Fort Wil­liam de­tach­ment hon­our our wars’ fallen

The Oban Times - - LEISURE -

FORT Wil­liam mem­bers of 1st Bat­tal­ion the High­landers re­cently re­turned from a tour of Bel­gium as part of the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s first bat­tle­field tour.

Cadet Lance Cor­po­ral Iona Gre­gor, 16, and Reg­i­men­tal Sergeant Ma­jor In­struc­tor James Standen, 46, who at­tend Fort Wil­liam de­tach­ment, took part in the tour last week, along­side 23 other rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the bat­tal­ion, and Orkney Army Cadet Force.

While there, they vis­ited bat­tle­fields, ceme­ter­ies and took part in var­i­ous cer­e­monies’ to pay their re­spects to the fallen sol­diers who lost their lives in the First World War.

Dur­ing an or­gan­ised his­tor­i­cal trip to Bel­gium, the cadets and adults com­pleted a tour of Mons, Ypres, the Menin Gate me­mo­rial and Pass­chen­daele. For many of the cadets and adults, the tour was very per­sonal as they were given the op­por­tu­nity to pay re­spects at the grave­stones of fam­ily mem­bers who fell dur­ing the war, and were given a num­ber of small wooden crosses to place on the graves of ser­vice­men of their choos­ing, which for a lot of them were fam­ily mem­bers.

They then vis­ited Nimy Bridge where the 4th Bat­tal­ion the Royal Fusiliers stood fast dur­ing 1914 and learned of the de­fence of the Mons- Condé Canal where Vic­to­ria Crosses were won by Lieu­tenant Mau­rice Dease and Pri­vate Sid­ney God­ley. Later in the day they paid a visit to the St Sym­phorien mil­i­tary ceme­tery where Lt Dease was buried, where the cadets con­ducted a small me­mo­rial ser­vice and laid a wreath with the bat­tal­ion’s colours low­ered as a mark of re­spect.

Dur­ing the visit to Ypres, they vis­ited Lange­mark ceme­tery where 44,061 men were buried – 25,000 of them in one mass grave. At times it was in­com­pre­hen­si­ble that so many sol­diers were buried in one ceme­tery.

The day fin­ished with a visit to Menin Gate to take part in the last post cer­e­mony, which has been held ev­ery day since 1928 – apart from when Bel­gium was oc­cu­pied in the Se­cond World War by the Ger­mans. The bat­tal­ion was given spe­cial per­mis­sion to wear their uni­form and to proudly dis­play their bat­tal­ion’s colours at the cer­e­mony. They were even given the priv­i­lege of lay­ing a wreath dur­ing it. They were filmed and pho­tographed by vis­i­tors who flock in their hun­dreds to wit­ness the emo­tional ser­vice. The cadets were left speech­less dur­ing the visit when the re­al­i­sa­tion hit home that the thou­sands of names of the fallen troops were en­graved in the stone of the walls of Menin Gate.

On the fi­nal day they vis­ited many ceme­ter­ies but the high­light of the day was a visit to the Pass­chen­daele Mu­seum, where the cadets viewed the fa­cil­ity and all the First World War arte­facts and toured the un­der­ground bunker sys­tem and walked through the trenches of Pass­chen­daele.

Some cadets even had the chance to try on some replica equip­ment. Lance Cor­po­ral Gre­gor said that the mu­seum ‘ was full of in­ter­est­ing facts about the war … there was also full-scale mod­els of Bri­tish and Ger­man trenches which were amaz­ing to ac­tu­ally see what the in­side of a trench looks like’.

The fi­nal ceme­tery vis­ited was at Tyne Cot, the largest First World War Com­mon­wealth War Graves Com­mis­sion ceme­tery in the world. It was a mo­ment of dis­be­lief for the cadets when they saw the 11,953 grave­stones as they en­tered the ceme­tery walls.

A fi­nal wreath-lay­ing cer­e­mony was per­formed, with colours, prior to their de­par­ture and their re­turn to Scot­land.

On her re­turn to Scot­land on Mon­day evening, cadet Iona Gre­gor said that she ‘had an amaz­ing time in Bel­gium. I learned so much about the First World War and how much war­fare has evolved in the past cen­tury, and would con­sider ap­ply­ing for the tour again next year’. * The 1st Bat­tal­ion the High­landers ACF is a youth or­gan­i­sa­tion that pro­vides chal­leng­ing ad­ven­ture, sport­ing and com­mu­nity ac­tiv­i­ties aim­ing to in­spire young peo­ple to achieve suc­cess in life while hav­ing fun at the same time.

The Fort Wil­liam de­tach­ment meets ev­ery Wednes­day evening at the Cadet Cen­tre on Croft Road be­tween 7.30pm and 9.30pm.

For more in­for­ma­tion con­tact Graeme Wells, 1st Bat­tal­ion the High­landers Army Cadet Force pub­lic re­la­tions of­fi­cer, by email­ing: 1high­lander­sacf@gmail.com or visit army­cadets.com.

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