Headstones reinstated in Scots cemetery to recognise war dead

The headstone of Andrew Brownlie (top right) will be among those reinstated at Sighthill Cemetery.
The headstone of Andrew Brownlie (top right) will be among those reinstated at Sighthill Cemetery.
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For decades, their ultimate sacrifice has been all but forgotten, with their final resting places rendered uncertain by the passing of time.

But a century after they fell in battle, scores of Scotland’s war dead are to be remembered.

Scores of headstones commemorating casualties who fell in both world wars are to be erected at a Glasgow cemetery this week.

The initiative by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) will end more than 60 years of doubt surrounding the exact plots of the dead after their original headstones were removed.

The plot at Sighthill Cemetery in the northeast of the city fell into disrepair in the 1950s, leading to the removal of the original headstones. While the graves were identified at the time, the markers perished over the years.

Although those whose headstones were removed were commemorated at a garden of remembrance in Eastwood Cemetery in Thornliebank, East Renfrewshire, those behind the new project have been determined to recognise the individuals at their original burial sites, each with their own unique headstones based on original records acquired by the CWGC.

Now, after a forensic five-year project alongside Glasgow City Council, the CWGC will reinstate 85 headstones at the cemetery at the ceremony on Tuesday.

The date is particularly poignant for one of those servicemen who lies in Sighthill, Gunner James Motherwell. He served with the 51st Division Ammunition Column, Royal Field Artillery, 51st (Highland) Division, and died on 18 October 1916 at the age of 32, most likely after coming home with injuries or illness sustained during his time fighting in the war. The reinstatement of his headstone will take place exactly 100 years on from the day of his death and the CWGC has appealed to members or friends of the Motherwell family who may have information about his life and service to get in touch.

The headstone of Andrew Brownlie will also be reinstated. The aircraft fitter was one of 16 men killed when their bomber crashed into the Slieve na Glogh mountain in Ireland in March 1942. He was 29.

Iain Anderson, regional supervisor for Scotland with the CWGC, which maintains more than 1.7 million graves and memorials around the world of those who fought in both world wars, said the process of reinstating the graves marked a significant development in honouring those buried at Sighthill.

He said: “We are always very pleased to be able to give our men and women who fought during both world wars the commemoration and recognition they deserve.

“Even though our boys were commemorated at another cemetery for the last 60 years when the original headstones were removed, it’s very special to be able to reinstall the headstones where they lay, so everyone can remember them.”

Also being recognised are two brothers who lost their lives fighting in the First World War; Writer Alexander Wyper, who served with the Royal Navy and died in May 1918, and his older brother, Able Seaman John Wyper, who died in December 1920. The two brothers hailed from the Springburn area of Glasgow.

In all, there are some 105 war dead buried at Sighthill. The work to install the new headstones will take place over the next two weeks, with Gunner Motherwell’s grave among the first to be reinstated.

Glasgow’s Lord Provost, Councillor Sadie Docherty, said: “It’s wonderful news that our war heroes can finally be laid to rest with the dignity they deserve.”