The Scottish Military Research Group - Commemorations Project Forum Index The Scottish Military Research Group - Commemorations Project
(Registered Scottish Charity No. SC043826). Please visit our homepage at www.scottishmilitaryresearch.co.uk
 
 FAQFAQ   SearchSearch   MemberlistMemberlist   UsergroupsUsergroups   RegisterRegister 
 ProfileProfile   Log in to check your private messagesLog in to check your private messages   Log inLog in 

WEST WEMYSS WW2 memorial re 23 jan 1941 casualties
Goto page 1, 2  Next
 
Post new topic   Reply to topic    The Scottish Military Research Group - Commemorations Project Forum Index -> Fife - Other Memorials
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Author Message
Keptie



Joined: 24 Feb 2009
Posts: 817

PostPosted: Sun Nov 07, 2010 8:03 pm    Post subject: WEST WEMYSS WW2 memorial re 23 jan 1941 casualties Reply with quote

The Courier & Advertiser for Wednesday 3 November 2010 has a large write up section on the WW2 casualties from West Wemyss , Fife who were fatally injured at Lady's Rock after a sea mine that had been washed up on the beach detonated . ( Courier reporter Aileen Roberton )

15 year old Pithead worker, Peter Graham and coal miners Colin Smart, George Storrar , James Anderson and David Laing were fatally injured . 38 year old George Storrar was a Special Constable

Kirriemuir bases Sculptor , Bruce Walker , is on board to create a memorial and landowner Michael Wemyss is also supporting the project.

A possible design for the memorial is a sea mine carved from stone , with five spikes for each victim .

Co ordiating the campaign is Wemyss Estate worker , Jake Drummond who has been tirelessly researching the story and trying to contact as many living relatives as he can .

Mr Drummond would like to hear from more people who knew or are related to any of the victims of the explosion He can be contacted on 01592 650562
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Keptie



Joined: 24 Feb 2009
Posts: 817

PostPosted: Sun Nov 07, 2010 10:46 pm    Post subject: Re: WEST WEMYSS WW2 memorial re 23 jan 1941 casualties Reply with quote

Keptie wrote:
The Courier & Advertiser for Wednesday 3 November 2010 has a large write up section on the WW2 casualties from West Wemyss , Fife who were fatally injured at Lady's Rock after a sea mine that had been washed up on the beach detonated . ( Courier reporter Aileen Robertson )

15 year old Pithead worker, Peter Graham and coal miners Colin Smart, George Storrar , James Anderson and David Laing were fatally injured . 38 year old George Storrar was a Special Constable

Kirriemuir bases Sculptor , Bruce Walker , is on board to create a memorial and landowner Michael Wemyss is also supporting the project.

A possible design for the memorial is a sea mine carved from stone , with five spikes for each victim .

Co ordiating the campaign is Wemyss Estate worker , Jake Drummond who has been tirelessly researching the story and trying to contact as many living relatives as he can .

Mr Drummond would like to hear from more people who knew or are related to any of the victims of the explosion He can be contacted on 01592 650562
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Jake Drummond



Joined: 20 Dec 2010
Posts: 10
Location: Coaltown of Wemyss

PostPosted: Sat Jan 01, 2011 2:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The memorial we're having installed is NOT a war memorial; it's a civilian memorial to four men and a laddie killed, as you rightly say, on January 23rd 1941.
They were two Home Guard (one was a 15 year old) one Special Constable, and all five were colliery workers.

The full story is as follows;
Just before 11 am on a cold Thursday morning during the second winter of World War 2 an explosion rocked the Fife coastal village of West Wemyss, ending the lives of five men from the village; the youngest of them just 15 years old, the eldest a retired 69 year old miner.
All five had bravely tethered a sea mine which had broken free from its moorings and was in danger of drifting towards the town, where most of the 700 or so inhabitants were unaware of the danger.
Piecing together reports from the now elderly locals and the few facts in public records, a story emerges of bravery which has gone unnoticed for nigh on seventy years, a story which I hope will be told in the unveiling of a memorial at the east end of the village on the 23rd of January 2011.

