THE Armistice Service at East Kilbride War Memorial saw its biggest turnout ever on Sunday when local people turned out in their hundreds to pay tribute to the war dead.
John Cochrane, chairman of the local branch of the Royal British Legion, told the News he had been surprised but delighted to see the crowds who went along to show their respects.
“The numbers attending seem to have grown in recent years and it is heartening to see it is people of all ages who are turning out to pay tribute to the fallen,” he added.
“I think the war in Afghanistan and other conflicts around the world which are in the news on a daily basis are bringing home to folk the horrors of war.
“Whether or not people approve of what is happening, many want to show their support and appreciation to our service personnel for the difficult and dangerous job they do and to pay their respects to those who lay down their lives and futures for their country as well as to pay tribute to the fallen of past world wars.”
As is traditional, Sunday’s ceremony started with the ex-services personnel, members of the Territorial Army and local uniformed youth organisations meeting at the Royal British Legion Social Club in the Village for the march to the war memorial led by East Kilbride Pipe Band.
The weather was bright and sunny for the service which was this year conducted by the Reverend Anne Paton, minister of East Kilbride Old Parish Church, and Father Owen Ness, the new parish priest at St Bride’s.
On arrival at the memorial, Councillor Alice Marie Mitchell welcomed everyone on behalf of South Lanarkshire Council before those assembled sang the first hymn.
Just before 11am, members of the local Boys’ Brigade played the Last Post to signal the start of two minutes’ silence in memory of the fallen.
At the end of the silence, those present joined in reciting the Lord’s Prayer before Reveille was sounded.
The first of 23 wreaths was laid by Councillor Mitchell followed by local MP Michael McCann, East Kilbride MSP Linda Fabiani and Central List MSP Margaret McCulloch, the ex-services organisations, Territorial Army, uninformed youth organisations and members of the public.
And, as the townsfolk laid their wreaths, a piper from the local band played a lament.
To end the ceremony, John Cochrane recited the words of Binyon’s poignant verses ‘For the Fallen’.
The parade then marched to East Kilbride Old Parish Church for the official ex-services’ remembrance service.
And, at the close of the church service, the ex-services’ organisations paraded back to the Royal British Legion Social Club where members of the Territorial Army, following tradition, served them with curry.
On Friday – the anniversary of Armistice – John along with representatives of the ex-services organisations, visited first East Kilbride Cemetery and then Philipshill to pay tribute to local soldiers buried there.
At each of the 16 graves in East Kilbride Cemetery and the two at Philipshill – those of the courageous 29-year-old Westwood soldier from the 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment, Corporal John Harrison, killed in Afghanistan in September 2009, and Private Steven Murray (Taylor), 23, who died last year at a training camp in Lancaster, they laid a small Royal British Legion wreath. These were especially and lovingly made for the occasion by Legion members Agnes and Gus McDonald.
The Legion ex-service representatives made sure they were at John Harrison’s grave at 11am to observe the traditional two minutes’ silence in memory of the fallen.
John Cochrane expressed apologies to the people of East Kilbride for the fact the Royal British Legion had not mounted their usual display in the town centre in the run up to Remembrance Day. Sadly, Joan Portwood, the Legion stalwart who was responsible for the display for many years died during the course of the year.
“She is very much missed,” John added.
Elsewhere throughout the district and like their counterparts the length and breadth of the country, the people in other communities, including those of Strathaven, Carmunnock and Eaglesham, also paid their tributes to the war dead.