Personal recollection of the twins John and Thomas Cairncross, killed at Anzio in 1944.

(The following was sent to me by Malcolm Cunning, whose father remembers the twins. The text here is extracted from Malcolm's most useful emails.)

"My father is Robert Cunning, Pte 14420652 Black Watch & London Scottish Regiments. He too was born in 1924, December 3rd to be precise.

My father was seriously wounded at Anzio on the same day as the twins but, thankfully, is still alive and well today. I've just come off the phone to him and he remembers them both. Like John and Thomas, Dad started in the Black Watch based in Perth and was then transferred to Barrow in Furness for further training before being shipped to North Africa.

As Dad recalls one of the brothers was killed first and the other determined to take revenge on the Germans who had killed his brother. He remembers "some of the lads" discussing how awful it must have been for his mother to cope with two deaths.

From my understanding the London Scottish had landed at Anzio on the 3rd and relieved the Gordons from an advanced position which became surrounded on three sides by a German Panzer division and a fairly large number were killed, wounded or captured

Though now living in the North of Scotland, Dad is from Dunfermline and still goes back to Fife from time to time and recently stopped by the War Memorial at Newburgh where the brothers names are obviously listed.

Dad lent me a collection of letters a few years ago which are mainly his letters to his mum during 1943 and 1944 as well as some letters to him from comrades who were captured and held prisoner by the Germans. They make poignant reading despite the "boys own" style of narrative. No mention is made of John and Thomas in the correspondence though a Larry Pitman is mentioned a few times as having "had it". Larry was apparently killed moments after Dad was wounded. The two soldiers who tried to tend to Larry and my Dad were both captured and held in M-Stammlager - 357.

The reason I landed up at your site is that I have been transcribing the letters and adding footnotes as well as a commentary on the Anzio landings. As with many of his generation, Dad is fairly reticent about coming forward with details of his wartime experience though advancing years and prods to his memory, like my call re John & Thomas Cairncross, bring out a little more of the story.

According to the letters Dad was still in the D Co.6 Bn. Black Watch on 7/1/1944 but was in the London Scottish by his letter dated 28/1/1944. I presume that the Cairncross brothers and Dad were transferred sometime between those dates. In his letter of the 28th Dad's still proud to be wearing his Red Hackle but is unsure how long they'll be allowed to keep it.

Dad recalls that the twins father was also in the Black Watch during WW1 and was bayoneted - confined to a wheel chair as a result. He thinks he was told this by one or both of the brothers."

Malcolm Cunning.

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