Not since the carnage at Flodden had the Borders experienced military losses like those suffered on July 12, 1915.
Almost 400 men and officers from the 1/4th Battalion, King’s Own Scottish Borderers, were cut down during an assault on three lines of Turkish trenches during the battle for Gallipoli.
Many towns in the Borders were left reeling in shock by the losses, including Hawick and Kelso.
And on Sunday, exactly 100 years to the day of the attack, a special tribute was unveiled to the 42 soldiers from the Kelso area who were among the Gallipoli dead on July 12, 1915.
Coinciding with the start of the town’s Civic Week, the event saw a large respectful crowd gather at Kelso’s war memorial for the unveiling of a new memorial tablet bearing the names of the 42 men.
The tablet was unveiled by this year’s Kelso Laddie Fraser Hastie and James Sanderson - the latter the grandson of one of the soldiers being honoured.
Sunday evening’s event had commenced in The Square at Kelso, with a parade comprising regular soldiers and reservists from The Royal Scots Borderers (1 SCOTS and 6 SCOTS, The Royal Regiment of Scotland), pipe band, local veterans and members of the Kelso Ex-Laddies Association.
The association traditionally has an act of remembrance at the war memorial at the commencement of the annual Civic Week.
Colin Henderson, of the Ex-Laddies Association, reminded those gathered for the ceremony of the losses suffered by the town and surrounding district during the First and Second World wars.
After wreaths were laid and a bugler sounded the Last Post and Reveille, piper Kevin Turnbull played ‘Blue Bonnets’, as ex-Kelso Laddies filed past the new Gallipoli memorial with each placing a small cross bearing the name of one of those killed in the battle.
The names of the dead, which are also recorded on the Cape Helles Memorial at Gallipoli, were read out as the crosses were placed in the ground.
Laurence Binyon’s famous lines of verse were then read, and the Kohima Epitaph recited.
Kelso Provost John Bassett and the town’s community council had raised funds for the new tablet. Afterwards, Provost Bassett told us he was delighted with the way Sunday’s event went.
“It was a lovely summer evening for the ceremony and was very well attended,” he said.
Captain Niall McPherson, of 1 SCOTS, said the regiment was proud to be involved in the ceremony - another local connection was that Captain Mark Flannigan, also of 1 SCOTS, who is originally from Kelso, was the officer in command of the parade detachment.
“The significance of today is that exactly 100 years ago, the 1/4th and 1/5th KOSB went over the top at Gallipoli,” explained Captain McPherson.
“The 1/4th, which we are remembering here today, was a pals battalion from this area and on that one day they lost 42 people from Kelso area alone.
“The whole battalion was almost wiped out with 400 casualties so 1 SCOTS felt it was essential to come down today and help mark this very special moment in Kelso’s history.”
And in a complimentary act of homage, also on Sunday, Kelso resident Bill Quarry laid a wreath at the Cape Helles Memorial on behalf of the people of Kelso.
Provost Bassett added: “Bill is a local man who has supported me in getting this memorial; he was going to Gallipoli and offered to lay the wreath for the town, plus he helped raise money towrds the battlefield tours for Kelso High School pupils and I cannot thank him enough for all his help.”
•An exhibition focussing on Kelso and the First World war is open this week in the town’s Ednam Rooms and a special plaque commemorating Gallipoli is to be erected in East Bowmont Street, known locally as ‘The Dardanelles’, in a project with the Friends of Kelso Museum.