Tain couple's tender care of Czech airmen's war graves honoured at St Duthus Remembrance Day service
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A Tain couple who have cared for graves of Czech airmen at the town’s St Duthus cemetery for more than 15 years were honoured as part of a Remembrance Day service, writes Sarah Smith.
Billy and Mary Grant were presented with a letter of appreciation and medallions from both the Czech Defence Attaché in London and the Czech Veterans Association.
Making the presentation, Ron Ferguson President of the Tain British Legion, quoted from the letter which commended couple’s ‘selfless efforts and care’ in tending and caring for the graves of the 21 airmen from the 311 (Czech) Squadron of the RAF.
“We are immensely grateful for the positive impact you have made,” the letter said.
“The respect and honour you show to these heroes through your meticulous upkeep of the graves is admirable and inspiring. Your dedication stands as a shining example of what true patriotism and reverence for our history mean.”
Billy and Mary, now in their mid-80s and standing down from their voluntary role, were also presented with an engraved plate from Tain British Legion.
“Every year Billy and Mary have ensured that these graves were spruced up, in perfect order for the annual Remembrance service. They must now hand over this task to others, but we could not let their efforts go unmarked,” said Ron.
The couple took on the role from John and Marion Fleming of Inver when they were unable to carry on because of ill health. John and members of the Czech Veterans Association helped co-ordinate the purchase and installation of a memorial to the Czech airmen in 2007.
These Czech airmen are remembered in a special service every year.
Marion died recently and was remembered at the graveside service on Sunday which was attended by members of her family.
During the service, wreaths were laid on behalf of the Tain British Legion, the Defence Attaché Office of the Czech Republic and the Czech Veterans Association.
The CVO wreath was laid by Mr Jack Dunlop an ex-RAF, visiting member of Aberdeen British Legion. The Czech Defence Attaché’s wreath was laid by John Fleming’s son, Mick, who had served with the Royal Signals for 35 years.
The 311 (Czech) Squadron RAF was transferred to Tain in 1943 where it stayed until the end of the war, carrying out operations over the Baltic and North Atlantic.
The squadron lost 39 of its men and women when at Tain and 21 are buried in the St Duthus graveyard.
* Ross-shire remembers – more pictures inside this week's Ross-shire Journal.