Sunday, 31 October 2010
This rather innocuous item sits on the shelf above my desk. It looks like nothing special: it’s a mildly rusty spring.
It is in fact a valve spring from the Rolls Royce Merlin engine of a Hawker Hurricane. This one was flown by a man whose surname I share: Alexander Logan McNay.
On the 5th September 1940, at 3.30pm after aerial combat, Hurricane P3224, TP-L of 73 Squadron crashed at White House Farm, North Fambridge. It had been flown by Sergeant McNay.
McNay was subsequently listed as missing.
In September 1979 the crash site was investigated by the London Air Museum. During the excavation the shattered remains of the burned out Merlin engine were discovered. Other items found included head armour, the tail wheel, remnants of burnt parachute silk and compressed maps with the pilots name on them. The remains of the airframe were collected by the Essex Historical Aircraft Society. They still exist as Thameside Aviation Museum and I believe they still have some fragments of this Hurricane still on display.
Sadly, no remains were discovered so Sergeant McNay is still listed as missing, and is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.
I believe the case to try and locate Alexander McNay’s remains are covered in some detail in the book “Finding the Few”. I have ordered a copy of this book in the hope it sheds further light on this story.
Incidentally, to date I have been unable to confirm conclusively if Alexander McNay is in any way related to me: it’s a rare enough surname for it to be possible, but so far I can’t confirm it.
Saturday, 30 October 2010
Severe gale force winds around the Hebrides blew the "Sturdy" off course and onto the rocks of Tiree. The ship was no match for the rocks on the West coast of the island and it broke in two. A sea boat was launched from the broken ship but soon foundered with the loss of all hands.
Luckily for the rest of the crew a Merchant Navy Captain home on leave nearby was alerted to the wreck and by lamp managed to tell the rest of the crew to remain on board and wait to be rescued in the morning.
The crew were rescued by another destroyer and taken to Oban the next day. The bodies of the five men who died were all recovered and remain in Tiree. They are buried in Soroby Burial Ground, Balemartine, Tiree.
Able Seaman Percy Cornford of Worthing, Sussex
Stoker 1st Class Thomas Cowler
Able Seaman Fred Greenshields of Middlesbrough
Ordinary Seaman John Rivett of Kettering
Leading Stoker Albert Trahearn
You can find more information on HMS Sturdy on the Naval-history.net website.
The Roll can be viewed here, and my thanks and congratulations to LHSA for making this available.
Andrew Grant has been using these rolls as the basis for his research into Leith casualties for the last three years, and he has said that without these rolls, his research would be a fraction of what it is today.
Friday, 29 October 2010
In my opinion, I think this is a little of a fuss over nothing. Unlike some memorials, this one still exists and will be back in its rightful place before too long. Some memorials don't have that luxury...
Heart of midlothian FC have demanded the club's memorial to mark the fallen of the Great War be reinstated to its rightful spot at Haymarket before next year's Remembrance Service, after the tramsworks forced the event to be moved to Tynecastle Stadium again this year.
The clock tower was erected in tribute to the men of the table-topping 1914 squad, who enlisted en masse for the 16th Royal Scots Battalion, raised by politician and businessman Sir George McCrae. They were the first professional players in Scotland to do so, but were soon joined by players from Hibernian, Falkirk, Dunfermline, Raith Rovers and East Fife.
Known as the Sportsman's Battalion, they were involved in the Battle of the Somme and, of the 13 Hearts players who left for war, only six returned.
The war memorial was gifted to the city in 1922 and was the focal point for Remembrance Sunday services before the controversial tramworks forced its temporary removal. For a second year, next month's service will be held at Tynecastle instead, disappointing Hearts managing director David Southern, who says the club is now fighting to ensure a return to Haymarket in time for 2011.
Mr Southern said: "We had hoped that the memorial would have been reinstated by now and it would be there this year, but that's not the case, so we will again hold it at Tynecastle.
