Monday, 31 October 2011

WWII Lancaster bomber crash site artefacts listed

An interesting article from BBC News today. The Highland Council's Historic Environment Record can be found here.

An engine was among almost 50 items recovered from the wreck of a World War II Lancaster bomber, a Ministry of Defence (MoD) report has revealed.

Six Royal Australian Air Force personnel and an RAF crewman died when the aircraft came down on Balavil Estate, near Kingussie.

A team from RAF Waddington, Lincoln, from where the bomber flew missions, recovered the objects in 2008.

The MoD report listing the items has now been published on a database.

Its entry on Highland Council's Historic Environment Record said more objects were recovered than expected from the wreck site and had included one of the Lancaster's Merlin engines.

The aircraft's camera, an oxygen mask, part of a parachute and a section of the rear gun turret were also recovered.

Part of a propeller blade that was found is now a memorial to airmen killed during World War II in a cemetery at Balavil House on the estate where the bomber crashed.

The other items found are now being cleaned and preserved at RAF Waddington.

Artefacts were recovered from the crash site under a licence and their locations in the landscape were recorded using GPS before being removed.

The crew from 467/463 Sqd were on a night training flight over the Cairngorms and Monadhliath mountain ranges when the bomber came down.

The cause may have been damage as a result of anti-aircraft fire, or freezing conditions, encountered during a mission the previous night.

The six Australian crew members were interred in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in Cambridge, while the sole RAF airman was buried in Glasgow.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Black Watch museum suspends its research service

Just spotted the following when browsing the web today. Hopefully this will be a temporary suspension.

Suspension of Research Enquiries

We are sorry but at present the Museum has suspended its enquiry service. The staff who operate the enquiry services are working hard on improving collections care and management as part of our major redevelopment project.

The project will involve an extension to the castle which will provide:

  •     increased display space
  •     a large area for special exhibitions, education and events
  •     better storage for the Museum and archive collections
  •     an improved shop and ticket office
  •     accessible visitor facilities, including a tea room for visitors
  •     improved parking

The project will involve a major redevelopment of the existing museum building and galleries. We possess a fine collection of artefacts and records spanning the whole history of The Black Watch.  Through this we tell the story of the Regiment and the part it has played in the history of our nation.  We wish to add to, conserve and display our collection so as to honour in perpetuity the memory of the Regiment and the countless men who have served in it.

We therefore cannot respond in any detail to your request at this time. Please see our Tracing a Soldier webpage for further information that may be able to assist in answering your query.

Once again our apologies for not being able to help you at this time

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Day of Remembrance plea to Occupy Glasgow camp

I saw this article in The Herald today. I noticed the camp this week and realised they were camped on the area traditionally used for the Garden of Remembrance - I'll be keeping on an eye on these proceedings with interest.

A veterans’ charity has called on anti-capitalist protesters who have camped on the Garden of Remembrance in the heart of Scotland’s largest city to leave.

The Royal British Legion in Scotland said the Occupy Glasgow group’s encampment in George Square threatens to disrupt the upcoming Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday services in the city.

The demonstration, which takes up a corner of the square near the war memorial opposite the council chambers, has been in situ since October 15 and is made up of about 20 tents with a similar number of full-time residents.

Last week, a woman was raped by two men at the camp, though none of those involved is thought to have been part of the protest.

Last night, Neil Griffiths, spokesman for the Royal British Legion Scotland, said the charity had held discussions with the activists about them leaving so services could take place unimpeded, but their pleas had so far been rebuffed.

He said: “They assured me they would move away from the area needed for the remembrance service, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

“We do not have a problem with their protest, although we do not accept their argument that millions of servicemen died so they could camp in George Square. Our main concern is that their camp disrupts the Garden of Remembrance and the plans for the Armistice service.”

He said the demonstrators would be welcome to attend any of the services, but said a request by them to lay a wreath had been refused as the Royal British Legion does not align itself with any single-issue groups.

