Inverness War Memorial

Inverness War Memorial is sited on the east bank of the River Ness as it heads towards the southern outskirts of Inverness on its way to Loch Ness, a few miles away to the south west.

The park in which the memorial stands…

…is known as Edith Cavell Gardens,…

…for reasons we shall deal with immediately, because before we visit the memorial itself, the two black memorial headstones in the foreground…

…require closer scrutiny.

So, as far as I can see,…

…Edith Cavell has no links whatsoever with Inverness, but then she has no connection with many of the sixteen, I think, memorials to be found remembering her worldwide.

The second memorial…

…remembers the men who fought in the Burma Campaign during World War II.

The centre feature of the memorial…

…is this High Celtic cross,…

…with Celtic knotwork and sword on the face of the shaft…

…above the town arms,…

…and the dedication to the dead.

The names of the Great War casualties can be found on panels on the wings on either side of the cross,…

…pillars at each end inscribed with the Battle Honours of the regiments with whom they served.

Inscription on the northern face of the cross.

The Great War names continue on the south side,…

…with another inscription on the southern face of the cross.

The Post-1945 Roll of Honour…

…includes names from 1958 to 2009 (click to enlarge, as ever), and they are in good company, because a panel immediately below,…

…remembers Lieutenant Hugh McKenzie, recipient of a posthumous Victoria Cross for his actions on 30th October 1917 on the Bellevue Spur.  McKenzie was actually born in Liverpool, his parents moving to Inverness, and later Dundee, before Hugh emigrated to Canada in 1911.  Returning to Europe with the Canadian Expeditionary Force early in the war, he received the Distinguished Conduct Medal in 1916, and was awarded the Victoria Cross during Third Ypres, his citation, published in the London Gazette (under the incorrect name of MacKenzie) on 13th February 1918, reading; “For most conspicuous bravery and leading when in charge of a section of four machine guns accompanying the infantry in an attack. Seeing that all the officers and most of the non-commissioned officers of an infantry company had become casualties, and that the men were hesitating before a nest of enemy machine guns, which were on commanding ground and causing them severe casualties, he handed over command of his guns to an N.C.O., rallied the infantry, organised an attack, and captured the strong point. Finding that the position was swept by machine-gun fire from a “pill-box” which dominated all the ground over which the troops were advancing, Lt. MacKenzie made a reconnaissance and detailed flanking and frontal attacking parties which captured the “pill-box”, he himself being killed while leading the frontal attack. By his valour and leadership this gallant officer ensured the capture of these strong points and so saved the lives of many men and enabled the objectives to be attained.”

Hugh McKenzie was 31 years old at the time of his death and has no known grave, his name to be found among the 54,000 casualties listed on the Menin Gate.  As a postscript to his story, in 1955 fire swept through the family house at Amherstburg, in Ontario, not only causing loss of life, but also the loss of Hugh McKenzie’s V.C.; very unusually, after due process, his medal was replaced, and can now be seen in the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.  More about him, and the other Victoria Cross holders whose names can be found on the Menin Gate, here.

Here’s the whole edifice from the rear.

More Celtic knotwork for you,…

…and some fine words.

The Second World War names were unveiled on Armistice Day 1956, as outlined by the lower of the two inscriptions,…

…the names to be found on six of the following seven panels.

Which brings us back to where we started.

One of my favourite memorials, for some reason.  No real idea why.


A letter written ‘On Active Service’ to his sister by one of the fifty six MacKenzies (or McKenzie – oddly, all are listed here under ‘Mac’) to be found on the memorial happens to be in the possession of one of our regulars (see comments below), so, with Morag’s permission, I reproduce it here.  It is dated 31st March 1918:

Dear Isa

Just to let you know that I am still to the fore and am keeping very fit considering what we all came through lately. It was a very rough time and I am surprised so many of us got out alive, several times during the week I thought I would never get out of it but all’s well that ends well. I must be under a lucky star coming through so many dos without a scratch. The weather was very good all the time which was a good things for us as we have to leave all our (corner of page torn) and anything just now. I am sure Mother would have been anxious until she got my p/c. of course I am not sure if they all got through as there was such a rush of traffic at that time that I would expect quite a lot of things would be mislaid. However, I  am all right and have good hopes of getting through anything after what I came though already. Now Isa I must close as I have a lot of letters to write and not much time to do it in. Remember me to all my friends and also to Bob Watson if you come across him.

With all love



Private Ewen McKenzie, Seaforth Highlanders, was killed nine days later on 9th April 1918, the opening day of the German Spring Offensive that has featured in a number of posts already this year (and in particular our most recent French Flanders tour, which all begins here).  He has no known grave, and his name is to be found on the Loos Memorial.

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19 Responses to Inverness War Memorial

  1. Morag Sutherland says:

    I have some letters written by Ewan McKenzie or Mackenzie…he is remembered at Loos memorial Dud corner
    Thus us gor mo other reason than a relative gave them to me
    He has a brother also remembered on this memorial I believe
    It is a fitting place for Inverness war dead

  2. Magicfingers says:

    Fair enough, although I thought you said that they had been given to you. Anyway, yes please! Have a good few days.

