Outbreak of the conflict that was hailed as the “war to end all wars” reaches its centenary point next year .
The First World War ended in 1918 at the cost of 16 million lives – 995,000 of them British. Yet despite such catastrophic losses, and the genuine belief that a new era of peace would follow, battles have continued to rage on almost every continent in almost every year since.
In the UK one consequence of the Great War was the public belief that veterans of conflict deserved greater support and assistance from the country they served.
Today, the UK’s armed forces continue to be engaged in a variety of missions, most notably in Afghanistan.
Even the most optimistic of experts would struggle to envisage a time when our servicemen and women will no longer be required to protect the country and its interests overseas.
Thus caring for the needs of veterans remains a hugely important issue today, just as it was in 1918.
And with huge cuts in personnel numbers set to be implemented in the next two years, the number of veterans is set to increase sharply.
Now Falkirk Council is aiming to build its relationship with those who have served their country further by appointing its first veterans advisor. It is understood to be the first role of its kind in Scotland.
The local authority already has a serving veterans champion, Conservative councillor John Patrick, but it is hoped that the new advisor role will complement this existing position by providing firsthand insight into the needs of veterans and how the council can help meet them.
The new Falkirk Council veterans advisor is Major Roy Robertson, a longterm resident of Denny.
As a former director of the Army Benevolent Fund in Scotland, Major Robertson has considerable expertise in assisting veterans – and is already well-known to many.
Councillor Patrick said: “Roy will bring some great insight into the thoughts of veterans and more specifically, how we can best assist them in their re-integration into their local community. I look forward to working with him and to giving our support to our veterans.”
Robertson (66) visited The Falkirk Herald’s main office in Grangemouth to explain what he hopes to achieve in his new role – and started by making one simple request.
“I want to help veterans – but I can only do that if they make themselves known,” he said. “I need to be able to speak to them. So I’m asking them to come forward.
“Most veterans are not members of regimental associations. Despite Britain being involved in two major conflicts in the past decade, branches of the British Legion are closing due to a lack of members. There’s a perception amongst some that such clubs are too ‘old man-ish’.
“It’s said that once you take off the uniform, you put on the cloak of anonymity.”
Robertson is keen to stress that most veterans successfully adjust to civilian life after leaving the forces with few problems.
“I want veterans to know that assistance and advice is available – it is there to be used,” he added.
“If they don’t know where to start, they can ask me. I’m here to serve them.”
Robertson, originally from Belfast, has lived and worked in central Scotland for more than 30 years.
He served in the Ulster Defence Regiment before becoming a reservist with the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders when he moved to Scotland, where he became a primary school teacher.
As a former territorial himself, Robertson is keenly aware that the issues affecting TA members are often different to regular soldiers.
And, as cutbacks take effect, to maintain its operational strength the army is set to rely on reservists more than ever before, so he feels it’s crucial that they have a voice.
“When a battalion comes home, it remains together. The soldiers are living side by side in their barracks or accommodation. They can share experiences and talk together about what they’ve been through. TA members don’t have that.”
To contact Major Roy Robertson, call 07904817928 or email VSFalkirk@veteransscotland.org.uk.