Memories of Georgerevived a century on
A well-known Cupar family has just returned from a poignant trip to France to pay tribute to a courageous relative they never met.
George Pagan was just 23 years old when he was killed in action in the Battle of the Somme, one of the most notorious conflicts of the First World War.
And exactly 100 years on, he was honoured by his nephew Bill, who was accompanied on his emotional journey by his wife Gilli and sister Judy Workman.
The trio laid a wreath on George’s grave near Beaumont Hamel before travelling north to Ypres in Belgium to take part in the moving Last Post ceremony, which has taken place every evening at 8pm since November 11, 1929, apart from the years of German occupation during the Second World War.
There, they laid a second wreath, this time at the Menin Gate, and Bill gave the Call to Remembrance.
George, who was born at Weston House, Cupar, signed up for active service the day after war was declared in 1914.
He was a Lieutenant in the 7th Battalion of the Black Watch regiment and leading his platoon when tragedy struck on July 30, 1916.
He was killed in action at High Wood, an infamous mound of land overlooking the approaches to the River Ancre, a tributary of the Somme.
“George’s death had lasting consequences for the Pagan family,” explained Bill, a prominent retired solicitor.
“George was already studying law, in the well-established family tradition, when his studies were interrupted by war.
“After his death, his younger brother Charles – my father – grew up to take over that legal role, spending his working life as a partner in Pagan Osborne and serving as Clerk of the Peace for Fife and as an honorary sheriff.”
High Wood today is green and peaceful, a very different landscape from that which the young George and his men encountered a century ago.
As a hillock it was seen as a good surveillance point and offered favourable firing positions.
So George led the ‘Jocks’ up the gentle slope towards the hillock – right into the teeth of ferocious opposition from the well-equipped German troops.
“No diaries, nor final letter, have survived,” said Bill.
“The family can only guess what was going through George’s mind – and the minds of his soldiers – as they waited for the shistle blast that would signal the start of what, for so many, would be their last ever action.”