Scotland

Couple discover relatives died together in WW1

john and jane with photo of Andrew Webb
Image caption John and Jane Fenwick with a photo of Private Andrew Webb, who died in Orcq in 1918

A bid to find the relatives of 16 British soldiers who died in a small Belgian village at the end of World War One has led to a remarkable discovery.

Married couple John and Jane Fenwick, from Larkhall in South Lanarkshire, both separately knew they had a great uncle who served with the Black Watch and died in WW1.

But the couple had no idea just how close the connection was.

The men were killed at the same battle and buried just three graves apart.

Trace relatives

The discovery was made by genealogist Michelle Leonard who was helping to trace the families of the soldiers, including eight from the Black Watch, who are buried in the cemetery in the village of Orcq.

The servicemen died on 23 October 1918, just days before the end of WW1, during what was dubbed the "Advance to Victory".

The soldiers were killed during fierce German resistance in Orcq, which lies near Tournai, 100 km west of Brussels, and just 5km from the border with France.

Now the people of the village want to find relatives so they can honour the men who liberated them 100 years ago.

Ms Leonard, a Glasgow-based genealogist, was helping to trace relatives when she discovered that the Fenwicks were each related to a soldier who died in Orcq.

Mr Fenwick is the grand-nephew of Private Thomas Bartie, from Duddingston in Midlothian.

His wife Jane is the grand-niece of Private Andrew Webb from Carluke in South Lanarkshire.

Image caption Private Andrew Webb was 22 when he died in Orcq in the last weeks of the war

Ms Leonard said: "That was an amazing moment.

"Just thinking that two generations later this couple meet and marry and have absolutely no idea that these two men will have known each other.

"They served in the same battalion, they fought side by side, they died side by side, just weeks before the end of the war in this small village of Orcq.

"And they are buried there, almost side by side, with just three graves between them on the same row."

Image caption The men are buried very close to each other in the Belgian cemetery

Ms Leonard said it was very unusual.

"This is the first time I have come across a coincidence like that," she said.

Emotional journey

Mr Fenwick, a retired police officer, said: "It was a surprise, a shock, and it was quite emotional when you start thinking about these two guys and where we are now.

"It's an emotional journey thinking about how they lost their lives and why they lost their lives.

"But it is with a sense of pride as well that they did make the ultimate sacrifice."

John and Jane Fenwick will not be in Orcq for the memorial event on 20 October because they are already going to the official Black Watch memorial in Perth.

But they say will travel to Belgium to pay their respects at another time.

Black Watch dead in Orcq

Image caption Private John Barber was among eight Black Watch soldiers who died in Orcq

Private John BARBER, Service Number S/25462. Born 1897 in Stoke Newington.

Private Thomas Robertson BARTIE, Service Number S/9729. Born 1886 in Duddingston, Midlothian.

Second Lieutenant Frederick Kenneth CUMMING, Service Number S/25352. Born 1900 in Singapore.

Private Thomas Chapman COCKBURN, Service Number S/12506. Born 1893 in Cockburnspath, Berwickshire.

Lance Corporal Richard IZATT, Service Number S/26870. Born 1884 in Crossgates, Fife.

Private Edward SOWERBY, Service Number S/6158. Born 1893 in Blackburn, Lancashire.

Private Thomas WALLER, Service Number S/25347. Born 1899 in Dalziel, Lanarkshire.

Private Andrew WEBB Service number S/25378. Born 1896 in Carluke, Lanarkshire.

Honour his memory

A group of Royal British Legion members from Dover say they have managed to trace family of all the Black Watch soldiers who fell that day 100 years ago.

Image caption Chris Barber with a picture of his relative John Barber

One of those traced, Chris Barber, the nephew of Private John Barber, has confirmed he, along with some other family members, will be heading across the Channel from his home in Hertfordshire to attend.

Mr Barber said: "I just want to go to represent my family and honour his memory."

Orcq historian Bernard Demaire is delighted that some relatives will be able to come.

Image caption Mr Demaire said he wanted to pay homage to the men who died

He said: "My first objective was not to search for relatives, it was to render an homage to the soldiers, but of course the relatives will be welcome on this day."

The carnage of the Great War left a legacy of lives not lived, of marriages which never happened, of children never born.

All the more reason, perhaps, for the small Belgian village of Orcq to show its solidarity with and appreciation for those who paid the ultimate price, and to share that moment as widely as possible.

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