Sunday, 17 February 2013

Died in internment

John Macleay of Lower Shader was interned in Holland from October 1914. After his death in August 1915, the Groningen newspaper Nieuwsblad van het Noorden gave a full account of the ceremony surrounding his burial in the Zuiderbegraafplaats cemetery in the city. The translation is given below the summary of John's personal and military information.

Last address in Lewis: 38 Lower Shader,
Son of John and Annie MacLeay. Born at Shader Barvas, Lewis.
Service unit: Royal Naval Division, Collingwood Battallion
Service number: CH/2588/B
Date of death: 26 August 1915 at the age of 31
Died in Groningen during internment in Holland
Interred: Groningen Southern cemetery, Holland North-West part, Class 4, row 37
Local memorial: North Lewis, Borve

Nieuwsblad van het Noorden, Groningen, Holland, 30 August 1915

"On Saturday morning at 10 o'clock, the funeral took place of the English internee John MacLeay, who succumbed to tuberculosis in the Academic Hospital here. At 10 o'clock, the coffin was placed on the bier, carried by twelve internees. The entire bier was covered in a host of flowers, shaped like anchors, crosses and wreaths. It was a serious and solumn moment when the bier with the deceased passed through a double guard of honour, consisting of a company of internees, and a thick throng of spectators behind, on its way to the final resting place, far from his native land, far from his family. The internees' musicians went ahead. The drums were covered in shrouds of mourning. Sad but solemnly the "Dead March" from "Saul" by Handel was played. Four military policemen rode ahead to clear a path through the thick throng of spectators, who were waiting on the pavements or walking ahead of the cortege. Police and militia were fully occupied in keeping the attending spectators out of the cortege, but public order was maintained in an exemplary fashion.

The firing squad, consisting of 6 Dutch soldiers, commanded by a lieutenant, followed the bier, behind which followed three clergymen, one in full robes, and the company of about 300 internees. Twenty-four Dutch accompanying forces came behind these. Commodore Henderson and captain Broertjes were also observed. The large crowd of spectators lined the route, from Oostersingel, Nieuwe Weg, Poelestraat, Oosterstraat, Rademarkt, Heeresingel and Heereweg.

At the cemetery, another guard of honour of English internees was lined up in two rows. Apart from the commandant of the internment depot and the chief constable of police, several Dutch naval officers, non-commissioned officers and lower ranks were present. The twelve internees, who had walked beside the bier through the city streets, now once more acted as bearers, whilst the firing squad took up positions at the entrance to the cemetery. Slowly, the coffin, draped in the English flag, was carried on the bearers' shoulders into the cemetery. An order from the lieutenant broke the profound silence. Aim high! Fire salvo! Fire! Six shots rang out. Inside the cemetery, several NCO's and lower ranks were lined up who saluted as the coffin was carried past, now also followed by other figures in authority. When the coffin was at the graveside, the firing squad, now consisting of 7 men, fired a salvo over the coffin.

The trumpeteers sounded signals and Rev. D. McDougall led in prayer. After reading Psalm 90 in English, he requested the Scottish sailors to sing two verses from psalm 14 in the Celtic language, precented by Ordinary Sailor MacDonald. This singing made a deep impression on those present. Rev. Coryton from Rotterdam read 1 Corinthians 15, and Rev Miedema Revelations 22, after which Rev. Thomson from Amsterdam closed the ceremony with prayer. The internees now lowered the coffin into the grave, upon which the firing squad fired another salvo over the coffin. This ended the ceremony.

Nine wreaths covered the bier, with the following texts: "With deepest sympathy 1. from Gaelic Scotchmen in Hawke Battalion, 2. from his Scotch Friends as. R.F.R. - R.N.V.R. and 3. from the Dutch officers of the Internment Depot, 4. from the interned members of the camp, 5. from Commodore Henderson, 6. an anchor from Gaelic Scotchmen in Benbow Battalion, 7. a glass box with wreath of the R.N.R. Collingwood Battalion, 8. from his comrades D. Company Collingwood Battalion 1st Naval Brigade, 9. a cross. In the afternoon, when the cemetery was also open to the public, many took the opportunity to visit the grave". 

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