Peter McGuiggan, my grandfather, worked at a colliery in Gateshead. He was, according to his marriage certificate, a putter, that is a man working underground hauling baskets of coal from the hewers to the wagons that were then pushed and pulled to the mine shaft for from where the coal was hauled up to the pit head. Occasionally, in the wider seams, they would work with horses, pit ponies, which would do the heavy hauling supplemented by the men’s labour.
At the outbreak of the Great War he enlisted into the Royal Field Artillery and was allocated to the 78th Brigade. The Brigade was equipped with 18 pounder guns hauled into action by a team of six horses. Each pair of horses would have a Driver and it was to this work that Driver McGuiggan was tasked. The Brigade would have three batteries of six guns. Driver McGuiggan was with “C” Battery .
He was killed in action during the British offensive known as the Battle of Aras. His gun crew received a direct hit from German artillery, instantly killing him and tow other gun crew
The actions in which he took part prior to his death occurred around Monchy-le-Preux.
An official army photographer was present on the battlefield, in the Monchy Le Preux area. to record the offensive. Lt.Earnest Brooks took a series of photographs recording artillery pieces in action.
This one, taken on the 9th April 1917, the first day of the offensive, shows a gun team limbering up near Monchy to support an infantry advance.
The second photograph shows a battery of 18 pounders in action on the 11th April 1917, west of Monchy.
The actual battery involved is not identified but given the location there exists a one in three chance that it is C Battery of the 78th Brigade. Whether it is or not cannot be determined but it shows clearly the gun teams in action only eight days prior to Driver McGuiggan’s death and only a few miles from the actual location of his death.
This final photograph, also by Lt. Brooks, was taken on the 15th May 1917, towards the end of the offensive and gives a perfect idea of the Arras operation. The army is now on open ground, a gun battery is being positioned, a tank moving up towards the east and there are horses in the background which could be the horses of the artillery or could be cavalry.