Bert’s honours brave soldier at WWI event

Drumhead Service, Edinburgh Castle esplanade.
Drumhead Service, Edinburgh Castle esplanade.

Fife was represented at a special Drumhead Service at Edinburgh Castle on Sunday to commemorate the centenary of World War One.

The multi-faith ceremony on the castle esplanade marked the start of the five-year Scottish Commemorations Programme.

Thousands of veterans, servicemen and women and relatives of heroes of World War One braved torrential rain to pay tribute to those who fought in the conflict.

And among them was Kirkcaldy man Bert Hannah, who has been a driving force to have a local soldier’s bravery recognised 100 years after the battle in which he won a Victoria Cross.

Mr Hannah (68) came across the name of Robert Dunsire, who was born in Buckhaven and lived in Kirkcaldy, by accident and has been researching his story with Methil Heritage Centre in the lead up to the unveiling a special paving stone in his honour next year.

As the Battle of Loos, at which Dunsire won the medal, is one of eight events from the war that will be marked by the commemorations programme and Mr Hannah contacted the organisers to ensure Dunsire was given due prominence.

As a result he was invited to attend Sunday’s event.

“The service was very simple but effective and very moving,” he said.

Even more poignant was seeing more than 1000 wooden headstones erected at Holyrood Park.

“It was grey and raining which seemed fitting for the occasion and very reminiscent of how it was when I visited Robert Dunsire’s war grave near Calais last year,” Mr Hannah said.

The service was accompanied by music from three military bands, two cadet bands, three choirs and around 200 massed pipes and drums.

Provost Jim Leishman and several councillors represented Fife at the event, which was also attended by First Minister Alex Salmond and Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael, civic and religious leaders, Armed Forces representatives and veterans and around 5500 members of the public.

Drums were assembled to represent an altar and draped with colours, replicating the services held by servicemen in the field a century ago.

After the service, participants formed a parade and marched down to Holyrood Park, watched and applauded en route by thousands of spectators lining the Royal Mile.

The wooden headstones had been erected at the park to represent the names listed at the Scottish National War Memorial.

Despite the heavy rain, many people remained at the park to hear a lone piper walk among the graves and lay their own tributes at the headstones.

Provost Leishman laid a wreath on behalf of Fife.