A Scot pays tribute to uncle who fought at Battle of Amiens

A retired Scottish physicist was among those marking the centenary of the Battle of Amiens in northern France yesterday.

The Duke of Cambridge and Florence Parly, France's minister to the armed forces, lay wreaths in the Chapel of the Allies at Amiens Cathedral. Picture: DCMS/Crown copyright/PA

Ivan Ruddock’s uncle Lance Corporal William Spears fought in the offensive, which is widely regarded as the beginning of the end of the First World War.

Mr Ruddock, from Kirkintilloch in East Dunbartonshire, attended a service at Amiens Cathedral where dignitaries and politicians including Prime Minister Theresa May, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the Duke of Cambridge were joined by families of descendants from around the world including the UK, France, Canada the US and Australia.

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Lce Cpl Spears, born in County Donegal, joined the Highland Light Infantry in Glasgow, where he was living. He was killed at the of age 20 in September 1918.

Mr Ruddock said he remembered his uncle’s siblings on the family farm in Ireland talking about him as if he had just stepped out of the room. His medals were later stolen by a farm labourer.

Mr Ruddock said: “Unusually, for me, the First World War was only a generation away.

“The things he had done as a young man were talked about so often when I was visiting the farm as a boy.

“It’s a century ago now, but back then it was only 40 years. It wasn’t that long ago.

“They had his scroll and a brass plaque on the wall to mark his death, but they didn’t grieve over him. It was as though he was still with them.

“I’m very proud of him. ”

Lce Cpl Spears was wounded as a teenager at Gallipoli and returned home on leave. Despite being eligible for a discharge returned to be with his comrades.

He is buried at Targelle Ravine British Cemetery.

Prince William paid tribute to “the fallen of all nations” and acknowledged the debt owed to the troops.

He said: “The Battle of Amiens, and the continued fighting which followed during the summer of 1918, brought the Allies hope and optimism after four long years of bloodshed and stalemate.”

During the service Mrs May read an extract from the memoirs of her predecessor David Lloyd George from 1918 about the battle of Amiens.

She said: “The fact of the matter was that the British Army itself did not realise the extent and effect of the triumph they had won that day.

“The effect of the victory was moral and not territorial. It revealed to friend and foe alike the breakdown of the German power of resistance.”

At the end of the ceremony the duke and Mrs May laid wreaths in the cathedral’s Chapel of the Allies and met descendants of soldiers who fought in the battle.

Ms Sturgeon said she had she had found the ceremony, at which the story of the battle was told through contemporary letters, diaries and poems read by guests from the s congregation, “very moving”.

She said: “I was honoured to represent the people of Scotland at Amiens Cathedral to remember those who fought and lost their lives in the conflict. It was a very moving and fitting tribute and brought together people from all the nations involved.

“I also had the opportunity to meet Scottish school pupils who had travelled to France to attend the ceremony as part of their work with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.”