He was a First World War hero who suffered horrific injuries in the trenches after being gassed, burnt and buried alive before penning a book about his exploits that was published after his death.

Captain Ralph Palliser Milbanke Hudson’s wealthy landowning family bequeathed land to the local community to provide free burials in his memory, which has continued 99 years after his death.

Now Captain Hudson’s churchyard legacy has become the centre of an increasingly bitter battle after Scottish Borders Council introduced a £1,000 burial fee on the land bequeathed in his name.

One of the first to lodge a complaint was retired farmer Donald Wilson, but his protest fell was rejected – so he set out to recruit more people to his campaign.

Yesterday, the group Friends Of Ralph laid a wreath at Hobkirk, near Hawick, on the grave of Captain Hudson to honour his memory ahead of the weekend’s Remembrance events, while a lament was played by Michael Bruce, a member of the Hawick Scout Pipe Band.

The Friends are drawn from a broad coalition of residents from the Rule Water district in south Roxburghshire, including a former tank commander from the Scots Guard, an ex-Taliban hostage, regulars from the nearby Horse and Hound, and Sister Mary Scholastica, a nun from the hero’s birthplace in Sunderland.

The story of the heroic “British Tommy” has even prompted a number of US military veterans with Celtic roots to lend their overseas support by bombarding the council’s chief executive Tracey Logan with emails urging the authority to reverse its decision.

US military writer and author, retired Major Montgomery J Granger, from New York, said: “As soldiers we have a common bond and this time of year makes us reflect on that comradeship”.

Mr Wilson said: “This decision has upset many people from all different backgrounds and if Scottish Borders Council wants a war then that is what it will get. We will fight on until the decision is reversed.”

The extraordinary row erupted when the council recently decided to streamline its cemetery operations across the district, bringing an end to Captain Hudson’s legacy of free burials.

Captain Hudson suffered horrific injuries after being gassed, shelled and buried alive in the notorious trenches in Messines on the Western Front in 1915. After being invalided out of the army, he succumbed to his injuries in 1920, just two years after his marriage to Annie Charleston Goninan.

Mr Wilson, from Bonchester Bridge, added: “The council is trashing the memory of this war hero who gave his life for his country. For the sake of saving a few pounds it is also penalising locals whose elderly loved ones expected to benefit from Captain Hudson’s gift. The council should hang its head in shame.”

Author Yvonne Ridley, who lives nearby on the Wolfelee Estate once owned by Captain Hudson, said: “Like me, Ralph wasn’t born here but he valued the people and the community.

“His legacy should be preserved. Donald has assembled a crack team and, while we have right on our side, Scottish Borcders Council would do well to remember the Duke’s motto: Fortune favours the brave!”

Ms Ridley was captured by the Taliban and held in Afghanistan back in 2001 before being released after 11 days after becoming “the prisoner from hell”.

She has now submitted a Freedom Of Information request to the council for all relevant documents from its archives. SNP councillor Clair Ramage, who is also part of Friends Of Ralph, said: “This appeal is very specific and compelling because Captain Hudson’s estate donated that land for the benefit of his community. This is no longer simply a land issue because now we have a human face, a heroic story and a legacy to consider.”

There are about 60 plots left in the cemetery extension, but the council has imposed funeral charges of up to £1,000 on future burials.

However, the council remains unrepentant, with a spokesman saying: “There was no legal basis on which the ground was being provided free and the council was entitled to charge for the purchase of burial plots within Hobkirk.”

Captain Hudson, born in October 1891, was commissioned into the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment and sent to France in January 1915 to fight the Germans, but was injured within weeks of his posting.

He published a book of “Trench yarns” under the pen-name Peter and also a history of the family home, Wolfelee, which was published posthumously.