Still Waters

For reasons I won't bore you with I found myself trawling through the obituaries from the Second World War of old boys from my children's school. The most famous of them was the indomitable Roger Bushell, remembered for his exploits as Big X at Stalug Luft III in what became known as the Great Escape, (although at the time of publishing in 1949 it was more modestly known as the great break away). Bushell though is only one of many old boys who gave their lives. 

The forward to the Wellington College Roll of Honour, said this,

"Perhaps it was this feeling of the inevitable which was responsible for a greater forbearance in the attitude of boys to each other in the years immediately preceding the war-and it was this generation which suffered most. In this brief period of spring before the autumn storms, the tree blossomed with the promise of abundant harvest. Games, though still holding pride of place, ceased to be the only passport to success. Scholarship, music, art, literature and drama, claimed and secured recognition and a devoted following. Yet in all this there was a feeling of frustration and unreality. Boys talked little of their future, and we hesitated to speak of it to them. They knew, and we knew, the road along which destiny pointed the way. They were neither boastful nor morbid. They turned the gifts they had acquired to the stem uses of war and went forth, without any heroics, to play their part in securing the freedom of mankind. Their lives in epitome are a record of men and boys, confident in themselves, confident in their cause. They did not live to see the triumph."

The short obituaries tell of success on the sports field and in the classroom at school and of heroism and fortitude in battle. From the Boer War and Great War veterans who pushed and pulled to get into uniform again to the youngest eighteen year olds, straight into service from the Upper Sixth. Of them all, this simple obituary of a 2/Lt Money left the deepest impression. Still waters run deep.

Second Lieutenant ROBERT COTTON MONEY, The Cameronians, was in the Hardinge from 1932 to 1937. He was a quiet boy, wrapped up in his books and field sports. On May 27th, 1940, during the retreat on Dunkirk, he heard that a friend in the Hardinge had been left behind seriously wounded. Towards dusk against advice and orders he set out to look for him and from that journey Roy Money did not return.

 

Time to Help Albert!

Some thirty six years ago I recall wandering into the television room at Glencorse Barracks in August 1979. The usual banter and joshing was absent. NCO's just stared at the television in silence, not believing what they were hearing. Mountbatten was dead. He was murdered with others in the atrocity at Mullaghmore. A serious incident involving the Parachute Regiment had also occured at Warrenpoint resulting in many casualties. Just how many quickly became clear. 

Lt Col David Blair, QO Hldrs

Soon after, Queens Own Highlanders of all ranks at the Depot were called to the cinema. We were told that the Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion, Lt Col David Blair and his signaler, L/Cpl MacLeod, had also been killed in the secondary explosion at Warrenpoint which detonated as the Colonels helicopter was landing. The shock was palpable. Even though I was far away from South Armagh, the grief that pulsed through the Regimental family was very personal. It was my first experience of death in service.  It wasn't to be the last but thankfully I was spared the heavy casualty counts that some have witnessed. I've never forgotten that day, or the others.

RHF Veterans visit the Memorial Garden to remember members of the 1st Bn killed in NI

The memory of the 692 British soldiers killed in Northern Ireland as a result of paramilitary action, and the 6,116 wounded, is of course kept very much alive by their family and friends, their former comrades and their regiments and corps. Unfortunately, as I've written in the past, the sacrifice of a generation of soldiers who served in Northern Ireland has mostly been airbrushed from the contemporary collective memory. That process was started by Tony Blair and successive politicians have done little to make amends. It's just easier to let it be it seems. 

That is, unless you happen to be a gentleman called Albert Owens. Albert isn't a man given to doing things by halves. Nor does he take to the idea of letting the names of the 692 dead, and  those from other conflicts, be lost in the fog of history. Albert and his fellow volunteers have created a haven of peace and pilgrimage in the Palace Barracks Memorial Garden in Northern Ireland. The one and a half acre site commemorates those killed in Northern Ireland and other conflicts over the past 50 years. 

Albert Owens MBE; Memorial Custodian

'To see my dream and designs come true has become  a very special place not only for me but for all the families, friends and comrades of the soldiers who are remembered here, in the Palace Barracks Memorial Garden. In addition to maintaining the garden itself , I also keep in regular touch with  the families and friends of those  Men and Women of our Armed Forces  who are remembered here and arrange visits for them to the Garden  should they so wish.'

On the Memorial Garden website you will find list of those killed in action. Please take a moment to dip in and have a look. If you can, pick a name, any name from any regiment and quietly remember it, now, on November 11th and beyond. 

We should all remember, and mostly the country does with dignity on Armistice Day every year. Do though spare a thought for those killed in the conflicts beyond those which catch the media's attention. My own thanks to Albert for his efforts which are loyal to the memory. Please do visit the site or the Facebook page. His enthusiasm and commitment deserve  acknowledgement.

“As long as mist hangs o’er the mountains And water runs in the glens The Deeds of the Brave will be remembered” Caber Feidh gu Brath