A WARTIME MEMORY OF KINGUSSIE AND GLENFESHIE
In the summer of 1943 the war suddenly came closer to
Kingussie. Not, thankfully, through enemy action, but by the
sound of young British soldiers clambering aboard trucks
outside the railway station before disappearing up the Glen.
Strange tales began to circulate of what was described as a
programme of "toughening up exercises" accompanied by the
distant crackle of thunderflashes and the strident calls of the
instructors followed by long periods of silence as everyone
seemed to have vanished to the mountains.
There were lumberjacks from Canada and Newfoundland
already at work in the glen and later they were joined by the
Mountain and Snow Warfare Centre which had been based in
Iceland. There were tales of Huskies dashing around the hills
but these tended to become somewhat romantically
exaggerated! True, there were Huskies and before the
Mountain and Snow Warfare Centre closed one of the
Directing Staff of the Highland Fieldcraft Training Centre, the
late Gerard Jordan, adopted an Icelandic Husky which he later
took home to Malvern where he successfully bred them.
On 24th May 1943 a reconnaissance party of officers and
sergeants arrived under the leadership of Lt. Col Lord
Rowallan M.C. He had been given the task of urgently setting
up what was to become known as The Highland Fieldcraft
Training Centre - the attractions of Glenfeshie outweighing the
possible alternative in the mountains of Mourne.
The Centre, based on a collection of timber and Nissen huts
with headquarters and officers' quarters in the shooting lodge
at the head of the glen, took over from the Mountain and Snow
Warfare Centre who, before leaving presented a sturdy young
Labrador named "Bringie" (after the Norwegian string vests
with which we were issued) to a member of the Directing Staff.
Bringie accompanied him when revisiting the glen with a party
of Senior Scouts from Newcastle at Easter 1952, as well as
joining in many of our exercises.
The Highland Fieldcraft Training Centre devised and ran a
training programme in leadership which received acclaim
from General Sir Ronald Forbes Adam who, as Adjutant
General, had brought it into being because of the need for
better preparation for training and selection of young potential
officers. There was a need for increased initiative and
awareness. At Glenfeshie, and later at Poolewe in Wester
Ross, selected officer material had to prove their worth under
the most exacting conditions and the percentage of successes
was remarkably high.
The type of leadership training was so successful in fact, that a
Rowallan Company is today an established part of The Royal
Military Academy, Sandhurst.
The good folk of Kingussie and Newtonmore and district
played their part in welcoming these young men on their
occasional hours of leave. The stage shows at the Old Victoria
Hall - "You're Killing Me' and "I Can Hardly Wait" - put on by
the cadets brought many local people into the crowded
audiences which included members of H.M. Forces stationed
nearby. They were a huge success.
In the years since, the sense of comradeship has been kept
alive by the remarkable success of the Highland Fieldcraft
Training Centre Association with its membership of 185 - we
increased by two new members this year! There is an annual
dinner at the RAF. club in London attended by the C.O. of the
Rowallan Company at Sandhurst. 1999 was our 19th re-
union at Glenfeshie and once again we paid our respects to
the forty young men who trained at Glenfeshie and Poolewe
and later gave their lives.
Ken Johnstone (DS)