How we hon­our the fallen is chang­ing

The Herald Magazine - - CONTENTS -

THEY were known as Glad and Rats and in the heat of war they were the best of friends. Glad was Wil­liam Glad­stone-Mil­lar, a newly qual­i­fied Church of Scot­land min­is­ter, whose first par­ish was in the Gor­bals in Glas­gow. Rats was Wil­liam Rad­cliffe, a young Welsh­man who got his nick­name be­cause he was a dab hand at deal­ing with the ver­min in the trenches.

On July 20, 1918, both men were fight­ing in the Sec­ond Bat­tle of the Marne when Rats was shot and killed. With the bul­lets rat­tling ev­ery­where, Glad had to bury his friend then keep on fight­ing. He never for­got what he had to do that day and years later he went back to France to try to find the spot where his friend had died. For the rest of his life, he kept on re­mem­ber­ing. This is a story about re­mem­ber­ing.

In par­tic­u­lar, this is a story about the way we re­mem­ber. This week­end, na­tional ser­vices of re­mem­brance will be held, with al­most ev­ery vil­lage and town in Bri­tain

tak­ing part in some way. Most of the war memo­ri­als – there are some 8,000 in Scot­land – were erected af­ter the First World War in the big­gest col­lec­tive act of mourn­ing and re­mem­brance ever seen, and they are still im­por­tant to us, they are still be­ing built and names are still be­ing added. Many fea­ture stat­ues of a soli­tary sol­dier but some – such as the Camero­ni­ans (Scot­tish Ri­fles) War Memo­rial in Kelv­in­grove Park, Glas­gow – cap­ture the drama of war.

More than 100 years af­ter the out­break of the First World War, the way we re­mem­ber is also evolv­ing – we are chang­ing how we re­mem­ber, and who, and why.

Lynne Glad­stone-Mil­lar, the daugh­ter of Wil­liam “Glad” Glad­stone-Mil­lar, is one of those who are do­ing it dif­fer­ently. The 85-year-old has cho­sen to plant a tree in a memo­rial wood in the Pent­land Hills and, over a cup of tea at her home in Colin­ton, she tells me why.

Her fa­ther never quite found peace of mind over what hap­pened to Rats, she says – a cou­ple of times he trudged round the woods in France for hours look­ing for the spot where his friend fell – and plant­ing a tree for Rats is a way of fin­ish­ing the job for him.

“I thought, this is some­thing I could do that my fa­ther wasn’t able to,” she says.

Lynne also likes the idea of peo­ple hav­ing some­where to go and the memo­rial wood pro­vides that.

Es­tab­lished by the Wood­land Trust to mark the cen­te­nary of the First World War, some 10,000 trees have been planted at the site in the Pent­land Hills and the plan is that even­tu­ally there will be 23,000.

It is a con­stantly chang­ing act of re­mem­brance, but it is also for the in­di­vid­u­als – men like 2nd Lieu­tenant Wil­liam Rad­cliffe of the Argyll and Suther­land High­landers and his com­rade-in-arms, Cap­tain WE Glad­stoneMil­lar. But as far as Lynne is con­cerned, it is a col­lec­tive act too – it is for ev­ery­one.

I speak to Frances More­ton, the di­rec­tor of the War Memo­ri­als Trust, which works for the pro­tec­tion and con­ser­va­tion of war memo­ri­als, who tells me that she recog­nises Lynne’s need to have some­thing phys­i­cal.

The ear­li­est recorded war memo­rial in Scot­land is a 7th-cen­tury stone mark­ing the Bat­tle of Dun­nichen, near For­far, be­tween the Picts and the Northum­bri­ans. “It’s a nat­u­ral hu­man in­stinct to com­mem­o­rate in a phys­i­cal form,” says More­ton.

How­ever, ac­cord­ing to More­ton, there has been a change in peo­ple’s re­la­tion­ship with war memo­ri­als over the years. When First World War memo­ri­als were be­ing built af­ter 1918, it was about giv­ing fam­i­lies and friends some­where to mourn be­cause in most cases the dead soldiers’ bod­ies had not been repa­tri­ated. But a cen­tury later, peo­ple see their pur­pose dif­fer­ently.

“Af­ter the First World War, the memo­ri­als were for the in­di­vid­u­als and were in place of the graves,” says More­ton. “More re­cently, we’ve found that peo­ple want to com­mem­o­rate the con­flict it­self.” In other words, memo­ri­als have be­come a re­minder of wars and, of course, a warn­ing against them.

How­ever, their pur­pose as phys­i­cal re­minders for in­di­vid­u­als has not dis­ap­peared – in­deed, names are still be­ing added to memo­ri­als and not just for soldiers who have been killed in re­cent con­flicts such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Niall Love, from Manch­ester, has re­cently suc­ceeded in hav­ing the name of his great-un­cle Alexan­der Stephens added to the war memo­rial in New Cum­nock in Ayr­shire, but he says it was not easy.

“The fam­ily in New Cum­nock spent many years won­der­ing why their un­cle Alex’s name was not on the war memo­rial in the vil­lage,” says Niall, and although he has still not es­tab­lished why, he be­came de­ter­mined to do some­thing about it.