"But we do feel that it loses some of it's poignancy.
"The positioning of the Heart of Midlothian War Memorial at Haymarket is as important to the club as keeping the stadium at Tyencastle. It is something we feel very strongly about, and we want to preserve and protect it.
"We have made it clear to Edinburgh Council that we will be lobbying hard to have it back in its rightful place for next year, whether the work on the tramlines is delayed or not."
Tuesday, 26 October 2010
On 25th October 1940 the Luftwaffe was very busy bombing London, Birmingham, Pembroke, Cardiff and Liverpool. That didn't stop them attacking Scotland. Airfields in Angus were attacked and there was mine-laying in the Firth of Forth and off Aberdeen.
70 years ago yesterday RAF Montrose and RAF Arbroath were both targeted in air-raids. RAF Montrose was bombed by Heinkel 111's at twenty past seven at night. Six people were killed and several more were injured. Damage was done to a hangar and the Officer's mess.
Friday, 22 October 2010
It features a young veteran, Paul Lambert, who lost his legs in an IED explosion in Afghanistan in November 2009. The advert explains that Paul used to wear a poppy to remember his Granfather, with your help the poppy can help rebuild his life.
To find out how or to make a donation visit www.poppyscotland.org.uk.
Thursday, 21 October 2010
Poppyscotland, the website of the Scottish Poppy Appeal, this year has a shop selling a number of Poppy branded items.
The English equivalent has sold items like this previously, but this is the first year that Scotland has followed suit. The store is worth a look, and I would encourage anyone to have a browse and consider a purchase - it's all in a very good cause!
You can also now follow Poppyscotland on Twitter, Facebook, or view their YouTube page.
Monday, 18 October 2010
"A hero of the Second World War who won two of the highest awards for bravery has died on his 91st birthday.
James Rodger was decorated with the Military Medal and the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his heroism fighting the Japanese in the jungles of Burma.
A native of Govanhill in Glasgow, Mr Rodger joined the Highland Light Infantry as he thought he would get to ride a motorbike, but ended up fighting behind enemy lines as a member of the 14th “Forgotten” Army.
He served with the Royal Armoured Corps as part of the 81st (West African) Division, and was selected for the elite Recce Corps.
His bravery was first recognised in 1944, after he repeatedly volunteered to lead patrols deep into Japanese-held territory. He was presented with his DCM by King George.
After the war Mr Rodger returned to his trade as a monumental sculptor in Cathcart before training as a chiropodist."
I was unable to find his citation for the DCM, but his Military Medal citation reads:
"This NCO has led a very large number of patrols into and through strongly held enemy positions. He has achieved his object on every occasion despite opposition and the difficulties of the terrain. His reports on enemy dispositions and strength have been repeatedly most accurate and he has displayed great coolness in continuing his observations even though discovered by the enemy and subjected to heavy fire from automatic weapons and mortars. He has frequently volunteered to lead other parties immediately after his return from patrol and has gone out again with little rest in order to assist our troops to the utmost with his knowledge of the ground and enemy dispositions."
Wednesday, 13 October 2010
1st Bn Black Watch and 1st Bn Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders, both in 1st Brigade, 1st Division, attacked the fortified German positions at Hohenzollern Redoubt at the village of Hulloch near Loos on 13th October 1915. Both battalions took heavy casualties for little gain.
The pre-war regulars of the units had been bolstered by volunteers after heavy fighting in 1914 and 1915 and many men from all over Scotland filled the ranks of these famous units. The Black Watch and Camerons had already suffered heavy casualties assaulting the Hohenzollern Redoubt at the start of the battle on 27th September 1915. They assaulted the same position again just two weeks later.
Amongst those lost 95 years ago today was 23 year old Lt James Ley Paton, 1st Black Watch of Perth. He is commemorated on the Perth Academy War Memorial. Born in 1892 he was commissioned into the 3rd Bn of the regiment. Before the war he had been a medical student at St Andrew’s University and apart from being in the Officer Training Corps he had been a keen cricketer and golfer.
