SCOTLAND’S CENTENARY TRIBUTE:
Teen honours relatives who fought in Great War
Pause. For the immortal dead, Who sowed their bodies with a fervent gladness. That we might reap their spirits, tread, Through our silent streets in sadness. The Haunted Hour Anonymous, November 11, 1919
Standing with his head bowed, 16-year- old Dylan McLaren silently honours three members of his family who sailed off on the same ship to fight in the Great War.
Visibly moved, the teenager, from Broughty Ferry, Dundee, lays a wreath in memory of Lance Corporal James Armour, who died just weeks before the Armistice on October 15, 1918.
Dylan is also remembering William G Scrimger, who survived the Somme and made it back, and John Thornton, who landed in France in 1914 but was sent home because at 45 he was too old to fight.
All three men were willing to bravely lay down their lives for king and country and Dylan is determined their heroism will never be forgotten and will live on through him.
The Grove Academy pupil said: “I only found out last year from my granny that I had not one but three relations who were involved in World War 1.
“I couldn’t believe it when she pulled out the photo of the three men and told me they all sailed off to France in 1914 but James, who was my great- greatgranny’s cousin, didn’t come back.
“I felt even sadder when I found out that James, who served with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, had made it all the way through to the end of the war only to be shot in Belgium just weeks before the Armistice. If only he could have made it a few more days. He was only 22.”
The fifth-year student added: “William, who is my great- great- grandfather, survived being gassed at the Somme and made it safely back to Dundee, where he was a lithographer. He was 24 when he left for France and lived until he was 50, when he died from an illness he picked up in the trenches.
“Then, there’s my great- great- great grandad John, who enjoyed the Boer War so much he lied about his age so he could go to war with his nephew James and his son-in-law William and keep them safe.
“The truth was uncovered when he reached France and he was sent straight back to Scotland. He went back to his barber shop in DDundee,
where he hadha left a sign on the door which read, ‘Back after the War’.” Dylan was so moved by the roles his family played in the war, he tracked down James’s grave and in September, while on a school history trip, he went and paid his respects.
He said: “After doing some research, I discovered James had been laid to rest in Cement House Cemetery in Langemark, just north of Ypres.
“I didn’t realise just how emotional and powerful standing at his graveside would be. He had lain there for 100 years, yet I was the first member of his family to visit him. The enormity of it took my breath away.
“I laid a cross with a poppy beneath the headstone, inscribed with the words: ‘ Thank you for your sacrifice, with love from the family.’ I plan to keep going back out to Belgium to visit James’s grave. I will never let him be forgotten.”
Dylan’s history teacher John Anderson said: “We’ve been visiting the World War I battlefields and cemeteries for 10 years now and every trip has been as emotional, if not more so, than the last.
“You can see the true magnitude of the Great War hit the pupils when we go into the first cemetery and they see the row upon row of crosses.
“It really hits home when students like Dylan can lead us to the grave of one of their relations and are able to talk about them with some passion.”
He added: “Grove Academy lost 93 pupils in the Great War and as a school we do what we can to ensure they and all the other men who gave their lives are remembered.”
Dylan’s granny Norma McLaren, 72, is proud of her grandson for honouring their family. She said: “I had tears in my eyes when he told me what he had written on the cross he had left on James Armour’s grave. It was such a lovely tribute.
“My grandfather William and greatgrandfather John miraculously survived the war. If only James had been able to dodge that bullet, he would have made it home too.
“Thanks to Dylan, James’s memory and that of William and John live on and hopefully will continue to do so through his children and their children.”
When Dylan takes part in today’s two- minute silence to mark the centenary of the end of World War I, he will once again think of the brave trio.
I plan to keep going back to visit James’s grave
TRIBUTE Dylan with grandmother Norma, top. Above, with classmates in Ypres. Right, James, William (seated) and John before setting off for war. Far right, James’s grave