Dornoch Historylinks Image Library

CO and RSM 2nd Battalion The Cameronians
CO and RSM 2nd Battalion The Cameronians

Monochrome photograph, © South Lanarkshire Council Museums Service, from an album compiled by Lieutenant Robert Cotton Money (see 2008.143), no inscription. (On left Major Richard Oakley, Acting Commanding Officer, 2nd Battalion Cameronians, on right Regimental Sergeant Major John Chalmers, MC, DCM)
Picture added on 15 February 2009
Major Richard Oakley on the left and Regimental Serjeant Major John Chalmers MC DCM on the right. This photograph was taken shortly after Major Oakley was sent to the 2nd Battalion – according to our album it dates to April 26 1915. After the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, the 2nd Battalion found itself without most of its officers; Major Oakley, who was 2i/c of the 1st Battalion, took over temporary command of the 2nd.

John Chalmers is a fascinating character, and I have to confess, he is sort of a hero of mine. He was awarded the DCM while a Serjeant in the 2nd Battalion during the Boer War, and by the time the Battalion landed in France in November 1914 he was Regimental Serjeant Major. During the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, when almost all of the officers had been killed or wounded, Chalmers was the lynch pin that held the Battalion together. He was awarded the Military Cross for his efforts at Neuve Chapelle, and in this photograph he is proudly displaying the ribbon of his new decoration. Sadly, Chalmers was shot by a sniper near Le Transloy in the dying stages of the Battle of the Somme. I’ve visited his grave twice now; a cold, windswept corner of the battlefield just south of the Albert airfield…a rather dreary place, even on a bright spring morning.

Chalmers had been offered a commission on several occasions, but would always politely refuse on the grounds that he could do more good for the Battalion as the Serjeant Major than as a Second Lieutenant. He really is a bit of a legend in the Regiment.

Indulge me a little quote from an excellent book titled Morale: A Story of Men and Courage by John Baynes which is all about the 2nd Battalion at Neuve Chapelle:
“An R.S.M. like Chalmers became for many young officers almost more important a figure than the Commanding Officer. They knew that they could turn to him for advice and help in any circumstances. And the effect that he had on the young officers of the 2nd Scottish Rifles is particularly vivid to me because of a relatively small point. In his study, Captain Kennedy, whose name has appeared so often in these pages, has one photograph on his desk. It is a simple, oval photograph of R.S.M. Chalmers. Fifty years after Kennedy left the battalion, never to go back again, he looks at a photograph every day of the R.S.M. If one can appreciate from this very simple little illustration the extent of the respect and affection that must have existed between these two men one can start to understand the bonds that linked the officers of the pre-1914 Regular Army to the men who served under their command.”

[Description and title amended to include this identifying detail - Adminstrator]

My husband, Major Michael Oakley, Royal Artillery (retd) is really thrilled to have this article. Richard Oakley was his much-loved Uncle, and we have had a copy of the photograph of Richard with, as we now know R.S.M. Chalmers, for many years. If we can give you any more information about Richard Oakley, we would be glad to do so.

Many thanks for your comment. We would be delighted to have more information about Richard Oakley. You could post the information here on the image library or send it through on our email address of - Administrator
Added by Jean Oakley on 10 November 2012
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