Name: William Joseph Cornwall Laurie
DoB: August 13 1884
Regt: 2nd Lieutenant 124th Duchess of Connaught’s Own Baluchistan Infantry
DoD: January 6 1917
Academic Career: CGS 1894-6, Dundee Grammar School; University of Edinburgh; Glasgow University: Christ Church College, Oxford. \\
Other: William Joseph Cornwall Laurie was missed off the Carlisle Grammar School War Memorial, and was only found as an addition at the end of the Memorial Register. An additional plaque with his name inscribed on it was unveiled in Sept 2014.
He was born at Monmouth but his father, Donald, a surveyor of taxes, was born in Barbados. His father, William, a sugar merchant married Leonora Cornwall from Aberdeen. She and Donald had two other sons; George Archibald (who died in Greenock on 1906); and Donald Saunders, OBE, who died of pneumonia in Belgium in 1919. He is commemorated with his brother, William, in the Memorial Chapel at Glasgow University.
William attended Dundee Grammar School before moving to Carlisle. He did his Arts degree (including Latin, Greek, Roman history, mathematics, logic and political economy) at the University of Edinburgh and gained a second class degree. He enrolled at the University of Glasgow in 1905-6 to study political economy, moral philosophy and geology but he did not graduate. He was living at Greenock and it was at this time that his brother died (did this affect his studies?). Sir Henry Jones was Professor of Moral Philosophy and William enrolled in his class and then registered at Christ Church, Oxford in 1907, for one year as an Indian Civil Service Scholar but there is no record of him having taken any exams. While there he made a donation of 245 geological specimens from the Clyde basin below Glasgow to Greenock Philosophical Society.*
Upon his return to India, (see below) in 1914, William joined the 124th Duchess of Connaught’s Own Baluchistan Infantry – an Indian Regiment with British officers – which was then sent to Persia in 1916.
The attack on Kut under the leadership of Sir Frederick Maude started on 13-14 December 1916. The attack on both sides of the River Tigris took 2 months just to clear resistance on the west bank below Kut and it was probably during this campaign that William was killed in action in Mesopotamia, on January 6, 1917.
The Friends of Christ Church Cathedral also reported: “His name is on a list in The Edinburgh Gazette 6 November 1908 of those appointed to the Civil Service of India after an Open Competition.” The Foreign Office catalogue 1912-14 notes that W.J.C. Laurie requested permission to travel from India to Europe via Chinese & Russian Turkestan. As a result of his overland trip back to Britain, which began in May 1914, William wrote an article which appeared in the Journal of the Central Asian Society. He and a companion travelled with 100 baggage “coolies” so it was hardly travelling light. Ponies, yaks and camels were also used The adventure was punctuated by various hunting expeditions, and negotiations with Chinese and Russian dignitaries.He reached London on July 30. It was poignant to read him reporting a narrow escape from Austria following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the Austrian declaration of war against Serbia. He sailed to Bombay from London on October 10 1914 aboard the Arabia.
a) Carlisle School Memorial Register 1264-1924
b) Centre for Research Collections, University of Edinburgh library, (First matriculation 1901-2 Vol 33; Graduates in Arts)
c) Supplement to the London Gazette 1st January 1919
d) University of Glasgow archives Service (Roll of the Fallen; Matriculation Register)
e) Archives at Christ Church, Oxford
f) W. J. C. Laurie, ‘An Overland Journey from India to England, 8 November 1914’, Journal of the Central Asian Society, ii (1915]
g) Friends of Christ Church Cathedral (*Thirtieth Annual Report of the Greenock Philosophical Society at the McLean Museum and Lecture Hall, Greenock)