A GREENOCK man has told of the emotion he felt on a pilgrimage to mark the 100th anniversary of his uncle’s death in the First World War.

John Burleigh paid an emotional visit to a WW1 cemetery in Belgium — and discovered that a special service was being held there that day, with Prince William representing The Queen.

Three of John’s uncles perished in WW1 battles, including Lieutenant James Emil Burleigh, who was killed during the battle of Passchendaele on October 12, 1917, at the age of 21.

A member of the 14th London Scottish, 12th and 10th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, he was awarded the Military Cross and fought in France, Salonika and the Western Front.

He is commemorated on a memorial to the missing at Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery.

John said: “Prince William was asked to represent the Queen at Tyne Cot to mark the 100th anniversary of New Zealand’s participation in the Battle of Passchendaele.

“As my wife Heather and I arrived that morning we realised there was something going on as we had to go through a security check to enter Tyne Cot.

“Walking up to the White Memorial, we recognised the voice and then the person on the large screen at the side of the lectern thanking everyone for coming.

“It was only fitting to pay my respects 100 years to the day that James lost his life.

“On that day, 960 young men perished in three hours.

“There were over 1,500 relations from New Zealand who had travelled for this service, and we were honoured to be there.

“The Army Chaplain spoke of the huge sacrifice New Zealand had made for such a small country.”

John says museums in the area exhibit the trenches and shelters that servicemen and women fought in, and show the close proximity of the opposite front lines — only 30 yards in some places.

His other uncles killed in action were Lieutenant Bennet Burleigh Jr of the 7th Lancashire Fusiliers, who was mentioned in Dispatches, died of wounds in Gallipoli on July 15, 1915, aged 20, and is buried in Lancashire Landing Cemetery, Gallipoli, and Lieutenant Robert Burleigh of the Royal Engineer and 15th Squadron Royal Flying Corps, who was shot down over the Somme on August 29, 1916, aged 23, and is buried in Knightsbridge Cemetery, Somme.

John added: “The Christmas Day truce of 1914 was commemorated in football stadiums, including Cappielow, in 2014 — re-enacting the game of football that took place during the truce between the British and German soldiers, and the singing of Christmas carols.

“‘Carols at Cappielow’ has continued, and this year it will be held on Monday December 18 at 7pm.”