OVERWHELMING support by veterans from the King’s Own Scottish Borderers has won the battle for Berwick Barracks to be selected as the final resting place for the Regimental Colours.
It brings to a successful end the six-month campaign launched by the Berwick branch of the KOSB Association in November, which also saw an appeal to the general public to back the campaign.
In its first month – up until the original December 17 deadline for the consultation exercise – such was the huge response, that the regimental trustees agreed to continue the review period until Friday’s annual general meeting.
The three options for laying up the Colours – paraded for the last time in front of the Queen last summer before being stored at Dreghorn Barracks in Edinburgh – were Berwick, Edinburgh Castle and the Canongate Kirk, also in the capital.
Chairman of the trustees and current president of the KOSB Association is former KOSB commanding officer, Brigadier Andrew Jackson.
Confirming Friday’s decision by the trustees, Brigadier Jackson told TheSouthern that the extra-long consultation exercise had given the trustees a clear view of the size of support behind the Berwick bid.
“The decision was pretty straightforward. Everyone was in agreement that we should support what the members of the association wanted and there was a clear majority in favour of Berwick,” he explained.
Brigadier Jackson said the hope now is that the Princess Royal, patron of the association, will agree to be present at the ceremony to lay up the Colours at Berwick Barracks.
But he stressed: “We are not going to rush to have the ceremony. We have to find the right occasion and we need to write to the office of the Princess Royal and invite her to do this and, if she agrees, to find a suitable date. So it will probably be next year sometime.”
Berwick is home to the first purpose-built barracks in Britain, designed in the early 18th century by celebrated architect, Nicholas Hawksmoor. It served as the regimental depot for the KOSB and remains the location for the regimental museum.
Boasting a multitude of battle honours won during its 300-year history, the KOSB was merged with the Royal Scots as part of the Government defence review in 2006, to become the Royal Scots Borderers.
But while there will be rejoicing that the Colours will be coming home to Berwick, uncertainty remains over the long-term future of the barracks site.
It is nearly two years since proposals to convert the barracks into a 60-bedroom varsity hotel, providing a place for guests to enjoy special interest holidays, were first announced.
It was envisaged visitors might come to learn more about the borough’s history and heritage, its architecture, archaeology and natural environment.
However, the lack of progress with plans to redevelop the barracks has been described by ex-mayor Alan Bowlas as the biggest disappointment of his year in office.
He used his recent end- of-term address to express frustration that proposals to convert the barracks into a varsity hotel have so far come to nothing.
The project, one of 10 key sites identified for development in the Berwick’s Future masterplan, has been hit by considerable delay due to internal reorganisation at key partners such as Northumberland County Council, English Heritage and the disbanding of the regional development agency, One North East.
“Of all these projects, the barracks has been my greatest disappointment as all the work completed by the working group, of which I was a member, and that done by consultants, is now probably wasted”, said Councillor Bowlas.
Northumberland County Council has appointed a privately-owned company, Arch Ltd, to take forward the Berwick’s Future programme, although there are doubts whether any or all of the remaining projects will be completed by the deadline of 2015.
Brigadier Jackson says the trustees have been trying to work with English Heritage to find a solution that would secure the barracks and the museum as part of it.
He said: “We are concerned there is a potentially uncertain future for the barracks site – there’s no way we can pretend there isn’t.
“We need to look at raising money to help secure the museum for the future and ensure it is relevant and active in preserving the history of the regiment.”