Gordon Highlanders memorial to be unveiled
The subject of a Gordon Highlander Memorial to be sited at the National Memorial Arboretum had been a discussion topic amongst Gordon Highlander Association members for a number of years, but it was only in October 2017 that the project to establish it was set up.
During 2018 Trustees of the Regimental Association determined the style and design, the material it should be made from and sourced a suitable sculptor.
Major Bob Donald TD, a Trustee and artist of note with a lifetime commitment to art and design education, had prepared a draft design of the proposed memorial.
His thinking was that it needed to be created from a material that would last, it should not be too big, but large enough to ‘make a statement’ and be clearly identifiable with the Gordon Highlanders.
He drew attention to groups of standing stones in the Regimental area of Aberdeenshire and also the design of the 51st Highland Division Memorial at St Valery-en-Caux.
As Major Donald noted of the 51st Division Memorial: ‘’This Memorial makes a statement because it is hewn from stone that came from the same place that the soldiers did and like them was transported to another land to commemorate them. The design is also simple and as a result the ‘statement it makes’, has much greater impact’’.
Trustees supported Major Donald’s proposal and agreed that the memorial should be ‘’.a single stone, in the style of a Celtic stone, but made, ideally, from locally sourced granite, that the cap badge should be cut ‘in relief’ (along the lines of the CWG gravestone Gordon Highlander Cap Badge) and that the inscription should be carved into the granite ….’’.
An inscription was also agreed and this heartfelt project got underway.
By March 2019 the sculptor chosen to carve the Memorial had been found - ‘The Speyside Sculptor’, Stuart Murdoch.
Throughout the winter of 2019 and into the spring of 2020 Stuart worked on the carving of the stone.
The Memorial was completed by Stuart by the end of April. A massive effort by him and a stunning piece of craftsmanship which the Trustees had an opportunity to view before arrangements were made in early June for its transportation to the National Memorial Arboretum.
Stuart had arranged with a mason colleague, Mr Graeme Mitcheson, who lives locally to the NMA to lay the concrete foundation.
The NMA had been able to open for limited visitor numbers in early June and Stuart arranged for a haulier to transport the memorial from his workshop at Ballindalloch to the NMA.
The Memorial was safely installed on June 26, 2020.
Saturday, August 15 2020 was the 75th Anniversary of VJ Day - Victory over Japan. Our Colonel in Chief, His Royal Highness The Duke of Rothesay, led the Nation’s VJ Day tribute from the National Memorial Arboretum.
Sadly, the Regiment has no surviving Far East Gordon Highlander veterans who are still with us.
August 15 was however another opportunity to remember the extraordinary sacrifice by so many from the 2nd, 8th and 9th Battalions Gordon Highlanders which fought in Malaya, Singapore, India and Burma.
Having had an opportunity to see the Memorial, His Royal Highness laid a wreath in memory of all Gordon Highlanders, but particularly those from the 2nd, 8th (100th (Gordon Highlanders) Anti Tank Regiment Royal Artillery) and the 9th (116th Regiment Royal Armoured Corps) Battalions.
This was a great honour for the Regiment as His Royal Highness would not be able to attend the Regimental unveiling and dedication ceremony planned for 2021.
Regimental Secretary, Major Grenville Irvine-Fortescue DL said: “With restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic easing, it was at last possible to secure a date for a formal unveiling and dedication ceremony.
“The siting and dedication of this Memorial at The National Memorial Arboretum will be the last occasion of its kind for The Gordon Highlanders.
The Regiment has magnificent memorials across the North East, but The National Memorial Arboretum Is very special and a remarkable place of Remembrance for so many.
"Our veterans were very clear about the importance of a memorial there for The Gordon Highlanders and we are all hugely proud that this has at last been achieved.’’
Gordon Highlander veterans from around the UK will gather at the National Memorial Arboretum on Saturday, October 9.
The Memorial will be formally unveiled by Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenants from the shires of the North East of Scotland where the Regiment across its 200 year history recruited the majority of its soldiers – Aberdeen City – The Lord Provost, Councillor Barney Crocket; Aberdeenshire – Mr Alexander Manson; Banffshire – Mr Andrew Simpson and Kincardineshire – Mr Alastair Macphie.
The Dedication Service will be led by the Senior Army Chaplain for Scotland, Reverend Duncan Macpherson CF and wreaths will be laid in memory of those of the Regiment who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
A Regimental Gathering will follow the service and the day will end with a Beating Retreat by the Pipes and Drums of The London Scottish Regiment, with whom The Gordon Highlanders have a close affiliation stretching back to Boer War.