WAR memorials across the Borders saw some of the biggest crowds for many years turn out to pay their respects to the country’s war dead at this year’s Remembrance Sunday events.
Wreaths of poppies were laid at memorials large and small in towns, villages and hamlets, with the on-going conflict in Afghanistan being cited as one of the main reasons why more and more young people are turning out for such events.
One service which saw a large turn-out was at Kelso, where local authority convener and former paratroop officer, Councillor Alasdair Hutton, was in charge of the parade.
“The parade at Kelso on Sunday was by far one of the biggest held in the town for many years. It was quite an extraordinary turn-out,” Mr Hutton told TheSouthern this week.
“It included a huge number of young people from local organisations such as the Scouts, Guides and Brownies, and it was good to see so many youngsters playing their part. It was very moving.”
And Mr Hutton says feedback he has received so far is that the large turn-out at Kelso was repeated across the Borders.
“It seems there were very large numbers of people at services right across the Borders, with many of those involved also saying there were some of the biggest crowds in years”, he said.
Chairman of the Galashiels branch of the Royal British Legion Scotland, Peter Stewart, was also pleased with the numbers who turned out in the town on Sunday, both to take part in the parade and to stand to pay their respects to the town’s war dead.
“Yes, it was a very good turn-out. I think we’re also now seeing more young people coming to these services and events because they are seeing their contemporaries taking part in conflicts such as Afghanistan and seeing, sadly, a local soldier sometimes killed or injured.
“It’s good to see them out in support and paying their respects.”
Mr Hutton also provided the commentary for a special event staged in Galashiels on Friday, when a rare correlation of dates came together.
Friday, the anniversary of Armstice Day, was the 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th year of this century and, as the guns on the Western Front during the First World War had finally fallen silent at 11 minutes past 11am, on November 11 in 1918, it was decided to stage the Galashiels event on Friday evening.
This involved a service at Galashiels war memorial and saw street lights surrounding the memorial switched off shortly before 8pm in order to allow the recreation of the Angel’s Wings effect as the clock chimed Braw Braw Lads. This unexpected wings phenomenon occurs when the eternal lights built into the memorial illuminate the sculpted figure of Peace on the memorial. It was a completely unintended effect at the time the memorial was officially unveiled in 1925.
The request for the street lights to be switched off to allow the rare effect to be witnessed once again had come from the Old Gala Club and there was a good-sized crowd on hand to witness it.
Mr Hutton recounted the story of the memorial and its construction on what proved to be a fine, dry night. Music was provided by the town’s pipe and brass bands.
Musicians from both bands combined to perform a piece of music, entitled Requiem for Heroes, composed by local former Royal Marine, Bill Elliot.
The street lights were switched off for the angle’s wings image to appear at 8pm. A bugler sounded the Last Post and Reveille, while a piper played the lament, The Flo’ers o’ the Forest. The Queen’s Standard from the Galashiels branch of the Royal British Legion Scotland was dipped during a two-minute silence.
A small detachment from 6 SCOTS of The Royal Regiment of Scotland was also on parade.
“The evening went exceptionally well, very smoothly,” Mr Hutton told us. “It was a completely unique occasion. The whole point of doing it had been because of the series of dates.
“You can still see the angel’s wings effect if you stand very close to the memorial but you’d have to know they were there.
“So it was a very special occasion to help create something to let people see this rare effect.”