We Will Remember Them?

Tomorrow sees the 101st anniversary of the death of my Great Great Uncle, 28337 Lance Corporal Joshua Bartle Gailes of the 20th Bn Durham Light Infantry.  He was killed by German artillery as he emerged from the Queen Victoria Communication Trench at St Eloi, near Ypres on Tuesday, 3rd April 1917 and is buried in the Klein Vierstraat Cemetery only a few miles away.  There are, as far as I can tell, another two family members who met their end serving in the First World War: a cousin, PLY/911(S) Private Robert Thomas Platten of the 2nd Bn Royal Marine Light Infantry who fought at Gallipoli, on the Ancre, was killed during the Battle of Arras at Gavrelle on 28th April 1917, and is ‘known unto God’.  The other, another cousin, 143023 Private Adam Barron McClellan of the 25th Bn Machine Gun Corps (Infantry), died of his wounds on 16 April 1918, having been captured at Bailleul in the Georgette Offensive; he is buried at Ghent.

In addition, there are perhaps a dozen other family members, miners and labourers in the Edwardian era, for whom the Army represented a release.  My Great Grandfather, who fought on the Somme and at Passchendaele, survived the War, and died an alcoholic in 1961.  A Great, Great Uncle joined up in 1915 and apart from a brief spell at Gallipoli spent the war guarding Malta, being famously wounded by a bullet in the arse!  His brother manned a howitzer on the Somme.  In recent weeks, I have discovered cousins who fought on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, with differing degrees of success; one, a Lance Sergeant in the Tyneside Irish, witnessed over 50% casualties in his Unit and subsequently fought at Ypres and during the German Spring Offensives, the other, a Private in the 8th Bn, Norfolk Regiment had a far more successful first day and survived the War albeit after taking part in numerous other actions.

In recent weeks, I have been involved in four Battlefield Tours taking children from England out to Ypres, and down to the Somme.  In all, I would imagine I have escorted almost 200 children, of whom only a handful profess to have family members who fought or died, but all of whom will stand at the Menin Gate in Ypres and respectfully repeat, ‘We Will Remember Them’ at eight o’clock each evening.  Now, I am not being supercilious; I was brought up in a Service family, told to keep the Silence on Remembrance Day on pain of death, and had no knowledge of family members who would then have been elderly veterans (yes, I am that old).  I was thus in the same boat as all the kids taken to Flanders in the last two months at their age, it wasn’t that I didn’t care, just that I didn’t know!!  I have only become aware of the ‘Barnes Platoon’ since 2010, and was the first of my family to visit Joshua’s grave. in almost a hundred years, in February 2015, perhaps one has to turn 40 to find these things vital.

When I was stood at the Gate a fortnight ago, I heard several people complaining that the young kids had ‘no respect’, I would challenge that; they respect what they know and it is down to us Oldies to ensure that kids understand both Remembrance and their own personal stories.  We need to take the plank from our own eyes before we worry about kids’ splinters!  So grown-ups, research your family platoons and tell your kids about them before Remembrance becomes meaningless.  Lets not lose faith with those who lie in Flanders Fields.

All the best,

Barney

 

 

7 thoughts on “We Will Remember Them?

  1. Congratulations on your blog. I came across it after searching for Adam McLellan who you mention above. I am currently attempting to compile a Roll of Honour for members of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland (a small liberal church in Ireland) who served in the First World War. I am very pleased to find your blog because there is a death notice for your relative in the December 1918, Number 138, issue of the ‘Non-Subscribing Presbyterian’. Death notices would be paid for by somebody or other but this notice gives no indication of any church connection. I can’t find his name anywhere else and he doesn’t turn up in any of the listings I have been able to put together so far. I see from the CWGC site that his parents lived in Cumberland. Would you know if he had any connection with anywhere in Northern Ireland? I wonder did you know this notice appears here? The notice reads as follows:
    Death
    McLellan – At the Military Hospital, Ghent, Flanders, on April 16th, 1918, Adam McLellan, No.4 Section, D Company, 25th Batt., M.C.G., B.E.F., France. Wounded and prisoner of war.
    If I can I would like to be able to include him in our Roll because he must have had some connection but you might be interested to know this anyway.
    All the best,
    David

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    • Hi David,

      Adam McLellan is a distant cousin. To the best of my knowledge, at least on his father’s side, there is no real connection to Northern Ireland. He was a Presbyterian, and I suspect that his mother may have had connections with Northern Ireland. I would love to see him remembered in Northern Ireland; my father, my sister, and I all served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles and would be honoured to have our relative recognised in this way.

      All the very best,

      Barney

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      • Hi Barney,
        There must have been a strong connection for someone to record his death in the NSP magazine. So far I have not come across his name anywhere else. I am tempted to add his name to the list for York Street Church. This church and its records were destroyed during the blitz of 1941 so we can never be sure who was on their roll, but we know that about six members gave their lives. So perhaps he or his mother belonged there? He wasn’t married was he?
        But thank you for your help.
        Best wishes,
        David

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  2. Hi again Barney,

    Would you by any chance know the name and maiden name of Adam McLellan’s mother? I am trying to find a family link with a particular church and that would be quite helpful.

    Thanks,

    David

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      • Hi Barney,

        Thanks for taking the trouble to reply. I would be keen to include Adam McLellan in our Roll of Honour but would like to see some connection with one of our congregations. I thought perhaps his mother might have either a name I would recognise as connected with one of our churches or had some Northern Ireland links but it looks like both his parents were Scottish and then they moved to Cumberland. Yet someone had a reason for posting a notice about his death in the small circulation magazine of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland that only circulated in Northern Ireland.

        Anyway I apologise for keeping asking you for information but I would love to know what the connection was, although it doesn’t look like there is any obvious solution to this puzzle.

        Thank you very much for all your help.

        Best wishes,

        David

        Rev Dr David Steers

        Editor, The Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society

        Blog: https://velvethummingbee.wordpress.com/

        Website: http://www.unitarianhistory.org.uk/

        ________________________________

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      • Hi David,

        Unfortunately, I have no record of his mother’s parents, however, in the 1901 Census the family is visited by Sarah Russell who lived in Ireland and was of independent means. She was born in 1844 and the family were drapers and weavers. Might that be more useful?

        Like

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