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Robert Remembrance

This moving image of a Memorial Card from Robert’s father, that I first saw at the excellent Methil Heritage Centre, was to prove a powerful trigger in my desire to find out about the story of Robert Anderson Dunsire VC. I had been born and raised in Methil but had never heard the name or his story. I had an interest in History. I was shocked that a local VC seemed a forgotten man.

What became much more remarkable was when I discovered, while researching Robert’s family tree at the National Records of Scotland at Register House in Edinburgh and having a dip into my mother’s family tree, that my maternal grandfather had been in the same Company, Battalion and Regiment as Robert Dunsire. It was an entry in my aunt’s Birth Certificate from January 1915 that showed that my grandfather had enlisted. In fact, his Serial Number differed by only 5 from that of his namesake, Robert. Were they in the same enlistment queue? Too late for me to find out and my grandfather’s Service Record had been destroyed with many more during the Blitz in World War 2.

Robert Memorial

Image from copy held in Methil Heritage Centre. With thanks to The Friends of Methil Heritage Centre

My discoveries and acts of Remembrance took me on a personal journey though I was fortunate that my grandfather, whose name I carry, survived the War.

Remembrance can be achieved in many shapes and forms at home and abroad. Robert is remembered on war memorials of Buckhaven and Methil, Kirkcaldy and Buckhaven Higher Grade School, which also includes Ralph Pitt.

war memorial

Buckhaven and Methil War Memorial unveiled on 22 November 1922

kirkcaldy war memorial

Kirkcaldy War Memorial unveiled on 27 June 1925

Levenmouth War Memorial

Buckhaven Higher Grade School Memorial now in Levenmouth Academy. Unveiled on 10 December 1920

Home area churches also created their own Congregational Memorial tablets.

Pathhead Evangelical Union (EU) Congregational Church had a Memorial tablet made by sculptor, Mr Murdoch. It had 16 names inscribed on it, including Lance-Cpl Robert A Dunsire VC. The Memorial was unveiled on 4 July 1920 by Mrs Bowman, eldest member of the congregation. The Pathhead Church was to unite with Kirkcaldy West End Congregational Church on 24 September 2017 in one building on Kirkcaldy High Street.

Church memorial

Image Courtesy of Revd Kevin Flett, Minister, Kirkcaldy Congregational Church

The newly opened Methil Parish Church dedicated their Congregational War Memorial on 31 January 1926. The dedication ceremony was performed by the Very Reverend Dr George Milligan, Professor of Divinity at Glasgow. The Memorial takes the form of six glass-stained windows situated in the transepts of the church. Slightly later a bronze tablet that displayed the Roll of Honour was unveiled. Robert’s name is inscribed on the bronze tablet as Lance.Cpl. Rbt. A Dunsire VC RS. Methil Parish Church remained on its original site when it united with Innerleven East Church to form Wellesley Parish Church of Scotland with a service of Union on 28 June 2012.

In the case of Robert there is a further permanent reminder in the town of Kirkcaldy where he was made a Freeman. He had a street named after him, though the journey took a bit longer than originally planned. A proposal to name a street after Robert in Kirkcaldy, in May 1935, did not succeed. Instead, the decision was made to name the street after a local councillor, who was seen as more worthy of recognition because of his work in Ward Three.

However, the situation was to change when, in October 1935, the proposal by Councillor Dall was agreed and the name of Dunsire Street appeared in Kirkcaldy.

dunsire street sign

An extension to the street in Overton in July 1945 ensured that Robert would be remembered for many decades to come with more tenants coming into the street. He would have appreciated this use of his name.

The naming of Dunsire Street in Methilhill is less clear. I can find no backup evidence for any naming of the street. Dunsire Street first appears in newspaper reports in April 1925. The houses were built by Wemyss Coal Company in an area that was under the stewardship of Fife Council, but which was not part of the Burgh of Buckhaven, Methil and Innerleven at that time.

Robert Anderson Dunsire VC’s final resting place is at Mazingarbe communal cemetery in Pas-de-Calais, France, where areas are set aside for British and French soldiers in the local public cemetery.

cemetry sign


Robert Dunsire VC Grave in Mazingarbe Communal Cemetery

Robert’s Medals, including his Victoria Cross, are on permanent display at The Royal Scots Museum. This Museum is now part of The Royal Regiment of Scotland Museum at Edinburgh Castle and worthy of a visit.

death penny

The top of the display shows Robert’s Death Penny. Robert’s medals left to right are: Victoria Cross, 1914-1915 Star, British War Medal 1914-1918 and Allied Victory Medal

The World War One Memorial Plaque was made from Bronze and became widely known as, the “Death Penny”, “Death Plaque” or “Widow's Penny”. The original plaque was a 12 cms disk cast in bronze gunmetal, which included an image of Britannia and a lion, two dolphins that represented Great Britain's sea power and the emblem of Imperial Germany's eagle being torn to pieces by another lion. Britannia is holding an oak spray with leaves and acorns. Beneath this was a rectangular tablet where the deceased name was cast into the plaque. No rank was given as it was intended to show equality in their sacrifice. On the outer edge of the disk, it bears the inscription, 'He died for freedom and honour'.

As well as individual remembrance the Battalion Colours of the 13th Battalion, The Royal Scots Battle Honours are a form of remembrance for the Battalion and their contribution throughout World War 1. The Battle of Loos is only one of 10 significant battle engagements that are remembered on the Colours. The Colours are also held in the Museum who provided this photograph.


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