Remains of Black Watch Soldier Linked to Relatives After 100 Years

Photo Caption:- Major Martin Stanning, OC C Company with Dr Ian Morrison and family member Shiela Thomson
Photo Caption:- Major Martin Stanning, OC C Company with Dr Ian Morrison and family member Shiela Thomson

Lance Corporal John Morrison, from Brodie, was killed in World War I after serving in the 1st Battalion Black Watch (Royal Highlander). His remains were found in France in 2014. DNA tests were performed to find his nearest living relatives.

Experts from the Ministry of Defence (MOD) found Morrison’s 90-year-old-nephew, Dr. Ian Morrison, in Dingwall. They also found his cousin, Sheila Thomson, in Forres, only two miles from the fallen soldier’s family home.

Dr. Morrison and Mrs. Thomson have visited Fort George Barracks near Ardesier. There, they learned more about their ancestor. They will travel to France next month for a burial ceremony.

Morrison was killed in January of 1915 at the age of 29. His remains were found at Cuinchy, near Arras. He had a spoon – marked with his service number, 5181 – with him when he was found. That, along with insignia found with the body, was the vital clue to learning his identity. Using DNA tests, the MOD’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre was able to find his nearest living relatives.

A ceremonial burial will be performed next month in Arras. The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland, will provide soldiers to act as pallbearers, fire the salute, and play bagpipes at the ceremony.

Dr. Morrison made clear that he was indebted to the military for connecting him to his heroic ancestor.

He added: “My cousin and I have been immensely impressed and grateful for the investigative work carried out by the MOD’s JCCC, and by the Black Watch in honoring one of their own with a full ceremonial burial. This discovery has excited intense interest in the Morrison family, a number of whom intend to be present at the forthcoming ceremony in France.”

Beverley Simon, of the MOD’s JCCC team, said, “It is extremely rare but immensely satisfying to be able to trace living relatives of one of the many fallen heroes of the Great War. This is particularly poignant in the case of LCpl Morrison, as the living relatives are so closely connected.”

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE