Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Scottish Merchant Seamen memorial in Edinburgh

From the Edinburgh Evening News:

Trust plans tribute to lost merchant seamen but details kept secret

Published Date: 31 March 2010
WHEN built it will be an iconic national memorial to 6,500 lost merchant seaman – but exactly what it will look like is a closely guarded secret.
The Merchant Navy Memorial Trust has applied for permission to erect "a memorial of national importance" near Tower Place, at The Shore.

All going well, the £100,000 structure will be unveiled in November. However, the Trust has called for "a degree of secrecy and confidentiality" prior to the official publication of the plans and the launch of a public appeal next month to raise the required cash. The memorial is the brainchild of Professor Gordon Milne, 74, a retired company director from Kingsknowe whose family has a long association with the merchant navy.

He said: "The memorial itself will cost £100,000, funded largely by substantial private donations from benefactors who wish to remain anonymous, but we hope to raise around a quarter-of-a-million pounds through our public appeal for various projects associated with memory of the merchant seamen.

"There are precious few memorials to these brave men in Britain. There is the Tower Hill Memorial in London which commemorates the sailors of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets during the wars, and a memorial to the Arctic convoys recently unveiled in the Orkneys, but there is nothing to mark the loss of the 6,500 Scottish merchant seamen who died in the first and second world wars, the Falklands War and other disasters."

The drawings accompanying the plans show a plinth 4.5 metres high with a cloud obscuring the secret bronze statue at the top.

A series of bronze reliefs will also be attached to the plinth, but the nature of these are also secret.

The works are being designed by renowned Edinburgh sculptor Jill Watson who created the red lion above the door of the Queen's Gallery at Holyrood House.

She also recently completed a series of sculptures in the Borders commemorating the 125th anniversary of the 1881 Eyemouth fishing disaster.

The Trust's directors include John Menzies chairman William Thomson, heir to the company that ran Leith's famous Ben Line vessels which lost 18 ships during the Second World War alone. The directors also include Rear Admiral Roger Lockwood, chief executive of the Royal Lighthouse Board and vice-patron for Scotland of the War Memorials Trust.

The Eyemouth sculpture by Jill Watson can be seen on Adam Browns' "Scottish Monuments, Memorials and Architectural Sculpture" site - click this link for the page for the Eyemouth, Berwickshire 1881 Fishing Disaster

Monday, 22 March 2010

First Fromelles soldiers identified

I should have posted this sooner, but better late than never.

The first 75 soldiers buried at Fromelles have now been identified.

Further information, together with a list of names and images of some of the soldiers can be found at the CWGC blog.

WW2 Gallantry Medals for the Merchant Navy

Another post I'm shamefully copying from Chris Paton's blog (I'm sure he won't mind!):

If you are researching merchant seamen who served in the Second World War then you might be interested to know that an index to Merchant Navy Gallantry awards in series T 335 is now available through The National Archives online catalogue. You can search for awards by the individual seaman or by their ship.

The records show the date the award was gazetted, the medal awarded and the rating of the person at the time as well as the ship he was serving on. However, probably of most use are the citations which give the reasons why the medal was awarded in the first place.

Chelsea Pension records now online

From Find My Past ( via Chris Paton's Scottish Genealogy blog comes some rather exciting news for anyone researching pre-First World War soldiers:


* Most popular records at The National Archives
* In-depth and colourful insight into the lives of ordinary ranking soldiers
* Records include servicemen born in the UK and throughout the world, including India and Jamaica

Today leading family history website launches its most exciting record collection online since the 1911 census - The Chelsea Pensioners' British Army Service Records - in association with The National Archives and in partnership with FamilySearch.

Known as "WO 97" at The National Archives, these most frequently viewed records are now online at for the first time ever. The collection comprises over 6 million full colour images of the service records of soldiers in the British Army in receipt of a pension administered by The Royal Hospital Chelsea, and who were discharged between the dates 1760 and 1913.

