Remembrance, inexorably linked with the annual commemoration of Armistice and the red Flanders poppy, is still an integral part of our national character. Poignant sentiments expressed in November 1918 are, for so many, similarly relevant today.
At hame that nicht I minded o’
Those fallen in the fray;
Thousands rejoicing, thousands more
Are sorrowing to-day.
To those who listen for a voice
They never more shall hear,
There’s agony in every shout,
A stab in every cheer.
As we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armistice tomorrow, it is the unspoken hope that our world will never suffer war on this scale ever again. However, it is a stark fact of modern life that there are countless conflicts taking place across the globe, many involving our brave servicemen and servicewomen.
Poppyscotland came into being in 1921 (then known as the Earl Haig Fund) with a commitment to providing life-changing support to the armed forces community. Ninety-seven years on, that need has not diminished and the charity raises millions of pounds each year in order to support veterans throughout the country.
In 1918, despite the hysteria, millions were left behind in the aftermath of the Great War, but it is Poppyscotland’s ongoing quest to ensure that all of our brave servicemen and servicewomen do not suffer the same fate 100 years on.
A soldier’s story
Proudly holding the Military Cross won by her father for bravery under heavy fire during the Great War, Miss Julie Logan Thomson of Broughty Ferry, tells a story of courage, typical of each and every soldier who fought in the Great War.
Sidney Clare Thomson joined the army in 1915 and was commissioned into The Black Watch in September that year as an infantry lieutenant. He was subsequently transferred to the Machine Gun Corps in France, where he was promoted to acting major.
The Corps saw some of the worst fighting of the war. Of the total of 170,500 officers and men who served in the MGC, one in three – 62,049 – were killed, wounded or posted missing. And by 1917 its casualty rate had earned it the nickname The Suicide Club.
A flag flown by the Corps’ gunners during
the Passchendaele offensive in late 1917, which shows damage by shell splinters and discolouration from poison gas, is now in the Imperial War Museum.
The following September, Major Thomson was in command of a MGC company during the final push to victory on the Western Front.
His citation for distinguished conduct was reported in the London Gazette: “At Villers-Guislain, on September 18 1918, this officer went along the whole of the final objective captured by the brigade, under heavy fire, and rendered excellent service in reorganising and consolidating his guns in positions which extended over a front of 2,000 yards. His fearlessness and good judgement under fire were most marked.”
Villers-Guislain in northern France was only abandoned by the Germans on September 30, after heavy bombardment and fierce exchanges. Following the announcement of Major Thomson’s Military Cross, The Courier noted with considerable understatement that he had “seen much hard fighting on the Western Front”.
“My two brothers and I were always tremendously proud of our father’s war record,” said Julie Thomson. “He was a quiet man and – like many of his generation – rarely spoke of his war experiences or what he went through. But his generation made a remarkable contribution to our country.”
Sidney C. Thomson MC was the son of William Thomson, one of the founders of the Dundee publishers DC Thomson & Co, and worked for the company after leaving school, rising to become a managing director.
After a 50-year contribution to the firm – and great service to his country – he died at his home in Broughty Ferry in June 1965, aged 75. His sons Murray, and the late Alastair, followed him into the family business.
First World War – The Scottish Soldier’s Story, is a 150-page compilation of The Courier’s commemorative special First World supplements 1914-1918.
£11.99 with free p&p, available from www.dcthomsonshop.co.uk or call 0800 318 846 (Freephone), quoting CSOST, lines open Mon-Fri 8am-6pm, Sat 9am-5pm.
Also available from the DC Thomson Shop, Albert Square, Dundee DD1 1DD