail disaster remains Britains worst railway accident. 226, died, 214 of the dead were members of the Royal Scots, among them No. 2774 Pte Donald Porteous.

Donald, together with most of the other dead, was buried in a mass grave in the Edinburgh Rosebank Cemetery. At the head of the grave stands a celtic cross and on the wall behind are ten bronze plaques with the names of the dead. The grave is tended by the Commonwalth War Graves Commission and is as neat and cared for as are those on any of the far flung battlefields.

On the 14th June 1915 his surviving comrades were fighting at Gallipoli.

I knew nothing of Donald until I recently started to research my mother’s family history. It seems ironic that Donald became a military casualty without ever leaving Scotland, although he gave his life for his country as much as any other of the war dead.

He was just 18 years old.

His brothers, Archie, Alex and David, survived the war. Alex served in the Navy and Archie in the army. David, my grandfather, was an iron founder and was a skilled worker retained in a vital industry as Britain struggled to produce the arms and munitions to fight the war.

There are more details off the Quitshill rail disaster here: Quintinshill Rail Disaster

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