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War dead lived on streets like ours

IT won't have escaped your attention that Britain has been marking the 100th anniversary of the declaration of war in August 1914.

Like everyone else I've bought the commemorative books and listened to the radio programmes, and will be watching the TV programmes, which reach a peak over the next few days.

One engrossing innovation is a searchable online database, Every Man Remembered (www.everymanremembered.org), the work of the Royal British Legion in partnership with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

The hope is that all of the 1,117,077 Commonwealth men and women who died during the war will be commemorated. The site allows you to make a personal dedication to any of the fallen.

The search function means you can find people who came from your home town, or who share your surname. I did this yesterday, searching for those from Falkirk, where I was born.

The details for each serviceman are necessarily brief. Name, rank, regiment, service number. Date of death, age at time of death. Where buried. Parents' names and address. And, sometimes, the name of the bereaved wife.

Despite their brevity, the personal details often have echoes in the present. Many of the streets where these serviceman lived can still be found today, a century on. In one or two cases, it's conceivable that their houses still stand.

Two Falkirk privates - William Cameron, of the Army Service Corps, and John McGilchrist, of the Cameron Highlanders - had connections with the street where my granny was born. McGilchrist lived at 80 Oswald Street with his wife, Margaret. He was 38 when he met his end, in the last few months of the war.

One soldier came from a street I walk down every day. Another lived in a quiet little street of tenement flats, just round the corner from where I grew up.

One Falkirk man was a second lieutenant with the Argylls; a solicitor's son, educated at Cambridge, dead at 19, shortly before Christmas 1916. Another, a private in the Argylls, enlisted in 1914, was twice wounded in the space of four months in 1915, and died in May 1916, aged 20.

There are thousands of evocative little stories on the site. If nothing else, they bring home, quite forcefully, the sacrifice that was made, on streets like yours and mine, as ordinary people answered the call to go to war.

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Transport Tragedy

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