CAs who made the ultimate sacrifice

Soldiers at sunset WW1.jpg
By Sandy Manson CA

8 November 2018

As we approach the centenary of the end of World War I, Sandy Manson pays tribute to those who fought and died defending our freedom.

After a vintage summer, which allowed us to finish the harvest on our Aberdeenshire farm in August, storm season has arrived. For some of us, the shorter days and the chill in the air will provide the perfect excuse to relax and enjoy the forthcoming autumn rugby internationals.

More than 100 years ago, in 1910, the British Lions toured South Africa, playing 24 games in total. Eric “Puss” MacLeod Milroy was in the Lions squad. He was a talented Scottish rugby player who captained the national team and clocked up 12 caps over four years. He proudly led them onto the pitch when they played England at Inverleith in 1914. It was to be the final game before the outbreak of the First World War.

Milroy attended George Watson’s College in Edinburgh. After graduating from the University of Edinburgh, he was apprenticed to Messrs A&J Robertson CA. He was then admitted as a member of the Edinburgh Society of Accountants in February 1914.

Five months later war broke out in Europe; by the end of September Milroy had enlisted in the Royal Scots. He quickly rose through the ranks – the leadership skills he had cultivated during his time as a rugby captain and in the Cadet Corps proved invaluable.

I visited Thiepval and Delville Wood during a trip to the Somme in 2014; it was one of the most moving experiences of my life.

In July 1916 his division was fighting in the Somme; Lieutenant Milroy went missing near Delville Wood. For three years his family lived in hope that he was still alive, but in April 1919 their worst fears were confirmed.

Lieutenant Milroy is commemorated, along with more than 72,000 men of the British and South African forces with no known grave, on the Thiepval Memorial in the Somme.

I visited Thiepval and Delville Wood during a trip to the Somme in 2014; it was one of the most moving experiences of my life. I wanted to see where my grandfather, Captain Alexander Manson, together with his fellow Gordon Highlanders, went over the top in the 13 November 1916 allied offensive at Beaumont-Hamel.

We still have the kilt he was wearing when he fell injured that day, more than 100 years ago, complete with the grisly evidence of the dried mud of the Somme.

My grandfather was badly injured in that attack, and was reported dead. My great-grandparents received a telegram notifying them that their son had been killed in action, only to receive a further telegram advising them that he was in fact alive.

Despite losing his arm, he was one of the lucky ones who survived, and thank goodness he did otherwise someone else would be writing this President’s column!

As we approach the 100th anniversary of the end of the war, let us all pause and remember those CAs who lost their lives defending our freedom.

I am of a generation of CAs who can count themselves very lucky not to have experienced war and as we exercise moral courage in meeting today’s challenges, we would do well to remember the bravery of those CAs, like Eric Milroy, who took their courage to the battlefields.

Lieutenant Milroy’s story, and that of all the CAs who fought in the First World War, can be found in the Book of Remembrance and Roll of Honour, which is displayed in CA House. I would encourage you to look at this publication the next time you visit.

Valour, service, integrity: virtues of the soldiers who sacrificed themselves in the First World War and of those who continue to serve today.

As we approach the 100th anniversary of the end of the war, let us all pause and remember those CAs who lost their lives defending our freedom.

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