School's Victoria Cross hero honoured at memorial move

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THE last Edinburgh soldier to receive the Victoria Cross for bravery is to be honoured at a special "re-dedication" ceremony at Tynecastle High marking the re-siting of the school's war memorials to the new building.

Former Tynecastle pupil Corporal Thomas Peck Hunter – who was the uncle of Scottish finance secretary John Swinney – sacrificed himself as a target to save his troops in Italy in 1945 and was posthumously awarded the VC.

The school will honour him at a ceremony next month and also play host to the annual parade and service in his memory.

The Royal Marines' Association (RMA) ceremony usually takes place at Ocean Terminal, where there is also a memorial to Cpl Hunter, but this is currently in storage due to the tram works.

The members will this year join Tynecastle High in honouring Cpl Hunter at a service marking the re-siting of the school's memorials to the fallen soldiers of the First and Second World Wars – a ceremony which Mr Swinney will attend.

A total of 75 former Tynecastle pupils were killed during World War Two, and at least 14 pupils and one teacher died on the frontline in the First World War.

Cpl Hunter is the only Royal Marine to win a Victoria Cross in the Second World War, being awarded it for his heroic actions in the Battle of Lake Comacchio in Italy in 1945.

Charging alone across open ground to attract enemy fire and wiping out five German machine gun nests as he went, he allowed the rest of his troop to clear buildings of the enemy before being fatally wounded.

Mike Scott, business manager at Tynecastle High, believes it is important that the school's links to the fallen soldiers are remembered and learned by current pupils.

He said: "We have at least one of our very recent former students currently in Afghanistan, so there's continuity there.

"I was asked by quite a number of people whether we would be taking the memorials with us from the old school and it was very important to them that we did.

"The school dates back to 1912 so this was a very important part of the school's history.

"We also particularly want to honour Cpl Hunter because we think he is the only Edinburgh schoolboy to be awarded a Victoria Cross."

A parade and service will take place from the old high school to the new one during the ceremony on 11 April. A commemoration and re-dedication service will be held in the new school. Brigadier Ian Gardiner RM will give a short welcoming speech and the Rev Dr Scott Shackleton, a Royal Marines' padre, will lead the service.

City education leader Councillor Marilyne MacLaren added: "Tynecastle High may have a fantastic brand new facility but the staff, the pupils and the surrounding community have a keen interest in preserving their history and honouring contributions that former pupils have made.

"This will be a special event for the school and all those who attend can remember Tynecastle pupils who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country."

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