Provost affirms ‘the Falkirk Fallen are no longer nameless’

Falkirk Provost Billy Buchanan.
Falkirk Provost Billy Buchanan.

Falkirk Provost Billy Buchanan today set the seal on a community effort to right what many see as a historic wrong, with a moving dedication speech at the town’s Cenotaph.

Regular readers will be aware that back in August the group Friends of Falkirk War Memorial launched a campaign to have inscribed - for the first time - all of the names of the local men who died in the service of their country during the World Wars.

Under construction - how the Cenotaph looked in the weeks running up to today's historic unveiling ceremony.

Under construction - how the Cenotaph looked in the weeks running up to today's historic unveiling ceremony.

There were some 1,600 men across both conflicts, but until now their identities have never been inscribed on a conspicuous public memorial.

Many or even most were men in their teens or early 20’s, who would “not grow old, as we that are left grow old”.

They perished on land, sea or in the air in conflicts ranging from the Western Front to Gallipoli, from the Normandy beaches to the Burmese jungle, leaving catastrophic loss and grief in their wake.

Yet for today’s up and coming generation their identities were effectively hidden, and for posterity their sacrifice was not recorded in the manner (as Provost Buchanan explained today) recommended by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

The logo which supported the Friends of Falkirk War Memorial campaign.

The logo which supported the Friends of Falkirk War Memorial campaign.

Many, especially the older generation, feared the risk that they, and what they gave, might simply be forgotten.

The Friends initiative led by former Provost Pat Reid, and resolutely backed by many local companies and volunteers, has finally laid that concern to rest.

Here is how Provost Buchanan explained the achievement in his speech today:

“This is an historical moment indeed, as the two new pillars have been unveiled - bearing the names of the fallen from both world wars.

“It is quite remarkable that only some months ago a committee was formed, and now here we are today for the unveiling and dedication ceremony - poignantly, a week before Remembrance Sunday.

“Why were the names not put on when the monument was built?

“I leave that answer to the historians, but not all war memorials had names inscribed on them, for various reasons.

“Today it may be difficult to understand, but many families did not want their loved ones included on a memorial stone.

“Some were still officially missing, and that final act of recognising loss was not something families were ready to accept - and I can understand that.

“Preserving our war memorial heritage is vital to ensure that their sacrifices are not forgotten, and the events in which those remembered participated are recognised.

“Educating young people about war memorials is vitally important, to ensure they, tomorrow’s custodians. understood what they represent and continue to preserve them for future generations.

“My friends, this is a day of great pride and of deep humility - pride that such men as these were bred in our midst; humility as we bow before their heroism.

“They gave everything that we might be secure, and that Right should be maintained on earth.

“To you who are closely related I would express this thought - they have died in their youth and went to God in their youth.

“Today, we have done what needed to be done - for the Falkirk Fallen, whose bodies lies in peace in some foreign lands are no longer nameless.

“To the many, it is with great pride and respect that we can now say ‘Their Names Liveth Forever More’”.

There will further coverage of this important local initiative in forthcoming editions of the Falkirk Herald.