Old soldiers never die, they just fade away, said US general Douglas MacArthur in his farewell address to Congress in 1951 – but, if so, no one seems to have told that to veterans of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers (KOSB).
Not only have the old Borderers refused to fade away, but they continue to act as guardians of their former regiment’s history and traditions, fighting to ensure they live on in the British Army.
Almost 10 years to the day since the KOSB relinquished its status as an independent regiment, more than 300 veterans turned out for their annual Minden Day parade at its Berwick barracks and regimental museum on Saturday.
After the traditional Minden address, giving details of the 1759 battle in Germany during the Seven Years’ War that it is named after, read this year by former KOSB officer Donald Fairgrieve, there was a presentation of roses to veterans. Those on parade were then addressed by current KOSB Association president Angus Loudon before the veterans left the parade ground to march through Berwick.
Speaking afterwards, Colonel Loudon said: “It was an excellent day. We had a great turnout of association members and were lucky to have so much connection with the Somme in this 100th anniversary year – our rose presenter, Liz Howard-Thornton, whose great-grandfather fell with 2 KOSB on September 3, 1916, plus the Somme Pipe Band, and all in good weather too.”
It was a decade ago that the 300-year-old KOSB and the Royal Scots merged to become a battalion in the new Royal Regiment of Scotland (RRS) and were rechristened as the Royal Scots Borderers.
That merger followed a bitter, and ultimately unsuccessful, campaign that saw 35,000 people in the Borders alone sign a petition against the plans and a legal challenge mounted.
For many of those taking part in Saturday’s parade, that was their second campaign in 15 years to try to save their regiment from the axe.
Campaigners such as Mr Fairgrieve, of St Boswells, said plans such as those made four years ago to strip historic regimental names such as the Black Watch from battalions meant mean the threat to the military legacy of the Borders remains as real as ever.
“The future for the individual battalions that make up the RRS always seems up in the air and the threat to take away their famous names was worrying,” he said.