THREE GENERATIONS COMMEMORATE SACRIFICE AT THE SOMME -1916- 2016
A 3 generation party based on the King’s Own Scottish Borderers Association have just returned from a pilgrimage, to commemorate the Centenary of one of the most tragic battles of WW1.
A group of KOSB veterans, current soldiers from its successor battalion in the Royal Regiment of Scotland – 1 SCOTS- and school pupils and staff from Queen Victoria School (QVS), Dunblane, have just visited The Somme battlefields in France from 31 Aug – 5 September, to mark the 100th anniversary of the battle. The children are all sons and daughters of Servicemen and women. The 39 strong group spent five days at the battlefields, seeing just where the soldiers of the KOSB laid down their lives, and visiting their graves and memorials.
Included in the party was Liz Howard -Thornton, the great grand daughter of Cpl Richard Howard, killed at the attack on Faffemont Farm, near Combles, by 2 KOSB on 3 Sep. They took 187 casualties in one hour.
Liz Howard said “We walked the ground of that attack, up the bare slopes to the old farm site, precisely 100 years to the minute after they did, and where Richard fell. That was incredibly emotional- we were all in a terrible state, especially when the pipes started us off with the Regimental march! What those young men did for us, and the freedom we have today because of it, must never be forgotten”
Liz brought a lovely metre high, engraved wooden cross, which was planted on the edge of the woodline.
Andy Middlemiss, tour leader and former Commanding Officer Scottish Infantry Depot Glencorse said he believed it had served a valuable purpose: “Everyone associates The Somme with 1 July and “Going Over the Top,” but actually the battle lasted 141 days,” he said. “The courage and sacrifice of the British, French and Colonial troops must never be forgotten. On the first day, our 1st Battalion took 548 casualties in an hour and a half, and effectively ceased to be a viable Battalion .We wanted to see the actual soil where our forebears fell in such terrible numbers, and we wanted to commemorate their memory on this trip. ”
Pipey Gordon Ross- who served with the Gordons –Pipe Major at QVS Dunblane said:
“The children, who came with us, are not much younger than many of the Jocks who fell, and it was really moving for all of us to see where these very young men fell. We mustn’t forget that it would have been horrendous for those on the homefront too. The worst bit was probably the not knowing, and the length of time it took to get any hard information and news. We at QVS were thrilled and honoured to go. Our 4 pupils were a real credit to themselves, their families and the school. School Dancing Instructor, Stephanie Stinson, and I were so proud the way they interacted with the others, and how they conducted themselves. We are delighted the Head picked us to go.”
Lieutenant Calum Duncan, son of Kenny, Captain at Milnathort GC, leading the party from 1 SCOTS said: “We have been waiting for this trip for some time now, with real excitement. The Somme is one of our main battle honours, and for today’s Jocks to walk precisely in the footsteps, on the ground, of the 1916 Jocks was incredibly special. We must learn from what happened, we wanted to honour our forebears, and most importantly, we must talk about it in the future. It was a real privilege for the 6 of us to have been chosen by the Colonel to represent the Jocks of 100 years ago.”
After 4 and a half months hard fighting, with appalling casualties, both from sickness and combat, the battle ceased , mainly due to the appalling winter in France that year . Hundreds of thousands had already paid the ultimate price with their lives. The KOSB lost over 3500 killed, and thousands more badly wounded or sick.
For Brigadier Allan Alstead, a former Commanding Officer of 1 KOSB, this pilgrimage was a powerful tribute to those who fell: “It is important to remember that these men of the KOSB, and thousands of others on both sides, showed incredibly bravery in terrible conditions.” he said “So, the conclusion of our trip was an act of commemoration at the huge Thiepval Memorial , with 4 pipers, 3 wreaths laid , prayers from Padre Blakey and readings. It was really powerful to be there, to remember, and to see what was lost in human sacrifice. For all of us, the young school children, the serving soldiers from 1 SCOTS, and us “Old and Bold”
This was a trip of a lifetime. We are really grateful to Legion Scotland for helping us fund this trip, with a generous grant from their WW1 Commemorations Fund. “NEMO ME IMPUNE LACESSIT”
“Always a Borderer”