George Storrar, a 38 year old miner who had enlisted as a Special Constable with Fife Constabulary, was alerted to the fact that an object had been seen floating near the Lady’s Rock, a prominent landmark a few hundred yards to the east of the village.
Enlisting the help of Colin Smart, a 36 year old home Guard Volunteer, they headed off to have a look and found that the object was indeed a sea mine, floating free and a hazard to both friend and foe alike.
The immediate danger lay in that it was drifting along the shore line and could easily come ashore close to the houses, so with ropes hastily collected from a nearby house by young Peter Graham, the pair began to attempt to throw a loop of rope over one of the protruding ‘horns’, and to tether it until an Ordnance team could be alerted to dispose of the danger. Had the mine drifted out to sea again the village would be safe but the shipping which used the local harbours at Methil and Kirkcaldy would be at risk, and from the very ordnance designed to protect them from enemy attack.
58 year old James Anderson and retired miner David Laing were walking nearby and joined the others in their attempts to secure the semi submerged mine, and whatever happened thereafter will remain unknown as one of the spikes must have come in contact with the rocks and detonated the high explosive contained within the steel shell, sending out fragments of the outer casing which caught the five men in its blast.
The mine was still ‘live’, despite the Geneva Convention ruling that all mines which broke free of their moorings should be so designed that they then become inert, but whether this one had dragged a length of its mooring cable with it or had been faulty may never be known.

George Storrar, David Laing and Peter Graham died instantly. Peter was only 15 years old and lived only a few hundred yards away in Seaview Cottage.
The blast shook the village, breaking windows in the town and flattening parts of the greenhouses and causing damage at Wemyss Castle, some 100 feet above the shoreline and 750 yards away. Windows in some of the Estate cottages were peppered by the debris and sand flung from the scene.
Windows rattled in the nearby Dorothy school located at the top of the village, where Peter Graham’s 10 year old brother sat next to his friend Andrew Nicol; [i]“The bang was tremendous, and we knew something serious had happened and within a few minutes someone came and called Peter’s brother away. We were only told that school would end early, and that we were to go straight home. We quickly learned what had happened though”[/i] remembers Andrew, who still lives in the village.

The sound of the explosion could be heard and its effects felt in nearby East Wemyss where Dr Khambatta’s surgery and home were. He was soon on the scene and found that although three were dead, two had survived the blast but with terrible injuries.
Mr. Tod, architect and factor at Wemyss Castle, rushed to the scene and being a Great War veteran and in charge of the local Home Guard unit he knew what to expect but he was stunned by what he saw. His daughter Nancy described seeing him return home later that day and [i]"pouring a stiff whisky and downing it, something we never saw him do. He was still shaking, and had obviously been shocked at the sight of the tragedy”[/i]

West Wemyss lassie Alison Bell was in school at East Wemyss - the 'Big School' for all three Wemyss villages bairns - fully a mile away, and remembers,
[i]“I was in East Wemyss school at the time, I was 12 years old and remember being in the sewing class, and we heard the mine explode from there. It was awful to think of the dead men, and young Peter Graham of course, and to think that Colin Smart left behind all those children……..but I suppose he had to put the thought of them aside when he considered what could have happened. Peter Graham had run home to fetch the rope they caught the mine with, and they had pulled it in to stop it drifting along the shore, and of course the ships were moored in the Forth too and it could have blown them out of the water if it had gone out again.
Had the mine gone off nearer the village it would have been terrible, as the gas storage tanks were right at the sea front; two huge things right in front of our house. The mine would have set them off and would surely have flattened the town. None of the men were anything but sensible, so I suppose they must have realised the risks they were taking. Doctor Khambatta had one of the few cars to come into the village at the time, and he was there very quickly, but there was not much he would be able to do. Aye, they were brave men.”[/i]

Incredibly, Colin Smart and James Anderson were still alive and were rushed to the Randolph Wemyss Memorial Hospital in Buckhaven, but Anderson’s injuries were too severe and Dr Wilson declared his death at 2.15 that afternoon.
Against the odds, Colin Smart clung to life, though badly injured, and despite the efforts of the Hospital staff who were accustomed to treating badly injured miners on a daily basis and the skills of a top surgeon from Edinburgh Colin succumbed to his terrible wounds in the early afternoon eleven days after the explosion.
All five were West Wemyss residents, all were miners and all left family in the village to grieve; wives and sons and daughters, brothers and sisters and in Peter Graham’s case, a mother and father who would live each day so near to where their son died.