  3. Nick Kilner says:

    What a stunning memorial! The carvings are just beautiful! I can understand why it’s a firm favourite. I must confess, though I had read it once somewhere before reading again the response to in Flanders fields, particularly in such a poignant location had me quite choked up. It’s the perfect place for it.
    The list of battle honours is remarkable. There can’t have been many hell holes that they didn’t fight through.
    The oak tree is a nice touch. Am I right in thinking there’s a famous one somewhere, grown from an acorn returned from the front during the war? Something about it rings a bell in the back of my brain.
    I’m not sure I like the Poppy Scotland stone. I can’t help feeling it would have been better without the advertising. People always seem to have to put their name to things nowadays, they can’t be content with just having done something good. If there’s a stonemasons mark on the memorial itself he’d likely have been the only one who knew where it was. Pity they didn’t follow his example.

    • Magicfingers says:

      I am glad you like it too. I agree entirely with what you say. I don’t know about the oak tree – but there is a Promenade De Verdun in Purley that I used to walk down a lot when a kid – ten tons of soil from near Armentières (which disgorged two sacks of shrapnel, bullets etc which were all removed because even back then they thought people might dig up the young trees looking for relics) were shipped over, Lombardy poplars planted, and an obelisk erected at the end of the road in 1923. And do you know where this info comes from? A little pamphlet that you may actually have – They Came This Way in The Great War; Erquighem-Lys 1914-1918, Delphine Isaaman & Jack Thorpe 2007. Small world.
      But I totally disagree with you about the Poppy Scotland bit – it has given me an idea – I shall be mailing the CWGC to get my name added to all the redated Suffolk Cemetery headstones. ‘Date corrected by Magicfingers’ or something like that. They could put it across the top like on special memorials.
      I totally agree with you about the Poppy Scotland bit………..

      • Nick Kilner says:

        I think that’s an excellent idea! They’ll probably wonder why they didn’t think of it themselves. I can see it now, you could even have one of those funny little squares added for people to scan. We shouldn’t mock really, but I do find it a little crass.
        Having not yet managed to get into Jacks place, that’s not a document I have! Perhaps October if he’s open. I hope everything got resolved on that particular battle front.
        Fantastic post my friend

  4. Margaret Draycott says:

    Great post M love the memorial very moving inscriptions, genuinely came from the heart, has real feeling. Some memorials while meaning well are don’t convey much emotion. I’m rambling now trying to find the right words, anyway thanks for the post would not have seen that memorial otherwise.

  5. Morag Sutherland says:

    I spoke with a lady from Inverness today. The garden was indeed named for Edith Cavell for no other reason than they had huge respect for her war service and death
    I have found out a few things about the McKenzie brothers Ewen and Duncan who are both on the memorial. I have a letter one sent home to his sister Isa She was a nurse at Strathpeffer a convalescence hospital for officers. It is quite difficult to read but I will do my best at a later date

  6. Morag Sutherland says:

    My earlier post seems to have gone AWOL
    I spoke to lady from inverness today
    The Edith Cavell is as a consequence of the respect in which she was held due to her war efforts and circumstances of her death
    2 brothers Duncsn and Ewen McKenzie are on the memorial
    The letter I have is written to his sister Isa who was nursing in Strathpeffer at a hospital for convalescent officers. I know NOTHING about this at all. Letter to follow when get a minute

    • Nick Kilner says:

      Hi Morag
      Your earlier post is still there. Funnily enough I thought one of mine had disappeared as well, but it’s back again.
      I’m sure I’m not the only one who waits with baited breath to read Isa’s letter. What an amazing thing to have!
      Kindest regards

  7. Morag Sutherland says:

    Nick thanks kindly. It is HIS letter to his sister Isa. Quite faded obviously so I will need good light to decipher ! Poldark time

    • Nick Kilner says:

      My apologies, I’d misread.
      I’m all in favour of a little Poldark, being a Cornishman myself 😉
      Did you know that Pol means pond or lake, so the name Poldark is actually dark pool. Probably something to do with his eyes I should think hehehe.

  8. Morag Sutherland says:

    The letter is done in draft follow later but here is some background
    Ewen McKenzie was Dux of Inverness royal academy . He won The last Days of Pompeii as his prize
    He and his brother Duncan were children of Duncan and Annie McKenzie of Charles St Inverness.. on the piano in the house was a photo of both the boys in their uniform
    Neither son has a grave. Ewen is on Loos memorial. He died 9th April 1918. He was with 4th battalion Seaforth Highlanders. He was awarded MM
    Duncan died 20th July 1918 and is remembered on Siossons memorial

  9. Morag Sutherland says:

    Thank you for adding his letter. It’s the human touches that add poignancy to your amazingly knowledgeable posts. So strange that they are listed as Mac when all the documents show Mc for both Ewen and his brother Duncan.

  10. Magicfingers says:

    It is odd – but there are no McKenzies at all on the memorial, so they must have decided that all would be listed under MacKenzie.

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