Glasgow City Council has issued the camp with a notice of expulsion and will go to court on Tuesday to get an eviction order, clearing the way for the demonstration to be forcibly removed.

The camp’s presence could also affect the Christmas lights switching-on festivities, as well as a fun fair planned for the end of November.

A source at Glasgow City Council said the authority was continuing to hold discussions with the demonstrators. The insider said: “Our first hope is that the sheriff grants the order and it’s complied with.”

Images of the Day - 29th October 2011

As with yesterday's post, some more images courtesy of my wifes grandfather.

As before, we have nextto no information. So, any info provided will be gratefully received.

Some more group photos today. A formal group, and a more relaxed grouping, including at least one rather interesting hat...

Click on the images for a closeup view.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Image of the Day - 28th October 2011

It's been quite a while since we had an image to show you, not through a lack of decent images, just we've had so much going on in recent weeks we've not had a chance to catch our breath!

The next few days I shall be uploading the final images from the album which belonged to my wife's grandfather.

Today's photos feature several group shots. We don't know the identity of any of the men in these photos but there are a variety of distinguishing features. Cap badges are clear in these images, and given my wifes grandfather served in the 10/11th Highland Light Infantry, it seems likely that would be the unit depicted here.

There are also several medal ribbons, wound stripes and overseas service stripes, so it is possible these photos are post-war.

As with previous "image of the day" posts, if you have any further information, please either email us at or add a comment on the post here.

Click on each image for a larger view.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Lanarkshire FHS Events in November

Two events organised by the Lanarkshire Family History Society coming up in November with a military / naval history bent

Thursday 10th November 2011 7:00pm - 9:00pm in the GLO Centre, Motherwell.

Society Meeting: Eric J. Graham "Clyde Built - Blockade Runners of the American Civil War "Author Eric J. Graham has written several books focusing on Scotland's Maritime History

Saturday 19th November 10:00am - 4:00pm at The David Livingstone Centre Blantyre


The National Trust of Scotland's DAVID LIVINGSTONE CENTRE and LANARKSHIRE FAMILY HISTORY SOCIETY are proud to host a Military and Family History Day on Saturday 19th November 10:00am - 4:00pm at The David Livingstone Centre Blantyre

Admission Free

Family History Advice/Help DesksFamily/Local History Bookstall

Military Medals and Memorabilia Display / Military Information Desk

Display of Ex-Military Land Rover Vehicles

Programme of Talks £2

Donation gives entry to all talks.

(Donations going to the Erskine Hospital)

10:30 Starting Your Family Tree Ian McNeill

12:00 Lanarkshire Yeomanry Campbell Thomson

13:30 War Memorials in Lanarkshire & Cameronian War Diaries Allan Colthart

15:00 The Battlefields & Cemeteries of France & Flanders Joseph O'Raw

To book a place at the Talks and for further information:

phone David Livingstone Centre on 0844-493-2207

Hawick War Memorial Highly Commended by RBL

From the Hawick News

Memorial awarded highly commended recognition

HAWICK’S Glorious Dead war memorial has been placed highly commended in the annual Royal British Legion War Memorial competition.
However, there were no points awarded to the Boer War memorial, despite the Hawick branch gifting a duplicate cairn earlier this year.
Chairman of the Hawick Branch of The Royal British Legion Scotland, Jim Coltman (pictured) said: “The award means a lot to us and a lot to the Legion in the town. We know there’s been cutbacks with the parks staff but they’ve really worked hard this year, while two or three of us were down giving them a hand to tidy up beforehand.
“With very little extra work from the parks department, I’m confident we could have been outright winners of the whole thing.”
Branch secretary Brian McLeod said they wished to thank the following for their help in preparing the war memorials for this year’s competition: The Hawick parks department staff, Frank Scott and Jason Hedley (parks manager) at Scottish Borders Council. He added: “We in the Hawick branch will endeavour to assist as is necessary so that we can improve both war memorials for 2012.”

