Musician set for family tribute at Passchendaele commemorations

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Davy Holt
Davy Holt

The emotions will be running high for a singer-songwriter when he performs in front of hundreds of people just yards from a World War One battlefield.

Davy Holt, from Kirkpatrick Fleming, near Gretna, will highlight the life of his relative John Kimm, who was killed on the first day of the Battle of Passchendaele - on July 31, 1917.

The former Annan Academy pupil, who first started singing and playing the guitar when he was just seven, uncovered his family's past when he went to perform in Flanders about 10 years ago.

"My granny, Dorothy Kirkpatrick, made me aware she had an uncle killed during World War One and buried somewhere in Belgium," he told The Cumberland News.

"His name was John Kimm. He was born in Beattock (in south west Scotland) in 1889 and from 1901 lived in Urr, Kirkcudbright.

"When war broke out he joined the Scots Guards (2nd Battalion)."

Davy said that he undertook his own research, where he discovered that John was killed on the first day of the battle.

He also found out that he had no known grave - but that he is commemorated on the walls of the Menin Gate in Ypres.

"I visited the Menin Gate that year to pay my respects and have done so every year since," he added.

"Further research informed me that John had three cousins of the surname Kimm, from Dumfriesshire, who all died on the Western Front."

Last year, Davy attended the Armistice Day service in Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh.

While travelling back to Inverness, where he now lives, he began to write a song, detailing what he knows about John and his own feelings.

"My songs are Scottish folk and so the subject is usually things to do with Scotland," he said.

"This is the first song I've written on this subject."

Davy said that he felt compelled to tell John's tale, adding that the song did not take too long to compete.

"I've got an interest in war and history," he said.

"Once you know what you're writing about, then it can be fairly easy. The song probably took a few hours to put together."

As a direct descendant of one of the fallen, Davy was entitled to apply to attend the centenary commemorations for the Battle of Passchendaele, which are being held on Sunday and Monday in Ypres.

He was lucky enough to be granted a ticket in the ballot.

He added: "A few days ago I was made aware of an additional event being held at The Welsh National Memorial just outside Ypres to commemorate the exact moment the battle began 100 years ago."

The 'Zero Hour' service will begin at 05.20am on Monday.

The service will commemorate all the nationalities who fought and died during the Passchendaele campaign.

Davy said: "I was amazed to see that the location of the service is only a few hundred yards from where John Kimm and his 2nd Battalion of the Scot's Guards went over the top on the morning of July 31, 1917.

"I contacted the organiser of the event, Erwin Ureel of the Welsh Memorial in Flanders Campaign, to let him know that I would be attending and sent Erwin an MP3 of the song as well as the lyrics.

"He kindly formally invited me to perform the song during the service."

Davy said he is unsure what to expect, but added: "It hasn't crossed my mind, but it could be quite emotional.

"I might have to take two or three deep breaths before I start."

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