Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Re-dedication of Black Watch memorial

From The Courier:

RINCE CHARLES will be in Dundee on Sunday to attend the rededication service of The Black Watch memorial his grandmother, the late Queen Mother, unveiled on the outskirts of the city exactly 50 years ago.

The bronze of a Black Watch soldier stands at Powrie Brae against the backdrop of the Angus countryside and commemorates the sacrifice of more than 440 4th and 5th Battalion Black Watch soldiers who died in the second world war.

Over the years it has proved a site of pilgrimage, remembrance and reflection for those associated with the wartime Dundee City and County of Angus battalions.

“The landmark statue stands with his feet in Angus but overlooks the city of Dundee, commemorating the loss of lads from both the rural and urban battalions,” Black Watch Association secretary Major Ronnie Proctor said.

“Unfortunately years standing out in all weathers had taken their toll on our old soldier and urgent restoration was required to stop it deteriorating beyond repair.”

Around £12,000 was raised by grant aid and Black Watch Association fund-raising to restore the statue and on Sunday Prince Charles will follow in the Queen Mother’s footsteps as royal patron of The Black Watch Association to rededicate the memorial.

The prince will be joined by second world war veterans of the Dundee and Angus battalions, some of whom attended the original ceremony in October 1959.

Serving Black Watch soldiers of 3rd Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland, Territorial Army soldiers of the 51st Highland Volunteers, members of the Angus and Dundee Battalion of the Army Cadet Force, Black Watch veterans and their families will also join civic heads and the public to mark the occasion.

Sunday’s service will begin at 12.30pm and will be conducted jointly by the Right Rev Vincent Logan, Bishop of Dunkeld, former Black Watch national serviceman the Rev Canon Peter Allen, and the Rev Bob Wightman, Dundee Combined Forces Association chaplain.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Union Jack flown at Trafalgar for sale

From the BBC News website:

Trafalgar union jack up for sale

The only surviving union jack from the Battle of Trafalgar could fetch £15,000 at auction after it was found in a drawer, auctioneers say.

The flag was flown from one of Nelson's warships, HMS Spartiate, in the naval battle off the Spanish coast in 1805.

It was presented by the 540-strong crew to Fife-born Lieutenant James Clephan after the conflict, a high honour bestowed upon an officer by his men.

The flag is being sold by one of his descendants living in Australia.

Clephan, who later went on to command his own ship, was one of the few men to have risen through the ranks and was greatly admired by his crew.

The flag, measuring 7ft 4in x 11ft 7in, is made of 31 panels sewn together by the crew on board the ship.

It bears a number of "battle scars" - holes caused by shot and shell splinter damage sustained during the conflict.

The union jack will go under the hammer later this month after being put up for sale by one of Clephan's descendants.

“ I think it's hard to overstate the historical importance of this flag ”
Charles Miller Flag owner

It was treasured by his family, who kept it in a drawer to preserve it.

Auctioneers expect the flag to fetch £10,000 to £15,000.

Charles Miller, through his own auction house, is selling the piece in London on 21 October, Trafalgar Day.

He said the flag was the only known surviving union jack from the battle.

"I think it's hard to overstate the historical importance of this flag," he said.

"This was the greatest naval action ever fought.

"The great thing about the flag is it's one of the most emblematic items you can get from Trafalgar.

"This is a bit of naval hardware that has actually served in the action."

Clephan, from Scoonie in Fife, spent his early years as an apprentice weaver and went on to join the Merchant Navy.

He retired in 1840 with the rank of captain and lived in Edinburgh for 11 years until his death at the age of 83.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

The Fife Military History Project

Among the many interesting people I met at the Fife Family History Fair on Saturday was one gentleman who has undertaken a very ambitious but fascinating project. I got hold of a copy of one of his "flyers", and I'm sure he won't mind me reprinting the text here for anyone who might be interested:

Did your Ancestors guard prisoners of war with the Fife Militia, ride in the Fifeshire Yeomanry or join thousands of others in the Volunteers guarding the Fife coast against the French in the Napoleonic Wars?

Did they join the Volunteer movement in the Victorian era and join the Fife Rifle Volunteers, Fife Artillery Volunteers or Fife Light Horse?

Did they join up in the Great War and serve in the 7th (Fife) Royal Highlanders, Fife Royal Garrison Artillery or Fife and Forfar Yeomanry?

The Fife Military Project is an attempt to gather as much information as possible about Fifeshire's Militia, Volunteer and Territorial past and publish a website that will enable their descendants to learn more about them.

To illustrate the kind of information that I am acquiring from archives here is an extract of one of my ancestor's pension documents transcribed from the National Archives in Kew.

"His Majesty's Second Battalion. Royal Regiment Of Artillery. Whereof the Marquis of Anglesey is Colonel.

These are to certify That Sgt Andrew Gordon born in the Parish of Balmerino in or near the town of Balmerino in the County of Fife was enlisted for the aforesaid regiment at Yarmouth in the County of Norfolk on the Twenty third Day of April 1805 at the age of nineteen for unlimited service from the Fifeshire Militia. That he has served for the space ofTwenty two years and two hundred forty four Days, after the age of Eighteen"

"To prevent any improper use being made of this discharge, by its falling into other hands, the following is a Description of the said Andrew Gordon. He is about forty two Years of Age, is 6 Feet, Inches in height, Black Hair, Blue Eyes, Dark Complexion; and by Trade or Occupation a Shoemaker"

My name is Richard Dickens and I've spent the last 7 years researching into Fife's military heritage and I'm hoping you may be able to help with this project.

Please contact me at fifemilitia@googlemail.com if you have any information, items, pictures or documents on relatives who served in the Fife regiments.

I will be ready to bring the Fife Military Project online in the next year starting with a complete database of every soldier who served in the Fife Militia from 1798-1855.

I wish Richard every success with his project, and I look forward to seeing the results of his research. I'll be contacting Richard myself to see what assistance the Scottish Military Research Group can provide.