Jim Pollock was a 15 year old living in the village, not far from Peter’s parents’ house; [i]“I went to the funerals of all the victims, and Peter’s was especially difficult for me as we were so friendly. He was a braw laddie, and we were so proud to have been allowed to join the Home Guard unit and do what we could. Peter wanted to be a soldier, but........”[/i]
Jim has never forgotten his West Wemyss upbringing, and though now 85 years old and living in Kennoway he visits family in the village once or twice a week and aye has his stroll along the shore, no doubt at times remembering happy times spent with his friend.
The village and its inhabitants came to accept that this tragedy was ‘just what happened during wartime’ and over the years the story and the efforts of the five victims have been forgotten, save for a few of the older inhabitants, but this should not be so.

The Memorial Plan …………..a remembrance.

A memorial sculpture has been commissioned, created by well known Kirremuir artist and sculptor Bruce Walker.
Denfind stone will be used to make an image of a mine with a stainless steel spike to represent each of the five victims, their names inscribed around polished steel. These will be set in a polished basalt hemisphere to represent the body of mine, and the whole set into the base, a huge block of whin, carved to represent the waves of the sea. A suitable epitaph will be inscribed across the waves, encouraging viewers to walk around the sculpture to read the quote from Thucydides, a Greek historian and author ( 460 BC – c. 400 BC);
[b][i]"The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it." [/i][/b]

Sited within the village, it will be set in a position to be seen by the many walkers using the Coastal Path, and the proposed design is a striking one and will be built by a known and respected artist and will not go unnoticed, and surely should encourage visitors to the area to see the Memorial. It should be a thing of beauty and in keeping with the village and its folk, but most of all it should keep alive the memory of five ordinary men who showed extraordinary courage in a time of war on the home front and whose tragic sacrifice was forgotten because of the same crisis.

The unveiling ceremony will be held on January 23rd 2011 at 11am, seventy years to the hour since the explosion occurred, at West Wemyss. It is hoped that we will see a good turnout, and refreshments will be served after the unveiling in St Adrian’s Church Hall, to which all are invited.
A church service will begin at 9.45 am, and again we would like to extend a welcome to all to hear Rev. Wilma Cairns say a few words.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Adam Brown
Curator


Joined: 14 Dec 2006
Posts: 7369
Location: Edinburgh (From Sutherland)

PostPosted: Sat Jan 01, 2011 5:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jake

Many thanks for joining the forum and posting such a detailed reply about this tragic event.

You might not call it a war memorial but it certainly a memorial of war. An auxiliary coastguardman in Brora was killed by a mine washed up on the shore and he is listed on the local war memorial so in another area these five men may have been listed on their local war memorial.

Another point worth mentioning is that it wasn't just local passing ships which were a worry; convoys assembled off Methil during the war and they would potentially have been at risk from this mine too.

Hopefully some of the members of the froum from Fife can make it to the unveiling ceremony and we'd be delighted to see some photographs of what sounds like a very striking memorial and the ceremony itself.

Kind regards

Adam
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website MSN Messenger
DelBoy



Joined: 12 Jul 2007
Posts: 4855
Location: The County of Angus

PostPosted: Sat Jan 01, 2011 5:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I look forward to seeing images of the new memorial also.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Tonym



Joined: 18 Jan 2007
Posts: 226
Location: East Sussex

PostPosted: Sat Jan 01, 2011 8:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't understand, I can only find one of the five casualties on CWGC =

Name: STORRAR, GEORGE LAMBERT
Initials: G L
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Civilian
Regiment/Service: Civilian War Dead
Age: 38
Date of Death: 23/01/1941
Additional information: Constable, Police War Reserve. Husband of Catherine Storrar, of 58 Main Street, West Wemyss. Died at West Wemyss.
Casualty Type: Civilian War Dead
Reporting Authority: FIFE COUNTY, SCOTLAND


All civiians killed in WW2 as a result of a war cause qualify for commemoration by the CWGC so I can only assume that Police authority reported this one for commemoration and the other four were not reported.

Tony
_________________
Pte. W. BROWN, Middlesex Regiment, K.I.A Battle of The Somme.
Sgt. J. V. MURPHY, The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders, D.O.W Monte Cassino, Italy.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Jake Drummond



Joined: 20 Dec 2010
Posts: 10
Location: Coaltown of Wemyss

PostPosted: Sat Jan 01, 2011 11:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Aye Adam, the bay around the Methil Roads was described as "black wi' ships" at the time.
The War Office Weekly Reports of the time describe the convoys being held inshore due to the bad weather, indeed it was the severe storms of late December and early January which caused mines to break free and drift ashore along the Fife coast at the time.
Noel Cashford MBE, a retired Bomb Disposal Officer with many hundreds of safe disposals to his credit, had been at Rosyth doing a gas course, a break from his job on the west coast, and had been asked to dispose of two mines; one at Kinghorn and one "eight or nine miles along the coast". After dealing with the first he was directed back to Rosyth, and never knew the fate of the other mine, which we think was 'ours'.
Noel supplied much of the detailed information regarding the mines and their types, and the likely source of the one which blew up that day.

