Highlands & Islands

Commando memorial to be expanded as tributes rise

Commando memorial. Pic: Undiscovered Scotland
Image caption The monument is dedicated to commandos who trained in the area

The site of a military memorial in the Highlands looks set to be expanded because so many tributes are being laid and ashes scattered there.

The Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge is dedicated to those who trained in the area during World War II.

A nearby memorial garden honours soldiers killed in conflicts, including operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Commando Veterans Association alerted Highland Council to increasing pressure on the site.

Council officers have recommended the local authority, which owns and maintains the site, spends £25,000 on upgrading and expanding the garden.

The money would be drawn from a trust fund set up to pay for its maintenance.

In a report to councillors, officials said an increase in ashes being scattered at the memorial meant a special area dedicated to these tributes was now needed.

The officials said in the report: "Sadly, due to current circumstances, the number of tributes being placed at the site has increased greatly, meaning that the garden is now overcrowded."

Highland Council will consider the report on Thursday.

More than 10 Royal Marines lost their lives in Iraq following the US and UK invasion of March 2003.

Afghanistan, where UK military operations started in October 2001, has seen the highest number of casualties for the marines.

More than 50 commandos have died.

Roadside bomb

Earlier this year, six Essex-based soldiers cycled to Spean Bridge in memory of a colleague who was killed in Afghanistan.

The soldiers from 33 Engineer Regiment (EOD), based at Carver Barracks in Wimbish, cycled north to lay a memorial stone at the garden for Sapper David Watson, who died in 2009.

Sapper Watson, 23, from Newcastle upon Tyne, was fatally wounded by a roadside bomb in the Sangin area of Helmand province. He had trained with the Royal Marines.

'Secret army'

From 2004 to 2006, a Royal Marine upset by the state of the garden of remembrance led efforts to refurbish it.

Regimental Sgt Maj Ali McGill and 19 volunteers from the Fleet Protection Group at HM Naval Base Clyde carried out the improvements.

The Commando Memorial overlooks the Great Glen and the hills, glens and moorland where soldiers trained for missions during World War II.

During World War II, members of Winston Churchill's "secret army", the Special Operations Executive (SOE), were also believed to have trained in Lochaber.

Inverailort House was taken over by the military in 1940 for use as an SOE training base.

Churchill ordered SOE agents to "set Europe ablaze" with daring assassination and sabotage missions.

The Commando Veterans Association represents servicemen and women who have served with the Royal Marines and with commando forces from their inception in 1940.

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