A three generation party from the King’s Own Scottish Borderers (KOSB) Association have just returned from a pilgrimage, to commemorate one of the most tragic battles of WWI.

A group of KOSB veterans, current soldiers from its successor battalion in the Royal Regiment of Scotland – 1 SCOTS- and school pupils and staff from Queen Victoria School (QVS), Dunblane, visited The Somme battlefields in France from 31 Aug – 5 September 2016, to mark the 100th anniversary of the battle. The children are all sons and daughters of Servicemen and women. The 39 strong group spent five days at the battlefields, seeing just where the soldiers of the KOSB laid down their lives, and visiting their graves and memorials. They were all provided with an educational booklet funded by Legion Scotland.

Included in the party was the great grand daughter of Cpl Richard Howard, killed at the attack on Faffemont Farm, near Combles, by 2 KOSB on 3 Sep. They took 187 casualties in one hour. Liz Howard said “We walked the ground of that attack, up the bare slopes to the old farm site, precisely 100 years to the hour after they did, and where Richard fell. That was incredibly emotional...What those young men did for us, and the freedom we have today because of it, must never be forgotten”.

Lt Col (Retd.) Andy Middlemiss, a former career officer in the KOSB, of 34 years service all over the world, and one of the trip’s organisers, said he believed it had served a valuable purpose:

“Everyone associates The Somme with 1 July and “Going Over the Top,”   but actually the battle lasted 141 days,” he said “The courage and sacrifice of the British, French and Colonial troops must never be forgotten. On the first day our 1st Battalion took 548 casualties in an hour and a half, and effectively ceased to be a viable Battalion .We wanted to see the actual soil where our forebears fell in such terrible numbers, and we wanted to commemorate their memory on this trip.”

For Brigadier Allan Alstead, a former Commanding Officer of the KOSB, this pilgrimage was a powerful tribute to those who fell:

“We stood right on the same start line, exactly one hundred years later, that 2 KOSB had got up from to attack Falfemont Farm at exactly the same time - 0900 hrs to the second. It was fantastic and so, so moving also to have Liz Howard-Thornton, the Great Granddaughter of Cpl Richard Howard, 2 KOSB, killed that day, together with us all, was incredibly moving and touched us all deeply.   The wood of the old farm lies uncleared, with the probability of many British and German bodies still there."

After 4 and a half months hard fighting, with appalling casualties, both from sickness and combat, the battle ceased , mainly due to the appalling winter in France that year . Hundreds of thousands had already paid the ultimate price with their lives. The KOSB lost over 3500 killed, and thousands more badly wounded or sick.

John Ross, one of the co-leaders said: 

“It is important to remember that these men of the KOSB, and thousands of others on both sides, showed incredibly bravery in terrible conditions.” he said “So, the conclusion of our trip was an act of commemoration at the huge Thiepval Memorial , with 4 pipers, prayers from Padre Blakey and readings. It was really powerful to be there, to remember, and to see what was lost in human sacrifice. For all of us, the young school children, the serving soldiers from 1 SCOTS, and us “Old and Bold” -this was a trip of a lifetime. We are really grateful to Legion Scotland for helping us fund this trip, with a generous grant from their WWI Commemorations Fund."