The Raith Rovers stars who never returned

The stars of Raith Rovers pose sombrely for a photograph to mark their time of war. It was late 1915 and the six players from the Kirkcaldy side had just joined up to McCrae’s Own Battalion. They may have feared it, but they were not to know that only three of them were to make it back home.

One of the players would survive the Somme but die later, another would be killed on the first day of the offensive and the other would never make it to the battle.

'A constant source of solace'

James Todd was among the first of the 1,350 men of the 16th Battalion The Royal Scots to lose his life. Hit in the chest by shell fragments near Armentières on March 12, 1916, he was carried into a dugout where he died. The star striker had been tipped for great things and scouted by Hearts. He is buried in nearby Erquinghem- Lys Churchyard.

Heart's striker Corporal Alfie Briggs wrote: "Jimmy was in everything, a constant source of solace to us all with his good humour and cheerfulness. He is a sore loss."

'The best scorer Raith ever had'

Inside-forward James Scott, born in 1895 in Airdrie, Lanarkshire, was one of Raith’s most impressive goalscorers.

He was at Craigton Thistle and Petershill before coming to Stark’s Park in 1913, where he scored 25 goals in 59 league games. Private Scott died on the first day of the Somme in the McCrae’s attack near La Boisselle. He was hit in the stomach by machine gun fire then again in the neck as he dropped to the ground.

A Kirkcaldy newspaper reported: "He was one of Raith’s most finished players... an all-round forward, and had become known as 'Raith’s opportunist'. As a matter of fact, he was the most consistent goal-scorer Raith have ever had. He leaves a young widow." Scott’s body was never found and it is thought he lies among the unnamed graves in nearby Gordon Dump Cemetery. His name is on the memorial at Thiepval.

Special kit to honour the fallen

Big centre-half George McLay survived the Somme and became a sergeant before he was killed, hit several times then shot in the forehead while trapped in the wire at Poelcapelle, Belgium, during the push at Passchendaele in October 1917. He was posthumously awarded the Military Medal and is named on the Tyne Cot memorial.

In 2014, Raith Rovers unveiled a new away kit to mark the war’s centenary and commemorate men from the club who had fought and died. Its colours were black and green, the same as the tartan of McCrea's Own. At the ceremony with Gordon Brown, ex-Prime Minister and Raith fan, were Jimmy Todd's niece Janice and Jimmy Scott’s grandson Alvin.

Ten years earlier, Alvin Scott had helped secure the plaques on to a cairn memorial to the McCrea’s men at Contalmaison, France. Historian and author Jack Alexander, whose campaign led to the memorial’s creation, wrote: "While the sun set over fields that once concealed a multitude of German machine gun positions, we drilled our holes to the sound of distant gunfire as farmers hunted rabbits for the Sunday pot."

Remembering the Somme

This year marks the 100-­year anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. The Royal British Legion is calling on communities across the UK to take the time out from their daily lives to honour those who fell. We have created a Somme 100 toolkit which contains everything you need to organise a Remembrance event in your community.

Make your own commemoration to Private James Scott, Sergeant George McLay or one of the other casualties of the First World War by simply placing a virtual poppy in their memory on our Every Man Remembered website.

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