He was the second son of Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Scrymgeour-Wedderburn (10th Earl of Dundee), of Birkhill, Cupar, Fife. His mother Edith was the daughter of John Moffat; his younger brother was Henry James Scrymgeour-Wedderburn MP (K1916-21, 11th Earl). Born at Kingennie, Forfar, he came to Kingsgate House from Ardvreck, Crieff, in September 1925.
He entered RMC Sandhurst in January 1931, becoming Junior Under Officer before gaining his commission in the Scots Guards on 1st September 1932. After some years of service with 2nd Scots Guards, first at Windsor and then in Palestine, he was appointed as an equerry to the household of the Duke of Gloucester, who was Colonel in Chief of the Scots Guards.
At the outbreak of war he rejoined his regiment and served as a Captain with 1st Scots Guards in Norway in April 1940. In September that year he married Patricia Faulkner, daughter of Colonel Lord Herbert Montagu-Douglas-Scott, the widow of Walter Faulkner who had been killed in action on 14th May 1940 at Bodo in Norway. They had two daughters: Janet Mary Scrymgeour-Wedderburn, born on August 14th 1941, and Elizabeth Scrymgeour-Wedderburn, born on October 5th 1943.
Promoted to Major in 1941, Scrymgeour-Wedderburn served in various capacities: with Special Forces; with 3rd (Armoured) Battalion, Scots Guards; with the regiment’s training battalion; and with 4th Battalion. In December 1943 he was posted to 1st Battalion, Scots Guards, taking over command on January 8th 1944, just before the battalion landed at Anzio on January 22nd.
The fighting at Anzio was bitter, and during it Scrymgeour-Wedderburn led his men with inspiring courage. His Brigadier wrote: David Wedderburn’s soldierly qualities were outstanding and devoid of personal incentive, and as a result he inspired utter devotion in those he led. (The Times)
He was to be awarded the DSO for his leadership at Anzio.
By February 26th 1944, the battalion had been reduced to little more than company strength. 1SG were therefore withdrawn to a rest area, and received the welcome news that they were to leave the Anzio beach-head.
Two days later, on February 28th 1944, three shells fell on the battalion headquarters, fatally wounding Scrymgeour-Wedderburn and killing a fellow Wykehamist, Major Adrian John Anthony Weir MC (B1933-1939). The scene was described by one of Weir’s school-friends: “Often a barrage of shells only causes a few casualties. in this instance just three ‘strays’ were devastating. The first wounded an officer. As others ran to help two more hit the trees beside them. That turned the shells into lethal ‘air-bursts’, which instantly killed John and four other officers, and mortally wounded the Commanding Officer.” (Tony Pawson, “Indelible Memories”, 2004).
Scrymgeour-Wedderburn died of his wounds just after midnight of February 29th 1944 – he was still only thirty-one years old. He is buried in grave VI.H.1, Beach Head Cemetery, Anzio, Italy. The commanding officer of a battalion of the Irish Guards which was also in the Anzio beach-head wrote: “The whole Division is absolutely miserable; the General, CRA and GSO1 left the battle to pay their last respects when they buried him. He had done wonders for the battalion. His own personal success was outstanding – it is so wicked to think he got over all these dangers to catch it back here.”
Another colleague wrote: “His supreme service and sterling character live with us all today as freshly as he himself lived. I have lost in David a very great friend, a wise counseller, and a delightful companion. The future cannot be the same without the prospect of our fun and laughter together.” (The Times)
Anzio was an expensive battle for Wykehamists and four died in 1st Scots Guards alone. Apart from Weir and Scrymgeour-Wedderburn, there had been two earlier casualties; on February 8th 1944 Captain John Henry Lund Sinclair (I 1934-1939) had been killed in action; and on February 4th 2nd Lieutenant Duncan Gilbert Scott McMurtrie (I 1937-1941) was also killed in action.
David Scrymgeour-Wedderburn’s widow Patricia re-married on October 30th 1946 – marrying David’s older brother, Henry James Scrymgeour-Wedderburn.
Close to Balmerino Abbey, North Fife, stands a block of houses built by Henry in his brother’s memory. The houses stand in a beautifully formal square surrounding a lawn and facing the Tay. Each house bears a plaque on which is inscribed the last message which David Scrymgeour-Wedderburn sent to his men before the battle.
In 2001, fifty-seven years after his death, eighty guests – including thirty former Scots Guardsmen – assembled in the grounds of Birkhill House, Balmerino Abbey, North Fife, to plant a tree in memory of Lieutenant-Colonel David Scrymgeour-Wedderburn DSO. Three of the old soldiers had served under him in the war. Also present was his widow, Patricia, Countess of Dundee.
- Surname: Scrymgeour-Wedderburn
- Forenames or initials: The Hon. David
- House: K
- Years in School: 1925-1930
- Rank: Lieutenant Colonel
- Regiment: Scots Guards
- Date of Birth: 2nd April 1912
- Date of Death: 1st March 1944
- How Died: Died of Wounds
- Location in War Cloister: Inner E2
- Decoration: DSO
- Burial Site: Beach Head Cemetery, Anzio: Grave VI.H.1