WAR veteran Tom Gilzean has saluted an Evening News campaign that has preserved a warren of historic trenches in Dreghorn describing them as a “monument to the sacrifice of millions”.
The feted fundraiser, 93, who has been honoured with a British Empire Medal for services to charity, said it was “terribly important that remnants of the Great War” were protected so future generations could learn from them.
Yesterday, the Ministry of Defence revealed our ten-month campaign to save Dreghorn trenches had prevailed, with archeologists insisting the site should become a focus for educating the public about its history. Work to retain the integrity of the trenches is now set to be carried out while information boards could be added to assist visiting school groups.
The preservation of the site where thousands of Lothian soldiers prepared for life in the trenches of France comes as plans are drawn up for major commemorations across the UK to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War next year.
War hero Tom Gilzean said: “These trenches should be saved for eternity.
“Schoolchildren nowadays don’t really learn much about the First World War or seem very disinterested in what happened during the Second World War.
“These trenches should be kept in good condition for future generations to learn from.”
Mr Gilzean faced Rommel’s Afrika Korps, the Imperial Japanese Army in Burma and Hitler’s Wehrmacht in France and Belgium.
He was awarded the 1939-1945 Star, the Africa Star, the Burma Star, the France and Germany Star, the Defence Medal, the Victory Medal and a 30th Armoured Corps medal from the ill-fated Operation Market Garden at Arnhem.
He added: “When I first served in the Royal Engineers that was the first thing you had to have in your locker – learning to dig a trench. It was essential.
“When you are doing your six months’ training it was one of the first things you have to do – in daylight and in darkness.
“So I value the importance of keeping these trenches which played a critical role in the First World War.”
The pensioner, who has raised hundreds of thousands for good causes, has now vowed to visit the trenches.
He added: “I definitely support the educational centre to promote the sacrifices of the wars.
“There were millions of lives lost in the First World War and that should be remembered and the trenches should be kept for posterity as they are a monument to the men who served in them.”