Call for Falkirk area Paras to get medals 43 years after drowning tragedy

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More than 40 years after a tragedy which claimed the lives of ten part-time soldiers comes a call for them to be awarded bravery medals.

The River Trent disaster in 1975 saw the men – seven from the Falkirk area – drown after their boat went over a weir and capsized.

They were all members of the 300 Troop, 131 Independent Parachute Squadron of the Royal Engineers Territorial Army and had left their base in Grangemouth two days earlier.

Only one man who was in the assault boat survived.

Lance Corporal Patrick Harkin, who was 31 and from Denny, was in charge of the fateful boat on the night. He was rescued after clinging to the swamped craft for over an hour.

One of his rescuers was a 20-year-old police constable, David Scott, who went out in a boat with power company workers who had been working nearby and raised the alarm after hearing cries for help.

Tragically they were only to bring one man to the river bank alive.

But now Mr Scott, who retired from the police force as an inspector, has written to the Army urging that they all be given commendations for bravery.

He said: “I don not want to upset the families again, but have written to the Army and submitted the names of all those boys for commendations for bravery.”

It was the largest peace time tragedy in the squadron’s history and claimed the lives of Sappers Stuart Evenden (22), his brother Peter (19), Terry Smith and Raymond Buchanan, both 20, who were all from Falkirk; Grangemouth pals Ian Mercer (17) and James Black (18); and Norman Bennet (29) from Bo’ness.

Three colleagues from Clackmannanshire, Alexander O’Brien (18), Joseph Walker (21) and Ronald Temprell (26) also lost their lives.

After the military funerals, which brought towns across the central belt to a standstill, a memorial service was held at the site of the accident near Newark and a stone of Scottish granite bearing all their names was laid in a small commemorative garden close to Cromwell Weir.

Another memorial stone was also placed next to Grangemouth Cenotaph in Zetland Park.

A spokeswoman for the Army in Scotland said: “Our thoughts are with everyone involved in this tragedy on the anniversary. The Regimental family of the Parachute regiment is very strong and the effects of this incident will still be felt amongst the soldiers’ fellow Paras.”