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Missing Coatbridge soldier to be reburied 93 years after his death.

A missing soldier, born in Coatbridge in Lanarkshire who died in the closing stages of the First World War, has been identified by National Defence in Canada. Private Alexander Johnstone was serving with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in France when he was killed in September 1918.

From what I can take from the article below his body was taken off the battlefield and probably buried in a shallow grave. Unfortunately after the war his grave was not found until 2008. He was identified earlier this year through a DNA test on his great-nephew and he will be buried with full military honours on Tuesday.

From the Ottowa Citizen

Great War soldier finds his final resting place

By Jennifer Campbell, The Ottawa Citizen October 17, 2011

OTTAWA — For 90 years, his final resting place was unknown. His service, however was commemorated on the Vimy Memorial near Arras, France, where the names of more than 11,000 other Canadians who have no known grave also appear.
But next week, the remains of Pte. Alexander Johnston, which surfaced when a First World War battlefield became an industrial construction site in 2008, will be buried, with full military honours, at Le Cantimpré Canadian Cemetery in Sailly, France. And his Ottawa-based next of kin will be on hand to see it.
Indeed his great grand-niece, Ann Gregory, who is a bugler with the Governor General’s Foot Guards, will play The Last Post as part of the ceremony. She’s travelling as part of the National Defence delegation and her father, Don Gregory, and brother, David, will also be on hand thanks to Veterans Affairs, which provides funding for two family members to attend. In addition, three of Johnston’s relatives who live in Scotland, where he was born, will also travel to France for the ceremony.
Ann Gregory says her father, who was a jet pilot in the air force, knew about the death but it wasn’t something that she grew up knowing about.
“I guess because it was a long time ago and maybe because he didn’t have a known grave. It wasn’t something we talked about,” she said.
That said, she admits that it’s deeply meaningful to get to play The Last Post at his service. “It’s something that’s very special to me.
As a trumpet player, it’s the biggest honour you can be given. It helps families with closure and honours military service.
“It’s surprisingly emotional for me,” she said. “It’s a person I’ve never met, who died 93 years ago, but somehow it still feels close.
Also, The Last Post brings up emotions. It seems such a shame that someone dies in battle and they die so young.”
She said she’s impressed and touched by how much trouble National Defence took to identify his remains, find his family and “do the right thing” by giving him a proper burial. And, she was amazed they were able to track down her father, who is the last living Canadian who could have provided the mitochondrial (descended from the mother) DNA they prefer to use for testing in these cases (men have mitochondrial DNA but they can’t pass it on to their children.)
Pte. Johnston was born in Coatbridge, Scotland, in 1885 and moved to Hamilton, Ont., in his late 20s. He joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force on Jan. 5, 1918 and was part of the 78th Battalion when he died during the Battle of the Canal du Nord on Sept. 29, 1918. He was 33.
His remains were found less than a kilometre where he died and fought, said Laurel Clegg, casualty identification co-ordinator at National Defence. She was notified in 2008 by the Canadian Embassy, which had been contacted by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. She travelled to France to look at the remains and begin the search for who he was.
Canada has signed an agreement that says no soldiers’ remains (the Unknown Soldier’s notwithstanding) get repatriated to Canada so she is only allowed to bring genetic samples back to Ottawa, and even those she will return to France to be interred with the rest of the remains next week.
“We take it very seriously, the idea that you don’t repatriate because you can’t repatriate them all,” Clegg said. “There’s also the sentiment that he’ll be interred with those he fought with, near to where he died. It does make the investigation more difficult but we stand by it.”
With these investigations — they do (on average) between two and three per year — they do two kinds of sleuthing. First, there’s historical research where they look at badges that might have been found with the remains (in this case there was a 78th Battalion medal) and then military service records to see whose remains were never recovered from that battalion and that area. Then Clegg goes to France to do the physical anthropological research to determine who old the soldier was, how tall, whether he had injuries — “you’re just looking for all these clues.” In some cases, and this is one, there aren’t enough clues, and she then takes a DNA sample as well.
While the historical research determined there were a total of 11 missing from that battalion, only two fit the profile they’d put together.
A genealogist then spent the next year looking for maternal descendants (that is, the soldier’s sister’s daughter’s children in this case) of those two soldiers and in the end found appropriate relatives for both the missing. Once tested, Don Gregory’s DNA was the perfect match.
“We made the identification in March and contacted the family,” Clegg said.
And on Oct. 25, Pte. Alexander Johnston will be buried with his fellow soldiers, less than a kilometre from where he fell.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Gordon Highlanders statue to be unveiled in Aberdeen