He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Loos Memorial. After the war he was also commemorated in St Andrews on the OTC War Memorial and in Dundee on the University College War Memorial.
Tuesday, 12 October 2010
Obviously, councils will have to make stringent cuts in the coming months and years, but this seems a drastic move, and one which should be opposed with the utmost severity. Low Parks Museum is a valuable asset to South Lanarkshire, and the Cameronians collection is a fascinating part of the museum. To propose closing the museum completely is utterly ridiculous and is a decision which should be fought - NOW.
At the moment this is only a proposal but this could easily become reality. I believe that no decision will be made until approximately February of next year, so we have until then to oppose this as much as possible.
The South Lanarkshire Council website has a page of contact details - I'm sure many of us will wish to contact them to inform them of our disappointment at even considering such a drastic move.
We'll be sure to keep you informed of any developments.
UPDATE: I've now been informed of a Facebook page called Save South Lanarkshire Museums Service - worth joining to keep up with any news.
There has been a group of concerned individuals liaising with Dundee Council regarding the possible restoration of this memorial, and today I received a detailed update from Ian Robertson, one of this group. He's happy for me to share this update with you.
When concerns were raised by various interested people about the state of this memorial I decide that I would try to do something about it. After speaking to others I decided it would be best if we formed a committee to tackle Dundee Council who is responsible for the care of the memorial. The committee consisted of me, George Webster of St Andrews University, Bob Paterson a local resident and chairman of the Dundee Branch of the Western Front association and Tom Mccluskey, ex CSM of the Black Watch and chairman of the Angus Black Watch association. Besides the associations represented by Bob and Tom we also had the mandate to represent the members of the GWF , this forum and several other interested individuals. We contacted the Editor of the Dundee Courier and suggested that they take a look at the memorial. The next day an article appeared with pictures and quotes from, amongst others, Bob Paterson and Bob Duncan of Dundee Council. One comment made made by Bob Duncan about demolishing the structure and putting a plaque with the names of the men on the wall of the nearby Castle alarmed us. In order to prevent this happening before there was a chance for debate, we contacted Historic Scotland to see if it was worthy of listing. This immediately prevented the council doing anything to it while HS made up their mind about listing.
We contacted the council and a meeting was set up for the 5th May 2009. Before this, the members of our committee got together to decide what the actual aims were to be and to make sure that we would present a united front. We eventually decided on the following;
· The option of a plaque replacing the memorial was a non starter
· Given its exposed location the memorial should be moved to a more protected location
· The memorial should be fully restored to its original condition
At the first meeting between our group and the council, which included the convenor responsible, the director of the parks and leisure department and the head of Parks, Sport and Leisure, we obtained a commitment that the memorial would not be demolished. This was confirmed in a subsequent e-mail from the convenor. We were asked if we could be willing to provide any of the funding but we declined and informed the council that we thought that it was their responsibility. The council also agreed to obtain rough estimates for the cost of the work involved and look at probable sites for the relocation of the memorial. A chain of communication was agreed and a proposed date for a subsequent meeting when the costs and a short list of suitable new locations for the memorial would be presented. After the meeting we took it upon ourselves to independently get the work priced so that we would have an idea if the figure that the council would eventually come up with would be accurate.
We would meet with the council several more times before Christmas 2009 and after a lot of discussion about the new location we had an understanding with them that the Memorial would be re-located in the grounds of the nearby castle, in a dedicated area, which would be landscaped accordingly. Some individuals within our own group were not entirely convinced with this solution but eventually we agreed that it represented the best opportunity of protecting the structure against future vandalism. One of the flies in this particular ointment was that the castle had a tenant who leased it from the council and operated it as a wedding venue. We had a meeting with them, which was attended by the council’s legal department, and eventually they agreed to the proposal.
