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Last veteran of World War One dies at 109

Key points

• Tributes paid to Alfred Anderson, WW1 veteran and Scotland’s oldest man

• Veteran saw Christmas truce when German and UK soldiers played football

• Mr Anderson awarded Lgion d’Honnuer by France for service in war

Key quote

"He was our last surviving link with a time that shimmers on the edge of our folk memory. There was something old worldly about him - he was honourable, dignified and had a tremendously droll sense of humour. He always stood erect and was always immaculately turned out. We will not see his likes again" - Neil Griffiths, Royal British Legion of Scotland spokesman

Story in full SCOTLAND'S last surviving veteran of the First World War, and the country's oldest man, died peacefully at a nursing home yesterday aged 109 - severing the last tangible link between the nation and the 690,235 Scots who served in the Great War.

Alfred Anderson was the last of the "Old Contemptibles" - the British expeditionary force which went to war in 1914 - and the last surviving witness of the historic Christmas truce when opposing troops declared a brief and unofficial ceasefire to play football and share drinks and cigarettes in the hell of no man's land. Mr Anderson served with the 5th Battalion the Black Watch until he was wounded by shrapnel in 1916.

Yesterday, members of his former regiment, Jack McConnell, the First Minister, and the Royal British Legion joined in paying tribute to the "dignified and unassuming" hero of the war that was supposed to end all wars.

Mr Anderson, born in Dundee in 1896 when Queen Victoria was still on the throne, had followed in his father's footsteps as a joiner in the Angus village of Newtyle and was only 16 when he enlisted in the Territorial Army in 1912. Two years later he was among the first soldiers called to duty when his battalion was sent to France - derided by the Kaiser as "that contemptible little army".

He first went into action on 13 November, 1914, and served for almost two years, almost without respite, in the horror of the Western Front. He was briefly the batman to Captain Fergus Bowes-Lyon, the brother of the Queen Mother, who was killed at the Battle of Loos in 1915.

Mr Anderson was also a witness to the remarkable truce on the Western Front on Christmas Day 1914, when British and German troops left their trenches to exchange cigarettes, sing carols and celebrate a brief armistice.

At the time of the truce, Mr Anderson's platoon had been briefly sent back a short distance from the front line. He later recalled: "There was not a sound to be heard for a while - nothing. And then we heard some cheering. This had been the two sides fraternising, I think. Some of the boys came back from the front line and told us in the billets what was happening. Then it became the usual thing. The silence ended early in the afternoon and the killing started again. It was a short peace in a terrible war."

His active service ended in the spring of 1916, when he was wounded in the neck by a piece of shrapnel from a shell burst which killed several of his comrades. He was invalided back to England.

There he served as an instructor with the army, rising to the rank of staff sergeant before the war ended. During his time at a training camp in Rippon he married a local girl, Susanna Iddison. The couple returned to Scotland, where Mr Anderson went back to work as a joiner in his father's Newtyle business.

During the Second World War Mr Anderson took command of the local detachment of the Home Guard and, after peace was declared, he became chairman of the local branch of the Royal British Legion. Following his wife's death in 1979 he left his home in Newtyle to live in Alyth, close to his youngest daughter.

One of the proudest moments of his life came in 1998 when, together with several other veterans, he received the Lgion d'Honneur, France's highest military honour, to mark his service in the First World War.

Mr Anderson continued to live independently at his home in Alyth until only six weeks ago when, as the result of failing health, he returned to Newtyle as a resident of the Mundamalla Nursing Home.

He died in the early hours of yesterday morning.

He had been too frail to take part in this month's Armistice Day commemorations but said he would still be remembering his fallen comrades, as he had every day of his life. He said: "I'm the last man standing - the last surviving Scottish soldier from the Great War. It's up to me to remember all those who have gone before."

Jack McConnell, the First Minister, yesterday led tributes to the old soldier. He said: "Alfred Anderson represented the generation of young Scots who fought in the First World War, and endured unimaginable horrors. Many of them made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and we must never forget what they have given to us."

Colonel Roddie Riddell, the regimental secretary of the Black Watch, told The Scotsman: "This is a sad moment in history. It is the end of an era."

Neil Griffiths, a spokesman for the Royal British Legion of Scotland, said: "He was our last surviving link with a time that shimmers on the edge of our folk memory. There was something old worldly about him - he was honourable, dignified and had a tremendously droll sense of humour. He always stood erect and was always immaculately turned out. We will not see his likes again."

Mr Anderson is survived by two daughters and two sons, ten grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren, and two great-great grandchildren.

 
 
 

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