LETTERS: Whithorn has more deserving heroes

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I READ the article “Freedom fighter is remembered” (The Galloway Gazette, March 2). It was not what the article said but what it did not say that came across to me.

George Dickie did, indeed, join the Cameron Highlanders, leave the Cameron Highlanders after a short spell, change his name, and go to London. The unsavoury truth was that he deserted from the regiment, was forced to change his name to Jack Brent to avoid capture and, for the rest of his life was on the run, mostly in London, to evade justice.

George Dickie, by now Jack Brent, did go to Spain to fight against the fascists of Franco who were supported by Hitler and Mussolini. George, or Jack, was a lifelong communist who went to fight for the communist republican cause that was supported by that other well-known mass murderer and despot, Josef Stalin.

So bestial were the atrocities perpetrated by both sides, it is little wonder that no other country became involved in the struggle between two of the 20th century’s most evil ideologies: fascism and communism.

Whithorn has an exemplary record of service to this country in two world wars. Literally hundreds of men and women from the burgh and parish of Whithorn wore the King’s uniform in both conflicts. A proud record is that Whithorn, jointly with Kirkconnel, had the greatest number of volunteers per head of population who went to fight for this country in the First World War.

Eighty names on Whithorn war memorial are a sombre testimony to the sacrifice made by the men of Whithorn fighting for their native land. I can name, rather uniquely, one woman and 17 men who were highly decorated for bravery, above and beyond the call of duty in the First World War.

I have a friend who, as a young Whithorn girl, was part of the Bletchley Park code-breaking team that was credited with shortening the Second World War by two years, thus saving thousands of lives.

I also remember a Whithorn man, alas no longer with us, who as part of operation “Overlord” stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.

Despite all of Whithorn’s long and illustrious history, who does Whithorn Business Association’s triumvirate, none of whom is indigenous to the burgh, deem fit to be the first man to have a plaque erected to him in Whithorn?

None other than a self-promoting Canadian communist deserter, hiding behind a pseudonym, who did nothing for Great Britain or Whithorn.

The final irony is that we have on the streets of Whithorn a plaque to a man who could not show his face in, or walk down the streets of, Whithorn as he faced arrest, imprisonment and a dishonourable discharge form the Scottish regiment that he disgraced.

How popular the plaque is in Whithorn can be judged by the fact that when it was first mooted, 159 people from this small town signed a petition against such a move.

William Lawrie,

Catyans, Whithorn.

THE article about the life of George Dickie reminded me, as the last of the Whithorn-born wartime servicemen, about the deaths of nine Whithorn boys in the Second World War.

Six of them were at school with me. Sandy Cain worked in our shop before he was called up for army service. Sandy was wounded early in the war and, when he recovered, was sent to fight against Rommel in the North Africa campaign.

Sandy was killed in action.

Robert Flannighan served on a destroyer on patrol in the North Sea. When on leave he called on a friend who said they would see him again on his next leave.

Robert said: “I have a fear I might not be back – things are very bad out there.” Robert’s words came true: he never returned from his last patrol and was lost at sea. That was the fate of two boys I knew well. Similar stories could apply to the other seven boys who gave their lives.

I would like to see a plaque to their memory in a prominent place in Whithorn.

The war memorial is filled to the top with names. I don’t think all of our boys’ names are on it, as there would not be enough space.

These heroes should never be forgotten. They were young men who gave their lives for their country and a Christian way of life.

David Doughty,

31 George Street, Whithorn.