SCOTLAND will enlist the support of the Armed Forces for their second EMC Autumn Test against South Africa this weekend with the biggest show of military support witnessed at Murrayfield.
The Armed Forces Charity EMC Test follows on from the success of Sunday’s parade of Scotland’s Olympic and Paralympic stars and represents another effort by the SRU to connect with greater swathes of the Scottish community. The SRU were approached by Major (retd) Tim Grantham, Help for Heroes co-ordinator in Scotland, with the idea of some form of Forces tie-up and after facing New Zealand on Remembrance Day the Scotland rugby squad was delighted to turn this week’s match into a tribute to the work and dedication of Forces personnel.
It is particularly poignant after a Scottish soldier from 1 Scots was killed in Afghanistan, shot by a man wearing an Afghan army uniform, while Scotland were playing New Zealand.
Grantham said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for people and the sport of rugby to join in a great tribute to our Armed Forces, and is also great for the Armed Forces to be given the chance to play a role in what is a massive sporting occasion and show people what they do well for us.
“At half-time during the New Zealand game we were notified that a soldier from 1 Scots, a very popular guy, had been killed in Afghanistan, which only brings home the dangers inherent in a soldier’s life. It is crucial for the Forces to be part of the Scottish community and rugby is a big focal point for a lot of our servicemen and women, many of whom are in Afghanistan and other dangerous parts of the world right now doing what they do best for our country.
“The Glengoyne Auld Enemy Dinner, supported by The Scotsman, was a brilliant event in February for bringing the Forces closer to rugby and raising funds for Help for Heroes, and there has been a lot of excitement around barracks and among families ahead of this weekend.”
Over 120 active soldiers will be collecting for four charities at the game – Help for Heroes, ABF The Soldier’s Charity, RAFB and the RNMC – and Grantham is confident that Scotland supporters will provide a significant boost to the funds of groups that support the Forces in caring for active servicemen and women, and veterans.
The military will also be bringing along some of their hardware and interactive displays and the day will feature Royal Marines aerial wire display, Gun Salute by the Royal Artillery, Flypast by the RAF, static displays round Murrayfield and military bands, and pipes and drums.
Armed Forces personnel from MOD Caledonia, 1 Scots and 3 Rifles from Edinburgh, and RAF Leuchars joined charity and rugby mascots at Murrayfield yesterday to promote the event, with Hero bear (Help for Heroes) – a rifleman just returned from Afghanistan took on the duties yesterday – outstripping the popular Armed Forces Baxterbear as well as Flinty, the Edinburgh mascot, and his Glasgow counterpart Clyde. Major Norrie McKinnon, spokesperson for 1 Scots, who have recently deployed to Afghanistan, explained that the charities and rugby were key parts of the soldiers’ lives.
“It is a difficult time for our regiment,” he said, “but the message this coming together with Scottish rugby sends out to the guys in Afghanistan and the Forces as a whole is huge, and provides a real boost.
“We are a Borders regiment and with our big Fijian element at Dreghorn and a lot of local boys from the Borders, rugby is a big part of what we are about.
“It helps to instil self-discipline, fitness, friendship, camaraderie – all elements that are part and parcel of being a soldier.”
For further details go to the SRU’s website – www.scottishrugby.org