1918-2008: Ninety Years of Remembrance

Soldier Record

Alfred Findlay

Contributed by: Davina Bowler, on 2008-11-16

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First Name Alfred
Surname Findlay
Year of Birth 1896
Year of Death 1917
Regiment Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment)
Place of Wartime Residence Arbroath, Angus

Alfred's Story

Private Alfred Findlay was my great-uncle, the youngest of my grandmother's brothers and sisters. They were born and brought up in Arbroath where Alfred enlisted in the 5th Battalion of the Black Watch, the Territorials, in 1912. His attestation of 1913 when he was just 17 didn't require the signature of a parent and he volunteered to go to France with the Royal Highlanders when war broke out in 1914. Like so many young men of his generation their courage in joining up meant he did not live to finish his apprenticeship, get married or have a family of his own. What happened to him was to cut his life so short.

joining up meant he did not live to finish his apprenticeship, get married or have a family of his own

Alfred was first shot in the shoulder on 28 January 1915 near Neuve Chapelle. He was wounded again, this time in the knee by shrapnel, on 3 September 1916 at Hamel, near Thiepval, and sent back to the UK. He had been complaining of feeling unwell and his medical records show he had contracted TB in the trenches of the Somme in August 1916. He was sent to the military hospital in Belfast, but was judged so ill as to be unfit for military or service in any walk of life, and discharge on 30 March 1917. He returned to his family who were now living in Newcastle. My grandma said he was so ill that he was hanging onto the railings along her street trying to reach her door. Alfred died on 2 November 1917 and was buried in a military grave in Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne.

Only this year have I discovered Alfred's grave, a mere quarter of a mile from where my daughter was living in university student digs, in a city where I was brought up in and amid stories of Uncle Alfred and how my dad was named in memory of this much-loved young man. I thought he was buried in Scotland, but with the help of Ian Edwards, contacted through the Royal Highlanders website, I was furnished with Alfred's war records, medical records, newspaper reports and place of burial. The Black Watch in Newcastle had cleaned up his grave and rededicated it last year. I was able to apply to the National Scottish War Memorial who now added his name to the Scottish Roll of Honour. He died because of his war service but had been overlooked by the NSWM, although his name is on the Arbroath War Memorial. We visited Balhousie Castle and the wonderful museum of the Black Watch. We are just about to plant bulbs and heather on his grave. It has all been a revelation of tragedy and waste, but we are glad to rediscover Alfie.

As a teacher of history I have encouraged pupils to shake hands with people from the past and now that I look at Alfred's war medals I know more of him. I hope he will not be forgotten. If he hadn't died we great-nephews and nieces would have known uncle Alfie. Instead he died aged 21 years with his whole life ahead of him. Lest we forget. A Scottish soldier, remembered again.

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