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Military History & Travel: The War Memorial at Cavell Gardens, Inverness Scotland

Inverness Scotland is regarded as the capital of the Scottish Highlands, and is surrounded by rugged beauty, history, legend, and lore. Situated on the River Ness this ancient city is within driving distance of Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle in one direction and the Culloden Battlefield in the other, and so staying here and using it as a hub of exploration for the surrounding areas was a must for me. But using this beautiful city as simply as base of operations would have not done it justice- strolling the streets of the old quarter was high on my list as was walking up and down the beautiful river banks the cut through the heart of the city.

On outings such as that, a stroll through a city that I’ve never been in before, I try not to do too much research ahead of time. Sure, if there is a particular pub or restaurant of note, or an obvious attraction that I want to see, but otherwise I always strive to explore as I go and to take in whatever there is to see as I go along. My wife and I were staying in a lovely bed and breakfast that was only roughly two city blocks south of the river Ness which, crossing over, brought us into the Inverness City Centre. On our given day of foot exploration we decided to walk up and down the river bank along a path before crossing over on one of several foot bridges. Not knowing what we’d encounter and encumbered by our umbrellas (the weather was typically fickle) progress was pleasantly methodical as we picked our way along the river path, often stopping to let bicyclists and dog walkers pass.

Unknown to me, we were steadily working our way towards an incredibly powerful and suitably imposing war memorial and garden that was situated across the river from us and that, due to path maintenance by the city, would be presenting itself to us shortly as we were forced to cross the river and the next bridge. There, rising before us through the grey drizzle came the red stone of the Inverness War Memorial with its beautiful adjacent Cavell Gardens. As is fortunately often the case when I come upon these types of sites my wife and I were strangely alone, which allowed me to fully submerge myself in the unexpected moment and to reflect on the hallowed ground we had just happened upon. The Inverness War Memorial is a large stone monument that was originally dedicated to Inverness’ losses in the Great War, which were horrific at almost one-in-seven men lost from the city and again representative of the terrible toll the conflict exacted upon the county of Scotland as a whole. Of course, sadly, as is what has happened to most Great War Memorials this one has also been added to greatly by the following conflicts that the sons of Inverness have served in and consequently been lost in. Walking around its massive build one can read the names and dates of battles, conflicts and wars, and as one does so gain a better appreciation of the tenacious character of the people of Inverness.

Adjacent to this massive structure sits the beautiful Cavell Gardens. These gardens are dedicated to nurse Edith Cavell who, arrested and charged with treason for giving aid to soldiers on both sides of the conflict and for aiding the escape of refugees from the war zone, was executed via firing squad by the German Army in October of 1915. This incredibly sobering episode in the history of the Great War ranks highly among the many heinous atrocities that were committed, and while no marker could properly capture Mrs. Cavell’s indomitable spirit the marker added to these gardens to mark the 100th anniversary of her execution is arresting nonetheless. Simple, stark, and resembling a tombstone, her memorial simply states who she was, what she did, and what became of her. Standing there before it in the drizzle I can honestly say that nothing more was needed, either. How could one not be moved by such a place? The profound sense of sadness, yet defiance in the face of death, is prevalent throughout this memorial and park. No amount of stonework or gardens can ever do justice to those who have lost their lives in the service to their countries, yet this memorial and garden do a remarkable job of demanding your attention and commanding your respect.

I personally could have stood there all day, rain or no, and highly recommend that if you are planning to visit Inverness that you be sure to pay your respects at The War Memorial at Cavell Gardens.

R. E. Weston

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