Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Search on for relatives of city war trio killed in barn

The following article by Gemma Fraser appeared in The Scotsman yesterday:

A French historian is hoping to trace the families of three Edinburgh soldiers killed in a bomb blast in his barn more than 90 years ago.
William Marr Constable, Charles F Fox and Andrew Scott Greig all died on June 6, 1918, on a farm in the village of Flêtre in northern France.

Farm owner Didier Godderis has been trying to discover the story behind his home for ten years and has called on the help of local historian Yvonne McEwan, honorary fellow at Edinburgh university's Centre for the Study of the Two World Wars. Along with her husband Alistair, she has managed to find out details of the soldiers' families from the 1901 census and from birth records.

The hope is that surviving relatives of the three soldiers can be traced as Mr Godderis plans to hold a memorial service for them.

Dr McEwan has recently launched an online archive called Edinburgh's War, which tells the stories of those left at home and the contributions they made to the war effort.

She said: "It seems like such a beautiful story. The families here may never even know that the remains of their loved ones are buried in France.

"The local people want to put on a ceremony to commemorate the soldiers and it would be only right that their families are there. If anyone recognises the story, then they can come forward."

Mr Godderis was told the history of the barn when he bought the farm 13 years ago.

He said: "I have been looking for the story of my farm for ten years. When I bought it in 1997, the former owners said to me that the barn had been bombed in 1918 (the house too), and I found bullets and a bayonet.

"A few months later, a friend of mine, a neighbour, gave me an extract from the battalion war diary of the 7th Seaforth Highlanders.

"During the battle of Meteren and Bailleul in June 1918, I understood from this document that seven soldiers of 'B company' were killed by the bombing (on] June 6, 1918, dying on my farm.

"I realised that it was my farm as it was the only one bombed in 1918, and because of the relics found, but we didn't get their names, and so didn't know where they were buried."

However, in April this year, Mr Godderis' friend found the graves of 30 Seaforth Highlanders in Caëstre military cemetery, near Flêtre. Seven of the soldiers were discovered to have died on June 6, 1918, three of whom were from Edinburgh.

Mr Godderis wants to honour the soldiers by organising a ceremony to take place on June 10, 2012. If anyone has information, contact Dr McEwan through www.edinburghs-war.ed.ac.uk or on 0131-651 1254.

Lives lost

• Constable William Marr
Lance Corporal
Service Number S/23861
30 years old

William Marr Constable, husband of Margaret Constable, was the first son of George McRitchie Constable, a joiner, and Isabella Marr Constable, of Willowbrae Road, Edinburgh. His younger brother, George, was born in 1894, worked as a lift attendant and joined the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders on 5 January 1912. Sisters were Isabella, born 1892, and Jane, born 1897.

• Charles F Fox
Service Number 203147
41 years old

Charles F Fox was the younger son of John Henry Fox, a butcher's assistant, and Hannah Fox, of Guthrie Street, Edinburgh. Siblings were Louis Henry, born 1875, Mina D, born 1876, Emily Louisa, born 1877, Mary C, born 1881, Edith Eliza, born 1886, Rose P, born 1889, Kosima, born 1891, Anna, born 1892, Sarah, born 1894, Agnes, born 1896 and Alice, born 1899. Both parents, Louis Henry, Mina, Emily Louisa and Charles were born in Germany.

• Andrew Scott Greig
Service Number S/3205
30 years old

Andrew Scott Greig was the younger son of James Greig, a joiner, and Helen Greig, of Dalmeny Street. Siblings were George, born 1879, Jane B, born 1881 and Jemima, born 1886.

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