Montrose lieutenant to be honoured at Tower

A Montrose lieutenant’s name is to be read out at the Tower of London Remembrance project.

At the memorial service, ceramic poppies, one for each on the 800,000 British and Empire men and women killed in the First World War are being laid around the Tower, creating a sea of red before the historic walls.

Each evening there is a ceremony at which the names of some of the dead are read out, followed by a bugler sounding the last post. Among those to be read out today (Wednesday, November 5) is Lieutenant Maxwell Edden Preston.

Dr Dan Paton, curator of Montrose Air Station Heritage Museum, said: “Lieutenant Preston is well known to us at the Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre. For several years now the Heritage Centre has been asked by his family to lay a poppy cross at his grave at Sleepy Hillock on Remembrance Sunday.

“A member of his family, Janet Morris, carrying out family history research, discovered that he was buried at Montrose and enquired of us what he was doing here. I was able to tell her that he was a pilot in training at No32 Training Depot Squadron, RAF Montrose and was killed when the Sopwith Camel he was flying crashed near the airfield in August 1918. He was 18 years old when he died.

“Lieutenant Preston was one of many young men who were killed at Montrose and one of 28 buried here. The great majority of men who were killed in flying accidents at Montrose lie in graves throughout Britain and we are carrying out a project to identify them, using records in the National Record Office. Once we know their identity, we will involve the children of local schools in finding out as much as possible about them.

“The results will be shown on a new website which will be accessible world-wide. The centenary has created a huge interest in the history of the war and inspired many families to dig into the stories of relatives who fought in the war. The Heritage Centre is benefitting from this as the families of men who served at Montrose contact us and many have visited the Heritage Centre.

“Commemorating the start of the First World War has been the main activity of the Heritage Centre this year. In January we were awarded £80,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund for a project entitled First in France 1914. Our claim, that the War in the Air started at Montrose, must have impressed because we beat applications by major museums.

“In a sense it did, for on August 3, the day before war was declared, No2 Squadron left Montrose and one of their pilots, Lieutenant Harvey-Kelly, became the first British pilot to land in France. The grant has enabled us to erect a new building to house our First World War collection. New exhibitions will be in place when we re-open next April designed to tell the story of the part played by Montrose Air Station throughout the war and provide a unique insight into the important role of aviation.

“By then we will be well advanced with the construction of a full scale replica of Harvey-Kelly’s BE2, which will complement our replica Sopwith Camel. Montrose will be the only museum in Scotland where visitors will be able to see what a First World War aircraft looked like.

“Montrose Air Station is a great local success story and a remarkable achievement by local people who volunteer their time and energy. Support us in our work to preserve and present the great aviation heritage of Montrose.”