The deeper I get into my family tree, the more men I find with military backgrounds. There are a few interesting stories but one who grabbed my attention very early on in my genealogy days was William McCoskry Rae.
William McCoskry Rae was the fifth child and youngest son of Robert Rae and Margaret Davies. As a young man, he enlisted in the army to serve in World War 1. My searches have not revealed any marriages or children from him, suggesting he died a single man. Given his young age , this is not unexpected. It would appear he was ill towards the end of the war and around a month after peace was declared, William died at a military hospital in Stockport aged just 19 years. It definitely saddens me that he died away from his family.
William is not a direct ancestor of mine (his older brother Robert John is my great-grandfather) but I feel a great sense of responsibility for him. As a soldier, he fought for his country which I think is a very brave task for such a young man. I ordered his death certificate (a bittersweet moment) which revealed he did not die directly of war wounds but of severe illness caused by his wounds. Following his death, William was buried in the family plot in Castle Douglas, Kirkcudbrightshire. His name and rank are displayed on a war memorial plaque in Rhonehouse and Kelton church. These plaques offer a permanent memorial for him and his fellow fallen soldiers. While plaques are often overlooked and become part of the furniture of the building, through this process I have learned to appreciate their value. I was fortunate to visit Kelton Parish Church last autumn and was able to see the plaque there myself, which I found unexpectedly moving. With no direct family left behind, I want to make sure that he is remembered properly and with honour. My own grandparents are buried in the same cemetery as him and whenever I visit them, I wander past other family plots in the cemetery. William’s plot is very close to theirs so as I lay flowers, I pick one out and put it at the foot of his family stone. All of my ancestors are important to me, but I hold a special place for his young bravery and sacrifice. He was involved in an important fight, fighting for something that mattered, and that matters a great amount to me.