The words “never forget” will be prevalent over the next few months as the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One approaches.
The bravery and sacrifices made by those who perished in the Great War cannot be undermined, but while their names adorn our war memorials across the district, seldom are the stories of their lives told.
Ronald Cheape, accompanied by lifelong friend Ronald Laing, have marched in the footsteps of the fallen on the battlegrounds of Europe and carried out painstaking research to trace the graves of the 123 soldiers listed on Labert Old Parish Church’s memorial.
Mr Cheape, a retired managing director with Ogilvie Construction, is producing four poignant, definitive volumes of the soldiers’ family backgrounds, lives, loves and military service to be placed in his church and cherished and read for generations to come.
They covered 750 miles during a week in Europe in April, spending around eight hours a day locating and travelling round all the war grave sites, memorials and graveyards to picture the graves of the soldiers to go along with their details on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s certificate (formerly the ‘debt of honour’).
Mr Cheape said: “My interest came about after reading about my two great uncles.
“One thing we found was that young men, too young to fight, lied about their age to get over there and some even stole other people’s ID.
“So when they were killed, the army would visit the families of the men to notify them their loved one had died, only to find them sitting at home.
“Some of the gravestones mention that they fought under another name. I think they just wanted some adventure, not knowing what horrors were ahead of them.”
Among the stories in Mr Cheape’s volumes include that of his great uncle Private William Cheape, 1st Bn., Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) who was killed on November 26, 1917, aged 21 shortly after returning to the front after a two-week break from the front line.
Another poignant tale is of Ebeneezer R Rennie who was killed on October 14, 1918. He was the second youngest of five brothers who all served in the forces during the war.