One way of remembering those lost during the World Wars is to tell their individual stories. Here some local families tell us about their relatives, who are commemorated on the Grangemouth War Memorial, and what happened to them.
Grangemouth War Memorial has 277 names on it. This is very moving, but as much as lists of names can evoke a sense of the great loss of this town, there is something even more poignant about learning more about the lives of these individuals. With this in mind, we put a call out on social media to see if anyone would be willing to share some information about their relatives named on the memorial, and the results are below. I was really pleased that people were willing to chat to me about this, and if you read this and want to tell the story of your relative named on the memorial, then please get in touch at GreatPlace@falkirkcommunitytrust.org.
The First World War
James Donelly McDonald
James was born at Beancross on 28th June 1888. He married Janet Carmichael on 17th April 1914 at the Roman Catholic Church, then in Kerse Road. James joined the 12th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in September 1914. He was killed in action on 19 September 1918 during the second day of the 2nd battle of Doiran Salonika. He is buried at Doiran cemetery in Northern Greece.
Harry Smith Stewart
Chief Steward Harry Smith Stewart was in the Mercantile Merchant Navy during World War One. He was Chief Cook and Chief Steward, and drowned in the Irish Sea as a result of an attack by an enemy submarine on 22 March 1918.
On the 1911 census Harry was listed as a heater boy, and worked in the shipyard in Grangemouth. In 1914, when war broke out, he was on board the Duma, which just managed to get into Sweden in the nick of time. The firm sent the crew home as passengers and the Duma is still in Sweden. He had the harrowing experience of being torpedoed five times. On each occasion he lost all his possessions. He also endured exposure on the open sea for eleven hours.
In 1918 Chief Steward Harry Smith Stewart was on the SS Trinidad aged 23 years. On the 22nd of March 1918 the SS Trinidad was torpedoed and sunk by German submarine U-101 in the St George’s channel 12 miles East from a Codling Light Vessel. During the journey from Le Harve to Liverpool, with a cargo of onions, 39 of her crew were lost including the Master.
Harry is also commemorated on the Tower Hill Memorial, in London, which commemorates men and women of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets who died in both World Wars and who have no known grave.
The Second World War
John Edward Lloyd Cowie
Son of Robert and Catherine Cowie. He died on the 24th May 1941, aged just 22, when the ship he was on (the HMS Hood) was sunk by the Bismarck. He is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.
Thomas and David Gibson
Two of my dad’s cousins are mentioned on the cenotaph, both were involved in World War Two. They lived in Almond Street with their dad and mum Sandy and Mary Gibson, and their three sisters Helen, Annie, and Jessie. Thomas was killed in Syracuse on the 14th of July 1943, when he was 31 years old. He is buried at Syracuse War Cemetery in Sicily. David was killed in Singapore on the 1st of February 1942 when he was 23 years old. He is also commemorated on the Singapore Memorial. My gran told us a few times that their mum (who was my papa’s sister) was sitting in the living room when a picture of David fell off the wall and she immediately knew he had been killed too. My dad used to get quite upset when we were young and were reading all the names on the memorial cenotaph, even though he was only 11 and 12 when they died.
John Harley (son of Thomas and Elizabeth Harley) was my uncle, but I only have the following details. He was an RASC Driver and his regiment was 257 Amb. Car Coy. He died on 26 September 1944 aged 20 and was buried in Jonkerbos War Cemetery, in the Netherlands.
James Ramage Sneddon Johnston
James Ramage Sneddon Johnston served with the 2nd Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, during the Second World War. He was killed on the 13th August 1944, aged just 26 years old. The story goes that he was a dispatch rider and the Germans strung a cheese wire between 2 trees and he was decapitated. He is buried in Bayeux War Cemetery, in France.
John Burton Millar
John Burton Millar (commemorated on the Grangemouth Memorial as John B Millar) was a Lance Sergeant in the Royal Engineers, 1017 Docks Operating Coy. He died on the 5th of May 1943, aged 42. He was the son of John Burton Millar and Cecilia Millar, and the husband of Martha Drummond Wallace Millar. Martha was left to bring up a family of five. She did not marry again. John is buried at the Suez War Memorial Cemetery in Egypt.
A big thank you to everyone who offered up information and images for this story: Janette MacKenzie, Leeanne Buchanan, Isy Kelly, May Brown, Margaret Jennings, Donna Johnston and John Millar.
By Louise Bell, Great Place volunteer 2020.