We have a rich history in the Borders, and it is one of our greatest strengths. But that history can be dark sometimes.
This month we are commemorating the 100th anniversary of one of the most painful episodes from our past.
On July 12, 1915, officers and men of the 1/4th Battalion of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers went into battle at Gallipoli. More than 300 were killed and over 200 wounded in a disastrous assault against entrenched Turkish forces. It was the biggest loss of Borderers in a single day’s battle since Flodden. Kelso lost 42 men at Gallipoli. Hawick, from where a group of pilgrims are currently visiting the battle site, lost more than 50.
Among those who perished was my own great-great uncle, Piper James Kerr. Playing amid the carnage to spur his comrades on, he must have been an easy and obvious target. The story of his heroism is something I learned as a child, and his part in the battle has always been a source of family pride and sorrow.
I particularly welcome the raising of funds in Kelso for a tablet at the town’s war memorial bearing the names of the local men who died in that terrible battle. It’s a poignant and fitting way to remember them. Kelso’s connection with those dreadful events is so strong that part of the town is still known locally as the Dardenelles.
Last week I was privileged to be able to facilitate a tribute to these brave Borders soldiers by tabling an Early Day Motion at the Commons. It’s been signed by 28 other MPs from across the UK and notes how devastating the loss was for the local community.
It also praises the fundraising for the tablet and remembers with respect and humility all who died that day, and also goes on to express the hope that never again will Borderers fall in their masses on foreign shores.
Once again we’ve seen fatalities on Borders roads with the death of two people in an accident on the A7 near Stow.
I’ve just been confirmed as co-chair of the A7 Action Group and at the last meeting we discussed putting together a plan highlighting areas which still need investment. We hope to present this to ministers by the end of the summer.
We can’t and shouldn’t speculate as to how this latest tragedy happened. We need to wait for all the facts. But it’s in everyone’s interests to make the A7 as safe as possible.