Lieutenant Alexander Nigel Trotter, 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, The Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment) died of wounds in France on 12th October 1914, less than a month after his twentieth birthday.
Nigel, as he was known, was born in London on 17th September 1894 to parents Alexander Pelham Trotter and his wife Alys Fane Trotter (née Keatinge). Nigel had an older sister, Gundred Eleanor Trotter (1889-1975), known as “Gunda”, who was also born in London. Nigel’s local connection with the Solihull area is that he was educated at Packwood Haugh Preparatory School. Referred to now as “The First Packwood”, the school occupied a site in Glasshouse Lane, Hockley Heath from 1892 until 1940, when the school moved to “The Second Packwood” in Ruyton-XI-Towns near Shrewsbury, where it remains today. The original building in Glasshouse Lane has now been turned into 12 apartments, known as Fetherston Grange.
After his time at Packwood Haugh, Nigel Trotter became a boarder at Clifton College, Bristol, where he appears, aged 16, on the 1911 census. He has a detailed entry in De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour (available free of charge on the Ancestry and Find My Past websites at all Solihull libraries), which notes that whilst at Clifton College, he was a member of the Officer Training Corps, shot in the Bisley VIII, and was one of the best boxers in the school. The entry goes on to say that he was gazetted 2nd Lieut. 3rd Royal Scots, on 21st December 1912, and promoted Lieut. on 9th July 1914.
He was appointedTransport Officer for the 3rd Battalion on the outbreak of war, leaving for France, aged 19, with a draft of 100 men, on 30th August 1914, sailing from Southampton on the SS Lake Michigan. His letters home indicate that when in the trenches they were usually shelled for 20 minutes, followed by a pause of an hour. A letter to his parents indicates that Nigel was in command of A Company on the day of his death, and he was first wounded in the chest before being shot again in the head as he was falling. His servant, Private W. Grant, wrote that he died at 11pm.
The Royal Scots left the trenches at the Aisne about 26 Sept. and arrived in position near Bethune 11 Oct, and Lieut. Trotter was killed in action at La Fosse, near Vielle Chapelle, 12 Oct. 1914, while engaged in attacking a wood strongly held by the enemy. The ground over which the British had to advance was intersected by small irrigation canals crossed by plank bridges, on which the officers and men offered a good target. Lieut. Trotter is believed to have been first hit while crossing one of these bridges, and after advancing three-quarters of a mile, fell with two more wounds. He was buried on the farm of Zelobes, near La Fosse, north of Bethune. His Coy. Commander, Capt. (now Major) F. C. Tanner, D.S.O., wrote: “Everyone is unanimous that Nigel died like a hero, and knowing him, I could not suppose it otherwise. I saw him under fire at the beginning of the action”; and a man in his company: “I can assure you all the men were sorry to lose him for he seemed to have no fear and was a good leader of men.” On the cross put up on his grave by the mobile column of the Red Cross, some of his comrades wrote: “A very gallant gentleman” (De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour).
You came and leaned your head against my shoulderAs we sat talking in the flickering light,Of what we’d do when you were really older,And about school, and what was wrong and right.You shyly said (your smile was a half a dimple),“I wonder, mother (if it could be done)If my profession could be something simple,Where I’d be always kind to everyone.”I think you never altered; you grew taller,And all your dreams were tinted with romanceYou might have laughed at what you said when smaller –That summer when we saw you off to France.
Skirl of pipers and tramp of feet,Scottish soldiers come down the street.A draft of a hundred reservist menWith a lad at their head, he was nineteen then,Three years ago.
“A leader of men, and he had no fear,”One of his company wrote that year.Ah! we knew that, who had watched him growFor those nineteen years, we who loved him so,And let him go.“Died like a hero,” and “mourned as a friend.”Nothing better could be at the end.Thank God that you died as you lived, my dear,Though the sunshine flared and went out that year,Three years ago.
O do not think that I am full of sadnessSince you are always present in my mind
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