Wednesday, 16 February 2011

From Lower Sandwick to Baku


Last address in Lewis: 3 Lower Sandwick,
Son of the late William and Isabella MacLeod, of 3, Lower Sandwick, Stornoway.
Service unit: 1st Seaforth Highlanders
Service number: S/15208
Date of death: 26 August 1918 at the age of 31
Killed in action in Baku
Memorial: Baku Memorial
Local memorial: Lewis War Memorial; Nicolson Institute WW1, middle panel
View tribute here

That is the entry from Faces from the Lewis War Memorial, the only one featuring the war memorial at Baku. William was one of more than 90 British soldiers who were killed in a brief summer offensive in Azerbaijan. The Christian cemetery where he was interred was destroyed for the establishment of an amusement park by the Azeri's first communist leader, Sergei Kirov, in the 1920s. William's name is remembered on the memorial. According to the records from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, 47 names of Commonwealth soldiers are listed on the memorial. It has been in existence for not much more than a decade, and plans for it blew up a storm in the post-Soviet Azerbijan. This seems to have blown over by now, and the memorial stands in the same cemetery where the tomb of the unknown warrior lies. I can only link to the URL of an image of the memorial, due to copyright issues.

Azerbaijan lies in the general area of the Caucasus, and that is a hotbed of political strife. The names of Nagorno-Karabach, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Turkey combine into an explosive mixture, going back to the years of the First World War. It is about as bad as the Balkans, and even reading up on the issue made my head hurt. But worse than hurt were the British soldiers who were left behind upon the evacuation of their contingent in September 1918, having made the supreme sacrifice. Their remains were granted no rest, and the crazy politics of the area nearly made it impossible for their names to be remembered. But I am happy that Willie John's name is listed on a memorial, however far from home. His nephew is even happier - he has told me himself.

No comments:

Post a Comment