If there were an award for most hats worn by a single Legion Scotland member, Margaret Brown BEM would surely be a contender for the prize. She’s the chair of Forfar branch and club. A national standard bearer. The area secretary of Angus, Perthshire and Fife. And the area poppy convener of Forfar and District for Poppyscotland. 

As of 1 January, she has another credit to her name: a BEM, or British Empire Medal, which acknowledges civil or military service whose actions are worthy of recognition by the Crown. 

“I got a letter a couple of weeks before Christmas and I thought, ‘That’s not expected at all!’,” explains Margaret. “And then I actually received a letter, a well done, from Humza Yousaf. It’s been very nice. It’s nice to even be considered.” 

Margaret might be known to you through her standard bearing. The first national competition she entered was 26 years ago – by sheer coincidence, the same day as the birth of her first grandson. “I’d practiced for a few years,” she says. “We went to Arbroath for my first area competition. Out of 32 people, my husband came first and I came last. 

“After that I thought, ‘I’m going to work really hard to perfect my craft.’” 

Since that first foray, Margaret has been in the top three at a national level on more than 20 occasions. Standard bearing has also taken her to France and Belgium, to Salerno, Monte Cassino and Anzio in Italy, and to services across the UK. 

Asked what she gains from standard bearing, Margaret replies, “It’s pride. I’m usually on front of stage at the Caird Hall [for Remembrance] and when I stand there, it’s quite hard, the older you get the harder it is, and you think, ‘stop thinking about the bad things’.  Think about those guys that lost their lives, think about what they suffered, the cold and the pain and the starvation, and it just makes you feel so honoured and privileged to support them.” 

When she’s not standard bearing, Margaret is kept busy by her other Legion Scotland commitments. There’s the memorial garden to look after, the veterans’ breakfast on Saturdays, a community café every Monday, soup and sandwiches every Wednesday – and that’s not even mentioning her area duties or her responsibilities with the local Army cadets. 

So, it’s little wonder that Margaret was given the BEM. The award matches one received by her brother-in-law in 2018, and pairs nicely with an MBE awarded to her husband Charlie for all his Legion activity. 

It’s not exactly clear when the medal will arrive, but for Margaret that’s not important. “I’m just proud to have been given this honour,” she says.