A "memorial of war" indeed, and I can see that you understand that there is a distinct difference. A 'peace memorial' may be a better term; an appeal to the sane, intelligent population that we need to avoid the glorification of war at all costs.
There is no glory in death in action, as anyone who has witnessed the terror, indignity and inhumanity of conflict will testify to, though the bravery of the men and women who put themselves in the path of danger for a just cause is in itself glorious. This is the message every November 11th, not read by everyone unfortunately.

We've had criticism of the design of using a mine image to tell the story, but that's exactly [i]why[/i] we chose this design. A glance will show the cause of the tragedy; the indiscriminate war weapon which kills friend and foe and over which there is no control once activated. Such weapons are still in use today; we never learn.
We hope we've turned the image of what killed the men into a thing of beauty; not quite swords into ploughshares (Isaiah, 2:4), but we hope its design will encourage folks to read the story and touch the stone and steel and maybe have a wee think to themselves; and we see the fact that they will touch the sculpture as a mark of reverence.

Tony is correct in saying the George Storrar is named on the CWGC pages, and is also on the Police Roll of Honour.
Colin Smart was later commemorated by the erection of a War Graves Commision headstone at West Wemyss, and he too is mentioned by CWGC.
The others get no mention, and I agree that they should have recognition as what they did was as much 'war work' as any soldier on the front line.
One of three other victims, 15 year old Peter Graham, has a headstone which makes no reference to how he died, while James Anderson and David Laing have no markers at their graves at all.

I'll be sure to forward photographs of the unveiling, which should be a memorable affair. We have some of the SMVG coming along in period Home Guard uniforms to remove the covers on the command of Major Ronnie Proctor MBE of the Black Watch Museum at Balhousie Castle.
This is to mark the role that the 4th Fife Battalion, (Black Watch) Home Guard were instrumental in carrying the coffins to the graveyard and caring for the falimies afterwards.
We will also have a serving Special Constable in a period uniform present to mark the role of George Storrar's comrades in the days that followed the explosion.
A strange coincidence, one of many, is that our Special Constable lives in a house on the site of where the Police House was in 1941, and where George Storrar lived.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
DelBoy



Joined: 12 Jul 2007
Posts: 4855
Location: The County of Angus

PostPosted: Sun Jan 02, 2011 2:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jake, many thanks for the details.

It saddens me also that the three "others" have no recognition, and that two others have no headstone at all.
Is this something we can change?

Derek.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Jake Drummond



Joined: 20 Dec 2010
Posts: 10
Location: Coaltown of Wemyss

PostPosted: Sun Jan 02, 2011 9:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

We're hoping to be able to raise enough funds to have two grave markers made Derek.
Denfind Stone at Monikie donated the stone for the memorial and the workshops and handling equipment to allow Bruce Walker to do the work.

If we've enough funding we hope to be able to have the sculptor engrave two grave markers, one for David Laing and one for James Anderson, from the stone from the same quarry.
Making sure that we have the correct locations is what we're doing just now, as records are proving a bit vague.
David Laing was 69 years old, and with no family to bury him it was left to the community to do what they could, and in a time of hardship all round I suppose there were other calls on money.
James Anderson has a vase marker at the point where his grave is noted as being, though we've been told that there may have been a stone at on point. Like David Laing's, it is a family plot but no records have come to light.

As regards the CWGC, can names be forwarded for notation?
Certainly Peter Graham should have been noted, though perhaps it was the wish of the parents at the time - as they never made mention of his sacrifice on the gravestone - that his Home Guard duties were not mentioned.
We've been told by his close friend at the time, Jim Pollock, that he was indeed a member and they had both been allowed to join to swell the numbers. Jim went on to serve in the Navy.
Peter had tried to enlist for war service just weeks before when he and his older brother Robbie went to the local recruiting office in Kirkcaldy. Peter was six foot tall and a well built laddie and was told to "come back in six months". He would then have been sixteen.

