Friday, July 7, 2017

The 500; a pause for reflection

On day two we drove the red bit of this map. It was supposed to be four hours but took eight, and will take up at least three blogs!

( Day one in black, day two in red )

I am not sure what I feel about sat navs, probably the same way I feel about Kindles. They are ok as an as well as , but not as as instead of. I like a map I can look at, and not  a wee blue road that swivels to north every time the car turns a corner.  And  like to see what we are driving past and where we might like to stop and look. Too many people are doing the 500 in a week ( that’s over 150 miles a day on roads where 15 mph is pretty good going.)

We stopped in Fort William and took a pic of this sign. A book shop is opening here!

 I’ve written before about the Great Glen. At the south (lower end of the sat nav as you drive up, ) is The  Commando Memorial. I’ve driven past it many times but this time I was determined to stop.

The three Commandos are depicted looking south towards Ben Nevis.

 It is dedicated to the men of the original British Commando Forces raised during World War II but the memorials now are for those conflicts much more recent. It’s about a mile from Spean Bridge and overlooks the training areas of the Commandos and, rumour has it, the SAS. It has very inhospitable terrain,  with foul weather and is at enough of an altitude to be …well, testing.

The top of the plinth says "United we conquer". The plaque says  "In memory of the officers and men of the commandos who died in the Second World War 1939–1945. This country was their training ground." 

It connects to another memorial by a footpath – that memorial marks where General Wade’s Army fired the first shots  in the Jacobite Rising of 1745. Least said about that the better. ( The act of union –  not a hostile takeover – was signed in 1707)

I'm sure this red metal poppy came from those at the Tower Of London. Bought by  somebody  and brought up here in remembrance of a loved one lost. There was a card beside it, but the ink had dissolved in the rain. The poppy remains vibrant.

I read that the new recruit Commandos would arrive here after a 14 hour journey from down south.  Trucks would take their kit bags so they could speed march the remaining 7 miles while wearing full kit  ( 36 pounds  - 16 kg). Anyone who didn’t make it within the  60 minutes allowed was returned to their unit as not passing muster.   Now, that’s impressive marching on a good day…. But against the wind up here, it’s incredible.

It was a sunny but chilly day. Two busloads of tourists were at the site.

It has views onto the top of Ben Nevis, which looks nothing from the viewpoint as  the memorial is already high up. Ben Nevis  is the second peak in front of the commandoes. It's more of a rolling peak, said to resemble the back of an elephant's head.

A lovely letter from their 'mates' to all their lost colleagues.

A Garden of Remembrance is sadly still in use for the scattering of ashes . Many leave requests for their final remains to be scattered here, from older commandoes who survived the World War, to those who have perished in more recent conflicts like the Falklands, Iraq and Afghanistan.

                                                The Garden of Remembrance was placed here in 2007

Some poppies are still bright red

Maybe more poignant are those that have faded. 

It's a large circle of memorial, it takes  time to walk round.

I spotted a single white poppy just outside the memorial wall.

Helmand Province 2011. It's their youth that gets me.

Paul Warren, missed by his parents

And they have left a wee something behind his plaque, maybe to warm him on his long nights up here.

                                               Stephen Walker had a dram as well.

These two were cleaning a plaque with Brasso. From their accents they had travelled about 700 miles.

 Recently there has been incidents of theft and damage at the memorial that has led to calls for a sniper with a long range night sight rifle to lie in wait…. I wouldn’t blame them.

Caro Ramsay  7th July 2017


  1. I was going to reflect on catching a glimpse of a chic camo-orange clad commando author sneaking up on a soon-to-be bookstore, but then read the rest of your post and realized it would not be in keeping with your well placed thoughts on deservedly hallowed ground. May the sniper's aim be true.

  2. I have sat here in the twilight and wept

  3. Many are still weeping John, and I fear there will be more memorials to add. As you will know, even with the constant wind there is a sense of stillness and calmness up there.

  4. There is a soft deep presence here. Here there be ghosts