This week our Eye on Millig columnist, Leslie Maxwell, tells the stories of two more Helensburgh men who lost their lives during the First World War...

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THE CENTENARY last year of the end of the First World War resulted in a lot of fascinating research on Helensburgh and district people who lost their lives in the conflict.

The stories of many — from the only woman named on the WW1 panel on the Hermitage Park Cenotaph to the chaplain who lost his life when a hospital ship was torpedoed – have already been told in previous Eye on Millig columns, and can be seen on the Helensburgh Heritage Trust website.

That covers some 40 of those named on the Cenotaph, but there are a great many more. Now I am pleased to hear that the Friends of Hermitage Park and the Heritage Trust have received a grant of £10,000 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for the War Memorial Families Project to carry out more research.

READ MORE: Who was the only woman named on Helensburgh's war memorial?

Awarded through its ‘First World War: Then and Now’ programme, the project will focus on researching and creating biographies of all 206 people named on the memorial who were killed in World War One.

The project will enable local people in Helensburgh to preserve the memories and heritage of the people who lived through the conflict.

Volunteers will collect photographs, newspaper clippings, documents, letters and photos of keepsakes, as well as family tales passed down to help them build a clear picture of what life was really like.

READ MORE: The Helensburgh WW1 sergeant who won two gallantry medals

To help them get started, here are two more stories previously untold by Eye on Millig...

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Lieutenant Hedley Lyle, of the 9th Gordon Highlanders (Pioneers), who was killed in action on May 22, 1916, at the age of 32 – only a fortnight after having been home on leave.

The eldest son of Robert Lyle, of Strathculm, 32 West Montrose Street, and his wife Jane Hedley Scott, Hedley was born in Greenock and educated at the Collegiate School, Greenock, and Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh.

Hedley was a very keen athlete, and he played rugby for the West of Scotland club. He was an enthusiastic, popular accomplished player and captain at both Helensburgh and Greenock Cricket Clubs, and also a keen golfer.

When the war broke out in August 1914, he was in Argentina employed by Estancias of Corbett, and at once returned and enlisted.

He joined the Scottish Horse, a a Yeomanry regiment of the Territorial Army, as a Trooper, and he was with them for about six months. He gained his commission in the Gordons, and he was posted to France in August 1915.

Considered by comrades to be a splendid officer and a favourite of his troops, he led his Pioneers on the dangerous job of clearing trenches at the Front in the Pas de Calais area of northern France.

READ MORE: Couple's church window gift was act of WW1 thanksgiving

After his death, his father was told in a letter from Major T.G. Taylor: “Since May 11 he has done some magnificent work wiring and clearing trenches under very trying conditions with an absolute disregard of personal danger.

"None could have set his men a higher example of fearlessness nor encouraged them more in what is always a dangerous, difficult task.

“If it is any very small consolation to you, I may tell you he was killed absolutely instantaneously by machine gun fire, and he can have known nothing.

“He was buried in the Military Cemetery at Vermeilles, when as many of us as could be spared were present, and all his platoon, whose respect and affection he had won to such a marked degree.

“Will you accept not only my own sincerest sympathy in your great loss, which is also our loss, but also the sympathy of all his brother officers and that of his platoon, who have lost a very brave and capable leader.”

The Rev Charles Lamont, chaplain of the forces, wrote: “I need not assure you how we all liked him. He was not only such good company in the mess, but was utterly fearless, and the essence of kindness to his men. He gave his life for a glorious cause.

“He was buried in the British Military Cemetery at Vermeilles, and a wooden cross was placed at his grave.

"It was a military funeral, and all the officers that could be were present along with the men of his own platoon.”

There are more than 2,134 First World War casualties commemorated in that cemetery. Of these, 198 are unidentified, and special memorials are erected to six soldiers from the United Kingdom, known to be buried among them.

As well as being remembered on the Helensburgh Cenotaph and the Merchiston School war memorial, there is a memorial tablet in St Michael and All Angels Church.

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BOTH Helensburgh Baptist Church and the Helensburgh Cenotaph in Hermitage Park agree that Staff Sergeant Pirret, a recipient of the Military Medal, died in France in 1917.

But strangely they disagree about his Christian name.

In Baptist and other accounts he is named as Norman McLeod Pirret, but on the park monument he is Edward Pirret.

I think it highly unlikely there would be two Staff Sergeants with this unusual surname who both won the M.M. and died in 1917. Perhaps the burgh name was a nickname, or just a mistake.

Norman Pirret was born in the St Giles area of Edinburgh in 1888, the son of foreman stonemason James Pirret and his wife Isabella, who lived in the city.

A postman, he married Christina Henderson Scott, known to her friends as Tina, at 50 St John Street, Coatbridge, on March 11 1912, and on November 16 the following year the couple, now living at 35 Kildonan Street, Coatbridge, had a daughter, May.

READ MORE: Helensburgh WW1 Victoria Cross winner George Findlay

Norman enlisted at Edinburgh and initially served as a corporal in the 11th General Hospital, Royal Army Medical Corps, being posted to France from August 25, 1914.

Mrs Pirret transferred her membership from Coatbridge Baptist Church to Helensburgh Baptist Church, receiving the right hand of fellowship on May 9, 1915, and Norman came into membership on February 3, 1916, though absent on duty, during Holy Communion.

During his service he was promoted to Acting Staff Sergeant and served in the 1st Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps, being awarded the Military Medal for Bravery in December 1916.

The congregation of Helensburgh Baptist Church were proud of this and decided to send a congratulating letter.

Sadly his successful career was cut short and he died of wounds received in action on July 10, 1917, aged just 29.

He is buried in Coxyde Military Cemetery, West Vaanderen, Belgium, and he was posthumously awarded the 1914 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal.

His widow died in Ontario, Canada, on February 7 1966 and is buried at Westmount Baptist Cemetery in Collingwood, Simcoe County, where she had erected a memorial headstone for her husband.

Their daughter May, who was predeceased by her husband the Rev James Taylor, died in Georgetown, Ontario, on October 27 2003 in her

90th year. Her death notice showed that Norman had two grandsons and a granddaughter, and four great grandchildren, two male, two female.