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The Peterhead War Memorial 
Unveiled
Sunday 6th August 1922

Almost eight years to the day following the out break of war, the people of Peterhead gathered to witness the unveiling of the memorial to the 359 men from the town who had died during that conflict. The report from the Buchan Observer of Tuesday 8th August 1922 states:

“The people of Peterhead paid grateful homage on Sunday afternoon to the memory of the 359 gallant sons of the town who gave their lives for King and country during the Great War. The occasion was the unveiling of the war memorial, which is erected in front of the old churchyard. The weather was warm and bright and the striking and solemn ceremony was witnessed by thousands of spectators from Peterhead and surrounding district. Ex-servicemen, to the number of over 300 paraded in Broad Street. The parade was under the command of Major D.H. Martin [formerly 5th Bn Gordon Highlanders] who was accompanied by Major Hutchison of Cairngall and other ex-service officers.

 Headed by the pipe band under the leadership of Pipe-Major Thomson, the men marched to the site of the memorial and took up their positions within the enclosure. A guard of honour, representing the Navy, Gordon Highlanders, Artillery and Scottish Horse was stationed at the four corners of the memorial…”

Lest We Forget

The memorial was unveiled by Lord Polwarth. In his speech he claimed, ”It is well to have these memorials in everlasting granite, lest we forget. Now that the time of strain and struggle is past, in the very re-action from it all, there is real danger lest we forget also those who gave their lives for us; lest we forget also those who endured unspeakable horrors and hardships for us and have survived to come back and live amongst us. Let us not forget what they have been through. Let us make allowances for it all and endeavour to help them. There is a danger lest we forget – as we are only too glad to do – the horrors and waste of war in almost every part of the world. Today we meet to dedicate this memorial to the 359 men of this town who gave their lives in this great war. We remember how eight years ago when war broke out so suddenly our young men … saw what a terrible struggle it would be and came forward at once to do their part. We remember how through long years they fought by sea, land and air. We remember how many lie in Flanders and France and elsewhere in graves known and unknown. Here let me say in comfort to those who loved them that I have seen many of cemeteries in France, not only the very large ones but also the smaller ones. Only last Monday I passed one of the largest cemeteries at Etaples: and I have seen how carefully the graves are tended. Permanent stones are being placed everywhere and great memorial stones and crosses erected. We need not fear that their graves will be neglected or forgotten. ... 

Before I unveil this great and beautiful monument - one more of the great chain of memorials erected from end to end of our land – we think of those whom it commemorates; of those who are dear unto ourselves, for there are few of us indeed who have not lost some dear one. We are all bound together by the great tie of a common sorrow and a common grief: and yet as we think of them we try not to sorrow as those without hope. We think of them in the beautiful words of “The Pilgrim’s Progress” inscribed on this monument –‘So they passed over and the trumpets sounded for them on the other side’. “

Lord Polwarth then unveiled the memorial and wreaths were laid. The pipe band played ‘The Flowers of the Forrest’ and the service ended with Trumpeter Geddes sounding the Last Post."

Even before the War had ended a War Memorial Committee had been formed to raise money to provide support for the dependents of those killed or disabled and to build a suitable monument to those who had died. Various sites were proposed for the memorial, but it was not until April 1921 that the decision to erect a granite obelisk in front of the old churchyard on the South Road was finally agreed upon.

The War Memorial Fund was started by a donation of £5000 from the daughter of the late Provost Leask who had died in 1918. (The Provost had been too ill to attend the ceremony marking the departure of the 5th Gordons in August 1914.) Much of the money was raised by collectors who went door to door seeking donations and by June 1920, £10,000 had been raised.

The memorial, built of granite from the Peterhead quarry, takes the form of a classic obelisk resting on steps and a landing 19 foot wide. It rises to a height of 40 feet and on the pedestal are carved sunken panels with the dedication:

To the Glory of Almighty God
And In Honour of The men of this town
Who gave their Lives
For Freedom in the Great War 1914-18

The quotation from The Pilgrims Progress, mentioned above is also included. On the four faces of the bottom of the shaft are similar panels on which are inscribed the names of the dead. The monument was designed by the Aberdeen firm of Messrs Charles McDonald Ltd. And built at a cost of about £2,500.

Peterhead War Memorial Roll of Honour A - F G - R S - Y


 
 A Memorial to the 5th Battalion

A little over a year later – on 30th September 1923 - another monument was unveiled, this time dedicated to the men of the 5th Battalion the Gordon Highlanders. It was erected in front of the Drill Hall in Kirk Street and is also an obelisk of Peterhead granite bearing the regimental badge and the names of the battles in which the battalion fought. An accompanying slab of pink granite bears the names of the men who died. Since the demolition of the Drill Hall in about 1975, the monument now occupies an inconvenient position on a roundabout in the middle of a busy roadway at the entrance to the town.


 

Peterhead War Memorial Roll of Honour A - F G - R S - Y

Methlick War Memorial

Click here for more photos of various Peterhead Memorials from Roy Henderson's excellent collection.


Acknowledgements: My thanks to Iain Davidson, whose grandfather George Philips Watt Davidson was in the 5th Battalion, for providing the copy of the postcard of the main Memorial, and to the ever-helpful staff of the Peterhead Library for supplying the  details of the unveiling from the Buchan Observer. As always my thanks to Anne Park for the use of her extensive research collection.  Thanks also to Roy Henderson for allowing me to link to his site and the wonderful photographs it contains.


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Carolyn Morrisey