Their call to remembrance

10th November 2006 at 00:00
A bugler will play in a Dunblane school chapel this Sunday and invoke the memory of those who fell in conflicts past. But as the first plangent note is sounded, many young minds will also turn to their own families.

The Remembrance Sunday service will be that of Queen Victoria School, whose 268 pupils (from P7 to S6) each come from a military family; several have close relatives involved in ongoing conflicts.

Graham Carroll, depute headteacher for pastoral and guidance, said: "There is a solemn acceptance that a lot of our boys' and girls' parents are going to be on the front line, especially with the current theatres in Iraq and Afghanistan - this gives added significance, and has done for the last four or five years. When it comes to Remembrance Sunday, you've got well over a dozen of our pupils' fathers who will be in one of those two main theatres."

Cameron Lee, 16, from Glenrothes, is the school's senior monitor (or head pupil) and will be commander of the parade on Sunday. He will perform one of the most important duties when he carries the school's own book of remembrance, commemorating former pupils who died in service.

Among those watching will be Cameron's father, who has had to miss previous parades while serving in Iraq. Cameron is pragmatic about his father's enforced absences, but said: "You're conscious of the fact that he's not there and it's out of his control. Plus you don't get much contact with him, so I don't know what's going on."

Yet he refuses to dwell on his own family circumstances, focusing instead on the wider significance of Remembrance Sunday and the several other ceremonial school parades that take place each year. He recalls that the first parade after the summer break took on added poignancy as it happened soon after 14 servicemen died when a Nimrod MR2 aircraft came down in Afghanistan.

It is the Remembrance Sunday parade, however, that is most powerful, attracting the biggest turnout of family members and former pupils. "The chapel service always hits you hard," said Cameron.

"Even just wearing poppies on parade gives the day that extra bit of specialness. Remembrance parades are always quieter and much better performed, and I think it's because they mean a lot more to people."

Fellow S6 pupil Sheona Kirkaldy, 18, from Helensburgh, also plays down the stresses of having family members in the military. Her father, sister and brother are in the navy, and both siblings have served in the Gulf. Yet she steers conversation away from her own family - "Being in the military is just a way of life" - and insists on concentrating on those who died in past conflicts when Sunday's parade comes around.

"It's really important that we show our respect for what they have done and show we are thinking of them. This is one of our most special parades."

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