UK’s ‘most remote’ grave
Ben More AssyntREAD STORY
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Ben More Assynt, Scotland
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Nowhere else in the UK is the challenge of access to war graves more obvious than in the Scottish Highlands and islands.
CWGC’s Scotland team often combine their commute with ferries and planes as they seek out isolated graveyards, far from the mainland. A bicycle can be an essential piece of kit when arriving on an island without cars to inspect remote headstones.
The dead they look after include islanders who served and returned, only to die of injury or illness. Many are pilots or seamen who died in accidents or whose bodies were washed ashore, far from home.
Maintenance trips are constantly rescheduled around narrow weather windows when it’s unsafe to land on small remote islands, like Fair Isle, where just a handful of war graves lie.
The Commission’s traditional Portland stone will hardly be found here. Granite is one of the few substances that stands a chance of surviving the climate.
The challenge isn’t new – archive documents from 1945 show one former employee’s concerns that the vast spread was too much to handle.
His preferred solution: an island-hopping gardener, equipped with a motorbike and a lawnmower in a sidecar.
The difficulties in Scotland come high up in the mountains too.
Three miles from the nearest road and more than two thousand feet above the nearest village, lies the isolated grave of six airmen.
They are buried on a rocky plateau near the summit of Ben More Assynt, 20 miles north-east of Ullapool.
All of them died in April 1941 after their plane crashed. When their bodies were later found by a local shepherd, he buried them together using parts of their destroyed plane for a make-shift cross.
By 1944 the Commission had arranged for a temporary memorial cairn to be erected above the graves. It was unthinkable at the time to install anything more permanent in such a place.
To give families somewhere to mourn, a special memorial was placed by the Commission in the nearest village of Inchnadamph. A slowly growing pile of stones, added to by the odd passing walker, was all that remained up on the high mountain slopes.
And that would have been where the story ended.
Until in 2010, when a local mountain guide approached us. He had heard concerns the exact location of the crash site could get lost to time.
And so, with the help of the MOD, a 600kg special CWGC granite marker was lowered into place by helicopter – possibly the most remote war grave in all of the UK.