AS Peeblesshire prepares to commemorate the centenary of the end of the Great War, families from across the region are being invited to share their stories.

A total of 567 names of men who died during the 1914-18 conflict are listed on the County War Memorial in Peebles.

And many more, who survived the bloody battlefields, suffered from physical and mental health problems in the decades after returning home.

To mark the centenary of Armistice a special programme of events is being planned, which will include symbolic memorials being positioned around Peebles, lighting up the Parish Church, lectures, film screenings and a memorial walk.

But the story of the people of Peeblesshire at the end of the Great War is also being compiled for an exhibition.

Readers of the Peeblesshire News have been invited to submit their stories for the exhibition.

Gillian Chapman shared the story of her grandfather John Campbell Chapman from Broomlee Mains West Linton.

Born at Sheafyknowe near Carstairs on February 11, 1896, John and his family moved to West Linton the following year - first to Castlehill then to Broomlee Mains in 1902, where his father William took on the farm tenancy.

Along with his older brother James, the boys first attended West Linton School and as they grew into young men, worked on the farm as a Cattleman and Ploughman respectively. Both brothers were also knowledgeable Clydesdale horse men.

The introduction of mandatory conscription in 1916 saw the Chapman brothers to be among the first group of men in the area to be called up.

Like many employees, their father William contested this on the grounds that his sons were required for essential work on the land at home. The case was heard at the Peebles County Military Appeals Tribunal in the Sheriff Court Room, County Buildings Peebles on Monday, March 20 1916.

William was present and went before the Tribunal panel, made up of the Chairman of the Tribunal Mr M.G Thorburn of Glenormiston, Mr H.B Marshall of Rachan, Mr W.L Dickson of Drumelzier Haugh, Mr G.W Constable of Traquair, Mr J.Ramsay Smith Clerk of the Tribunal and Lieutenant Alan Stewart.

William pleaded that his sons could not be spared, however the Tribunal refuted this argument suggesting that there were plenty of older men or women willing for farm work.

William objected to this suggestion commenting ‘you cannot expect women to plough’.

The Tribunal Board concluded that one son would be exempted and therefore remain at home, however ordered that William would choose which son - a heartbreaking decision for James and John’s father to make.

Ultimately, John was enlisted and assigned to the Royal Field Artillery due to this experience with horses, going off to the Front just a few weeks later at the age of just 19.

Little detail is actually known about the actual period Gunner 144250 Chapman’s military service, although medals in the possession of the family (the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal) confirm that he did see active serve at the Front, and there is evidence that he did serve at the Battle of Pilkem Ridge in July/August 1917.

It is also known that at some point he fell victim to one of the many gas attacks.

Gunner 144250 John Chapman did survive the war and returned home to his life and work at Broomlee Mains.

He was presented with a Certificate of Thanks from the Parish of West Linton for his military service. The family moved to Leadburn Farm in the late 1920s / early 1930s where his father William became tenant farmer. John would later marry Isabella-Anne Mutch in 1941, a maid from Kaimes House West Linton

The couple went on to have a daughter , Catherine in 1943 followed by a son William in 1945. The family moved two miles along the road to Redfordhill (known today as Spylaw Farm) in 1953, and where John’s son William and family still reside today.

John never enjoyed good health following his return from the Great War and was plagued with bronchial problems. Whilst he never spoke of his experiences of war, he did maintain that it was the exposure to gas and shell shock which had turned his hair white at such a young age.

John passed away in November 1967 at the age of 71 and is buried in Newlands Cemetery along with his wife Isabella.

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