At Christmas time the council still had not heard from Historic Scotland as to whether they would list it or not and therefore they could not go out to tender to contractors for the work. Our Group contacted HS and were told that it was likely that it would be listed as it is a reasonably unique structure. The decision was to be made by the 14th Jan 2010.We were happy about this as H.S. would help fund any renovation to a certain point and therefore, in our opinion, help remove any future argument for not carrying out the work using a lack of fund s as an excuse. We also took the opportunity to establish Historic Scotland’s view on the memorial being moved in order to protect it and it seemed to us that they would look on it favourably.
True to their word the memorial was listed but about the same time the tenant of Mains Castle decided that they didn’t now want the hassle of accommodating the memorial after all, so it was back to the drawing board and the search for a suitable location continued.
After looking around we proposed re-siting it in Caird Park stadium and a plan was drawn up. The council suggested that before submitting the plan for permission we arrange a meeting with Historic Scotland to establish their views on moving it because the feedback they were getting was contrary to the impression that our group had from our own discussions from HS. By this time the council was on board with this, that the money was available and that there was a real desire for this work to be completed. Dates for a re-dedication were discussed enthusiastically with the favourites being the 25th September and a fall back date of 11th November 2010.
A meeting was convened with HS which was attended by individuals from the council’s technical, conservation and legal departments and members from our own group. The person who turned up from Historic Scotland was not our original contact and it was immediately evident that she was completely un- briefed. She did not seem sympathetic to the memorial’s primary function which is, after all, to commemorate the men inscribed upon it, but seemed more taken with its setting and its allusion to “Elysian Fields”. She actually did not seem to mind the state it was in and we got the impression that she seemed to think that the dilapidated condition added to the charm of the structure. We took her up to the proposed new location and explained our thinking behind moving it. Somebody quite cleverly pointed out that by placing it in a sports arena this would continue the classical “Elysian Field” connection. After the HS representative left we agreed with the council that they would submit a plan for permission which included its repositioning in the sports arena. There is also a backup plan for its renovation in its original position with a hard standing area around it and a fence with which we are not entirely comfortable.
In July, despite promptings on a monthly basis, we were concerned that we had heard nothing and we wrote to the council. After a while they confirmed that the application had been submitted at the beginning of that month to HS and an answer was expected by the end of September. Half way through September we again contacted the council and urged them to inject some sort of urgency into the situation. We were informed that HS was still sitting on the decision and as it was now evident that the work could not now be completed by the 11th Nov we were offered the interim solution that the memorial would be cleaned up and the broken tablet which is inscribed with the names be replaced with a temporary plaque. We refused this in the sure-fire belief that a temporary repair may quite quickly transform into being the permanent solution. Alert to the way things were going we contacted our original contact in Historic Scotland to ask what stage the application had reached and when we could expect a decision. Two weeks ago we received a reply from him telling us that he was not involved with this application now but he promised to find out the current situation and get back to us. He e-mailed me last week giving us the name of the person now handling the case but very little other information. We have written to the council indicating that as the original group responsible for involving HS we intend to contact HS asking for a firm answer as to when a decision will be made on the application. The council have responded welcoming our intention and urging us to engage with Historic Scotland so that the whole matter can be resolved.
We will continue to keep the readers of the forum appraised of developments as they happen.
Historic Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland will work in partnership to deliver a "world class visitor attraction incorporating an immersive digital experience designed to transport visitors back to the fourteenth century battle".
Further details can be found on the Historic Scotland website.
Sunday, 10 October 2010
She is curious to know what regiment he might have served in, so I thought I would post it up on the blog in the hope someone might be able to help - I'm afraid that uniform identification isn't my forte!
She provided further information which narrow the search down:
"Alexander Coghill, Date of birth 21/02/1838 in Thurso, Scotland, and he died 17/12/1905, Thurso, Scotland.
Alexander married Johanna Swanson on 14/06/1866."
