Scots are being urged to visit some of the almost 20,000 war graves across the country and discover the stories behind the names of those who gave their lives in the First World War. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) initiative aims to raise awareness ahead of the centenary of the Battle of the Somme on July 1. The commission, which maintains the graves of the 1.7 million Commonwealth servicemen and women who died during the First and Second World Wars, said there are about 20,000 war graves and memorials in Scotland. The Living Memory Project is looking for 141 UK groups to hold 141 events to mark the 141 days of the Somme offensive. The British Army suffered 420,000 casualties in the battle, including nearly 60,000 on the first day alone. The French lost 200,000 men and the Germans nearly 500,000, according to estimates. Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark is an ambassador for the project and has family links with the Battle of the Somme. She said: "I have a very personal connection with the Battle of the Somme as my great uncle, James Wark, fought for the entire 141 days of the battle. "However, fighting during the Somme and for three years, he died from Spanish Flu just days after the Armistice in 1918. "He had the most poignant letter in his kitbag, which the family now have, saying how much he looked forward to coming home. "Sadly, as we know, he never made it, but thanks to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission he is buried and remembered at the Ascq Communal Cemetery in France. "The men who fought at the Battle of the Somme did so in some of the most horrendous conditions and saw many of their fellow comrades killed or badly wounded. "We must never forget them and instead remember these men by visiting their graves here in Scotland and finding out their stories." CWGC maintains graves in more than 1,200 locations in Scotland. The majority of men and women buried or commemorated either died in a British hospital of injuries sustained during the First World War or in the influenza pandemic that followed. CWGC director Colin Kerr said: "The overseas work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is well-known, but here in the UK there is little awareness of the graves and memorials to be found in more than 12,000 locations that commemorate more than 300,000 Commonwealth war dead of the two world wars. "We believe this is wrong and through the Living Memory Project aim to reconnect the British public to their commemorative heritage on their doorstep."
Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space...
Grove Academy pupils are to attend a service commemorating the role the armed forces of New Zealand and Australia played in the First World War. The fifth year pupils, joined by principal teacher of history Mr John Anderson, will attend the special event on April 25 – ANZAC day – at Edinburgh Castle. In doing so, they will be the only school pupils in Scotland invited to join in the memorial. Colette McCourt, Caitaidh Thomson and Tabitha Kobine have been researching the history of the Great War and were invited specially by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The trio, along with others in their class, have studied headstones of Commonwealth graves situated in Barnhill cemetery. Last year, they commemorated the life of former Grove Academy pupil Alexander Finlay Campbell, who died during the conflict on September 22 1917 in a flying accident. His death occurred two days after the start of the Battle of Menin Road Ridge, which was part of the wider third Battle of Ypres). Mr Campbell's tombstone sits in the Broughty Ferry graveyard, and the pupils held an event on the 100th anniversary of his death last year. Teacher John Anderson said: "The pupils have been invited by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. "They have been volunteering for the CWGC since August. "In particular, they have been researching the names of over 20 former soldiers from the First World War who are buried in Barnhill cemetery and have been holding short commemoration ceremonies to remember these soldiers, some of whom went to Grove Academy. "They have also been researching graves belonging to men from Belgium and South Africa and have been liaising with towns in the European country to see whether there are any surviving family members, in order to find out more about the men's lives." Mr Anderson said it was heartening to the pupils take such an active role in history. Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand which commemorates all soldiers from those Commonwealth countries who have fought in conflicts since the First World War.
A Fife MP has urged the public to visit their local Commonwealth war graves. North East Fife MP Sir Menzies Campbell said a visit would help them gain a greater understanding of the scale and magnitude of the First World War and the impact that it has had on today’s society. The call follows a national initiative led by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), the All-Party Parliamentary War Heritage Group and the In From The Cold Project, which maps more than 300,000 war dead by each parliamentary constituency. Sir Menzies, who also sits on the Government’s First World War Centenary Commemoration Advisory Group, said: “This year marks the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War and it is only fitting that the whole country pauses to honour the generation that was lost in that conflict. “The centenary is also an opportunity for us to educate our young people about the events of 100 years ago and bring to life the personal stories that lie behind the gravestones and memorials throughout Fife. “Visiting your local Commonwealth war graves is a simple but important way of commemorating the outbreak of the Great War.” CWGC’s UK director Deirdre Mills said the centenary was an opportune time to re-engage and connect with communities and young people and explain how the people who are buried in Britain’s graves got to be there, who they were, and where they were from. “More than 300,000 Commonwealth servicemen and women are commemorated in the UK. Many died in military hospitals while being treated for their wounds or fell victim to the flu pandemic as the conflict drew to a close. “Their graves reflect both the local impact of the war but also its wider historical significance.” To highlight some of the personal stories attached to each grave, more than 100 information panels are being installed in the UK. There is also a Local War Graves Visits programme to bring this period of history alive and an online virtual cemetery education portal.
