THE provost of East Lothian, John McMillan, led tributes to the young men and women resting at St Martin’s cemetery in Haddington as War Graves Week was commemorated.

Councillor McMillan thanked the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) for caring for the 48 Commonwealth individuals who died in East Lothian during the First and Second World Wars, ensuring they will never be forgotten. They are buried at St Martin’s.

Dedicated care and hard work from staff, supporters and volunteers help preserve the unique cultural, horticultural and architectural heritage of the CWGC.

The memorial service last Friday, led by Patricia Keppie, north and east Scotland public engagement regional co-ordinator, was attended by the provost, volunteer David Murray and historian Bob Mitchell.

The provost laid a wreath of poppies before leading a heartfelt tribute to the fallen soldiers buried in the cemetery.

Speaking poignantly, Mr McMillan, said: “On behalf of the families of the fallen, thank you for treating these people like humans, caring and remembering the sacrifices they made, and for tending to their gravesides like mothers would.”

The CWGC national awareness week, which took place between May 21 and 28, recognised the world war heritage on East Lothian’s doorstep.

With more than 300,000 casualties commemorated across the UK, there is a Commonwealth war grave in many towns.

During the commemoration week, the CWGC allowed residents to search for and visit the graves of local veterans.

Patricia said: “CWGC’s first ever War Graves Week was designed to shine a light on the stories of the war dead we care for throughout the UK and on the staff who look after their resting places.

“It’s also a continuing opportunity for the public to learn about and remember the casualties in their communities.”

Soldiers who hailed from as close as Haddington to as far as New Zealand who succumbed to their injuries in East Lothian are buried in the cemetery.

During the war, East Lothian was home to several RAF bases and these saw a number of casualties from accidents associated with operations and training.

Many of those who died in the county were pilots who succumbed to injuries sustained in plane crashes.

Haddington, as the main county town, was chosen as their final resting place.

The youngest serving soldier to die in the UK during the Second World War was only 14 years old.

David Murray, East Lothian CWGC Kantor volunteer, said: “‘War Graves Week has been an ideal platform to shine a light on the work of the CWGC.

“Those who died during the world wars are buried and honoured here in East Lothian and throughout the world, and it is important to recognise the sacrifice of conflicts past and more recent. It’s the backbone of our heritage of remembrance.’

The CWGC is committed to equality and works to ensure that all the war dead of the Commonwealth, wherever they came from and wherever they fell, are remembered.

Haddington-born gunner, Andrew Stewart, of the Royal Artillery, died in 1942 at 37 years old.

An inscription on his grave reads: “Greater love hath no man than this; he gave his life for his country.”

Patricia ensures the stories of those who died are proudly told and that special care is given to the foreign soldiers whose families might never be able to visit them.

She laid a remembrance cross at the grave of 22-year-old Flight Sergeant David Shaw from Canterbury, New Zealand, in a tribute to his duty and his family’s treasured memories.

The grave of 17-year-old Margaret Clark Lee, Women’s Auxiliary Air Force aircraftwoman, shone under the sun as remembrance crosses were laid at the foot of her grave.

The young woman died of multiple injuries sustained when she fell alighting from a train at East Fortune railway station on March 27, 1943.

She had been serving at the RAF base in East Fortune.

Patricia added: “Too often, fallen female soldiers are forgotten.”

Patricia said in December that herself and other volunteers laid tealights at the graves of soldiers who died near Christmas to pay tribute to them.

She added that the overwhelming grief the bereaved mothers would have felt when receiving word of their child’s death days before Christmas was too difficult to comprehend.

The CWGC aims to connect schools, universities and wider sections of the community by sharing the stories of the East Lothian men and women who are commemorated.

To achieve this awareness, the Kantor Speakers Programme has been created to offer a free service of talks on all aspects of the work of the commission.

To book a talk, contact East Lothian representative David Murray on 01620 824836 or at