New resource charts Queensferry’s war

The stories behind war graves are being told to a new generation, thanks to local historians like Marie Calder
The stories behind war graves are being told to a new generation, thanks to local historians like Marie Calder

Dozens of men from the communities of Queensferry and Dalmeny were among the thousands slaughtered in the butchery of the Somme.

Sailors perished in the great naval battle of Jutland too, while at home tragedy struck when three soldiers were killed in a freak railway accident.

Until recently the life stories of these and many other local people of the Great War generation have been all but invisible to their descendants.

Local historians have worked hard to bring home to school students the magnitude of the events which devastated so many lives .

Some of these victims, lacking committed research, may have become simply unknown names on graves and memorial stones.

Now, in what may come to be seen as a groundbreaking history project, an ambitious new website produced but the Queensferry History Group brings all the detail chillingly to life.

Stories which would make page one local news if they happened today – like the 16-year-old sentry, Hugh Paterson, who was killed by a train one misty November night in 1914 – have been rescued from obscurity to become part of the area’s shared memory of the 1914-1918 war.

Hugh’s story, along with extensive research into 66 names of local men on the Queensferry war memorial, feature in the website www.queensferry-at-war.org.uk, which joins the existing Queensferry-at-War blog (http://queensferry-at-war.weebly.com/) produced by Norma Brown of the History Group.

In months to come the stories of the Dalmeny men will be added, while more accounts will explain Queensferry’s role in the war – as a naval base and hospital for casualties.

There’s also the curious story of the German spy who cycled from his ostentatious lodgings in Edinburgh’s North British Hotel to monitor allied shipping – and who was executed when his cover was blown.

The website, and an exhibition planned for Queensferry’s High Street museum next month, will together aim to produce a compelling picture of what the town, then home to 9,000 people, was like during the First World War.

Frank Hay of the History Group said: “Naval funeral processions up the loan to the graveyard were commonplace and families lived in dread of a telegram reporting the loss of a father, son or brother at the front.

“Imagine townspeople crowding to the shore to watch the constant fleet manoeuvres. Sentries guarded the bridge and the gun batteries, sailors and stevedores walked the streets.”

It all happened a century ago – but will not be forgotten.