WW1 sailor’s instrument to sound again to mark centenary of Great War’s end

The sound of a cornet, once played by sailors on the Western Front, will sound the Last Post in Dundee 100 years to the day that the guns of the Great War fell silent.

Ten thousand Scotsmen served in the Royal Naval Division during its four-year existence from Antwerp to the ‘100 days’ offensive’ at the war’s end; just short of 1,600 officers and ratings were killed.

Among those dead was 17-year-old Victor Ferrar, killed as a stretcher bearer in Gallipoli as he tried to dash across no man’s land to recover a wounded comrade.

He attended Dundee’s Harris Academy – a school which survives to this day. One of its pupils, 18-year-old Rael Watt, has been asked to honour Victor and his fellow countrymen by playing the cornet.

We are delighted to honour the ten thousand Scots who served in the division and to commemorate those who did not return.

Billy Bell

The instrument used to belong to a member of the band of the division’s Hood Battalion.

The drill ship HMS Unicorn – now a museum on Tayside – fed the Division with much of its Scottish blood and 295 Dundonians never returned from the killing fields of Gallipoli, France and Belgium.

Since 1924, the ship has hosted a service of remembrance each November; the centenary event to remember the end of World War 1 will be marked by the roll call of all the division’s Dundee dead being read out.

The HMS Unicorn remembrance service, held annually since 1924, will this year include a roll call of 295 RND officers and ratings from Dundee and the surrounding counties who lost their lives during the conflict.

Billy Bell, Chairman of the HMS Unicorn Preservation Society, said: “HMS Unicorn was a key recruiting centre for the Royal Naval Division in Scotland and, on the centenary of the armistice, we are delighted to honour the ten thousand Scots who served in the division and to commemorate those who did not return.”

“The Armistice centenary commemoration on board HMS Unicorn this November will be especially significant for us,” said Commander Thomas Knowles, Commanding Officer of HMS Scotia, the Royal Naval Reserve unit for eastern Scotland.

“It is a major milestone in continuing to remember the sacrifices made by so many.

“It is especially poignant as we will hear the very same instrument – a cornet – playing the Last Post, which was performed by sailors from HMS Unicorn on the Western Front during World War 1.”