Fallen heroes never forgotten

9th November 2007 at 00:00
The 210 former Kilmarnock Academy pupils who died during the World Wars are remembered in a new roll of honour on the school's website.Lest we forget, teachers at Kilmarnock Academy have committed to immortality the lives and deaths of the fallen servicemen of their school.

A roll-call of the victims of the First and Second World Wars is now available on the school's website, creating a unique archive and learning resource for pupils.

Corporal George Armstrong is one of the 210 former pupils whose deaths are now far more than a bare statistic.

He left Kilmarnock Academy aged 15, emigrated to Canada, and was involved in some of the hardest fighting in France during the First World War, but came through it unscathed. However, in October 1918, he returned to Kilmarnock on leave, contracted a severe cold and died in November at his parents' house. On Armistice Day, when the nation was rejoicing, George Armstrong was laid to rest in Kilmarnock New Cemetery.

More than 142 former pupils of Kilmarnock Academy died in the First World War and 68 died in the Second. All of their stories are recorded in rolls of honour compiled by the school after each conflict. This year, however, to mark Remembrance Day, the rolls are available to anyone with internet access - thanks to two English teachers, Neil Dickson and Neil McIlvanney.

"This is a resource that teachers can now begin to develop and use," said Dr Dickson, who has a personal interest in the world wars. His grandfather fought in the First World War and his father in the Second. "They personalise the conflict and make it local. It was Stalin who said: 'One death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic'."

Mr McIlvanney, who runs the school website and created the memorial section, believes the power of the rolls lies in their ability to humanise the statistics: "They give a real sense of the lives behind the names and convey an overwhelming sense of loss."

Also featured are the stories of army chaplain the Reverend 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".

Another is Captain Thomas Houston, who was killed by a shell "while dressing the wounds and comforting his dying comrades on the field".

But it is not just the wars that the rolls illuminate, said Dr Dickson. They also give an insight into Kilmarnock life: the popular sports, the type of employment that people entered, the changing proportion of pupils going to university, and the scale of overseas emigration.

Pupils have already begun using the online version of the rolls of honour in history.

Alex Reidford, 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."

Rosie Tudhope (S3), said: "It's really interesting seeing people from Kilmarnock, from places you know, who went to war and died."

Euan McIlvanney, another S3 pupil, added: "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."


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