What we know of Alexan­der Stephens is that he was born in Lyb­ster in Caith­ness be­fore mov­ing to Ayr­shire when his mother took up do­mes­tic ser­vice at Dum­fries House. Later, we pick him up en­list­ing in Perth, Aus­tralia – how he came to be there is not known – be­fore be­ing sent to the front where he fought at Gal­lipoli and then the Somme. He was killed in ac­tion on July 29, 1915

AF­TER a long and dif­fi­cult process, that fact is now recorded on the New Cum­nock memo­rial in shiny new gold let­ters carved in the stone and Niall is pleased and frus­trated in equal mea­sure. “I was ful­fill­ing my fam­ily’s wishes,” he says. “But it took so long, most of the fam­ily had passed away be­fore it be­came re­al­ity.”

He says part of the prob­lem was find­ing some­one who would take re­spon­si­bil­ity for the memo­rial – in the end, East Ayr­shire Coun­cil ar­ranged it – and More­ton ad­mits this is a com­mon prob­lem.

“It’s a chal­leng­ing area,” she says. “In terms of more re­cent ca­su­al­ties, we tend to see those rel­a­tively eas­ily added if a fam­ily wants to do so. In terms of his­toric names, it is a chal­lenge be­cause peo­ple of­ten don’t recog­nise the com­plex­i­ties of it. There are some peo­ple who were missed but they are a rel­a­tively small num­ber.”

More­ton says that peo­ple can find it hard to un­der­stand that some fam­i­lies at the time did not want their loved one on the memo­rial – per­haps be­cause they still nursed the hope that they might turn up alive, per­haps be­cause they did not want to see a re­minder of their loss ev­ery day.

“The ques­tion is: is it our right to change that to­day?” says More­ton.

One of the other is­sues is that there are no rules about memo­ri­als, no cen­tral au­thor­ity and no stan­dard­ised way of deal­ing with them, but ul­ti­mately the de­ci­sions about a memo­rial, in­clud­ing which names to add to it, are made by the per­son who is re­spon­si­ble for it in the lo­cal com­mu­nity. In some places, there may be no one, which means that, in the­ory, some­one could just hire a stone­ma­son and have their rel­a­tive’s name added.

“They would have to check if it was pro­tected in any way, if it was listed, for ex­am­ple,” says More­ton. “We had a case re­cently where some­one did just that and then dis­cov­ered that it’s a listed memo­rial and they had bro­ken the law.”

More­ton’s ad­vice is to send feel­ers out through the press and so­cial me­dia to find out who is re­spon­si­ble.

Where com­mu­ni­ties are tak­ing care of

I was ful­fill­ing my fam­ily’s wishes, but it took so long most of them had passed away be­fore it be­came re­al­ity

their memo­ri­als – and it is the vast ma­jor­ity (only about eight per cent in the UK are in a poor con­di­tion) – they are fre­quently used as an ed­u­ca­tional tool. Of­ten, in­di­vid­u­als, schools or com­mu­nity groups will set about telling the sto­ries be­hind the names on their memo­rial. One ex­am­ple is Gorgie and Be­yond, by Ed­ward S Flint, which lists the 1,600 war dead and other ca­su­al­ties of the Ed­in­burgh districts of Gorgie, Dalry, Dundee Street, Slate­ford Road and Shan­don. Sud­denly, the names in gran­ite are real sto­ries, real peo­ple.

More­ton says this de­sire to in­ter­act with war memo­ri­als re­flects well on how we memo­ri­alise and re­mem­ber. “This is a coun­try that looks af­ter memo­ri­als,” she says. “We cher­ish and care for them.”

It is also a con­tin­u­ing project, with new memo­ri­als be­ing cre­ated all the time. Ear­lier this year, for ex­am­ple, the Queen un­veiled a new memo­rial in Lon­don to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A memo­rial to the African and Caribbean soldiers of the two World Wars was also un­veiled in June, per­haps sug­gest­ing that our war memo­ri­als do not al­ways in­clude ev­ery­one who made a con­tri­bu­tion.

And then there is the memo­rial wood in Ed­in­burgh, where the tree in mem­ory of Rats is grow­ing. Lynne Glad­stone-Mil­lar says she had the tree planted on be­half of her fa­ther, who won the Mil­i­tary Cross for his courage on the day he buried Rats, but it’s also about do­ing some­thing that she felt that her fa­ther couldn’t.

She tells me about an en­try in his jour­nal from 1964, when he went back once again to see if he could find the spot where he had buried Rats. Later, he went to the Mar­faux mil­i­tary ceme­tery and wrote down what he felt about his com­rades.

“Now there is no sor­row here, only pride,” he wrote. “There is the scent of the roses and of new mown hay. The sun shines in a clear sky. There is si­lence for a mo­ment. There is no bird­song. There is only beauty and there is mem­ory.”

Best friends Wil­liam Glad­stoneMil­lar, above, and Wil­liam Rad­cliffe

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