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Moray school which uncovered moving stories of local soldiers who never came home


By Chris Saunderson

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WITH Remembrance commemorations still very fresh in the memory, we wanted to remind you about one school in Moray and its decade of research, revealed last year, which told moving stories of 41 local soldiers who never returned home from both world wars.

Evelyn Walters at the Miltonduff Remembrance service. Pictures: Daniel Forsyth
Evelyn Walters at the Miltonduff Remembrance service. Pictures: Daniel Forsyth

After nine years of detailed research, memorial panels were created last year as part of the school's "Faces of the Fallen" project, which first went on display at Miltonduff Hall last November. Relatives of the soldiers were among a small number of guests at the official unveiling at that time.

From boxing champions to police officers to farm servants, the memorial brought into stark focus one rural community's heavy loss.

Innes Hendry lays a wreath on behalf of the children and the school community at Mosstowie Primary. Picture: Daniel Forsyth
Innes Hendry lays a wreath on behalf of the children and the school community at Mosstowie Primary. Picture: Daniel Forsyth

The original stone memorial outside the hall lists 20 soldiers' names – 17 from World War One and three from World War Two.

However, the ongoing history project by senior pupils at Mosstowie unearthed details of another 21 local men who were killed in action during the First World War.

Silent tribute from the Mosstowie children.
Silent tribute from the Mosstowie children.

The new hall memorial so far lists the life and death stories of 41 soldiers, displayed in 41 individual frames.

Through scouring microfilm editions of Northern Scot and other sources, the young researchers had found photographs for 31 of the men.

Head teacher Garry Forgie has led the project since he started at Mosstowie a decade ago. He said: "It's wonderful when you can start matching up faces and this is how we came up with the title, 'Faces of the Fallen'."

School pupils from Mosstowie Primary at the war memorial in Miltonduff. Picture: Daniel Forsyth
School pupils from Mosstowie Primary at the war memorial in Miltonduff. Picture: Daniel Forsyth

Through birth and death certificate checks, roll of honour scans, studying local maps, and Commonwealth War Graves checks, pupils collected a mass of detail on the men, their local connections, and their fates.

The school has also recorded a list of survivors, many of whom were found because they were siblings of men who died.

Mr Forgie said finding details of those killed in war stirred up a mix of feelings for the young researchers. He said: "It was always satisfying from a research point of view, as each discovery or detail added to our knowledge of the memorial names.

Headteacher Garry Forgie who has carried out a lot of the research with the children for the permanent tribute to the local war dead. Picture: Daniel Forsyth
Headteacher Garry Forgie who has carried out a lot of the research with the children for the permanent tribute to the local war dead. Picture: Daniel Forsyth

It was, however, never something to celebrate, as each man found was a brave soldier who had died.

"Finding a survivor with local connections was, however, always celebrated. To date, our survivor list stands at 76 local men who all made it home."

Alexander Murdoch was one such survivor who did make it home, but he died of pneumonia which he contracted at the end of the war. He died at home in January 1919, which is why the school's WWI panel is dated 1914-1919 and not 1914-1918.

Pupils found Murdoch's damaged gravestone at nearby Birnie Church, and had it repaired last year in time for the centenary of his death. This poignant story is also recorded as part of the display.

The memorial has been designed to allow for adjustment and editing should pupils discover any more local soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Margaret Stenton lays a wreath on behalf of the Lord Lieutenant of Moray.
Margaret Stenton lays a wreath on behalf of the Lord Lieutenant of Moray.

With pandemic restrictions eased, the school community paid its own moving tribute to victims of both world wars and other conflicts on Thursday, November 11 this year when Scot photographer Daniel Forsyth was there to record the ceremony.


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