The only thing I can make out is that Alexander Coghill is wearing what appears to be the Volunteer Decoration. Unfortunately, the angle of the cap doesn't show the badge, which would make identification a whole lot easier.
So...any ideas, folks? Any suggestions in either the comments here or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, 8 October 2010
So, out with the dull, drab miserable black look, and in with the nice fresh look you see now!
Any comments about the new look? Please let us know what you think!
The French commander Marshal Massena underestimated the resilience of the British and Portuguese troops. He had been forcing them back to Lisbon and egged on by Marshal Ney attacked them at the Busaco Ridge.
Of the Scottish regiments the Cameron Highlanders suffered worst in the battle with 55 casualties; the 74th had 29 casualties and the Black Watch only 7.
After beating the French Wellington slowly took his army back behind one of the wonders of the day. A series of breastworks and redoubts protecting Lisbon which had been built by Wellington in secret. On this day 200 years ago the 79th Cameron Highlanders took their places in these famous fortifications.
Three days later the French first discovered the Lines of Torres Vedras. They were unable to break through them and for six months they starved in front of them; not strong enough to break through and too scared to retreat and face Napoleon’s wrath.
To borrow a Churchill phrase - It was the end of the beginning for the French in Spain.
Today sees the official launch of
The official launch was held at the University’s Playfair Library and attended by representatives of many of the local businesses and organisations which have supplied information to the project.There was also cause for celebration as the University pledged to fund the maintaining of the site until at least 2014, in time for commemoration of the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.
The aim is to get local people involved in sharing their family stories of the First World War and how it impacted Edinburgh and the Lothians.
Over the next few months more information will be added to the website but in the mean time please take the time to visit it here: Edinburgh’s War
You can also find out more by viewing the University news page.
Tuesday, 5 October 2010
In the footsteps of Robert the Bruce in Scotland, Northern England and Ireland
By Alan Young and Michael J. SteadWe’ll set the record straight at the start. This isn’t a new book it’s a re-issue but this edition has been updated with dozens of new photographs.
First published in 1999 this lavishly illustrated book will be of great interest to anyone with an interest in Robert the Bruce and the Scottish Wars of Independence.
It does what it says on the cover. If you want to retrace Bruce’s steps in these three countries then this is definitely the book for you. You’ll cover a lot of ground though because Bruce’s life took him through most of the length and breadth of the British isles.
I’m familiar with the period but I’m no expert so I can’t comment on the facts in the text however the author Alan Young has obviously consulted many sources in his research. Don’t be fooled by the sheer number of Michael J. Stead’s photographs. This is an illustrated reference book, not a coffee table book with accompanying text.
It isn’t just a history of his campaigns either. It follows Bruce’s life from his youth and the days of peace in late thirteenth century Scotland and England. It also traces his lineage and like me you’ll probably be surprised at just how ‘English’ Bruce’s Norman family was.
Then there are the bitter war years in Scotland and northern England and the uneasy period after Bannockburn including his expedition to Ireland in support of his brother Edward. I’d like to have seen a bit more detail on these campaigns but I guess there aren’t that many sources for early fourteenth century Irish campaigns to go on so we have to make do with only a couple of pages.
As a book for those who have only a primary school knowledge of this period (like me) and would like to know a lot more then it’s a very good book to start with. The text is detailed and informative and full of interesting and well researched facts about Bruce and his contemporaries.
It’s not just a history book, it delivers in its aim to be a guide book too, and at the back there are notes on the primary locations associated with Bruce.
The team behind this book Alan Young and Michael J Stead have also produced a similar volume about William Wallace. I can guarantee that it’s now on my reading list.
now available in paperback from The History Press.
The venue is Hillhead Library in Glasgow, on 14th October at 5.30pm.
(While I'm on the subject, I thought a quick plug for the 602 Squadron Museum Association website was in order: http://www.602squadronmuseum.org.uk/index.php - well worth a look!)
