Legacy of Scottish Lieutenant who received the Victoria Cross set in stone
A lasting tribute to one of Scotland’s World War One heroes was unveiled today by the Lord Provost of Edinburgh Frank Ross.
A commemorative flagstone to Allan Ebenezer Ker - a 35-year-old Lieutenant in the 3rd Battalion, The Gordon Highlanders - has been laid at the site of his Edinburgh home, 100 years since he received the Victoria Cross.
It was on the 21 March 1918, near St. Quentin, France, when the British line was infiltrated leaving the 61st Battalion of the Machine Gun Corps exposed. Lieutenant defended them to the last.
With the support of his companions, he managed to hold off enemy soldiers and defend his wounded men, despite being exhausted from 10 hours of fighting and heavy bombardment, while suffering from severe hunger and gas poisoning.
He stayed at his post with a sergeant and several men who had been badly wounded, beating off bayonet attacks with revolvers after his only Vickers gun was destroyed. He then collected the wounded into a small shelter and only surrendered when all his ammunition was spent and the position overrun - he had managed to hold 500 of the enemy off for three hours.
Edinburgh’s Lord Provost and Veterans Champion, Frank Ross, was joined by members of the Gordon Highlanders to commemorate Ker’s courage during conflict. He said: “100 years on from the First World War, it is crucial that Edinburgh continues to commemorate its war-time heroes. This tribute to Lieutenant Kerr and the city’s other Victoria Cross flagstones will be a way for new generations to learn about who these servicemen were, in an engaging and meaningful way.
“It has been my privilege as Lord Provost to pay tribute to him and his courage in this lasting way, at the site of his home in the city which helped define the qualities that made him the man he was. I hope that it encourages residents of Findhorn Place to stop and spend a moment reflecting on the sacrifices Kerr and his comrades made, and remember them.”
Although his family tree has long left Scotland, with the last traces of his descendants in America, Allan’s Victoria Cross medal can still be found on display in the Lord Ashcroft Gallery at the Imperial War Museum in London.
The Victoria Cross was presented to Mr Ker 100 years ago in 1918 “for conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty.” It is the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth Forces.
The unveiling was preceded by a ceremony at the Grange Cemetery, where Mr Ker’s restored family headstone was unveiled by Lt General Sir John MacMillan KCB CBE, a senior Gordon Highlander (Lt Ker’s Regiment) and John Spencely CBE who, with his wife Lyn, discovered and arranged for the headstone to be restored. The Last Post was sounded, a wreath laid and a piper played “Cock o’ the North”.