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Alfred Anderson (25 June 1896 – 21 November 2005) was a Scottish joiner and veteran of the First World War. He was the last known holder of the 1914 Star (the Old Contemptibles), the last known combatant to participate in the 1914 World War I Christmas truce, Scotland's last known World War I veteran, and Scotland's oldest man for more than a year.

WW I experiences

In October 1914 Anderson left his home and, with the 1/5th (Angus and Dundee) Battalion of the Black Watch, travelled by train from Dundee to Southampton and took a ferry to Le Havre. The regiment mainly recruited in Angus, so Anderson was surrounded by a group of friends with whom he had joined the Territorial Force in 1912 (aged 16), he thought he was going on a grand adventure; they had volunteered to go and fight on the Western Front.

On 24 December 1914 and 25 December 1914, his unit was billeted in a farmhouse away from the front line. He vividly remembered the day and once said:

I remember the silence, the eerie sound of silence. Only the guards were on duty. We all went outside the farm buildings and just stood listening. And, of course, thinking of people back home. All I'd heard for two months in the trenches was the hissing, cracking and whining of bullets in flight, machinegun fire and distant German voices. But there was a dead silence that morning, right across the land as far as you could see. We shouted 'Merry Christmas', even though nobody felt merry. The silence ended early in the afternoon and the killing started again. It was a short peace in a terrible war.

The following year the 1/5th Battalion fought at the Battles of Neuve Chapelle and Loos. He became batman to his platoon commander Lieutenant Ian Bruce-Gardyne MC, and also briefly to Captain Fergus Bowes-Lyon, brother of the Queen Mother. Anderson was brave and cool and he would often go out at night with Bruce-Gardyne into no-man's land to listen for enemy activity such as tunnelling or troop movements.

On one of these night-time sorties Anderson was wounded in the back of the neck and shoulder by shrapnel from shellfire in 1916—in the slang of the time a "Blighty" (a wound serious enough to necessitate a recuperation in Britain). After recovering at a hospital in Norfolk he became an infantry instructor at a camp near Ripon, rising to the rank of staff sergeant by the end of the war. It was during his time as an instructor that he married Susanna Iddison. After the war, he took her back to Scotland and recommenced life as a joiner in his father's business.

WW II

Anderson was placed in command of a detachment of Home Guard in the Second World War. After that war he was elected chairman of the local branch of the Royal British Legion.

Modern

He was awarded the Légion d'honneur in 1998 as were all First World War veterans who fought on French soil. In 2003, when his service as batman to Fergus Bowes-Lyon (who was killed in 1915) came out, Prince Charles went to visit him. Charles is the great nephew of Fergus Bowes-Lyon.

His wife died in 1979 and he moved to Alyth to be near his youngest daughter. Six weeks before his own death he moved to Mundamalla Nursing Home, where he died in November 2005 at the age of 109. At his death, he was Scotland's oldest man. He died just a few weeks after featuring in the BBC One documentary The Last Tommy, which interviewed some of the last surviving First World War British Army veterans (nicknamed Tommy or Tommy Atkins).

The widower, who had five children, said he had lost count of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He was actually survived by four children, ten grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren, and two great-great grandchildren. A biography (Alfred Anderson: A Life in Three Centuries) was published in 2002, and a bust of him stands on display at the public library in Alyth.

About Christmas Anderson said:

I'll give Christmas Day 1914 a brief thought, as I do every year. And I'll think about all my friends who never made it home. But it's too sad to think too much about it. Far too sad.

See also

References

  • Obituary, The Times, page 61, 22 November 2005

External links

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