Surprise of a lifetime in Airth for Duke of Edinburgh’s former batman

Family members and military personnel ensured Bobby Allan, pictured centre, had a birthday to remember
Family members and military personnel ensured Bobby Allan, pictured centre, had a birthday to remember

Members of a large Airth family and personnel from the Queen’s Own Highlanders joined forces to mount a top secret operation last weekend.

Their objective – give a former Cameron Highlander an 82nd birthday to remember.

The family – including main organiser/nephew John Wilson – knew it was mission accomplished when the piper-led procession came around the corner of South Green Drive on Saturday afternoon and Robert Allan was moved to tears and shaking from the emotion he felt.

Robert, known as Bobby, said: “I didn’t know they were coming. Some of the things you forget about, but what happened on Saturday I will never forget.”

Born in Airth, Bobby followed his father Henry Allan, a decorated veteran of the First World War and World War II, into the Cameron Highlanders. His national service stretched from 1955 to 1958 and saw him stationed all over the globe – from Inverness in the Highlands down to Thetford in Norfolk as well as stops in Singapore, Korea, Aden and Malaysia.

While he was serving in Thetford he acted as batman – an officer’s personal assistant – to the Duke of Edinburgh and made headlines in The Falkirk Herald for showing Prince Philip the proper way to put on a kilt. He also met Princess Margaret at that time.

When Bobby returned from his military service he married love of his life Susan and began working in a variety of local firms, including Carron Iron Works.

The couple has four children – Bobby (58), April (54), Raymond (52), Jim (51) – nine grand children and six great grandchildren and the majority of them were all there on Saturday to help Bobby celebrate his birthday.

Susan (79) said: “The village must have wondered what was going on. The Highlanders said they were happy to do this because there were not many Cameron Highlanders left.”

There was some confusion over the couple’s wedding anniversary, with some people believing it was their diamond celebration this year. That happy milestone will in fact be reached next year – but that did not stop army personnel showering the couple with gifts.