The two Lochnagars, one a mountain in Scotland, the other a Great War crater in France and now a Peace Memorial, are linked together by having the same name.
With the advent of the Centenary year of the Great War we felt we should honour it in a seemingly fitting way. As a service organisation trained to save lives, we felt particularly poignant about the many that had lost theirs, particularly under such testing conditions witnessed in the trenches.
The very nature of mountain rescue means we are also used to operating in testing conditions and rather than just record our thoughts in words, we wanted to undertake a project that would be challenging and require some physical effort. Typifying our motto ‘Action speaks louder than words’.
Chairman Brian Canfer explains:
Way back in the spring of 2014 Michael Bell advised that he intended to write an article about the existence of the Lochnagar Crater on the Somme.
Has Oldham heard about this and remembering many ‘happy’ hours spent training, searching and rescuing on Lochnagar Mountain, he suggested that as the nation is commemorating World War1, it might be appropriate if the RAFMRA took a piece of Lochnagar granite, suitably engraved, across to the Somme and place it on the Lochnagar Crater, thus linking the two spiritually and physically. This would entail close co-operation between present and past members of RAFMR – and thus this project was born.
We first obtained the green light from the owner of the Crater. Next the Royal Estate at Balmoral agreed to a piece of granite being removed from the mountain and D’ FLT 202 Search and Rescue Squadron at RAF Lossiemouth agreed to lift a suitable stone to the nearest road and most importantly, RAF Lossiemouth MRT (Lo.MRT) agreed to do the donkey work, which turned out to be considerable.
The picture following shows Micky Coombes Deputy Team Leader (Lo.MRT) with the selected stone, its size being determined by the maximum weight four men could carry. It was recovered to RAF Kinloss near Inverness together with a ‘smaller spare’ last summer.
The stones were taken to RAF Valley in Anglesey and thence to a specialist stone mason in Shrewsbury. The project was informally discussed at last year’s reunion.
The association raised the necessary funds and a group of four, Paul Duckworth, Has Oldham, Alister Haveron and Brian Canfer volunteered to transport and ‘set’ the finished stone at the Crater over the 5th-8th June 2015, in preparation for the annual (although this year’s special) 1st July remembrance service.