A MODERN memorial to an Angus soldier and his First World War comrades is now in place, hundreds of miles from their homes. The story of the young 5th Battalion Black Watch soldier Lance Corporal John McHardie Beaton, who served and died in France, has found a permanent home. Kirriemuir resident Mr Beaton died aged 21 on May 9 1915 and a multimedia memorial is now in place at Le Trou-Aid-Post Cemetery, Fleurbaix. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission became aware of Mr Beaton’s story and was keen to include him in a WW1 Remembrance Trail being prepared for 1914, the 100th anniversary of the war’s commencement. In August 2012, the commission embarked on its programme to install visitor information panels into approximately 500 of its First World War cemeteries and memorials. These will be spread across France, the Mediterranean, northern Europe and Commonwealth graveyards. Ian Small of the commission said: “The aim of the programme is to provide visitors with the background as to why the cemetery or memorial is located there, details of the battle, and through personal stories accessed via a quick response code. “This is to present a human side to those who are buried or commemorated there. The programme forms an integral part of our 1914-18 project. “It’s hoped it will do much to improve awareness of our work and, with the support of the Commission’s Remembrance Trails, the presence of sites that are less frequently visited.” Mr Beaton’s grave is marked as grave 20 in Row E. The presentation is activated by using a modern phone by the memorial, but an online equivalent can be found on the CWGC website. An updated account of the developments researched by social history enthusiast Helen Humphreys can be found on the website westmuir.org.uk. Teams from France and northern Europe met at Gorre British and Indian Cemetery to commence the programme and to work with the supplier Symbius on installation techniques. Further installations are planned for the Mediterranean and UK areas in September. In 1914, British soldiers serving in the Fleurbaix sector began burying their fallen comrades beside a regimental aid post and dressing station located not far from the support trenches that led to the front line. The cemetery is now the final resting place of officers and men killed in heavy fighting at Le Maisnil in October 1914, the Battle of Aubers Ridge (May 9-10, 1915), the Battle of Loos (September 25 October 14, 1915), and the Battle of Fromelles (July 19-20 1916). Its features and landscaping were designed by Sir Herbert Baker, the British architect who also designed the Indian Memorial at Neuve Chapelle. Some 883 Black Watch soldiers were killed among the 11,000 British casualties sustained on the day of Mr Beaton’s death, the vast majority within yards of their own frontline trench. Mile for mile, the Battle of Aubers had among the highest casualty rates during the war and was an unmitigated disaster for the British Army. General Douglas Haig was still learning how to launch offensives against the heavily-entrenched Germans. Having lost so many men during the push for Aubers Ridge, after a 40-minute light bombardment over a wide front against strong defences, he would later concentrate on using massed artillery to inflict the bulk of enemy casualties. email@example.com
A forgotten Angus soldier’s name has finally been added to the Scottish National War Memorial. Private George Turnbull Orrock of the 8th Black Watch was shot in the leg at the Battle of Loos in 1915, an injury from which he never fully recovered. He died after a long illness in Arbroath Infirmary on November 29 1918 aged 24 and was buried with full military honours in Inverkeilor churchyard. However, the grave was unmarked and a new stone was only erected in February following a request to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Patrick Anderson from Letham in Angus took a keen interest in the story after the new headstone was put up at the churchyard. He discovered that Pte Orrock was not listed on the Scottish War Memorial index at Edinburgh Castle and set out to prove his case. Mr Anderson did some research to prove that Pte Orrock’s death was as a result of injuries received on the battlefield in 1915. He said: “No one had noticed he had not been recorded on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission until my friend Derek Robertson submitted the information to have him listed. “Afterwards I found that he was not listed on the Scottish War Memorial index at Edinburgh Castle so I did some research to prove his death was due to wounds sustained in war. “I compiled a file to submit to Lt Col Roger J Binks, who is the keeper of the rolls at the Scottish National War Memorial, who has now accepted that Pte Orrock was a casualty of the 1914-1918 war. “I am so pleased and I am sure there will be families in and around Angus who are related to this brave young Black Watch soldier.” Pte Orrock was born in Carmyllie, a son of James and Mary Ann Orrock, from Redcastle near Arbroath. Before enlisting in the 8th Black Watch in 1914, he was a farm servant at East Newton when he joined Kitchener’s Army. His name appears on the St Vigeans war memorial which stands beside the kirk above the main road.
