Friday, 24 April 2009

MoD names WWI mass grave troops

An interesting article on the BBC News website:

MoD names WWI mass grave troops

The Ministry of Defence has released the names of dozens of World War I soldiers they believe may be buried in a mass grave found in France last year.

Burial pits, which date from the Battle of Fromelles on 19 July, 1916, could also contain the remains of at least 20 Scottish soldiers.

Among those named are members of the Cameron Highlanders and the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.

More than 7,000 British and Australian servicemen died in the two-day battle.

  • Private John Adam - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Grangemouth
  • Sergeant Andrew Allan - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Bannockburn
  • Private John Bowie - Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry - from Aberdeen
  • Private Mitchell Collins - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Kennoway
  • Private John Cumming - Cameron Highlanders - from Inverness
  • Private Alexander Dryburgh - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Werness
  • Private George Galloway - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Buckhaven
  • Private Alex Gray - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - Wormit, Fife
  • Private Alexander Loudon - Cameron Highlanders - from Lanarkshire
  • Lance Corporal David Marshall - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Perth
  • Private Joseph McGuire - Cameron Highlanders - from Glasgow
  • Lance Corporal John Melville - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Perth
  • Private James Melvin - Cameron Highlanders - from Abington
  • Private James Mitchell - Cameron Highlanders - from Coldstream
  • Private Maxwell Mitchell - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Falkirk
  • Private Ernest Paton - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Forfar
  • Lance Corporal William Richardson - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Perth
  • Private William Robertson - Cameron Highlanders - from Edinburgh
  • Corporal David Simpson - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Kirkcaldy
  • Private John Smith - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Forfar
  • Private David Thom - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Forfar
  • As part of the identification process, experts will take DNA samples from the bodies and try to find a family link with the help of the soldiers' relatives.

    The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) will begin the process of exhuming and identifying about 400 of the bodies next month.

    The soldiers were buried by their German counterparts in the aftermath of the battle and most of their identifying tags removed.

    A careful cross-referencing of casualty records has already enabled the MoD to produce a pool of possible identities for the soldiers.

    The commission aims to identify the bodies and give them a military burial at a new site near Fromelles, which will be the first war cemetery constructed in 50 years.

    The soldiers will be buried with full military honours, initially as unknown soldiers, then a panel of experts from the Australia and the UK will meet in 2010 to consider the evidence gathered about the soldiers' identities.

    A spokesman for the CWGC said: "The list of names has been released because we need the families to come forward and register their details with the project.

    "It's a slow, forensic process, we have to first check whether the DNA is viable at the burial site and then test it against the families.

    "The graves will then be marked when positive identifications are made.

    "We will ask the families what they want on the headstones and we will take care of that."

    The commission said the new cemetery would be "worthy of the sacrifices made by these men and a place of dignified pilgrimage and remembrance for generations to come."

    Details of all the men believed to have been discovered can be found on the website

    Tuesday, 21 April 2009

    Memorials in Danger - update

    Quite a bit has happened since I posted yesterday about the condition of the Mains war memorial in Caird Park, Dundee.

    There has been an article in The Courier which can be viewed here. The comments of the Provost John Letford are interesting when he says that "I wasn’t aware of this previously" since this article from 2005 indicates that the condition of this park and the war memorial were made clear to him - quite obviously nothing has been done since some of the graffitti currently on the memorial is dated from 2005!

    The BBC News website have also picked up the story and feature some comments from yours truly, as well as some very pessimistic comments from Councillor Bob Duncan. If it is the case that the memorial can't be saved, then frankly it's up to the council to provide a fitting replacement - they were given custody of the memorial in 1922 and they have failed in their duty to maintain it!

    It remains to be seen what will happen but I think it is clear that this issue will not go away, although I suspect that is what Dundee council would like to happen.

    SAFHS Conference 2009

    A reminder that the annual conference of the Scottish Association of Family History Societies, along with the Scottish Family History Fair, takes place this Saturday 25th April at King's College Conference Centre in Aberdeen. Attendance to the fair is free to the public.

    For more information, visit the SAFHS website at

    The Scottish Military Research Group wil be there, so feel free to find our table and say hello. You can hear about some of our projects and perhaps browse some of the records we'll have on display.

    We hope to see you there!

    Monday, 20 April 2009

    Memorials in Danger #1

    One of the reasons for this blog was to highlight stories and areas of interest that arise from the discussions on the Research Groups forums. One area I wanted to highlight which occasionally arises from the War Memorials Project forum is the number of memorials which perhaps need a bit of care and attention.

    I had been planning to start a regular series of postings to the blog on this very subject, and a recent new addition to the Memorials Project had spurred me on to do it sooner rather than later.

    I had hoped to start with a memorial that perhaps needed a clean, or perhaps required some attention to some names which had become faded. I never thought I would have to highlight a memorial which has suffered so much neglect, damage and vandalism as that of the Mains memorial.

    This memorial is located in Caird Park, Dundee and commemorates the men from Mains who fell in the First World War. At the unveiling, a Baillie Gillies accepted custody of the memorial on behalf of the corporation. I can only think that the corporation, and whichever body succeeded it, has failed in their duty to maintain safe custody of this memorial.

    This is the condition of this memorial now:

    There are further photographs on the Scottish War Memorials Project site which show in greater detail how badly damaged this memorial is.

    It is covered in grafitti, and several of the names will be lost due to damage of the name panel if something is not done soon.

    Fortunately, it seems that the posting of these photographs on the forum has made a few of our members sit up and notice. The thread concerning this memorial contains a great deal of support, and it seems that the relevant council bodies have been notified. Unfortunately it seems that, as in many things nowadays, it may be a question of money which decides if this memorial can be restored or not.

    The full thread can be accessed here.

    There is also a thread concerning this memorial started by myself on the Great War Forum.