THOUGH people have been laid to rest here since the 12th Century, Kirkintilloch's Auld Aisle Cemetery is, at least on the surface, a graveyard like another other. It is sombre and respectful, but also beautiful, sloping gently southward as it reaches out through the past.

Like so many others across the country - and indeed the world - the cemetery also contains a number of Commonwealth war graves. There are 38 in total, 17 of which are the final resting place of men who fought in the First World War.

Wander round the expansive, manicured grounds and you find many of them easily enough - W Shields of the Royal Scots Fusiliers, T H Peden of the Cameronians, A Haggerty of the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, each memorialised on traditional Commonwealth War Grave Commission headstones, all equal regardless of rank, race, religion or status.

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READ MORE: Medical records reveal harrowing last days of soldiers

But four of those headstones are different. Unlike the others, these casualties are not dotted around the various rows and tiers of the cemetery. Instead, they huddle together on the very edge of the grounds, far from the main paths, their faces turned outwards towards the fields beyond the perimeter fence. From most angles they are hidden from view behind a little square of land dominated by a mass of brambles, nettles and ferns lying beneath a canopy of sycamore - an unkempt, uncared for patch of ground which stands in stark contrast to the pristine, landscaped surroundings.

Though the grass around the stones is still cut regularly, and nature therefore prevented from entirely reclaiming the space on which they stand, the inescapable impression is one of abandonment - of being out of sight, out of mind and out of history.

The stories of these men have largely been buried beneath the tangled threads of the last century. We know little about the lives they lived, the deeds they did or the people they loved. But one tale can be told - the sad story of how four strangers came to share a tiny, near-forgotten corner of a cemetery on the outskirts of Glasgow.

Thomas Nelson was born in Auchinleck and first joined the army aged 18, on the 15th of August 1895. He served with the Kings Own Scottish Borderers until 1903, during which time he was deployed to India. He remained a reserve until 1911, and then re-enlisted in the reserves in October 1914, but was discharged due to disability in November the following year. He died on the 28th of November, 1916.

READ MORE: Medical records reveal harrowing last days of soldiers

James Weir - who served under the name John Clark - was also an experienced soldier, having spent nine years in India with the Black Watch prior to the First World War. During the conflict his battalion was involved in the battles of the Marne, Ypres, Loos and others, and Weir was twice wounded in the head in the course of the war. In total, he "served with the colours" for 14 years and 64 days and passed away on the 24th of March, 1918.

William Gallacher was born on the 15th of October 1878 in the east end of Glasgow, in the shadow of the then-abandoned Glasgow Barracks. He served with the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders and was a member of one of the battalions to take part in the famous Christmas Truce. He died on the 7th of May, 1918.

William Lemon was well into his thirties when he signed up to serve as a member of the Cameronians. During his time in the army saw action in France, but was discharged on medical grounds in September 1917 after three years of service, and died on the 5th of April 1920.

These men all joined the war under different circumstances, fought with different battalions and experienced different horrors, but in the end they were brought to the same place, just beyond the tree line a few hundred metres to the south of the cemetery grounds. The area is now covered in a gleaming development of self-consciously expensive new-build homes and luxury flats, but for more than a hundred years something quite different stood here.

Opened in October 1875, the Woodilee Hospital was initially known as the Barony Parochial Asylum. By the time of the First World War it housed more than 1200 desperate patients, among them our four soldiers.

But Nelson, Weir, Gallacher and Lemon were not just patients of this institution - they also died there. Victims of General Paresis of the Insane (the end-stage of syphilis infection) and, as their records make clear, the weight of their war-time experiences, their final months were marked by the bleakness of their physical and mental decline.

READ MORE: Medical records reveal harrowing last days of soldiers

Yet this alone does not explain the location and isolation of their memorials. In fact, these four men were connected not just by their service or the circumstances of their deaths; the final piece of this harrowing puzzle is the way in which they were buried.

The clue is on the headstones themselves, in the words literally carved in stone above each man's name: "Buried in this cemetery". Such a caveat is not uncommon in the battlefield cemeteries of France and Belgium, where it reflects the hellish chaos amidst which so many met their end. Here in Kirkintilloch, a thousand kilometres from what was the western front, it means the same thing: an unmarked grave.

Thomas Nelson, James Weir, William Gallacher and William Lemon were poor, and so were their families - Gallacher's father, for example, was a resident of Barnhill Poorhouse at the time of his son's admission to the Woodilee. With no money for a 'proper' burial, all four were laid in shared, unidentified graves somewhere beneath that tangled mass behind which their memorials are now obscured: in the now-abandoned, and entirely un-commemorated, common ground.

By 1922 - just two years after Lemon's death - there was "no trace" of their burials in the cemetery registers. Just like so much of their lives, the exact location of their final resting place has been lost - perhaps forever.

Every year at this time we rightly remember those whose lives were cut short by the great lie of the Great War. We remember the soldiers lost in blood-soaked fields, swamp-like trenches or freezing seas. We pause and acknowledge the children who lied about their age, those executed for cowardice and the vital role of women throughout the conflict. We pin poppies to our lapels and promise that we will not forget their suffering or their sacrifice.

But what of those whose stories have been forgotten? What of men like Thomas Nelson, James Weir, William Gallacher, William Lemon and who knows how many more like them?

Will we remember them?