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Commemoration arranged for Royal Marine hero and his son in Beauly, but search continues for daughter

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It was one of the cruellest of ironies in the aftermath of the Second World War; the tragic death of Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Garrett and his teenage son in the Highlands in 1952.

Throughout his military career, Lt Col Garrett was one of the most daring members of his generation, orchestrating a series of heroic acts of gallantry.

Many of his contemporaries regarded him as being almost indestructible – especially after he led an audacious escape from German-occupied Crete, followed by a perilous Mediterranean crossing to safety. It was one of many missions where the Royal Marine saved hundreds of Allied servicemen for which he received the Distinguished Service Order.

But after he retired in 1950, Lt Col Garrett and his family moved to Lentran, on the shores of Beauly Firth.

It was there that the 48-year-old and his 16-year-old son Stephen drown while duck shooting on the firth on January 16, 1952.

Now, almost 70 years later, a commemorative plaque on the wall of the old Kessock Ferry ticket office will be unveiled by members of the Highland Branch of the Royal Marines Association during a service of dedication on Sunday, January 26 at 2pm.

But the search is still on for information about Lt Col Garrett’s daughter, Elizabeth, who was only 11 at the time of her father’s death.

Steve Nicoll, himself a Marine from 1972 to 2007, contacted the Press and Journal to highlight the memorial and also the extraordinary life of the late soldier.

He said: “It’s known that Lt Col Garret was survived by his wife Margaret and daughter,Elizabeth, but the latter’s whereabouts are not known.

“She was born in Portsmouth in 1939 and it is believed that she may be living in the north-east of Scotland.

“Any information on Elizabeth’s whereabouts would be really important to make her aware of arrangements to commemorate her father and brother.

“Lt Col Garrett’s leadership of the escape from Crete across the Mediterranean is the stuff of Boys Own.

“To survive that epic sea journey and then be drowned in the Beauly Firth almost within view of his new home is doubly tragic.

“I have been in touch with the Scouts, and he was working for them after leaving the Royal Marines in 1951. But they no longer hold any records of his service. So details of his life are so well recorded in some respects and sadly neglected in others.

“His name has been remembered within the Royal Marines through an annual award for gallantry in an non-operational environment. It was founded by his brother officers and continues to this day.

“Another irony is that the award bearing his name is current and active, but the deeds of the man are all but forgotten.

“That is why the commemorative plaque is so important to re-establish his story and his strong connection with Scotland.

“I really hope you can help to promote awareness of his story and the quest to establish the whereabouts of his daughter, Elizabeth.”

Anybody with further information should contact

Aberdeen Journals recorded the tragic deaths in 1952

Aberdeen Journals reported the tragic deaths of Ralph Garrett and his teenage son, Stephen, on January 17, 1952.

The coverage highlighted the fact the bodies were found towards the slipway and entrance to the Caledonian Canal, amidst bad weather conditions.

It stated: “The bodies were found this morning of Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Garrett, Northern Area Field Commissioner for the Boy Scouts movement, Berryfield House, Lentran, Inverness-shire and his sixteen-year-old son , Stephen, who were reported missing late last night after going out on a duck shooting expedition in the Beauly Firth.

“The alarm was raised when they failed to return from the duck shooting expedition.

“They had left home late in the afternoon and were seen going out into the Beauly Firth in a punt in the vicinity of Lentran Station.

“They intended to return within about two hours and when they still had not come back by about 10 pm in the evening coastguards were advised to keep a look-out for them and a search party was organised.”

The Eilean Dubh ferry was involved in the initial rescue mission.