107-year-old veteran is guest of honour at Black Watch Museum

By Richard Moss | 08 May 2003
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Left: 'He looked a bit thinner when I knew him.' 107 year old veteran Alfred Anderson infront of a picture of his former commanding officer Fergus Bowes-Lyons. Picture© DC Thomson.

Scotland's oldest soldier officially opened a new gallery at the Black Watch Museum in Perth on Wednesday May 7.

Alfred Anderson (107) from Alyth, was on hand to cut the regimental tartan ribbon to the new First World War gallery and display.

After enjoying a guided tour, during which the veteran climbed two flights of stairs unaided, he was treated to a tot of whiskey.

Right: The Black Watch Museum, housed in Balhousie Castle in Perth is to be revamped over the next few years. Picture © Black Watch Museum

Speaking to the Dundee Courier Mr Anderson admitted the display brought back some painful memories. "I've tried to forget it, I have done for years. How can you keep yourself fit if you're thinking about something like that?"

Yet in spite of the intervening years the old soldier can still manage a wry comment on his past experiences, as Major Ronnie Proctor of the Black Watch explained.

"During the war he was batman to the Queen Mother's brother, Fergus Bowes-Lyons who was killed at Loos in 1916. He came to a reunion last year where we showed him a painting of Bowes-Lyons during the battle and he looked at it and said: 'Oh aye, but he looked a bit thinner in the face when I knew him' - he's an amazing chap."

Left: during World War I the Black Watch were awarded four Victoria Crosses. This one was awarded to Sergeant David Finlay for rescuing a wounded comrade under heavy fire at Rue Du Bois, May 1915. Picture © Black Watch Museum.

The new display features a recreated trench scene complete with sound effects, a kilt worn in WWI still covered with Flanders mud and the colours of the 6th Battalion who were awarded the Croix de Guerre as a unit in 1918.

25 Black Watch Battalions served in the First World War, with more than 50,000 men passing through the Regiment. 8,000 of them were killed and over 20,000 wounded.

"The development really allows us to show effectively the price paid by men of the regiment during the First World War," said Major Proctor. "We've put in a new display featuring a replica headstone and silk banners printed with all the names of those killed. There's also a continuous video narrated by another veteran, Gilbert Cross, who sadly died last year."

Right: the prayer book that saved the life of James Grant of the Black Watch when he was struck in the breast by a German bullet. Picture © Black Watch Museum

The museum housed in Balhousie Castle in Perth is to be revamped over the next few years with the emphasis on the improvement of presentation and accessibility.

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