The Nostalgia column with Margaret Watson: War missing names remembered

BROTHERS IN ARMS: Peter Buchan, pictured on the right with older brothers, Alec, centre, and Eric, who fought in Tobruk.
BROTHERS IN ARMS: Peter Buchan, pictured on the right with older brothers, Alec, centre, and Eric, who fought in Tobruk.

MANY wreaths will be laid at the war memorial in Crow Nest Park this Sunday to remember those whose names are recorded there.

This ceremony is carried out every year on Remembrance Sunday lest we forget the sacrifice these men made.

Margaret Watson.

Margaret Watson.

Sadly, there are many names of “forgotten” soldiers missing from the memorial, and we know not why.

For some unknown reason their names were never put there, perhaps they died of wounds after the war, and were forgotten.

The picture above of three little brothers dressed in their Sunday best may not speak of war, but to me it does.

For two of these little boys were fighting in the midst of the Second World War not many years after this picture was taken.

The little boy on the right, Peter Buchan, never came home and his body lies in an unmarked grave in foreign fields.

He was one of those “forgotten” soldier whose name did not appear on the roll of honour when Dewsbury Cenotaph was unveiled in 1924.

This tragic omission, tormented his family for nearly 50 years, and it wasn’t until 20 years ago that this tragic omission was rectified.

And, it may never have happened, if it had not been for two Dewsbury councillors, Paul Ellis and the late Lawrence Conlon, taking up the family’s fight.

Peter’s father, Mr David Buchan, fought for years to have his son’s name included, but he never saw it happen.

Sadly, he died before it was added, and his family always said that he had died of a broken heart.

Mr Buchan’s granddaughter, Jean Fisher, continued his fight, and with the support of the two local councillors mentioned, she was able to get the name finally recorded.

A group of local war historians, working under the name Dewsbury Sacrifices, have spent the last five years researching the names of all the men whose names are inscribed on the Cenotaph.

During their research they have discovered many other soldiers like Peter whose names are still missing from the memorial.

This dedicated group deserve our gratitude for all the research they have done, but they are now few in number and not getting any younger.

Despite this, they still found the time and energy to trace details of hundreds of Dewsbury men killed in the war, many of whom are not recorded on the Cenotaph.

Peter was the youngest of a family of five boys and two girls, who were raised by their father when their mother died.

He was killed while fighting in Burma and his father spent the rest of his life fighting for his name to be remembered.

And, although his name was not inscribed on the Dewsbury Memorial, it was on the war memorial in Rangoon, Burma.

Some years ago I interviewed Mrs Fisher who was overwhelmed by the kindness of the two councillors who had helped her.

They had found time, she said, out of their busy lives, to bring Peter back to Dewsbury, if only in name.

And, this was all her grandfather had wanted – the name of his son to be remembered forever in his hometown.

Peter had an uncle, Peter Stelman, who was killed in action during World War One, and his name was placed on the memorial in Crow Nest |Park – but for 50 years the name of his nephew was not.

Mr Buchan’ son Eric, who also fought in WW2, the little boy standing far left in the picture, who fortunately did come home from the war.

Another person who stepped in to ensure that Peter would be remembered in the parish of Westtown where he had lived, was Father Dawber, of St Paulinus Church

When he heard Peter’s story, he made sure it was added to the war memorial in his church alongside the names of all the men and boys of the parish who died in the two world wars.

It was added at a moving service in 1995 attended by civic dignitaries, and members of the Burma Star carrying their standard.

I have written this story in the hope that readers will recognise that people, particularly those going through stressful times, often need help in fighting for what is right. You might have the knowledge and expertise to help them.

The picture I used was also chosen because I wanted readers to see that those who gave their lives in the last two world wars could have been their children.

Those wishing to attend the Remembrance Service in Dewsbury Minster this Sunday, or who want to take part in the parade, may find the following timetable helpful.

10am assemble outside town hall. 10.10am set off to Minster Church for service at 10.30am. After service those taking part in parade will go by coach up to Crow Nest Park for a service at the Cenotaph at 12.15pm and the laying of wreaths.

Send your memories of past times in the Dewsbury area to me at tresham3@gmail.com