Ukrainian First World War hero who fought for Scots is honoured at last

IT has taken the best part of a century but a Lothian tribute to the fallen of the First World War is finally complete.

Ukrainian Vasiliy Nikitenko is the last name to be added to the memorial in Newtongrange, Midlothian.

The gunner emigrated to Scotland as a young man and found work in the village with the Lothian Coal Company.

A volunteer soldier, he was killed while fighting for his adoptive country on May 28, 1918, just six months before the end of the war. Mr Nikitenko is buried at the communal war cemetery at Franvillers, France, although it is not known exactly where he died.

Newtongrange's war memorial has now been updated after a campaign by local residents, backed by Councillor Wilma Chalmers.

She said: "There was a bit of uncertainty over whether this soldier deserved to be on the plaque, but when we researched it we found that he had indeed lived in the Lothian Coal Company lodgings.

"When war broke out, he fought for Britain and died in France, and was awarded the Military Medal which was sent to the government of Ukraine.

"They were unable to find any family for him so the medal was sent back, and he was forgotten about for 90 years until community councillors revived his memory.

"We thought it was right that he be honoured among the other men who died from Newtongrange."

Mr Nikitenko's memory was revived completely by chance when a Manchester-based filmmaker began researching the life of another previously forgotten Newtongrange soldier.

Charles Sandbach bought a military medal, posthumously awarded to a Corporal Robert Beveridge, on eBay.

Research revealed that the soldier was born in the small hamlet of Masterton, and died in an assault on a machine gun battery in Frezenberg, Belgium.

Mr Sandbach said: "As I dug a little deeper I found, completely by chance, that there was a second military medal awarded to a Ukrainian soldier who lived in Newtongrange before the war.

"After that we set the ball rolling to have him commemorated as well. These guys have been totally forgotten about, which was sad, but now justice has been done to their name and they are finally getting the recognition they deserve."

Mr Sandbach has now created a documentary following in the footsteps of Robert Beveridge entitled A Soldier's Return. It features footage of his Newtongrange birthplace and chronicles his family's later move to Broxburn.

West Lothian Council is one of the first local authorities to take up the film.

A West Lothian Council spokesman said: "We can confirm that the film will be used in West Lothian schools.

"The film follows the story of Cpl Robert Beveridge MM, who is a local figure, which makes it a particularly relevant educational resource for our schools in their coverage of World War One history."

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