Herbert McKay, Sergeant 8005, 2nd Battalion Cheshire Regiment
Died of wounds 15th May 1915, aged 25
Herbert McKay was baptised on 17th July 1889 at St Mary’s Church, Chester, the fifth son of Sergeant Major Robert Hope McKay and Mary Ann McKay of The Castle, Chester. In 1891, one year old Herbert was living in Chester Castle with his parents and siblings Lily (14), who was born in India, Walter (8), Frederick Hope (7), Charles (3) and Emily May who was just a few months old.
The family moved to Macclesfield when Robert became Quartermaster for the Militia in 1894, living in Crompton Road and the Barracks.
In 1901, eleven year old Herbert was living at Cumberland Street with his mother and siblings Lily (24), Frederick Hope (17), who was employed as a Railway Clerk, Charles (12), Ernest (7), Arthur Alexander (6) and Elsie Muriel (4). Herbert’s father Robert died in September 1901 as a result of disease contracted whilst serving in South Africa, and was buried in Macclesfield Cemetery (grave ref. D3952).
Herbert was educated at Christ Church School and then moved to the Grammar School in 1903.
Herbert, like his father and brother Charles, was a professional soldier. He was listed in the 1911 census as a lance-corporal with the 2nd Cheshire Regiment in the barracks at The Ridge, Jubbulpore, and served a total of nine years in India before returning to England in the summer of 1914.
Herbert was drafted to France on 16th January 1915 and the 2nd Battalion were engaged in the battle for Frezenberg in the Second Battle of Ypres. The sector of the Front held by the 28th Division was north of the Menin Road, from Frezenberg to Mouse Trap Farm. The Germans, in the continuation of their plan to break through to the Channel Ports, attacked on the 8th May. The attack was supported by as heavy a bombardment of shell and gas as weapons and technique of that period could produce. Three Companies of the 2nd Battalion were wiped out, but the fourth fought on and preserved a semblance of order as it withdrew. The losses were very severe. At the end of the battle the 28th Division had lost its positions: a line was held across the gap behind Verlorenhoek Ridge by Wieltje to Mouse Trap Farm.
Herbert died of wounds on 15th May 1915, aged 25 years.
Sgt Herbert McKay is buried in grave ref. I. A. 141. of the Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension in France. His mother requested that a cross and the following inscription should be added to his headstone:
“FOR EVER WITH THE LORD”
In Macclesfield, Sgt Herbert McKay is commemorated on the Park Green, Town Hall, St Michael’s Church, Christ Church School and King’s School war memorials and the Macclesfield Cricket Club Roll of Honour.
Brother of Ernest McKay, 7th Cheshire Regt, killed in action in September 1915 in France; Charles, 16th Cheshire Regt, who died of wounds in May 1917 in France; Arthur, 7th Cheshire Regt, who survived this war but was killed in Burma during World War Two; and Fred, who survived the war and followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming QMS for the 7th Cheshire Regiment in Macclesfield. Another brother, Walter, died of Enteric Fever in South Africa during the Boer War.
Local historian David Hill and the King’s School, Macclesfield, have produced a 22 page illustrated A5 booklet, “The Fighting McKays of Macclesfield”, telling the story of the McKay family. For more information, please see this page of the website.