SIXTY years ago six 18-year-old Borderers walked along the Parade towards Berwick Barracks to sign up for national service.
Six decades on, after fighting for their country at home and abroad, and largely going their separate ways, the same group this week re-visited their old stomping ground both to catch up and reminisce about a shared experience that shaped their lives.
Back in 1951 Eck Brodie from Haddington, George McDonald from Morebattle, George Hughes from Kelso and David Spouse from Duns, didn’t know each other at all, but after six weeks at the Barracks, and for three of them a few years in Malaysia, they became extremely close and formed a bond of friendship that has stood the test of time.
They can all still remember the day when they first signed up to join the ranks of the much- celebrated Kings Own Scottish Borderers.
David recalled: “I’d just had a haircut, but straight away I was sent for another. I remember that bit really well. I also remember being quite frightened of what was to come. I was 18 and had to learn so much, not to mention my number.”
Eck remembered: “I was the only child in my family so there were plenty of tears at home when I left. I thought the world began in Edinburgh and ended in Newcastle, so going to Malaysia was a big shock to the system.”
After being drilled at the Barracks, the young soldiers were then stationed at Dreghorn before David, Eck and George Hughes were transferred to the Cameronian (Scottish Rifles) regiment and sent to Malaysia. George McDonald went to Ireland as part of the Regiment Special Forces.
Like many other young men who signed up to national service, the four Borderers returned home to their families in 1953, meaning they were exempt from winning the Malayan medal, awarded to those who fought in Malaysia during the conflict in 1954.
But rather than concerning themselves with the campaign to gain some recognition for this, all four are much more passionate about the mission to have the KOSB colours laid-up in Berwick.
Asked where he thinks the flag that bears the KOSB battle honours should be laid to rest, George McDonald replied: “They must come back to Berwick. It’s an absolute disgrace they’re not here.”
George Hughes said: “There’s so little tradition about these days. It would mean a lot to us all and the town to have them back. Eck added: “The KOSB means so much to Berwick and the surrounding area it’s only right the colours should be here.”
As well as presenting him with the opportunity to spread the word about the campaign alongside his fellow ex-servicemen, Tuesday offered George McDonald the chance to return to the Barracks for the first time in 60 years.
“It feels weird to be back, but from the outside it really hasn’t changed that much and like back in 1951, it’s another cold day!”
Apart from Eck and George Hughes who have remained close friends and holidayed together with families many times since their national service, the group drifted apart and it was a chance meeting between George and David that saw the pair become firm friends again.
“I was getting a new leg in the Borders General Hospital about five years ago,” explained David.
“Next thing I know George is in the bed beside me - I couldn’t believe it. Going back to 1951 none of us really knew each other, I knew of Eck a bit as he worked for a rival firm, but we’ll never forget our experience.
Eck added: “The KOSB regiment brought people together from all walks of life as far as Ayrshire and Stranraer, right across the Borders and into Northumberland.
“A lot of people made friends for life.”