"My Hero, My Soldier Laddie"

Part of Decision Time – in the Scottish Parliament at 5:20 pm on 10th June 2010.

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Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative 5:20 pm, 10th June 2010

I congratulate Christina McKelvie on securing the debate and commend her for her excellent motion, which I was pleased to sign. I join her in congratulating and thanking Duncan Brown for his considerable achievement, which she set out in her speech.

As we have heard, the Victoria Cross is the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. Some say that we use the term "hero" too often these days but, without doubt, individuals who receive the Victoria Cross are true heroes who have put their lives at great peril or have lost their lives serving this country and protecting their comrades.

Christina McKelvie's motion rightly highlights recipients of the Victoria Cross from Lanarkshire, as we would expect. My region of Mid Scotland and Fife is the birthplace and resting place of many men who won the Victoria Cross. If members will indulge me for a moment, I will mention one or two of them.

Kirriemuir cemetery in Angus is the resting place of two Victoria Cross winners: Private Charles Melvin of the Black Watch, who won his VC at Istabulat, Mesopotamia—modern-day Iraq—on 21 April 1917 and Corporal Richard Burton, who won his VC at Monte Ceco in Italy on 8 October 1944.

Captain William Stewart of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders was born in Grandtully in Perthshire and is buried there. He won his VC at Secundra Bagh during the Indian mutiny on 16 November 1857.

Flight Lieutenant William Reid of the Royal Air Force won his VC during the raid on Düsseldorf on 3 November 1943 and now rests in Crieff cemetery.

Sergeant Alexander Thompson of the Black Watch won his VC at Fort Ruhya during the Indian mutiny on 15 April 1858. He lies in Wellshill cemetery in Perth.

Dunfermline's cemetery is the final resting place of Dunfermline's Sergeant David Hunter of the Highland Light Infantry, who won his VC at Moeuvres in France on 16 September 1918.

The spread of those names and the different conflicts in which they fought in all parts of the world illustrates the tremendous contribution that Scottish soldiers have made over the centuries as part of the British Army. Of course, those men are just some of the brave men who have risked their lives for their country and the cause of freedom. I welcome the opportunity to put on the record my gratitude for their unflinching courage in the face of the enemy.

I am sure that Christina McKelvie and all members present will want to join me in thanking Michael, Lord Ashcroft, who has the largest Victoria Cross collection in the world, for allowing his collection to go on public display, following his £5 million donation to the Imperial War Museum. I am sure that we are all grateful to Lord Ashcroft for his generous support of many good and worthwhile causes. Lord Ashcroft is also the author of the book "Victoria Cross Heroes", which was published in 2006 to mark the 150th anniversary of the creation of the Victoria Cross. I hope that Christina McKelvie and all other members present will take the opportunity to read that publication if they have not already done so. The nation genuinely owes a debt of gratitude to Lord Ashcroft for bringing together so many VCs, which in themselves are worth several million pounds, and providing the funds for a new gallery to show them to the public.

It is hard, if not impossible, to set out in words the bravery, devotion and sacrifice of all the individuals who have been mentioned in the debate and in Duncan Brown's book. I hope that the debate goes some way towards showing our respect for and debt to those men. I thank Christina McKelvie for giving us this opportunity.