A Carluke soldier has told how the most moving moment of his life came on Thursday night as he stood guard over the grave of the Unknown Warrior during the Somme Vigil at Westminster Abbey.
Major Iain Macdonald of the Royal Logistics Corps of the Army Reserve was one of just two representatives of his unit at the national act of homage andhe had a very personal reason for being there: his great-grandfather was one of the men who went ‘over the top’ on July 1, 1916 and was among the million men lost in the five-month-long battle, the bloodiest in British military history.
Marking thirty years service in the Reserve and its Territorial predecessor next year, Iain described his emotions as he stood guard for his alloted period of vigil at the Abbey.
“Two events really stand out from the day that I think will stay with me for the rest of my life.
“A chill went down my spine when, from the Abbey, you could hear the Royal Horse Artillery firing 100 times at four second intervals to mark the centenary, that thump, thump, thump of their guns being followed by the sound of an officer’s whistle.
“It was eerie hearing much the same sounds that a young lad in a trench must have heard before going into attack that morning a hundred years ago.”
The other emotionally-charged moment came when he shook hands with a Chelsea Pensioner, also taking part in the homage. “Here was I in today’s British Army with someone who had served in the Second World War, both paying respects to the soldiers of the First World War. The sense of being part of a long history was very strong.
“His handshake was frail but firm and I instantly sensed that this was a physical link to that past we were commemorating that day.”
“The silence and surroundings as you actual stood there at the tomb of the Unknown Warrior allowed to you think deeply about what this all meant; it was the most poignant moment of my life,”
Although his ‘day job’ is with the computer department of Glasgow University, Iain is no ‘weekend soldier’, having served tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
He said these front line experiences added to the events of last Thursday gave him a true insight and understanding of those being honoured.
“It’s all about protecting your country and your family back home; it’s always been about that and it always will be.”