Seventeen men who lost their lives in World War I (known then as the Great War) are commemorated on Trinity’s War Memorial. Seventeen very different lives lived – and given – in service of their country.
Of the 17 men, 12 of them were either Scots or had family connections with Scotland, for at that time this church was a Presbyterian church and Scots who found themselves in London naturally migrated towards their local Presbyterian church. The minister was a Scot and very many members too, so they quickly felt at home.
Some were young lads barely out of school, but they were not all raw Army recruits. There were also professional soldiers with years of experience – four of them had previously served in South Africa in the second Boer War.
Several of the men had experience of living in other continents – 4 were born in India, 2 were living in Canada, and another returned from a promising career in the Philippines to enlist at the outbreak of war.
The price paid by these 17 was multiplied many, many times by their families at home, waiting for news. Six young women were left widows, and one lost her fiancée of just a few weeks; 17 children were left fatherless (2 were born after their fathers were killed). Mothers, fathers, grandparents, brothers, sisters, friends – so much pain and sorrow as the church magazine recorded so poignantly.
On the memorial you will see the names of two sets of brothers – James and Dugald Gilkison, and George and Jasper Bruce.
James, or Jim, Gilkison was the first to die three weeks into the war at Le Cateau. He had been engaged to his fiancée for only 11 weeks. And his brother Dugald, a professional soldier, said to be one of the very best soldiers in the Army, died just 3½ weeks later leaving 4 children under 7. Their parents lost both their sons and a son-in-law to the war.
The Bruce brothers from Canada had enlisted in British regiments as they had been born here. Coincidentally they were both to succumb to the Spanish Flu while serving in France, and back in Canada.
These 17 men left their work and joined up – many within just a few days of the declaration of War: a medical student; factory manager; chartered accountant; a painter & decorator; a barrister, a rancher from Canada, a solicitor….. and 3 professional soldiers.
They all went into the Army, although one (Ralph Erskine) later transferred to the newly-formed Royal Flying Corps – and was killed when he shot down over Italy in 1918.
The average age at death was 36½ years. The oldest (Cleare) was 40 when he was killed in a shell burst in France, and the three youngest were 20 – killed in action, with no further information about them.
The stories of the seventeen men can be read here.
If anyone has any further information about any of the men please contact Catherine Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org.