Remembrance Sunday: a moment to remember all who have served
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But as the town falls silent at 11:00am, it is also a moment to reflect on those who served and returned home, and still carry the scars and memories of battle.
The solemnity and dignity at the heart of the service is immaculate and poignant. Among the dignitaries will be many who have served their country, from Kosovo to the Falklands, from Afghanistan to Iraq; modern conflicts that have claimed lives and changed others forever. They will stand in silence for their comrades
Melody Simms, from Dysart, who served 16 years with the Royal Logistics Corp, summed it up: “ Most of us know someone who has died or was injured - it doesn’t matter where or how, you feel it even if they served with a different regiment. We are family.”
Melody was one of the standard bearers at the Royal British Legion Scotland’s recent unveiling of a new bench at the war memorial gardens to mark the contribution of servicemen and women from the Lang Toun.
Melody and her husband, Paul, who served 26 years with the Duke of Wellignton regiment and went on to commission as captain at Sandhurst where, among others, he trained Princes William and Harry, have between them seen service across the globe; Northern Ireland, Germany, Bosnia, Kosovo, Canada, Cyprus, Iraq and Afghanistan.
For Mel, as a driver, she had to transport troops into danger zones - “sniper alley” - in Kosovo, while still a teenager. “It was an incredible experience - I grew up” she said. Her memories are mirrored by fellow members of the RBLS who speak of the lifeskills the services have them, and the pride of being part of a regiment where each person had your back.
For Peter Shields, from Kirkcaldy, the Royal Corp of Transport, gave him everything: “It gave me a great education and a great grounding in life - I still work with ex military five years on.”
Peter described his logistics role as “if you wanted anything moved anywhere, we moved it by road, sea or air” but that role took him around the world from Hong Kong to Botswana. When the Berlin wall fell, he was in Germany: “ We brought all the Russian kit in - and realised none of it worked! Radios didn’t link to each other!”
For Mike Ashworth, joining the Royal Fleet Auxiliary as a deck officer saw him serve ion many ships and visit many ports and countries, including the Falklands. For him, Remembrance Sunday is for all who served.
“We have to remember not just those who died, but all who served and came back. Many of them have suffered,” he said. “ It isn’t just about the names on the memorial wall.”
Mike’s own act of remembrance also sees him lay a wreath the week after Armistice Sunday to pay tribute to all who served in the Merchant Navy in a ceremony in Leith.
For Ray Davidson, Remembrance Sunday is also very personal. He was a sergeant with the RAF’s Harrier Force in Germany in 1988 and served as chief technician at Ali Al Salem in Kuwait where the RAF was helping enforce the Iraq no fly zone in 2000. One glance at the war memorial will pick out the name of his great uncle, Corporal John Davidson, from Kirkcaldy who was killed in action at Zonnebeke, near Ypres on September 28, 1918 whilst serving with the 5th Battalion Cameron Highlanders.
“The importance and significance of Remembrance Sunday is ingrained in every service person from day one.”Ray grew up in the era of the Cold War, but ended up working with those who were once ‘behind enemy lines’ as he spent three years at NATO HQ in central Europe managing the deployment of robust communications systems supporting its operations across the continent.
He also deployed to Port Stanley in the Falklands, as well as Germany, the Netherlands, Falkland Islands, Kuwait, The Czech republic and USA.
“I went to the RAF rather than university,” he said “I got a lot of training and experiences and opportunities I’d otherwise have missed.That training and grounding certainly helped me when I left the service.”
Those opportunities included learning to sail dinghies, ski and gained a joint services mountain leadership qualification which saw him lead adventurous training expeditions, both for service personnel undertaking winter sports in Austria and hiking in wilderness regions of the USA.
And all of that stemmed from the military which became family for all the former servicemen and women.
Military service also reunited Balwearie High School duo, Elizabeth and Thomas James.
Elizabeth, from Kirkcaldy, joined the WRAC which then became the Royal Logistics Corp. As a chef she was sent to Northern Ireland and Cyprus, and also attended many events where their skills were deployed to gi9ve people glimpse into life in the services.
Thomas from Kirkcaldy served with the 1st Battalion Scots Guards as a Colour Sergeant and saw service in the Gulf War, six tours of Northern Ireland and Germany. Three decades later they met up and are now part of the RBLS in the Lang Toun.
“It’s a great a great point of contact and takes you other agencies who may be of help. People need to know it is there,” she said.
It is also at the forefront of ensuring we never forgot those who served their country as well as being the custodians of remembrance in Scotland.
“It is really important,” she said. “People gave their lives - taking time to reflect one morning a year isn’t a lot to ask. It is showing absolute respect, and as older generations die off it is vital we explain and show the younger generations this is the fight thing to do. This is where their freedoms came from.”
Thomas added: “It’s a collective. During war, families were held together by very strong women. They lived through rationing and bombing. Everyone had a stake in it - we have to remember that as well.”
The thoughts of Bill Mason, secretary of the RBLS Kirkcaldy and district branch, will also go out to all while overseeing this Sunday’s ceremony.
“For some, it it is hard to return to civilian life,” he said; “The majority live very successful, good lives. Whenever I meet ex service personnel, I see how much they have done, but part of the day is remembering those who survived but were damaged. They need our support and help.”
The RBLS is at the forefront of remembering - and helping.