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Hero twins of Anzio who fell on same day; Kids' tribute to John and Thomas.

Byline: By Nick Pisa

SCOTTISH soldier twins killed within hours of each other during the Alllied landings at Anzio were remembered yesterday.

The deaths of John and Thomas Cairncross, from Newburgh, Fife, were marked as part of the 65th anniversary of the operation.

The story of the brothers only emerged when schoolkids investigating the local war memorial found two of those killed shared the same surname.

They uncovered how the pair had signed up on their 19th birthday in October 1943.

John and Thomas joined the London Scottish regiment and after initial training at nearby Kinfauns Castle they moved south to England.

They were then sent to Italy in 1944 and took part in Operation Shingle on January 22 - the Anzio landings.

By midnight, the Cairncross twins were among the 36,000 Allied troops who landed on the beaches. Casualties were amazingly light - just 13 killed and 97 wounded.

The operation was part of the spearhead towards Rome, 32 miles north.

Although the initial resistance was light, the German commander in Italy Field Marshal Albert Kesselring quickly organised a counter attack with 100,000 troops.

Crack units of infantry and Panzer tank divisions were deployed and a full-scale onslaught was launched on February 3.

The twins were among the casualties, with one being killed in the morning and the other in the afternoon, but it is not known who died first.

One website describes the recollections of a Private Robert Cunning of the London Scottish, who wrote: "One of the brothers was killed first and the other determined to take revenge on the Germans who killed his brother."

Private Cunning added: "Some of the lads were discussing how awful it must have been for his mother to cope with two deaths."

At yesterday's service at the cemetery in Anzio where the brothers are buried, a piper played Flowers O' The Forest as wreaths were laid by some of the 36 veterans who had travelled from Scotland.

Also there were a party of six children fromNewburgh School, which the brothers attended, who laid wooden crosses by the memorial stones.

Ron Shand, 89, a veteran of the Gordon Highlanders, of Buckie, Banffshire, wiped a tear from his eye as he stood by the grave of John Cairncross and recalled the fighting.

The former corporal said: "I didn't know the twins personally but I know they were from the London Scottish, who had come in to help us out.

"The fighting was fierce and it was every man for himself.

"I just thank God every day that I am still alive."

Newburgh schoolgirl Hannah Burgess, 14, said: "We discovered the twins still have two brothers in Newburgh.

"Alexander and Hugh told us about what had happened and it was so sad.

"It has also been very emotional for us to be out here."


BROTHERS IN ARMS: Twins John, left, and Thomas.
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 23, 2009
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