MELNESS WAR MEMORIAL
On the 23rd of July 1915, the
population of Melness was five hundred and thirty men, women and children. A
total of eighty-eight men were in the Armed Forces at that time, a figure that
represented sixteen percent of the total population. This figure would rise by
the end of the First World War to one hundred and twenty-one, the highest total
of the three villages.
Many of the
men were members of the huge herring fleet, which fished the shores of the
North of Scotland prior to the war. The herring fishermen, almost to a man all
members of the Royal Naval Reserve, were mobilized at the outbreak of war.
Naval Reservists were called up nationwide on the 1 of August
1914, the Wick Division sent out call up papers to its men by motor cars,
asking them to be in Wick by 10am on the 2 of August. Two hundred
men from the county of Sutherland were called up on that date, leaving Wick
railway station at 3pm bound for the Naval Depots and front line warships.
were also gamekeepers and ghillies who served in the famous Lovat Scouts as
snipers and spotters for the artillery. They served across the globe, in the
front line of many famous battles witnessing the terrible carnage caused by war
in a new industrial age of machine-guns and poison gas.
who had left Melness to live in Canada and New Zealand, returned to the
battlefields with the Armies of those countries to join in the fight. They
served in Gallipoli, Macedonia and on the Western Front in France until the war
was over, many coming home bearing the scars of war.
woman from this area to be killed while in the Armed Forces is named on this
war memorial, a nurse who joined the Army Medical Corps to tend the sick and
dying only to become a casualty herself. Isabella Mackenzie was witness to the
terrible waste of war, as young men were brought into the field hospitals to be
treated for their wounds.
She was a
member of the Mackenzie family who had moved from Melness to live in Lairg,
families today can only imagine the loss of three sons and daughter to war. The
Mackenzie family losses also appear on Lairg War Memorial.
Memorial also shows the name of John Barnetson, a regular soldier who for his
bravery was nominated for the Victoria Cross. This was reduced to the award of
the Distinguished Conduct Medal for saving the lives of one hundred men,
getting severely wounded as he did so.
Second World War many men from Melness served in the forces and four made the
ultimate sacrifice. There are probably many stories to be told by those that
returned home at wars end and are yet to tell.
residents of Melness were not immune from disaster during the last war when the
tramp steamer SS Ashbury foundered on rocks at Talmine Bay and the crew were