Many of the soldiers listed may have served in some of Britain's most significant wars, including the Battle of Waterloo (1815), the Crimean (1853 - 1856) and both Boer Wars (1899 - 1902). The records only list those soldiers who either completed their full service in the army or who were wounded and pensioned out of the army. The records do not include those killed in action or army deserters or officers. Signatures of prominent officers such as that of Robert Baden-Powell can, however, be found on some soldiers' service records.

Each individual soldier's record consists of a bundle of a minimum of four pages, full of fascinating personal details, and could be up to 20 pages long! The details that can be found in these records are invaluable to family and military historians, providing a rich and colourful story of our ancestors' lives, with a level of detail that is hard to find in any other historical records.

Information the records may list

* Date and place of birth
* Age
* Name and address of next of kin
* Height
* Chest size
* Complexion
* Hair colour
* Eye colour
* Distinguishing features
* Rank and regiment
* Occupation before joining the army
* Kit list
* Medical history
* Conduct and character observations
* Countries where, and dates when, the soldier served
* Date the soldier signed up and date of discharge
* Service history including promotions, campaigns and countries where they fought
* Details of marriage and their children's names, baptisms and dates of birth

As well as being some of the most detailed records available to family historians, the records not only include servicemen born in the UK, but also throughout the world, with many soldiers born in India and even the Caribbean. These records are also invaluable to Irish, Scottish and Commonwealth researchers, as many men that joined the British Army from these countries throughout the centuries did so for a number of reasons; personal or economical. Indeed, almost 18 per cent of the soldiers listed in the records were born in Ireland so the records are consequently a fantastic new resource for anyone with Irish ancestry.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Call for Battle of Culloden red coat memorial

From the BBC News website:

A military historian has called for a memorial to soldiers who fought the Jacobites at the Battle of Culloden.

Trevor Royle said the government army has no equivalent to the markers on the battlefield which recall their foes.

Writing in the National Trust for Scotland's magazine, he said little was known of those who served in the red coat regiments on 16 April 1746.

The site where fallen government soldiers were buried was only recently identified by archaeologists.

In the article, Mr Royle said some of the Duke of Cumberland's red coats went on to play a part in unpleasant aspects of the battle's aftermath.

However, he said the thousands who fought at Culloden should be remembered because the battle and regiments involved were important to the future development of the nation and the British Army.

In the latest edition of Scotland in Trust, he writes: "Quite properly, none of Cumberland's regiments was granted Culloden as a battle honour, but 264 years later is it not fitting that their role in the battle should be dignified by a memorial?"

Last summer, a new book on the battle, Culloden: The History and Archaeology of the Last Clan Battle, said the precise location of where fallen government soldiers were buried had been discovered.

University of Glasgow's Dr Tony Pollard, who edited the book, said it was a breakthrough as the grave sites had been previously unknown.

He believed a German coin dated 1752 and found in the Field of the English at Culloden was dropped by a soldier who was visiting the graves when they were still marked.

This location also corresponded with a geophysics anomaly which suggested a pit.

In 2008, the trust launched a search for children with ancestors who fought at Culloden.

After first drawing a blank, a descendent of soldiers who served on both sides was found.

An examination of Inverness schoolboy Philip Nicol's family tree revealed three brothers of the Farquharson family of Allargue in Aberdeenshire.

Two were officers with the Jacobite army, while their brother fought with the government troops.

Bravery honours for Black Watch

Twenty soldiers of the Black Watch have been recognised for their bravery during a tour of duty in Afghanistan last year.

Four have been awarded the Military Cross, which will be presented at a special ceremony at Buckingham Palace at a later date.

Acting Sgt Sean Binnie, 22, from Belfast, has been mentioned in dispatches posthumously.

He was shot dead as he threw a grenade while fighting insurgents last May.

Relatives had travelled from Aberdeen to Trowbridge in Wiltshire to attend the inquest into his death last month, and heard he was killed by a single enemy gunshot.

