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World War I hero commemorated

Section:  Dumfries and West  | Tags: , ,

A PAVING stone commemorating a local soldier who won the Victoria Cross but died in WWI has been unveiled in the region.

The official tribute to Lieutenant James Edward Tait VC MC was revealed yesterday at a service of commemoration at Maxwelltown West Church, attended by the Lord Lieutenant of Dumfries; Lt Col Tim Partello, Canadian Army Liaison Officer to the British Army; MSPs; and Legion Scotland representatives, as well as members of the public. Wreaths were also laid in his memory at Maxwelltown War Memorial.

James Edward Tait, was born on May 27 1886 in Greenbrae, Maxwelltown. He emigrated to Canada, where he worked as a civil engineer, and married Jessie Spiers Aitken from West Arcadia, California. He enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in February 1916 and served with the 78th (Winnipeg Grenadiers) Battalion during World War 1, securing the Military Cross in 1917.

An entry in The London Gazette, in September 1918, describes how he then got the Victoria Cross, which was awarded ‘for most conspicuous bravery and initiative in attack’. It reads: “The advance having been checked by intense machine-gun fire, Lieutenant Tait rallied his company and led it forward with consummate skill and dash under a hail of bullets. A concealed machine gun, however, continued to cause many casualties. Taking a rifle and bayonet, Lieutenant Tait dashed forward alone and killed the enemy gunner. Inspired by his example his men rushed the position, capturing 12 machine guns and 20 prisoners. His valorous action cleared the way for his battalion to advance. Later, when the enemy counter-attacked our positions under intense artillery bombardment, this gallant officer displayed outstanding courage and leadership and, though mortally wounded by a shell, continued to aid and direct his men until his death.”

Lt Tait died in action on August 11 1918 at Amiens in France, and is buried in Fouquescourt British Cemetery, France. His Victoria Cross is held in Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Canada. Commenting on this week’s service, Councillor Archie Dryburgh, the armed forces champion for Dumfries and Galloway Council, said: “As an ex-serviceman, it has been a privilege and an honour to be involved with the planning of the events to commemorate the centenary of Lieutenant James Edward Tait being awarded the Victoria Cross for his gallant act of bravery during WWI.” Councillor Rob Davidson added: “Lieutenant Tait was an immensely courageous man and I am glad that our council has arranged this commemoration of his being awarded the Victoria Cross. It will be a privilege to lay a wreath in Lieutenant Tait’s memory.”

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