ON November 11, 1918, four years of the worst conflict the world had ever seen finally came to an end.

And, this Sunday, the nation will mark 100 years since the guns fell silent.

This means that, while Remembrance Sunday has become a time to honour the memories of all servicemen and women lost in combat, the sacrifices made by those in the First World War will be at the forefront of many people’s thoughts.

But who were the men whose names are listed on war memorials in Barrhead and Neilston?

Thanks to the work of the Neilston War Memorial Association (NWMA), the incredible stories of the men behind the names have gradually been uncovered and recorded, ensuring their individual sacrifices are not forgotten.

As well as organising events, maintaining the local memorial and adding new names as they are discovered, the association works diligently to seek out the untold stories of servicemen from the local area who lost their lives in battle.

Among them is Barrhead man James Flynn.

The son of Hugh and Julia Flynn, of 6 Muriel Street, James was an employee of the South Arthurlie Print Works prior to enlisting. His family were also members of St John’s Church.

Barrhead News:

Barrhead war hero James Flynn

James was awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) for prompt action and courage during an attack on his position just outside Neuville St Vaast, in France, on March 31, 1916.

The Germans exploded two mines under trenches occupied by men from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, killing many in the blast.

As soon as the explosives had been detonated, the Germans attacked the dazed British troops.

James responded immediately. Seeing three of the enemy close by, he felled one with a grenade to the face and then pursued the others, driving them out of the crater and setting a fine example of courage.

The German attack cost the lives of three men from Barrhead and Neilston – but the bravery shown by James surely saved many more.
Sadly, he was killed in action on April 19, 1918, aged just 25.

Also being honoured this weekend is Thomas Fox – one of three friends from Neilston who lost their lives on June 20, 1915.

Barrhead News: Matthew Drennan, secretary of NWMA

Previously employed as a surface man on the Glasgow-Barrhead-Kilmarnock railway, Thomas was a private in the Argylls who, on the day of his death, was engaged in assisting stretcher bearers.

Along with his friend Herbert Johnston, also of Neilston, he was helping to carry a wounded comrade to safety when a shell exploded nearby.

Thomas died instantly on the field, while Herbert succumbed to his wounds later that day.

A postcard found on Thomas, addressed to his father at 5 High Street Neilston, was delivered home and showed the marks of the shell impact on his body.

Matthew Drennan, NWMA secretary, said: “Although these young lads died over 100 years ago, the deaths of so many young locals has deeply impacted many, including myself.

“Pictures and letters sent home from the front, such as a letter written on June 27, 1915, in the trenches of France by Alex Gebbie to his mother at 34 Main Street, Neilston, make me feel emotional and humble.

Barrhead News:

Alex Gebbie, of Neilston, died in 1916

“Through the research of the Neilston War Memorial Association, I know that, by June 1915, Alex had lost very many of his friends in the Argylls and probably watched many of them die, including his cousin Herbert Benjamin Johnston, aged 20.

“To read the message written home, knowing the history behind it, and not to be touched by it means you have not considered it enough.

“Young Alex was crushed to death on April 10, 1916, at just 20 years of age.

“The Germans undermined the trench he was in at the Labyrinth area near Vimy Ridge and blew it to Hell.

“Finding and sharing local history like this has touched so many local people and brought our wee village closer together.

Barrhead News: Soldiers from local regiment the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders are pictured leaving for the trenches in France on May 1, 1915

“We will stand side by side with each other as a community on November 11 to say thanks and to commemorate their memory.”

Residents, councillors, local dignitaries and veterans will gather at a number of services in the local area on Sunday to pay their respects to the fallen.

East Renfrewshire Provost Jim Fletcher said: “This year marks 100 years since the end of the First World War and I am honoured to have the opportunity to be a part of these services.”