Dedicated researcher Andrew Grant has recently passed his work on Leith's Great War casualties on to Edinburgh City Libraries. Andrew has been working hard for the last few years searching through Leith's newspapers and records to add details to the Roll of Honour complied after the First World War.
In total Andrew has spent about 2000 hours of research on the 2206 casualties listed in the Leith Roll of Honour and a further 351 men and women with a Leith connection who he tracked from other sources.
Andrew's information contains 5000 photographs and images of obituaries noted in the 'Leith Observer'; local and international war memorials with Leith men mentioned on them, and headstones of casualties in Leith cemeteries and overseas.
The two portfolios of work are currently in the Edinburgh Room of the Central Library. When Leith Library has been refurbished they will then be moved to their rightful home in Leith.
If you have a query about a Leith serviceman or woman from the war and can't make it to the Central Library in Edinburgh then Andrew can be contacted through me at email@example.com and I will pass your request on.
Sunday, 3 October 2010
This comprises over 3,000 entries and is well worth a look.
Richard tells me that now this mammoth task is complete he will be updating the site more often. Make sure you bookmark it - if you have Fife military ancestors this is the site to check out!
Saturday, 2 October 2010
This latest batch complete series WO97 and brings the total amount of Chelsea Pensioner records and images on findmypast.co.uk to 1,033,845 records and 6,131,443 images for the period 1760-1913.
This is obviously a fantastic resource for any military researcher. As a quick guide as to how it can be of value for Scots military researchers, on checking the number of records for one regiment, The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) there are 5,020 records. That's just one regiment!
More information on this series can be found here.
Hometown war hero Lt.-Col. Robert Shankland’s Victoria Cross is on display in Winnipeg for the first time since Shankland’s medals were bought by the Canadian War Museum in a controversial auction last year.
The medal, along with others awarded to Shankland, is part of a temporary exhibit unveiled today at the Manitoba Museum to mark the 100th anniversary of the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders, a primary reserve infantry regiment based in Winnipeg.
"To the Camerons, their value is immeasurable, as the regiment’s only Victoria Cross," said Lt.-Col. Brett Takeuchi, commanding officer of the Camerons, of the medals.
Shankland served in the 43rd Cameron Highlanders battalion in the First World War.
He’s one of three soldiers, all hailing from the same block of Winnipeg’s Pine Street, credited with the street’s name change to Valour Road in the 1920s in recognition of the Victoria Crosses each received for gallantry in battle.
Shankland received his Cross in the 1917 battle of Passchendaele. A national controversy erupted in May 2009 when it was reported his medals, including the Victoria Cross, were set to go up for auction, with concerns raised they could wind up leaving the country.
The medals were ultimately purchased by Canada’s National War Museum, which is loaning them to the Manitoba Museum for the exhibition.
The exhibit includes Camerons uniforms worn in the First and Second World War, artifacts, and the medals of other soldiers affiliated with the regiment.
It will be on display until November 21.
Friday, 1 October 2010
I have recently been joined in this task by John Houston and he’s a much appreciated addition to the team as the names needing to be indexed in each paper is getting steadily longer the further I get into the editions from 1915.
My aim is to produce a database similar to the one currently being created by the staff of the Mitchell Library in Glasgow for the Glasgow Evening Times and I hope that when it is finished the Daily Record Index is online and as freely available as the Evening Times Index which can be viewed here.
Newspapers can be an invaluable source of information, particularly in terms of First World War casualties, where the information in the paper will often flesh out a bare-bones “Killed in Action” entry in an official record.
I am currently plodding through 1915 and John has started on the 1917 papers. This is a mammoth task and both of us would appreciate any help we can get with the work. You don’t need to be based in Glasgow – the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh also contains microfilm of the Daily Record, so any East-coasters can get involved too!
Please contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org if you are able to help.
We'll also keep you updated on our progress via this blog.