2013 Remembrance at the Cenotaph: the Arctic Star on parade

arctic star medal ceremony loch ewe 2013

Watching the ceremony of remembrance at the Cenotaph today, 10th November 2013, the bright but cold day made one glad that the beat for the march past was a fast one.

These often elderly ex-servicemen, their carers and the members of their families who act as representatives have been standing for several hours before the march past begins. They have to muster early for the organisation of the parade and then they simply stand and wait. The ability finally to move and to move briskly must have been a marked physical relief for these doughty members of the armed services who come faithfully for a long as they can to pay tribute to the comrades they lost in the various conflicts in living memory.

And after the march past, they have still to stand in Horse Guards Parade until the entire parade of 7-8000 has gathered there.

This year, for Argyll, we remember Mull’s 20 year-old Private Robert McLaren from the Black Watch from Kintra in the Ross of Mull , who died 4 weeks into his service in Afghanistan, on 11th June 2009, in an explosion near Kandahar in Helmand Province.

His family, his close knit community, his school friends, his teachers and his comrades in the Black Watch will all be thinking of him today, a process replicated across the country as this necessary annual ritual brings all those lost in war to the minds of the still living.

And this year, for the first time in the UK, those who served in the dread Arctic Convoys, were wearing the Arctic Star medal in the parade for the first time. It was awarded earlier this year, 70 years late.

The Russian Arctic Convoy Museum project at Loch Ewe in Wester Ross played a very substantial part in the final acceleration of what has been so long a campaign for recognition of the uniquely challenging service with so appalling an attrition rate.

This brings a memory of an especial loss for this community of survivors. In May this year, 2o13, the Russian Arctic Convoy Museum, amongst its week long celebration of the achievements of the veterans, was given permission to hold a ceremony awarding the new Arctic Star medals at Loch Ewe – the very place many of the convoys gathered to sail for Murmansk and Arkhangel.

Scottish Veterans Minister, Keith Brown, himself a Falklands War veteran, attended the event, above; and took part in the presentation of the medals.

Two days before this week began, a veteran who had come to symbolise the campaign for recognition of the Arctic Convoy service, the redoubtable Jock Dempster from Dunbar died, on 5th May 2013.

Formery President of the Russian Convoy Club scotland, Jock was booked in for the week’s events at Loch Ewe – and had been there annually for many years – so his absence was keenly felt. We heard the announcement of his death on the car radio on 7th May as we drove north through Glen Docherty on the way to Aultbea for this very special week long commemoration.

There was one bright note in this – Jock Dempster had not only lived to see the award of the Arctic Star medal, he had actually already been presented with his own, in a special ceremony for a few at Number 10 Downing Street and by Prime Minister David Cameron. There is a ritual completeness here to the life of this Russian-speaking veteran who was little more than a stripling on the terrifying convoy to Murmansk, open to attack below, on and above the turbulent surface of this sea and temperatures that froze the breath in your throat.

With Tobermory the base for the training of the naval escorts for the Arctic convoys, this is part of Argyll’s own story.

It was noticeable in today’s parade at the Cenotaph, how very few of these World War II convoy veterans were able this year to attend.

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Related Articles & Comments

  • How awful to think that this could be the last ever Remembrance Sunday when we are all part of one United Kingdom .

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 5

    Islay for ever November 10, 2013 2:35 pm Reply
  • Fewer and fewer each passing year.. but always remembered and loved.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

    Anna Cameron McKessock November 10, 2013 4:14 pm Reply
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  • I’m sure the former colonials said the same thing before their independence- not!

    War is the consequence of human failure and none so great as the crown heads of Europe who caused the deaths of millions for their own personal grudges. World War 2,was a consequence of this, yet to the victor the spoils, to everyone else the consequences. They had no choice.

    Today I remember my dad, a Seaforth Highlander and then oartof theForgotten Army in Burma.

    He would be outraged that the Poppy is exploitedby the British Establishment such as the BBC. It seems you cannot get on the BBC this week without one even to the ludicrous performance of a farmer tending his cows on Countryfile. This stage management is an affront to those who served

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 6

    Graeme mccormick November 10, 2013 10:24 pm Reply
  • Well said Graeme. It’s really become a game on the BBC… spot the guy without the poppy (difficult!) or what totally inappropriate apparel can we attach a poppy to now? I just couldn’t believe these numpties on Countryfile wearing dungarees and a poppy. Oh aye, we all milk the coos wi oor poppies in. It’s very sad to see the memory of those who had little choice but to fight in the wars of the 20th century being hijacked by modern wars created by Bush, Bliar and Cameron, with the resulting nonsense on the BBC.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

    Pete November 11, 2013 6:07 pm Reply
  • On Sunday my nine year old son carried the flag for the local cub group as they paid their tributes. Today he told me that he found the flag really heavy and he was struggling to get it up and down the hill. However he said he didn’t want to say anything at the time because he thought it would be disrespectful.

    So proud that a nine year old boy can realise this yet on here an article about remembrance day gets turned into another chance to make independence jibes by two grown adults.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

    Integrity? November 11, 2013 6:21 pm Reply
  • Well done to your son! I just hope you tell him why so many died!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

    Graeme mccormick November 11, 2013 7:59 pm Reply
  • the Arctic Star on parade……and not before bloody time. (I am being touchy, but I wonder why someone took the time to red thumb me when my criticism is as always directed at the various governments who refused to present these brave men with the small token of their sacrifice and bravery, the Arctic Star)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

    Iain McCallum November 13, 2013 8:40 pm Reply

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