Bridge of Weir

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202643 Private William Robertson Keith

1st/8th Battalion, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders

killed in action 23rd July 1918

aged 20

Soissons Memorial
St Machar's Church Memorial, Bridge of Weir
Kilbarchan Cemetery

Son of Hugh Keith and Mary Nelson
Kaimhill Cottages, Bridge of Weir

His Life

William Robertson Keith was born on 22nd May 1898 at Kaimhill, Bridge of Weir, one of a family of nine born to Hugh Keith originally from Bowmore, Islay and Mary Nelson from Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire who had married in Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire on 11th January 1887.

Hugh and his three brothers were all blacksmiths at North Gates, Lochwinnoch in the 1881 Census but Hugh must have decided to change jobs after he married. In 1891 Hugh (34), Mary (27) and their first two children, also Hugh and Mary, were living at Burnfoot Farm, Kilbarchan where Hugh was the farmer. They were employing Archibald McFadyen, a ploughman from Islay, who was also lodging with them.

By 1901 the Keith family, now ten in total including William (2), had moved to a 5-roomed house at Kaimhill Cottages, between Bridge of Weir and Crosslee, and Hugh was now a railway contractor's foreman.

In 1911, the Keith family was still at Kaimhill Cottages, but Hugh senior was a navvy ganger in the sewerage industry. Hugh junior and Mary were no longer in the family home. All of the remaining children except young Donald (3) were at school, including the eldest, Bessie (19).

William Robertson Keith's Record of Service states that he enlisted at Paisley on 14th February 1917 when he was aged 18 years and 9 months. He had been working as a labourer for 2 months, previously a farm servant. William's preferred regiment had been the Cameron Highlanders but he was enlisted as a Private in the 5th (Reserve) Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. On 4th July 1917 he was posted to the 1st/8th Battalion A.&.S.H. and joined the British Expeditionary Force in France; Two weeks later he was posted under Army Order 204/16 to the 11th (Service) Battalion, A.&.S.H. Between March and June 1918 he had been treated in hospital variously for dermatitis, scabies and gastro-enteritis. On 9th June 1918 he was posted to the 1st/8th battalion A.&.S.H., by then part of the 15th (Scottish) Division which was sent to replace battle-weary American forces in the counter-attack of the Battle of the Aisne and replaced them on the night of the 22/23rd July. The Battalion war diaries describe a night of heavy losses to shelling and machine gun fire. The French Commander was so impressed by the 15th Division's fighting spirit in the battle that followed that he ordered a memorial to be built immediately, the only one built in the war by a French unit dedicated to a British one:

Here will flourish forever the glorious thistle of Scotland among the roses of France
- the 17th French Infantry Division to the 15th Scottish Infantry Division.

Private Keith was killed on 23rd July 1918 in a "gallant attempt to bring in a wounded man". His name is recorded on the Soissons Memorial about 100km north-east of Paris. The Memorial commemorates almost 4,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom forces who died during the Battles of the Aisne and the Marne in 1918 and who have no known grave.


The field of battle where William Keith fell on 23rd July 1918. The 1/8th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders were on the left flank of the divisional boundary. The red circle shows their furthest advance that day.


1891 Census 1901 Census 1911 Census Birthplace
Name Age Name Age Name Age
Hugh3 Hugh13 Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire
Mary1 Mary11 Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire
Bessie9Bessie19 Bridge of Weir
Nellie7Nellie16 Bridge of Weir
Jessie6Jessie15 Bridge of Weir
Alice 4Alice 14 Bridge of Weir
Wm R2William12 Bridge of Weir
John H4 moJohn10 Bridge of Weir
Donald9 Bridge of Weir


TO CITE THIS PAGE: MLA style: "Bridge of Weir Memorial". Date of viewing. http://www.bridgeofweirmemorial.co.uk/profile-keith.html