If anyone can suggest how I could have their names added to the Civilian War Dead records I'd appreciate a message.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
kinnethmont



Joined: 19 Dec 2006
Posts: 1675
Location: Aberdeenshire

PostPosted: Sun Jan 02, 2011 12:02 pm    Post subject: Civilians - CWGC Debt of Honour Roll Reply with quote

Quote:
If anyone can suggest how I could have their names added to the Civilian War Dead records I'd appreciate a message.


I am looking into this as far as commemoration by CWGC is concerned. They have no involvement with headstones for civilians.
_________________
Jim

If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

www.kinnethmont.co.uk
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
kinnethmont



Joined: 19 Dec 2006
Posts: 1675
Location: Aberdeenshire

PostPosted: Sun Jan 02, 2011 12:21 pm    Post subject: Civilians - CWGC Debt of Honour Roll Reply with quote

Colin Smart has war grave status with a CWGC headstone as Jake advises.
Although a civilian, he was a member of a recognised organisation which assisted the military, and so qualifies.

Name: SMART, COLIN
Initials: C
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Volunteer
Regiment/Service: Home Guard
Unit Text: 4th Fife Bn.
Age: 36
Date of Death: 03/02/1941
Additional information: Son of Robert and Margaret Smart; husband of Helen McDonald Smart, of West Wemyss.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: North Extn. Grave 95.
Cemetery: WEST WEMYSS CHURCHYARD


It does appear the local authority were remiss and did not report the others. This would not have required sanction by the family. However, their wishes regarding commemoration locally should be respected still.

Documentary and official evidence will be required for a possible case to made to CWGC.
Jake, I will PM you on this.
_________________
Jim

If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

www.kinnethmont.co.uk
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Tonym



Joined: 18 Jan 2007
Posts: 226
Location: East Sussex

PostPosted: Sun Jan 02, 2011 2:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Whilst the subject and casualties did not come within the scope of my project of female casualties I do take a general interest in other subjects and I was more than a little concerned that some of the casualties were not commemorated, for whatever reason, for an act that most certainly probably averted a more serious incident.

I obviously missed Colin Smart due to the date of his death. Good luck Jim with your research.

Tony
_________________
Pte. W. BROWN, Middlesex Regiment, K.I.A Battle of The Somme.
Sgt. J. V. MURPHY, The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders, D.O.W Monte Cassino, Italy.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
kinnethmont



Joined: 19 Dec 2006
Posts: 1675
Location: Aberdeenshire

PostPosted: Sun Jan 02, 2011 4:09 pm    Post subject: Civilians - CWGC Debt of Honour Roll Reply with quote

Quote:
I am looking into this as far as commemoration by CWGC is concerned. They have no involvement with headstones for civilians.


I have now opened a thread relating to Anderson, Graham and Laing on the " non comms " section.
_________________
Jim

If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

www.kinnethmont.co.uk
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Adam Brown
Curator


Joined: 14 Dec 2006
Posts: 7369
Location: Edinburgh (From Sutherland)

PostPosted: Mon Jan 03, 2011 12:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jim's thread in the non-commemorations section of the forum is here:

http://warmemscot.s4.bizhat.com/viewtopic.php?t=6024

There was another tragic explosion in Fife during the war which has only recently been commemorated. It is at Buckhaven and it is on the forum here:

http://warmemscot.s4.bizhat.com/viewtopic.php?t=4364

Regards

Adam
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website MSN Messenger
kinnethmont



Joined: 19 Dec 2006
Posts: 1675
Location: Aberdeenshire

PostPosted: Mon Jan 03, 2011 6:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
There was another tragic explosion in Fife during the war which has only recently been commemorated. It is at Buckhaven and it is on the forum here:

http://warmemscot.s4.bizhat.com/viewtopic.php?t=4364


From info sent me by Jake regarding Weymss I became aware of the Buckhaven tragedy and am checking it out. Initially, it does appear that again, Fife Council have not forwarded the details to CWGC.

Will update later and create a thread in the non comms section if needs be.
_________________
Jim

If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

www.kinnethmont.co.uk
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Display posts from previous:   
Post new topic   Reply to topic    The Scottish Military Research Group - Commemorations Project Forum Index -> Fife - Other Memorials All times are GMT
Goto page 1, 2  Next
Page 1 of 2

 
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum


Powered by phpBB © phpBB Group. Hosted by phpBB.BizHat.com