Edinburgh Airman has name added to roll of honour 100 years after his death

The Queen's Own Highlanders lay their colours at the National War Memorial. Attended by the Duke  of Edinburgh.
The Queen's Own Highlanders lay their colours at the National War Memorial. Attended by the Duke of Edinburgh.
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AN Edinburgh airman killed during the First World War has had his name added to a national roll of honour a century after his death.

Lieutenant Robert John Fleming died on 29 January 1918 when the Sopwith Camel he was flying crashed during a training exercise at Croydon.

Lieutenant Robert John Fleming died on 29 January 1918 when the Sopwith Camel he was flying crashed during a training exercise at Croydon.

Lieutenant Robert John Fleming died on 29 January 1918 when the Sopwith Camel he was flying crashed during a training exercise at Croydon.

He was just 19 years old.

A report absolved the Royal Flying Corps of any responsibility for the teenage pilot’s death and stated he alone was responsible for the accident.

Born in 1898, Fleming was the son of an Edinburgh preserve manufacturer and studied at Daniel Stewart College, now Stewart’s Melville College, until the outbreak of the Great War. He first enlisted in May 1916 as a private in 6th Battalion Royal Scots, but was sent home after it was discovered he was under the age of 18.

Fleming returned with the 2/4th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders and then as a lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps the following year.

Fleming was the son of an Edinburgh preserve manufacturer and studied at Daniel Stewart College, now Stewart's Melville College.

Fleming was the son of an Edinburgh preserve manufacturer and studied at Daniel Stewart College, now Stewart's Melville College.

Almost a century later, Patrick W Anderson, a retired former police sergeant of 30 years, began researching Lt Fleming’s story and learned the teenage airman had not been added to the honours roll at Edinburgh Castle.

The Scottish National War Memorial commemorates the lives of nearly 150,000 Scottish casualties who have died in conflict since the First World War, but to this day it is estimated the names of many thousands of men are still missing.

Patrick, who hails from Arbroath, says his interest in Lt Fleming stems from his own uncle’s involvement in the war.

“My namesake, P W Anderson, Black Watch and Royal Flying Corps, served in the Great War,” said Patrick, 72.

“He was seriously wounded in action in the air over Flanders and died of his wounds in 1921”.

Since looking into his uncle’s war story, Patrick has made it his mission to add the names of more than one hundred Scottish servicemen to the honours roll in the past two decades.

Included in that number now is Lieutenant Robert J Fleming.

Teacher Griselda Fyfe discovered his name on the school rolls of honours list at Stewart’s Melville College in Edinburgh and informed her friend Patrick.

“She wondered if he was listed on the Scottish National War Memorial,” Patrick explained. “But I searched and found that the name of Robert John Fleming was only listed on the Commonwealth War Graves index.

“I contacted Lt Colonel Roger Binks at the Scottish National War Memorial and arranged for his name to be added at Edinburgh Castle.”

Lieutenant Robert J Fleming was accepted to the national roll earlier this month.

It is particularly poignant that today marks exactly one hundred years since his tragic death.

“I’m always really pleased to hear that he has been added,” Patrick said.

“He is a Scot and only Scots can get added to this memorial. I’m delighted I’ve got him on.

“There are loads of names missing from the memorial.

“I’ve noticed several names already on this roll at my church in Arbroath that don’t appear at Edinburgh Castle. My uncle sparked this. Whoever I talk to, I always talk to them about my uncle.

“He’s been dead since 1921. He’s more known now in death than in his short life.

“I love digging into old archives and files. It must be my make up of being a policeman for all those years. As they say, once a bobby, always a bobby,” he said.