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Historian uncovers fallen soldier’s link to Norfolk village

PUBLISHED: 11:23 16 April 2018 | UPDATED: 12:15 17 April 2018

Fife and Forfar Yeomanry in Fakenham. Picture: St Andrew’s/Ryburgh Remembers

Fife and Forfar Yeomanry in Fakenham. Picture: St Andrew’s/Ryburgh Remembers

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A Scottish soldier who died 100 years ago is to be remembered by a Norfolk village after a local historian uncovered his connection to the parish.

The extract from the Ryburgh parish magazine 1918. Picture: St Andrew’s/Ryburgh RemembersThe extract from the Ryburgh parish magazine 1918. Picture: St Andrew’s/Ryburgh Remembers

Private Charles Smith McDonald of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers was originally from Aberdeen and died on April 20, 1918, after sustaining serious injuries in the French trenches during a heavy bombardment.

He was buried at Etaples Military Cemetery where his gravestone reads “Ever remembered by his father and mother and brothers in Scotland”.

Peter Trent, a historian from Ryburgh, discovered that Private McDonald had a connection to Norfolk when he came across an entry in the May 1918 issue of the Ryburgh parish magazine.

The entry, dated April 22, stated that the husband of resident Lily McDonald had died of wounds in France but it did not name him. Mr Trent soon began investigating the identity of the unnamed husband and his research established that Mrs McDonald was the younger daughter of Robert Bailey Doy and Jane Nelson, two family names that have been known for many generations in Ryburgh.

The regiment badge for King’s Own Scottish Borderers. Picture: St Andrew’s/Ryburgh RemembersThe regiment badge for King’s Own Scottish Borderers. Picture: St Andrew’s/Ryburgh Remembers

He also discovered that before joining the regiment, Private McDonald had served with the Fife and Forfar Yeomanry. In the spring of 1915, that regiment arrived in Fakenham and this appears to be when the pair met.

In 1916 they were married and the following February their only child, Annie Irene, was born.

The historic research group, Ryburgh Remembers is now trying to trace the couple’s relatives to find out more about their lives in Norfolk.

Researcher Steve Bushby said: “We believe that Lily McDonald’s sister Mabel and her husband James English lived in Gressenhall and Toftwood. Unfortunately, we’ve been unable to discover what happened to Lily and her daughter Annie Irene and would like to hear from anyone who can tell us more.”

After discovering Private McDonald’s link to the village, the community plans to hold a service to honour his memory, as part of its ongoing WW1 Centenary commemorations. It will begin at 2pm on Friday April 20 and feature a peal set to be rung at St Andrew’s Church.

Anyone with information on his descendants, or who can help Ryburgh Remembers in their efforts to commemorate the fallen, can contact Mr Bushby on 07760 451755.

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