William Archibald Aitken

In sacred memory of William Robertson Aitken born Dunbar 9th March 1873, died Sunderland, 20th September 1917; William Archibald, his only son, born Sunderland 29th November 1901, killed by enemy action while engaged on Home Guard duties in London 11th May 1941; Janet Shadforth Hoggan, wife of the above W. R. Aitken, born Lasswade 5th May 1874, died Ascot, 15th August 1959.

CWGC:  Serjeant William Archibald Aitken, Home Guard, 1st County of London (Westminster) Bn; d. 11 May 1941, a. 39.  Son of William Robertson Aitken and of Janet Shadforth Aitken (nee Hoggan) of Sunderland, Co. Durham; husband of May (Mai) Katherine Aitken, of Edinburgh.  W643

William Archibald Aitken was born at Hendon Grange, Sunderland, on 29 November 1901, the son of William Robertson Aitken and his wife Janet Shadforth Hoggan.  

William Robertson Aitken was born in Dunbar but moved to Sunderland to work as Cashier for the Hendon Paper Works Co. Ltd. and by 1901 was the Company’s Secetary.  Janet was born in Lasswade and the couple married in Edinburgh in April 1899.  William died suddenly in 1917 and Janet initially moved back to Edinburgh and was living in Grange Terrace in 1920.

William Archibald Aitken attended Edinburgh Academy from 1911 to 1918 before serving an apprenticeship at Bertrams, Ltd., Edinburgh, and Carrongrove Paper Mill at Denny, near Falkirk.  He then worked at a number of paper mills in different parts of the country before joining Wycombe Marsh Paper Mills, Ltd., in 1936.  

He married May (Mai) Catherine Grace Russell in Glasgow on 1 October 1938, when he was described as a paper mill manager and was living in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.  He was appointed London Manager shortly before the outbreak of war and when the 1939 Register was drawn up at the end of September 1939, soon after war broke out, he was living in the Westminster area with his wife and his sister Adelaide and was listed as a “Sales Manager (paper)”.  

He volunteered for the Home Guard on its formation and had been chosen as one of the Sergeants of the Guard for Buckingham Palace when that honour was first conferred on the Home Guard, but, a few days before, on 11th May 1941, he was killed by enemy action while on duty at the 1st Westminster Battalion H.Q. 

Karen Campbell, minister of Marchmont St Giles Church, has included an account of the air raid which took place on the night of 10-11 May 1941 in her War and Warriors Graveyard Walk (http://marchmontstgiles.org.uk/graveyard/).  The German bombers were aided by full moonlight and it was one of the most destructive raids of the London blitz.  It cost 1436 Londoners their lives, with many more injured, as well as seriously damaging the House of Commons.  William Aitken’s date of death is given as 11 May but his death certificate, which describes him as “Sergeant Home Guard (London Scottish)”, reads: “Dead body found Twelfth May 1941 London Scottish H.Q. Buckingham Gate”.  The cause of death is described simply as “Due to war operations”.  

There is something of a mystery regarding his marriage:  William and Mai’s engagement was announced in The Scotsmanin August 1928 – they married in 1938!

The Edinburgh Academy War Service Record 1939-1945 (1949) available on-line https://edinburghacademy.cook.websds.net/default.aspx