'Very proud'

Acting Sgt Binnie had married just a few months before his death. He had joined the Army in 2003.

Four other members of the Black Watch, the 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (3 Scots), died during the tour.

Details of the honours were announced at the battalion's Fort George base, near Inverness.

The battalion's commanding officer, Lt Colonel Stephen Cartwright, will become an OBE.

The other honours comprised four military crosses, eight mentioned in dispatches and seven joint commanders' commendations.

Lt Cartwright said he was "very proud" of the courage his soldiers had shown against a "very determined" enemy in a difficult campaign and climate.

In January, soldiers from the Black Watch were presented with campaign medals from the Duke of Rothesay.

Families of three soldiers, killed on active service, received the Elizabeth Cross from Prince Charles in recognition of their loss.

The cross, which was presented for the first time last year, is awarded to next of kin of armed forces personnel killed on active service.

One of the three crosses presented in private by the prince was for a soldier killed in Iraq.

First time

The final group of Black Watch soldiers posted to Afghanistan returned to Scotland in November.

Their homecoming came just days after the funeral of Cpl Thomas Mason, 27, from Fife.

He died in hospital from wounds suffered in an explosion in Kandahar Province on 15 September.

He was flown back to the UK but died at Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham on 25 October.

The funeral for Sgt Stuart "Gus" Millar, another Black Watch soldier killed during the deployment, was held at Fort George in September.

The 40-year-old's wedding to wife Gillian - mother of his young daughter - was held at the same venue.

Sgt Millar, from Inverness, died alongside Pte Kevin Elliott, 24, from Dundee, in Helmand on 31 August.

The soldiers were caught in an explosion when insurgents used rocket-propelled grenades to mount an ambush.

Pte Robert McLaren, 20, from Mull, was also killed in action during the tour of duty.

It was the first time the battalion had been posted to Afghanistan. The soldiers had previously seen action in Iraq.

The battalion moved back to Fort George in 2007 after eight years, during which time they were stationed in Northern Ireland and Germany.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Jane Haining honoured by Prime Minister

I am distantly related to Jane Haining, so I was pleased to see the following on the BBC News yesterday:

Holocaust heroine honoured by PM

The family of a Church of Scotland missionary who died in the Nazi gas chambers has received a posthumous award in her honour at Downing Street.

Dumfriesshire-born Jane Haining worked at a Jewish orphanage in Hungary.

She refused to abandon the children in her care after the invasion by German forces in 1944 and was sent to Auschwitz, where she met her death.

A total of 28 people received the new British Heroes of the Holocaust award from the prime minister.

The creation of the honour was agreed last year.

“ They provide a template of courage for today's young people - and clearly highlight the difference that can be made by standing up against injustice, hatred and prejudice ”
Karen Pollock Holocaust Educational Trust chief executive

It came in response to calls to recognise the efforts of people who helped Jews and others to escape the horrors of the holocaust.

Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown was among those seeking a symbol of recognition.

He led a debate in Westminster asking for a change in the current honours system.

MPs declined to take that action but agreed to look at creating the new award which was due to be collected by Ms Haining's niece.

Jane Haining was gassed to death after being detained by the Gestapo, accused of political activity, helping Jews and of listening to the BBC.

At the outbreak of World War II, she was ordered by the Church to return home to Scotland from Hungary, where she was working with 400 girls in a Jewish orphanage.

Ms Haining, who was originally from Dunscore, was determined to remain with the children.

'Widespread support'

In May 1944 she was sent to Auschwitz concentration camp where she was tattooed as prisoner 79467, and died at the age of 47.

The new awards have been welcomed by Karen Pollock, the chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust.

"We are delighted that our initiative received widespread support and that the British government has given these brave people the recognition they have long deserved," she said.

"They provide a template of courage for today's young people - and clearly highlight the difference that can be made by standing up against injustice, hatred and prejudice.

"Many of these extraordinary British men and women risked their lives and never spoke about it afterwards. They are true unsung heroes."