REMEMBRANCE Day service attendees in Barr were told an unexpected tale last Sunday as they heard the unknown history of a village war fatality.
James Johnstone, known as Hamish, was Barr’s only Second World War casualty, but little was known about his death in action until villager James Farquhar decided to determine the facts.
Dr Farquhar, 85, of Sunnyside, Barr, was a childhood contemporary of Mr Johnson, with whom he used to go shooting for rabbits near Dinmurchie Farm on the outskirts of the village.
Having decided to find out the truth about Mr Johnstone’s wartime experience he discovered his body, which it had previously been believed was never recovered, was in fact buried in a war cemetery in Germany.
With internet research, Dr Farquhar was able to track down a memoriam from Mr Johnstone’s parents, James and Margaret - former owners of the King’s Arms Hotel - dated September 1945 and lamenting the loss of their “dearly beloved only son” a year earlier.
Dr Farquhar discovered that RAF navigator James had been killed on September 22 1944 when his Lancaster Bomber crashed near Kapellen, a town in the northern Belgian province of Antwerp.
On their way to bomb a German engineering works at Duisberg, none of the crew - which included two members of the Canadian and one of the Australian Air Force - survived.
Mr Johnstone is now buried in the Reichswalt Forest War Cemetery in northwest Germany, close to the Dutch border.
Dr Farquhar described the atmosphere in the village when the news of his death reached Barr - where to this day residents remain that remember him.
“There was great sadness that swept the village,” he said. “Everyone was really shocked.”
Had he survived, James Johnstone would have been 90 years old this year.