Spean Bridge Commando Memorial
Leaving the serene peace of Pattack Falls, my wife and I continued our journey along the A86 towards Spean Bridge. I had often seen great photos of the Spean Bridge Commando Memorial and wanted to stop here, find out more about it, and get a few snaps of my own!
Passing through the picturesque town of Spean Bridge, we took a right onto the A86 and followed it to the memorial.
I had expected a place of quiet reflection, but the memorial car park was mobbed with tourists. There were at least three large busses and many cars, so we managed to find the last available space. I guess the memorial has become a tourist attraction on the route north to Inverness, this may be slightly annoying for those who want to pay their respects to fallen comrades, but at least it raises awareness of those who have given their lives for their country.
There was no fee for the car park, but a donation can be given at the view marker near the main monument.
We made our way up to this impressive memorial. By luck, when we walked up to the monument, a group had just left, so I was able to get some photos without people blocking my view. The vista from the memorial overlooks the Lochaber region and is undoubtedly a fitting place to remember these brave men.
World War II
The allies were losing the war in Europe. Dunkirk had just been evacuated at the beginning of June 1940, and the situation looked grim. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill decided to form an elite fighting force able to carry out raids within German-occupied Europe.
By the autumn, over 2000 men had volunteered for the newly formed Special Service Brigade. The 12 units of the SSB became known as Commandos and operated in all theatres of the war, including the Arctic, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
The commandos were disbanded after the war but led to the creation of the SAS (Special Air Service), SBS (Special Boat Service), the Royal Marines and the Parachute Regiment.
Following the end of World War II, in 1947, it was felt that the commando's sacrifice to the war effort should be memorialised in Scotland because many of the commandos were trained on Scotland's hills and moors. The site of their old training ground at the former commando training centre at Achnacarry was considered to be the best spot.
Mr William Gilmour Smith JP advised the Commando Association that a committee had been formed with a view to erecting the monument. An invitation was sent to the Scottish School of Sculptors to submit designs for the memorial within an 8-month time limit. Douglas Bliss and Dr Tom Honeyman also supplied a set of conditions.
The design of the monument
26 designs were received for the memorial, and all were exhibited at Glasgow School of Art on the 28th of October 1949. The committee were unanimous in their decision that the design by Mr Scott Sutherland (an art teacher at Dundee College of Art) was the most appropriate.
Three commandos dressed in their world war two uniforms, complete with caps, ammo pouches and weapons, look south towards Ben Nevis. It was a very tasteful classic and impressive design.
The sculpture took two years to complete and was cast in clay moulds in bronze. Each figure is 9 feet 4 inches tall, and the memorial is 17 ft /5.2 m high, including the pedestal.
Inscriptions on the monument
Below the feet of the sculpture, capitalised text reads "United We Conquer", and the plaque below it on the main plinth of the monument reads "In memory of the officers and men of the commandos who died in the Second World War 1939–1945. This country was their training ground."
A Mr Macdonald of Spean Bridge generously donated the land the memorial was to be built upon.
The official opening of the commando memorial
Queen Elizabeth the Queen mother officially opened the memorial on Saturday the 27th of September, 1952. There was no parade or military drill, but the Queen mother did pass a lineup of serving commandos whilst leaving the site.
A Category A Monument
On the 15th of August 1996, the monument gained category A listed status.
Area of Remembrance
The War Memorials Trust, Royal Marines Association, Highland Council and the Commando Association funded improvements to the monument, including a memorial garden and a professional sculpture cleaning.
The memorial garden is a beautifully kept space, with many small memorials contained within its concentric circles. Messages to the historic fallen and modern war dead from recent conflicts are tastefully displayed within the garden. The garden has been expanded and improved substantially over the years and now has a larger perimeter wall and a large standing stone in the centre.
Why is the commando monument at Spean Bridge?
It was built near where the commandos trained for operations in the second world war.
When was the Commando Memorial built?
It was completed in 1952 and officially opened by the Queen Mother Elizabeth.
How to get to Spean Bridge Commando Memorial
The commando memorial stands on the west side of the A82. It is just to the northwest of the small village of Spean Bridge. The largest settlement is Fort William to the south west.
From Inverness, travel south along the A82 on the west side of Loch Ness. Stop off at Laggan Locks for a break if you need it.
Although it was very busy, it was a great little stop-off at the commando memorial. The views are great, and it is a fitting monument to the brave men of the commandos who gave their lives in World War II and beyond.
We headed south to Fort William to investigate Old Inverlochy Castle, continuing my 40th birthday trip around central Scotland.
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Hi, please leave a comment below, or why not start a discussion on the forum?
25th of July 2023 @ 22:19:01
Hi, no, it's quite far from the railway line, unfortunately.
25th of July 2023 @ 22:14:42
I will be passing this way on a train (I don't drive), will I be able to see this memorial from the train?