They were just five soldiers among 900,000 other British service personnel in World War I who made the ultimate sacrifice, and now 100 years after the outbreak of the Great War, each one of the five who were laid to rest in Leslie Cemetery have been honoured in a very special commemoration.
On a crisp, bright sunny autumn morning in Leslie on Wednesday , a small gathering of local people, church and community leaders, school children and members of the armed forces came together in the town’s cemetery to take part in an act of remembrance for five young soldiers - four from the town and one American - who have lain in this quiet corner of Fife for the last 100 years.
There was not a cloud in the sky, a far cry from the scared landscape of the Western Front and all of the hell and horror that we have long since come to accept when we come to think of World War I.
The gathering, organised by Brian Coyle, Leslie Community Council’s vice chairman, was arranged to tie in with the town’s annual remembrance Sunday commemorations, and centenary of the outbreak of World War I.
The main aim, he told the Gazette, was for the town’s school children to join in, learn more and be able to respect the sacrifices made many years before they themselves were born.
At each of the graves of the five soldiers – Private R Thompson, Royal Scots Greys; Private David Robin, Royal Scots; Private William Livingstone, Black Watch; Quartermaster Sergeant Douglas Ritchie, Army Service Corps; and Corporal Robert Sword, 15th Service Company Signal Corps U.S. Army – pupils from Leslie Primary School laid poppy wreaths as a mark of remembrance, while lone piper Cadet Sergeant Alexander Cunningham (17) played a lament.
Each grave in turn was then saluted by a member from the 231st Evacuation Squadron and 225th (Scottish) General Support Medical Regiment Territorial Army based in Glenrothes who assisted with the ceremony.
The simple, yet poignant and emotional acts were preceded by a number of short addresses, first to speak was Mr Coyle who said it was the duty of all generations young and old to remember those who gave their lives to secure our freedom.
Councillor Kay Morrison Fife Depute Provost, addressing those at the graveside, started by quoting the famous words of British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey, who remarked on the eve of Britain entering the war: “The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time.”
She also said that while to celebrate would almost be seen as “obscene” they were gathered to indeed celebrate not the war but the strength of the human spirit and the willingness of all those prepared to sacrifice their lives to defend our freedom.
Former Pastor of Leslie Baptist Church, Pastor John MacSporran along with Father David Adams from Leslie Trinity Church, also spoke to those present, while Father Gerry Hand of St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church later spoke of the strength of the local community before saying a prayer as the final wreath was laid.
Reflecting on the morning’s events Mr Coyle later added: “It’s been an honour and a privilege to have been able to organise such an event on behalf of the people of this town.
“It was vitally important that today youngsters could be involved as we gathered to reflect on the sacrifice these five young men made on behalf of the town of Leslie,they have been a credit to their school.”