For some, the war might be just a history lesson. For others, the vigilance is still needed. The safety of one small Orkney island, which was my home for a few very happy months, is for ever at risk of invasion from its neighbour across the Sound.
Its safety is, however, in good hands. For every once in a while, a trusty band of faithful citizens man the guns, keeping their foe on their toes.
The West Hill Volunteers give up their time and their spirits to keep their island forever free. Periodically they exercise in full uniform on West Hill.
Unfortunately on occasions the spirits go down before the guns go off, and so it has been known for those on parade to find keeping their face straight the hardest part of the exercise.
However, we will remember them as they would wish to be remembered: for their faithfulness, their daring, their ability to overcome setbacks. Like the time the gun wouldn’t fire the 21 gun salute, so rockets had to be used instead.
Gentlemen – we raise a glass to you.
Historical notes: Mr R Shearer wears his grandfather’s WW1 uniform – James M Shearer was a lieutenant and was stationed at Neb Battery (in the West Hill). Mr D Sinclair can still hold a gun correctly even if he has less control of his facial muscles. He was a gunner in the Royal Artillery from 1954-56 when he did his National Service. He still reels off his number – 23027750 – without hesitation. He wears Richard’s father’s WWII greatcoat in the pix. Mr K Gee, the ARP warden, had never ever been seen without his boiler suit and cannot therefore be expected to come on parade in anything else. The Unit Photographer is P Gee, and the photos are copyrighted to him, I mean her.