The hard work and dedication needed to run Remembrance services and events cannot be overstated. To preserve the memories of those who died in service of their country, countless committees, individuals, organisations and volunteers across Scotland give up their time all year round. They maintain local memorials, organise activities in schools, make or sell poppies, and contribute in many other ways to the smooth running of Remembrance Sunday events. 

To try to include here all these people and all of their tasks would be an impossible mission. However, with just weeks to go until 11 November, perhaps it’s a good time to get a glimpse into some of the behind-the-scenes work that’s required to make local and national ceremonies tick. From pipers to poppy-makers, this is the story of a service in Scotland.



As seen in the annual Best Kept War Memorial contest, teams of volunteers all over Scotland do brilliant work caring for their local area. In Fort William, Hugh MacInnes and Jeanette Lane help to keep their memorial looking its best. 

“Planning for Remembrance starts early,” explains Jeanette. “Firstly we get the war memorial cleaned up and painted for Legion Scotland’s Best Kept War Memorial competition. Then the flowers on the memorial are changed by the Fort William Town team in October to look good for Remembrance Sunday. 

“We hold a dawn to dusk vigil on the Saturday before Remembrance where branch members and Army and Sea Cadets stand in Remembrance at the memorial in 20 minutes intervals from dawn until dusk. We also put up our branch marquee and collect for the Poppy Appeal. 

The part that we find so rewarding is that when we have our couple of clean-up days on the memorial, painting and gardening, it looks superb after we have finished and so many passers-by, whether they are locals or tourists, stop and chat. 

“We tell them it’s a mark of respect for those whose names are on the memorial and that it is our privilege to do our bit to honour the fallen.”



Also hard at work in the weeks leading up to Remembrance are volunteers who support Poppyscotland’s annual Poppy Appeal. Many of those volunteers come from the Women’s Section, of which Sheila Elrick is the chair. 

Despite only being appointed to this role in May, Sheila had already taken on many Remembrance responsibilities, including representing the section at several key events. 

“For me, it’s a great honour,” she says. “It’s quite emotional and everything’s going through your mind. You get to know the other people and you speak about their service – it’s nice hearing the stories and everything. I’m not ex-service myself, but I do have a lot of family in the forces – my father was in the Second World War.” 

Sheila was a founding member of Stonehaven Women’s Section in 1972 and she has laid the wreath on their behalf for decades. 

She’s only ever missed one Remembrance event since 1972, and today she lays the wreath on behalf of the Women’s Section at Edinburgh and Glasgow at the Garden of Remembrance. 

“We do the poppies, we see to the distribution and selling of them every year,” she says of Stonehaven Women’s Section. “We start at the end of October and then on the Saturday before Armistice Sunday we’ve got Sea Cadets, Air Cadets and Army Cadets out selling poppies in the town. The cadets also take the Women’s Section standard on the parade to make sure it’s there for us. 

“When we’re taking in the money and the tins from the poppies it makes you feel it was worth doing. It gives you a boost.” 

Legion Scotland poppy-sellers helped to raise more than £500,000 for the Poppy Appeal last year.



In order to sell the poppies, they first have to be produced. 

Making poppies isn’t seasonal work. Year round, a team of around 30 in Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory work very hard to ensure that there are enough poppies and wreaths for the annual Poppy Appeal, as well as any Remembrance events. 

This year, for the first time, the appeal is using plastic-free poppies - an initiative introduced to help protect the environment. The new 100% paper poppy retains the four petal design of previous versions, and can still be pinned, attached to a buttonhole, or stuck on clothing. 

It’s taken three years to develop the plastic-free flower, which can now be manufactured by machine. As a result of this streamlined process, the team at the factory is now focusing on turning individual poppies into wreaths. 

Having served 22 years in the Army, John Mitchell is now among those producing wreaths at the Edinburgh factory. He explains, “We take two bits of black plastic that join together and then you get the petals out, press it in, and put a card in it. There’s all different sizes and prices, but that’s how it’s done. I really enjoy it, it’s a great job.”

John’s Remembrance duties go beyond the poppy production line.Each year, he helps to construct the memorial garden that sits right by the Scott Monument in Princes Street Gardens East. Small crosses are planted in the grass to act as a symbol of Remembrance. 

“It feels very worthy,” John says. “We go up there on the Friday and the foreman marks and measures [the garden] out. We put the huts up and then we go up again on the Monday and we put all the gravestones out, the crosses and so on.” 

John and his colleagues at the factory play an absolutely crucial role in ensuring that everyone who wants a poppy gets one, and that at war memorials the length and breadth of the country, there are wreaths that pay respect to those who gave their lives in service of their country. 

On Remembrance Sunday itself, crowds of people attend their local memorial to remember those who gave their lives in service. Parades can be found in towns across Scotland, each contributing to their community’s sense of Remembrance.



Legion Scotland’s standards are seen at services across the country on Remembreance Sunday. 

A key member of such parades is the standard bearer. Arlene Reid, a member of Cambuslang branch in Glasgow, Ayrshire, Dumfries and Galloway, is her area’s standard bearer. 

The daughter of a Royal Signaller who served in Northern Ireland, the granddaughter of a Cameronian, and herself a member of the Women’s Royal Army Corps, Arlene says Remembrance is an important time of year for her. This year, she will be at George Square in Glasgow to represent her area. 

“I tried standard bearing a couple of times when I stood  in for the branch standard bearers,” Arlene says. “I thought, ‘I’d like to be trained properly.’ So whenever possible, I attended standard bearer training events set up in my area. 

“The role means a great deal to me as it’s my way of giving respect for past and present of all branches of the Armed Forces. You don’t need to have served to become a standard bearer either – and you never know where it will take you. I attended the King’s Coronation!”



Parades need pipers – those artful musicians whose performances evoke all kinds of emotions during Remembrance. Lance Sergeant Mark Macrae has played at some of the biggest events in recent years, including the Falklands War 40th anniversary event and the Queen’s Birthday Parade. 

Remembrance, though, is a different sort of occasion, and one that brings its own emotions. What, then, is Mark thinking of as he performs at Remembrance? “I think of the people who have lost their lives through different conflicts,” he says. 

“It’s a privilege to be selected to play at [the larger ceremonies] because it’s not a little job when it gets televised. I feel proud that I’m able to play for the ones who passed away, from the First World War through to the present day.” 

The appearance of the bagpipes often marks the section of Remembrance in which people are best able to connect to feelings of loss, gratitude and the importance of memory. This is in no small part due to the songs associated with Remembrance, such as the Last Post and Flowers of the Forest. 

What does this music mean to someone who has played it so many times? Mark says, “The prestige of the event and what it all stands for means you have to do a lot of practice, because that’s what they deserve, the ones who sacrificed themselves for us.” 

Every individual who contributes in any small way to Remembrance helps to ensure that future generations never forget the sacrifices of the past.