Remembering Falkirk district’s tragic TA soldiers

The loss of ten young men from the Falkirk area was remembered in a special service in Zetland Park at the weekend.

By Jill Buchanan
Tuesday, 24th September 2019, 1:10 pm

A memorial to the TA soldiers who all died during a night-time exercise on the River Trent in Nottinghamshire on September 28, 1975 is in the Grangemouth grounds and every year family, friends, former comrade-in-arms and old soldiers gather to pay tribute.

The part-time squaddies were all members of 300 Troop, 131 Independent Parachute Squadron, Royal Engineers and had left behind their loved ones for a weekend exercise.

Tragically their boat capsized going over Cromwell Lock in bad weather and all but one man, Sapper Pat Harkin, perished.

Those who lost their lives were: Raymond Buchanan, Norman Bennett, Terry Smith, all aged 20; James Black, Alexander O’Brien, both 18; Ronald Temprell (26); Joseph Walker (21); brothers Stuart (22) and Peter Evenden (19); and the youngest victim, 17-year-old Ian Mercer.

As well as the Zetland Park memorial, another made out of Scottish grant and bearing the victim’s names is next to the scene of the tragedy. The men are also commemorated at The National Arboretum in Staffordshire.

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Despite the pouring rain, around 40 personnel representing the Armed Forces and Royal British Legion attended Sunday’s service, some coming from Ayrshire and Coldstream in the Scottish Borders. Members of the district Armed Forces cadets were also on parade, as well as relatives of those who died.

Gilbert Nicol, secretary of the Airborne Engineers Association Scotland, thanked everyone for attending and the members of Royal British Legion Grangemouth for their support.

A framed photograph of the memorial plaque was presented to the local branch and to Terry Smith, whose father Terry, was one of the sappers killed.

Mr Nicol said: “Terry was only four and a half months old when his father died and did not get to know him. He thought it was amazing that so many people came out to remember his father and colleagues, especially after such a long period of time.

“It was explained to him that a similar service was being held at Cromwell Lock, where the unfortunate incident took place. He asked me to pass on his families heartfelt thanks to all involved.”

“They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old,

Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn,

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will Remember Them”