Forfar man tells town’s Great War tale

Jim Lowson in Bad-Oyen-Hausen, Germany with fellow Black Watch members A Thompson and M Guest in 1950.
Jim Lowson in Bad-Oyen-Hausen, Germany with fellow Black Watch members A Thompson and M Guest in 1950.

Monday, August 4 marked the centenary anniversary of Britain’s declaration of war on Germany, an incident that will forever be remembered as the beginning of the First World War.

More than 16 million people, both civilian and military, lost their lives as the world became embroiled in the most widespread conflict it had ever seen at that point.

Commemorative events were held across the globe on Monday as people gathered to pay tribute to those affected by what was then known as the Great War.

The main focus was on a small Belgian cemetery, where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry joined the King and Queen of Belgium and senior representatives from the United Kingdom, France, Ireland, Canada and Germany at the St Symphorien Cemetery just outside the town of Mons - a site that contains an equal number of Commonwealth and German graves.

Forfar paid host to a far more low-key but personal tribute however, as local couple Jim and Irene Lowson honoured their family members who served, fought and died in the war.

Jim, whose great great great grandfather Donald Lolly fought at the Battle of Waterloo, kindly shared a number of documents and stories with the Dispatch office ahead of the poignant anniversary.

These documents list the names of his forebears, and wife Irene’s, that served in the Great War - no less than 17 Lowsons were involved, with two Wilsons on Jim’s side also listed as well as Irene’s uncles James and William Butchart, the latter of whom lost his life in the Battle of the Somme.

Jim’s uncles and cousins were stationed in Dardanelles, Egypt, Palestine, France, Mesopotamia and on board the SS Magde.

Private David Smith Lowson of the Scottish Horse died of his wounds on 11 September 1918, Private Alexander Lowson of the Seaforth Highlanders was wounded in France resulting in the amputation of his right arm, and Corporal Clement W Lowson of the Machine Gun Corps was wounded in France in 1918.

Private William Butchart, born in Dundee in 1895, enlisted in 1915 aged 20. He and his comrades in the Royal Scots Fusiliers 2nd Battalion, 21st of Foot, went over the top during the first battle of the Somme on Saturday, July 1.

He was one of very few to survive that first day of carnage, but he was unable to last the second day and was killed.

His brother, Private James Butchart, was wounded three times during the war but was able to return to action on each occasion. Born at Strathmartine Parish in 1890, James was awarded the Military Medal for gallantry in the field. He passed away in Forfar in September, 1959.

Among the documents Jim brought in was a recount of what was happening in Forfar during the war that he wrote himself.

The town was the headquarters for the Fifth Battalion of the Black Watch, and at times had different detachments of the Gordons, The Argylls and Sutherlands, the Highland Light Infantry and the Royal Field Artillery quartered within the burgh.

On the very day of the outbreak of war, many Forfar lads of the Cyclists’ Company were dispatched to patrol part of the coast. The local Black Watch mobilised and left for Dundee and reservists were immediately called for, with no fewer than 14 leaving the Post Office to serve in one capacity or another.