Sunday, 15 June 2014

Never forget the K.O.S.B.

I have never been a member of the armed forces, having missed National Service as a result of being born too late, and colour blindness probably ruled me out of considering a military career.

But that did not prevent me from admiring the outstanding bravery of successive generations of soldiers who helped weave the colourful history of our local regiment, the King's Own Scottish Borderers.

The K.O.S.B., originally raised in 1689, remained a force to be reckoned with as I grew up in the post-war years, and I always felt a few goosebumps while watching their parades through various Borders towns from Berwick to Peebles. Many town councils bestowed the freedom of the burgh on the regiment, an honour which allowed the servicemen, accompanied by their fine regimental band, to march through the streets with bayonets fixed, flags flying and drums beating. A thrilling sight.

Battle honours were won down the centuries from Minden in 1759 through countless campaigns right down to the 1991 Gulf War. A clutch of Victoria Crosses were awarded to K.O.S.B. soldiers who performed incredible acts of bravery in the two world wars.

But even all of that boundless courage and magnificent history could not prevent the Borderers name from being consigned to the history books in 2006 when Government defence cuts marked the end for many of the country's finest regiments despite fierce opposition and a series of determined rearguard actions to keep the famous names alive. No sentiment or sense of history when it comes to ruthless politics and hard-nosed economics.

For now the the K.O.S.B.'s history and reputation are being maintained by the regimental association whose directors and trustees are retired captains, majors, lieutenants and colonels steeped in military tradition. They also look after the interests of the regimental museum, housed in Berwick's splendid Eighteenth Century barracks. But will future generations be prepared to take on these onerous tasks as time passes and memories fade?

The K.O.S.B. Association plays a vital role in helping ex-servicemen who have fallen on hard times. Last year they processed 89 requests for assistance; 101 the year before. At the same time a new book which will chart the 300-plus years of history of the K.O.S.B. has been commissioned and is expected to be published in 2016.

Meanwhile the Ministry of Defence has been withdrawing support for 69 regimental museums in the United Kingdom, a move which will result in the loss of £4.3 million a year for facilities largely run by volunteers.

A report has been commissioned to look at options for the future of the K.O.S.B. museum, which recorded a financial loss last year, and will require funding from alternative sources to secure its long-term survival.

The recent D-Day commemorations reminded us all that we must never forget the supreme sacrifice made by tens of thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen in all kinds of conflict. The name of the K.O.S.B. and other famous regiments deserve to be remembered in equal measure.

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