Two Tayside war heroes who lay in unmarked graves for nearly a century have finally been honoured at a poignant ceremony. Private William Dalton of the Royal Scots Fusiliers and Black Watch Lance Corporal Thomas Hutchinson, who both died during World War I, received new headstones after a plea to the Commonwealth Graves Commission. The fate of the two men came to light during a memorial exhibition at the St John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church in Perth. The event was held to remember people of the parish who were killed during the Great War. Evelyn Wilkie, from Perth, had been researching her own family tree when she found out about her great-grandfather Mr Dalton, who was 39 when he died of injuries. "We discovered that he had been involved with fighting in France and it looks like he was gassed by the Germans who were using chemical weapons," she said. "He didn't die in France, but came back to Scotland. He died as a result of his injuries at Perth Royal Infirmary on April 17, 1917." She attended the exhibition at St John's and was encouraged to help make an application to the Commonwealth Graves Commission, which works to ensure that the 1.7 million people killed during both world wars will never be forgotten. Paperwork and documents for both men were sent off and within a matter of months, the commission agreed that the two soldiers should be formally regarded as war casualties and suitable headstones should be erected at their graves. "The whole process took about a year," said Mrs Wilkie. "This has been a very emotional day for all the family. I never knew my great grand-father, and I have only recently seen a photograph of him. "But it is great that he is finally being recognised." Members of the Black Watch Association's Perth branch attended the ceremony on Saturday afternoon. No members of Mr Hutchinson's family were available to attend. Reverend Martin Drysdale, who led the service, said: "In many ways, this is the recognition which should be given to anybody when they give their life for their country. "It's especially true that we need to remember people and remember their sacrifice, because that sacrifice meant so much to us and gave great hope for the future." Both headstones were draped with a Union Jack cover, which was removed during the ceremony.
The role of the Forth in the First World War’s largest naval battle will be commemorated later this month. Ceremonies, including a service of remembrance and parade, will take place on May 28 to mark the centenary of the Battle of Jutland, during which more than 6,000 British sailors died. It will also highlight the important role of the Forth during the war. Princess Anne and her husband, Vice-Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, will visit Rosyth, where the Battlecruiser force was based in 1916. They will be joined by the First Ministers of Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales, and the Secretary of State for Scotland. A wreath-laying service will take place followed by an act of remembrance in Rosyth Parish Church. There will also be an exhibition commemorating Rosyth’s role in the battle and celebrating the centenary of Rosyth Garden City and the dockyard. A further act of remembrance will take place in South Queensferry Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s cemetery where Dunfermline singer Barbara Dickson, whose uncle was killed in the Battle of the Somme, will sing Flowers of the Forest as a wreath is laid. Edinburgh’s Lord Provost and Lord Lieutenant Donald Wilson said: “The Battle of Jutland was the biggest naval clash of the First World War and left a tragic legacy along the Firth of Forth. “The battle itself may have lasted only a matter of hours, but close to 9,000 British and German lives were lost.” He said May 28 would be a time for remembrance and reconciliation. “It is touching that our events will be attended by schoolchildren from Germany as well as Scotland who wish to pay their respects.” Fife’s Depute Provost Kay Morrison added: "I am pleased that Fife and the Forth have been chosen to mark the centenary of the Battle of Jutland. “Our naval heritage is an integral and valued part of Rosyth’s history.” Captain Chris Smith, Naval Regional Commander Scotland and Northern Ireland added: "The naval heritage of the communities along the Forth is a long and proud one. “The naval dockyard that was built in Rosyth a hundred years ago and the Battlecruiser Squadron that was based here during the First World War are mere echoes now, testament to a different era. “Yachts in Port Edgar now occupy space that once saw battleships berthed there, so it's very welcome that we are remembering just how important this stretch of the river has been, and indeed remains to the Royal Navy of the 21st Century.” The events have been organised by a number of different parties, including the Royal Navy, Queensferry Ambition, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and both The City of Edinburgh and Fife councils. Projects have embraced all generations to provide a fitting tribute to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice – many of whom have no known resting place. Colin Kerr from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, explained it had sought to find a way to honour those who had died. The Battle of Jutland The Battle of Jutland, the most significant naval engagement of the war, saw the loss of thousands of lives in a matter of hours. Fought over 36 hours it saw 6,094 British lives lost, and those of 2,551 Germans. The main commemoration will be held in Orkney on May 31, the actual date of the battle, and acknowledges the important role played by Scapa Flow. It was from there the British Grand Fleet sailed to combat the German High Sea Fleet, only 75 miles from the coast of Denmark and Jutland peninsula.
