If you haven’t yet visited the Gordon Highlanders Museum in Aberdeen, could I suggest you put it in your diaries as soon as possible? We had always intended to spend a morning there, but had never had enough time to do it justice. We put that right this week. It was wonderful. We can’t praise it highly enough.
You don’t need a family connection with the Gordon Highlanders or even an obsession with militaria to make the most of this gem among Scottish museums.
It celebrates the 200-year history of the Gordon Highlanders, the regiment of the British Army most closely associated with North-east Scotland, and still fondly remembered in this area despite being amalgamated out of existence, beginning 20 years ago.
Far from being a static, glass-case collection of battle honours, this museum really works at presenting the story of some of the bravest soldiers Britain has produced, and doing it in a way that is accessible to children without being condescending to adults or demeaning the memories of the men who served and the many who died.
Even if you have no interest in military history, you need only an interest in the history of North-east Scotland to find the museum rewarding.
We had gone to see if records existed of Mrs Harper’s great-uncle Alex, an Aberdonian in the 6th Bn, who was barely 18 when he was killed on July 22, 1918. We were not hopeful.
Then the volunteers stepped in, a smartly dressed group of men in blazers whose job it is to guide and inform. They took up the challenge quietly, and while the two of us sat down to a fine soup-and-sandwich combo in the cafe, which was astonishingly cheap for the quality of food we were served, they began their researches.
Within 30 minutes, guide Mike Taylor was at our table with a selection of photocopies of maps of the battle in which Alex was killed, a list of his posthumous medals, the date and location of his death, the details of the advance in which he was killed, how he had been killed (trying to rescue a fallen comrade from No Man’s Land), and his service number.
We were more than happy to make a donation to the museum for filling in so many blanks in our knowledge of this brave young man’s military career and death. We need only to find his grave, if it exists, and we will be contacting the Commonwealth War Graves Commission next week.
The Gordon Highlanders Museum is the best kind of tourist attraction: presenting compelling history in a low-key manner, suffused with pride, and anxious that as many of us as possible know the contribution that the Gordon Highlanders made to the story of North-east Scotland and their men’s contribution to world peace.
The museum is open every Tuesday to Saturday, February to November.