Aberdeen City Coucil has posted a press release on their website about an unveiling this Saturday of a memorial to the Gordon Highlanders.

The Duke of Rothesay was the last Colonel-in-Chief of the Gordons and he will unveil the statue at 11am on Saturday 15 October 2011, at the city's Castlegate.

Sculptor Mark Richards FRBS, created the over life-size sculpture which features two Gordon Higlanders, one from the early days of the regiment, and the other from its closing years before amalgamation.

Monday, 10 October 2011

One of "The Few" remembered in Glasgow today

The BBC Scotland News Website reports on the funeral of 19 Squadron Ace Wallace Cunningham from Glasgow, who passed away in Lanarkshire last week.

Funeral for Battle of Britain ace Wallace Cunningham

Wallace Cunningham

A funeral service has been held in Glasgow for a Scottish World War II Spitfire pilot.

Wallace Cunningham, 94, was among Churchill's famous "few" who took part in the Battle of Britain.

During the summer of 1940 he destroyed five German aircraft and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. He later spent three and a half years as a prisoner of war.He died at his retirement home in South Lanarkshire last week.

In a speech in August 1940 Winston Churchill famously said about the Battle of Britain pilots: "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

Mr Cunningham, who was born in Glasgow in 1916 and attended Govan High School, joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve in 1938 and trained to fly at Prestwick.

On the outbreak of war in 1939 he was called up for service and after completing training was posted to 19 Fighter Squadron, based at Duxford in Cambridgeshire.

Dr Jeremy Crag, a historian based at the University of Edinburgh, gave a eulogy at his funeral.

He met the Battle of Britain pilot in the late 1990s and became good friends with him after persuading him to speak to some of his history students about his wartime experiences.

He said: "19 squadron was to become part of Douglas Bader's famous 'Big Wing' during the Battle of Britain and Wallace was in the thick of the fighting.

"During that epic summer he destroyed five German aircraft, making him an Ace.

"It's interesting that was the first Glasgow airman to be awarded the DFC in the Second World War. The citation actually reads that 'Pilot Officer Cunningham...has shown great personal gallantry and splendid skill in action'. "

In 1941 Mr Cunningham's Spitfire was shot down and he crash landed on Rotterdam beach in the Netherlands.

Dr Crag added: "He came to rest close to a German gun post and in the officers' mess there he was given a tomato sandwich and a glass of champagne, and a German major said to him 'for you the war is over'."

Mr Cunningham spent most of the next three and a half years in Stalag Luft III, the camp made famous by the Great Escape.

After the war he worked as an engineer, firstly in Kent, then he returned to Glasgow in 1960.

Dr Crag said: "They are not very many of the 'few' left. Wallace was a very modest and unassuming man. He would never have regarded himself as a war hero.

"But he was a hero and as long as the epic events of the summer of 1940 are remembered, he too will be remembered.

"I think we owe him and his comrades an enormous debt of gratitude."

After the funeral service at Linn Crematorium, near Glasgow, there was an RAF flypast in honour of Mr Cunningham.

Locals divided over commemorating Milton of Campsie submariner

From the Kirkintilloch Herald

THERE have been calls to pay tribute to a war hero born in Milton of Campsie.