A Fife minister is keeping his fingers crossed that DNA samples will finally help him find his grandfather's remains, almost 94 years after his relative was killed during the first world war. The Rev Mitchell Collins, of Glenrothes, is praying that his family will soon be able to lay flowers on the grave of Private Mitchell Collins, who is thought to have died at Fromelles in France in 1916. The attack at Fromelles on the night of July 19, 1916, turned out to be hugely costly for the allies, with more than 1500 Britons and over 5500 Australians killed, wounded or missing in just one day. After around 250 bodies were found in a mass grave at Pheasant Wood near Fromelles two years ago, a programme of DNA testing was launched in a bid to establish their identities. It is understood a joint announcement will soon be made by the UK and Australian governments, revealing how many of the men have been identified and who they were. One of those who contributed a sample was Mr Collins, who hopes the mystery surrounding what happened to his grandfather will finally be solved. "It would be massively moving if we could find my grandfather at last, and it would complete our family history. "It was an absolute mess, a massacre at Fromelles, and we're just hoping that we will finally know the truth," he said. "We can't be too hopeful as there are other families out there hoping to find their relatives, but I know now that he will be recovered some way or another." With the help of Oxford Archaeology, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has been carrying out painstaking research over the past two years and, by cross-referencing casualty records, a list of possible identities was created. Private Collins, from Kennoway, was just 18 when he was seconded to fight with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in 1916. Although it recruited mainly from the English Midlands it had a large number of Scots serving with it. He was one of 11 soldiers from Tayside and Fife thought to have been buried by the Germans in the mass grave behind enemy lines -- with Corporal David Simpson from Kirkcaldy, lance-corporals John Melville, William Richardson and David Marshall, all of Perth, George Galloway of Buckhaven, Alexander Dryburgh of Wemyss, Alex Gray of Wormit, and Ernest Paton, John Smith and David Thom, all from Forfar, also on the list. All soldiers found in the grave are to be re-interred, with full military honours, at a new cemetery nearby. An event will be held at Fromelles on July 19 to mark the completion of the excavation of the men's remains and their reburial, and Mr Collins is hoping to be there. "I had to give a DNA sample four or five months ago after they sent out a do-it-yourself DNA kit, and it's just a case of waiting now," Mr Collins added. "It would be a fitting closure if we could find him." A joint identification board will meet annually for the next five years to consider any new evidence regarding the men who are still unidentified.
A poignant ceremony has been held in Perth to honour hundreds of Polish troops who lost their lives protecting Scotland from Nazi invaders. Veterans, politicians and representatives of the Royal Hospital Chelsea were among those who gathered at Wellshill Cemetery on Sunday afternoon. The event saw ex-service associations lay wreaths at a special section of the graveyard which marks the remains of more than 380 members of the Polish Armed Forces. In the early months of the Second World War, local authorities agreed to set aside part of the Feus Road cemetery for Commonwealth and allied war graves. Later, the site was selected for use as a Polish cemetery when Scotland became a base for the country's army. The majority of Polish fighters came to Scotland after the fall of France in 1940, although the country's navy arrived a year earlier. On the day Germany invaded Poland - September 1, 1939 - four Polish destroyers sailed into the Forth and were escorted into Leith. Leith was the first of a series of Scottish ports, which later included Rosyth, Port Glasgow, Greenock and Dundee, which welcomed Polish ships throughout the conflict. There were also Polish flight squadrons based in Scotland and many aircrews received their training here. Troops were reformed into the 1st Polish Corps and given the task of defending the east coast against the threat of German invaders. A large memorial beside the Wellshill Cemetery graves is dedicated to those Polish forces who gave their lives in the struggle. It is inscribed with the words: "Eternal glory to the Polish soldiers who died in 1939-1945 for our freedom and yours." The headstones for the Polish war graves all have a pointed tip and display the national emblem, a crowned eagle. It is understood the cemetery contains about 50% of all Polish war graves in Scotland. The Polish war graves are looked after by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which maintains the resting places of over 2,100 members of the Polish Armed Forces in the UK, located across 244 different places. There is now a thriving community of Polish people in Perthshire, many of whom joined dignitaries at Sunday's ceremony. The event was part of a series of Remembrance events which got under way on Friday night when landmark Scone Palace was bathed in red light as part of a Poppyscotland campaign.