The Commando Memorial
History of The Commando Memorial.
Early in 1947 many members of branches of the Commando Association felt that some form of Memorial should be put up in Scotland. It was agreed that the most appropriate spot would be in the area of the former Commando Basic Training Centre at Achnacarry. Mr William Gilmour Smith JP of Glasgow advised the Association that a strong representative Committee had been formed with the intention of inviting the Scottish School of Sculptors to submit designs.
The Committee consisted of:
Sir Frank Mears PRSA, LL.D, FRIBA - Local Town and Planning expert,
Douglas Percy Bliss MA, ARCA - Principal of the Glasgow School of Art,
Dr Tom Honeyman JP - Glasgow’s Director of Art Galleries and Museums,
Sir John Richmond KBE, LL.D – one of Glasgow’s leading authorities on Art,
Sir William Reid Dick KCVO, RA – Noted Sculptor.
They were joined on the Committee by three representing Commandos –
Douglas Bliss and Dr Tom Honeyman were responsible for drawing up the conditions of the test, and the artists were given 8 months to complete their designs. In all 26 designs were submitted, and these were exhibited in the Glasgow School of Art on the 28th October 1949. The Committee came from all over the country to judge the exhibits. They were unanimous that the design by Mr Scott Sutherland, who was an Art Teacher at Dundee College of Art, was the most outstanding work, and they all felt would be a fitting symbol of all that Commandos stood for.
It took another two years to prepare the clay and plaster casts for the Foundry and complete the castings in bronze. The actual figures are 9 feet 4 inches high, and the finished memorial approximately 17 feet high. In the early stages a site was chosen above the lock gates at the Caledonian Canal on the actual road to Achnacarry, but this site was afterwards abandoned because of unforeseen difficulties. It was felt too, that as the memorial would be two and a half miles from the main Inverness Road, it was too far off the beaten track.
At this stage Lord Lovat was successful in having a suitable site generously donated by Mr McDonald of Speanbridge. The site commands a wonderful view. It is situated at the junction of the Gairlochy Road, and the main Inverness to Fort William, about three quarters of a mile from Spean bridge, at the top of the hill.
The Memorial was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother on Saturday 27th September 1952.
There was no parade or ceremonial drill, the Queen Mother expressing a wish to walk through a line of Commandos on the way back to her car.
A simple Area of Remembrance was later opened adjacent to the Memorial which was extended in recent years.
Here Commandos and their families can lay small tributes to loved ones. There is also an area for scattering of ashes.
More information can be found HERE
At Spean Bridge, as at Westminster Abbey, an annual act of Remembrance was arranged, the first being on Sunday the 8th November 1953. Over the years this ceremony has become a very important one, not only for the residents of Lochaber, but for the hundreds of Commandos, their families, and their friends, making the pilgrimage to the area.
In 1957 the Town Council of Fort William agreed to arrange future services at the memorial, and also to be accountable for its future care and upkeep. The close links between Lochaber and the Commandos have been maintained ever since, and in 1993 the Lochaber District Council bestowed on the Commando Association the very great honour of the Freedom of Lochaber. This was presented to the Association on Saturday 13th November 1993. The following day a special plaque was unveiled By Brig. K.R.S. Trevor CBE, DSO, on the Memorial giving a short history of the Commandos.
The last photo shows members of the Commando Veterans Association (CVA) at the 2013 Remembrance Service. The CVA maintains close links with the people of Lochaber, local dignitaries, representatives of the Local Authority, the staff and pupils of Lochaber High School, local Cadet forces, Lochaber Archaeological Society, and many other interested parties. Our Annual Gathering on Remembrance weekend is always a well supported event with members travelling long distances to join us in Commando Country to remember all The Fallen Commandos, as well as all those Commandos who, with the passage of time, are no longer with us today.
We will remember them
Source: Documents of the original Commando Association, and those written by the late Henry Brown OBE, No 1 Commando and General Secretary & Treasuer of the Commando Association.
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