WAR DEAD HONOURED ONLINE
The Rolls of Honour of former pupils and staff of Kilmarnock Academy killed in both world wars have now been made available online.
After each world war Kilmarnock Academy published a booklet giving brief but detailed biographies of those associated with the school who had died in the conflicts. They outline the lives and personalities of the former pupils and staff and state how and where they died. The contents of these booklets have been scanned electronically and are now available to anyone with access to the internet.
It makes poignant reading. There were 142 former pupils who died in World War I and 68 who died in World War II, the vast majority of them young. There is the sad story of Trooper George Corson who was killed on the 10 th November 1918, the day before the armistice was signed, or that of 2nd Lieutenant James Hyslop who after surviving the hazards of the war, died in 1919 during the influenza epidemic which followed it. Then there is the grief hinted at in the simple statement in the notices for Privates James and John Kirkland, ‘the only sons of their widowed mother.'
There are the stories of bravery such as that of army chaplain the Revd John Kellie, who lived with ‘absolute unselfishness and disregard for his own personal comfort and safety' and died ‘when going over the top with his men', or Captain Thomas Houston, who was killed by a shell ‘while dressing the wounds and comforting his dying comrades on the field', or Lt-Colonel John Bell who was awarded the Military Cross after being killed by an enemy dive bomber ‘while arranging the evacuation of his unit from the beaches of Dunkirk'.
It can be seen from the Rolls of Honour that the deaths in the First World War came mainly in the trenches. However, the world-wide nature of the conflict can be seen for it was not just on the western front that men died. There were also casualties from Kilmarnock in the Middle-East and Africa. In the Second World War the heavy price paid by the RAF to defeat Hitler can be seen, for it was in that service most of the deaths occurred. Also in this war women who had been pupils were killed, serving in such capacities as ARP wardens or radio operators.
However, it was not just the war that the Rolls of Honour illuminate. They also offer insight into Kilmarnock life in the first half of last century. The biographies of those killed list the favourite sports of the time, showing how popular not only football and golf were, but also rugby and cricket too. Employment after school is stated giving a picture of which trades and professions former pupils entered. The changing percentages of pupils going onto university can even be calculated. The scale of overseas emigration too can be seen, for a number of the former pupils killed in the First War were fighting in colonial regiments.
Interesting sidelights emerge. In the First World War Roll of Honour there are two individuals with doctorates and both were awarded by German universities. This is not only a testimony to the merits of German scholarship at the time, but it is an ironic comment on the futility of war. Two nations who had so much in common were fighting each other so ferociously.
Pupils at Kilmarnock Academy have already been studying the Rolls of Honour as part of their lessons. Mr Alex Reidford, the principal teacher of History, said, “It is a very useful source which has opened up a lot of points for research. It brings the reality of war much closer to the pupils.” One S3 pupil, Rosie Tudhope stated, “It's really interesting seeing people from Kilmarnock, from places you know, and who went to war and died.” Another S3 pupil, Euan McIlvanney, felt, “It's amazing, because the figures are so big—so many millions died—but it affects you much more when you see each individual story.”
The Rolls of Honour will not only be of interest to Kilmarnock Academy pupils, but to anyone wishing to study the wars or to family historians wanting to trace a relative or ancestor. They can be accessed on the Kilmarnock Academy website at http://www.kilmarnockacademy.co.uk/formerpupilsww1memorial.htm .
(Press Release by Dr Neil Dickson)