THE bravery of a soldier who sacrificed his life on a North Queensferry beach to save his men has been permanently recognised this week.

More than 50 people gathered at Port Laing beach to honour Lieutenant George Paton, who 100 years ago to the day selflessly died to protect his colleagues during a combat training exercise.

Lt Paton, who was just 21, died shielding his troops from the Royal Scots Fusiliers from the blast of a grenade, and a granite plaque was unveiled on Monday to mark the spot where he fell.

Colin Bain, of the North Queensferry Heritage Trust, said the group came across Lt Paton's heroism by chance when they began researching the history of those named on the village's war memorial.

He said: “His name is not on the war memorial – his connection to North Queensferry was that he died here.

“We found out about him on the Scottish War Graves website, and found that he was a genuine hero.

“What caught my eye was that he was born in the Belgrano district of Buenos Aires. His father was a Scot who had migrated and married a local woman.

“During World War I, more than 5000 Argentinian residents made their way to the UK and volunteered to serve in the British forces and more than 500 lost their lives.”

On Tuesday, June 20 1916, Lt Paton was in charge of a group in a grenade-throwing exercise, when one that had been badly thrown landed near a few of the men.

Seeing the danger, he called out a warning then dashed forward in an attempt to throw it to a safe distance.

However, it exploded as he arrived, killing him – but his body shielded his men from the blast.

Colin added: “It appears they were camped in North Queensferry for training, in particular to practise throwing this newfangled device, the hand grenade.

“The first factory-made ones were only introduced in 1915, and even today experienced soldiers tell me the scariest thing you can do is throw a grenade.

“He was killed but everyone else was saved. He would have been up for a posthumous medal today but that wasn't an option then. The Victoria Cross was only awarded in enemy action.

“The only medal he received, awarded to his mother, was the British War Medal which was given to everybody who had served.

“His death was covered in several newspapers at the time – given it was just three weeks after the Battle of Jutland and just before the run-up to the Battle of the Somme, it shows people were quite taken by his courage.”

Lt Paton is buried in Inverkeithing's Hope Street cemetery and his second cousin, Vesta Darnell, who had travelled from Surrey, unveiled the plaque.

The service was also attended by members of the 2nd Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland, the Regimental Association, and pupils from North Queensferry Primary.

Colin concluded: “It's been an education for all of us, and the family are very happy that he's been recognised.”