A party of “Old and Bold” from the King’s Own Scottish Borderers (KOSB) will conduct a pilgrimage this month to commemorate one of the most tragic battles of the war.
A group of KOSB veterans, with some families and friends, will take a three day trip to the Passchendaele area in Belgium, outside of Ypres on 17 August, to mark the 100th anniversary of the battle. The group will see where the soldiers of the KOSB laid down their lives and visit their graves and memorials.
Two soldiers from the battalion were awarded Victoria Crosses on the one day during the Battle of Passchendaele. 34-year-old Sergeant Major John Skinner and 27-year-old Company Quartermaster-Sergeant William Grimbaldeston were bestowed with the honour for outstanding acts of gallantry carried out on 16 August 1917. You can read more about their stories here.
Included in the pilgrimage party will be the great grand daughter of Cpl Richard Howard, who was killed at the attack on Faffemont Farm by 2 KOSB on 3 Sep 1916 during the Battle of the Somme.
Liz Howard-Thornton said: “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, one of the trip’s organisers, said he believes it will serve a valuable purpose.
“Everyone associates Passchendaele with mud, misery and high casualties,” he said. “The courage and sacrifice of the British, French and Colonial troops must never be forgotten. We want to stand on the actual spot, where our forebears fell in such terrible numbers, and we want to commemorate their memory on this trip. ”
Andy’s wife, Jo, also going on the trip said: “It would have been horrendous for those on the homefront too. I can really identify with that. The worst bit was probably the not knowing, and the length of time it took to get any hard information and news.”
President of the KOSB Association, Colonel Angus Loudon said: “We have been waiting for this trip for some time now, with real anticipation. Passchendaele is one of our main battle honours, where we lost so many young Jocks, and where we won two VCs in one day- CSM Skinner and CQMS Grimbaldeston. So for us to walk precisely in the footsteps, on the ground, of the 1917 Jocks, and see where those gallant deeds were done, is going to be incredibly special. We must learn from what happened, we want to honour our forebears, and most importantly, we must talk about it in the future.”
After three and a half months hard fighting, with appalling casualties, both from disease and combat, the battle ceased, mainly due to the dreadful winter in Flanders that year. Hundreds of thousands on both sides paid the ultimate price with their lives. The KOSB party will be unveiling a specially commissioned memorial bronze plaque, in a large Belgian led ceremony at the Frezenberg Redoubt on Saturday 19 August, to all 7050 Borderers, who died in WWI.
For Ian Domingo of Dumfries, whose grandfather fell at Gallipoli, this pilgrimage will be a powerful tribute to those who fell.
“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 will be a small ceremony at the huge Tyne Cot Memorial, with a piper, prayers from Padre Macleod, and readings.”
John Ross, one of five brothers who served in the KOSB, and one of the co-organisers said: “It is going to be really moving to be there, to remember, and to see what was lost in human sacrifice. This is the third trip we have run on KOSB WW1 battles, and for all of us ‘Old and Bold’ it will be another very special and moving trip. NEMO ME IMPUNE LACESSIT.”