Captain George Hunt sank more enemy ships than any other during World War II. Rammed twice, sunk once and bombarded with hundreds of depth charges, the steely-eyed submariner sunk 28 enemy vessels. He died on August 16 in Australia, aged 95.

Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP Fiona McLeod has lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament.

It calls on MSPs to mark his sad passing and to recognise “that he was a most skilled and brave naval officer, whose courage and determination earned him both respect and decoration”.

The motion also notes his full career in the Navy and British High Commission where he earned a reputation for “unsurpassed daring and brilliance, and, in light of what are considered his incredible achievements, supports the campaign for a permanent memorial”.

The Herald has been in touch with Australian author Peter Dornan, who wrote the book ‘Diving Stations – The Story of Captain George Hunt and the Ultor’. He is pleased that Captain Hunt is being remembered locally.

Campsie and Kirkintilloch North councillor David Ritchie said: “I was totally amazed by Captain Hunt’s naval exploits. This man received numerous decorations for his bravery and determination in defeating those who were intent in destroying our democratic way of life and he was truly an unassuming hero.

“To find out that he was born in the village of Milton of Campsie must be recognised by the council and I will be writing to the chief executive of East Dunbartonshire Council to ask what can be done to ensure that his memory lives on.”

However, Councillor Charles Kennedy said Captain Hunt had left Milton of Campsie at a very young age and it was unlikely that a memorial could be created for him in the village.

He said: “He was an incredible man and a man who served his country with great distinction and bravery, any community would be proud to call him one of their own, but I think it would be stretching it a bit for Milton of Campsie to claim him.”

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Assembly Rooms in Wick closed after wartime grenades uncovered

News of wartime munitions found in Wick, courtesy of the John O'Groats Journal and Caithness Courier.

by Alan Shields

A CACHE of at least two dozen Second World War hand grenades have been discovered in the centre of Wick.

Police have confirmed that the Assembly Rooms is closed after multiple cases of what is thought to be No 76 special incendiary grenades were uncovered just behind the building this afternoon.

Northern Constabulary’s Sergeant Ian Sutherland said: “A cache was uncovered on the other side of the wall behind the Assembly Rooms by a person digging the foundation for a flagpole.

“There’s at least a couple of dozen, but we don’t know how deep it goes. They appear to have placed there.”

Sergeant Sutherland added: “It appears they were only really issued to Home Guard units during World War Two, so it’s a bit of mystery how they got there.”

The area has been secured with a police presence and the Assembly Rooms closed as a precaution.

A Royal Navy bomb disposal unit is expected to deal with the munitions tomorrow morning.

The No 76 special incendiary grenade or A.W. bomb (named after manufacturers Albright & Wilson, of Oldbury) was mass produced during the 1940s.

The weapon is essentially a flask containing a volatile mix of yellow phosphorus, benzene and water.

The flask would be thrown at enemies and when broken the contents would instantly ignite producing poisonous fumes and heat – in a similar fashion to modern-day petrol bombs.

For more on the find see Wednesday’s Caithness Courier.

Forest plan reveals wartime secret in "starfish" bunker

An interesting news article from the BBC News today, about a concrete bunker where "decoy lights" were controlled.

A project to plant a new forest on moorland above Dumbarton has unexpectedly revealed a wartime secret.

The Woodland Trust has unearthed a concrete bunker in the centre of the Lang Craigs site that controlled decoy lights.

These tricked German air crews into dropping their bombs away from population and industrial centres.

It was part of a successful campaign of subterfuge which, it was claimed, led to many lives being saved in the Blitz.

The rough moorland above Dumbarton will soon be transformed by the planting of 200,000 trees, providing a wildlife haven and amenity for local people.

A sham

It is empty now, apart from some grazing cattle. But during the Second World War, it was top secret, with War Office signs warning passers-by away.

Its work came to the fore on May 5, 1941 when the Luftwaffe raided Dumbarton.

Air crews saw explosions and fires on the ground as they dropped their bombs; but they were a sham -- decoys, controlled from a concrete bunker in the middle of Lang Craigs.

It was part of a network of SF or "starfish" bunkers, named after the wartime code for "secret fires."

Lights, spread out on the ground, simulated the outline of a town or industrial complex, tricking the bomber crews into targeting what was in reality an empty site.

It appears many of the German bombs on the raid over Dumbarton dropped harmlessly onto the Lang Craigs moor.

It was littered with debris when 11-year-old Bill McLeod cycled up the next morning.

"As I turned into the farm, the large barn that was there, there was still smoke coming out of the top of it," the 82-year-old said.

"There were two huge big bomb craters in the field and there was an unexploded bomb on the other side of the wood, which the farmer took me to see for some reason!"

Control room

The bunker, which had two rooms under a mound of earth and concrete is now derelict, but the charity creating the new woodland wants to use it as way of telling the unusual history of the site.

"We think there was a control room inside, and also an engine room providing electrical power to some of the decoy systems," said Roy Barlow, site manager for the Woodland Trust which has bought the land.

"Out on the moors there would be fires which were meant to simulate a town which had already been bombed, so that further waves of bombers would come and drop their bombs on the moor instead of on the town."

The RAF which controlled the starfish sites across the UK said after the War that 674 night attacks were delivered on decoy lights and fires during the Blitz.

Seventeen people died in the 1941 Dumbarton raid -- compared to more than 1,000 two months earlier in the Clydebank Blitz further up the river.

To commemorate the dead, 17 young trees have already been planted in the new woodland.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Scots soldiers honoured for Afghan bravery

From the BBC News website. Congratulations to all members of our armed forces honoured. You can see the full list of Honours and Awards on the MOD website here and read more about some of the awards here.

An army dog handler from Fife who died along with his record-breaking spaniel in Afghanistan has been given a posthumous award for his bravery.

L/Cpl Liam Tasker, from the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, received a Mention In Despatches, the oldest recognition of gallantry in the Armed Forces.

He was shot by insurgents while on patrol with his specialist arms and explosives search dog, Theo.

He is one of 140 soldiers on the latest Operational Honours list.

The list includes awards for Scots who rescued injured soldiers while under fire, and charged enemy positions.

Ardrossan soldier Sgt Glen Gardiner, of the 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, received the Military Cross for running through enemy fire to try to save the life of an Afghan National Army soldier who had been critically wounded.

The 35-year-old said it was a normal part of life as a soldier in Afghanistan, and the day of the incident "wasn't different to any other day".

He said: "People say you must have the adrenalin going, however it was just a normal day."

The soldier, who was blown off his feet by enemy fire in a separate incident, added: "It's a job. There's set standards, there's set drills that you put in place, and those set drills and standards save lives."

Life-saving heroics
Skye Army Officer, Captain Iain Curren also received a Military Cross. The 29-year-old, of The Royal Highland Fusiliers, commanded an infantry platoon in an extremely dangerous area, and charged an enemy ambush twice to rescue an injured soldier.

A Mention In Despatches was awarded to Port Glasgow soldier Cpl Scott Cox, for his life-saving heroics charging a Taliban machine-gun post while serving in Afghanistan.

He said: "My team and I were conducting traditional dismounted infantry operations on a daily basis and that is exactly the reason that I joined the Army and specifically the Infantry."

Fife soldier, Warrant Officer Class 2 Iain Martin received a Queen's Commendation for Bravery for his work defusing Improvised Explosive Devices.

A Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service was awarded to officers including: Glasgow Army Officer Lt Col Dougald Graham, Fife Army Officer Maj Nick Wight-Boycott, and Edinburgh Army Officer Maj Piers Strudwick.

A Peebles soldier is also to receive a Mention in Despatches.

Lt James MacDonald of the third Battalion The Parachute Regiment put himself in the firing line to identify a Taliban sharpshooter earlier this year - before leading a team to neutralise the threat.

The awards are for actions approximately during the period from 1 October 2010 to 31 March 2011.