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Teary RAF veteran, 81, says marching in Fraserburgh’s Remembrance Day ‘proud moment’

RAF veteran Helen McGruther welled up at the Remembrance service and said it was 'proud day' for her.

Helen McGruther
Helen marched proudly at the Fraserburgh Armistice March. Image: Duncan Brown.

She served 18 years in the Royal Air Force, and now Helen McGruther takes great pride in paying her respects on Remembrance Day each year.

Helen earned a number of medals for service to her country as a safety equipment fitter for the RAF and each year she wears them as she remembers those who have fallen.

So when it came time for the Fraserburgh Armistice Parade, Faithlie Care Home, where she resides, were enlisted to make it an extra special day for her.

Helen with Care Home staff at Fraserburgh Royal British Legion
Helen was accompanied on the march by Alec Bird (top left), Andy Cullen (top middle), Claire Birney (top right), and Alison Bird (right).

And it was one to remember for the 81-year-old veteran after she was made a special guest to the march, taking centre stage.

Accompanied care-home manager Claire Birnie, activities co-ordinator Alison Bird and her partner Alec, Helen participated in the full service.

Marching proudly along the streets of Fraserburgh to the War Memorial on South Road after the Church Service – where a tear was even shed.

Fraserburgh Armistice Parade
The march led up to the poignant tribute held at Fraserburgh War Memorial. Image: Duncan Brown.

Helen admitted that she was “so proud” after her big day.

She said: “I loved every second of it, I was so proud.

“I have been in the Air Force for 18 years, and I’m never without my medals.

“I have always wanted to march for Remembrance Day, and the Faithlie Care Home staff have been so good with me, helping me get ready for it. It was such a lovely day.”

Fraserburgh Armistice Parade
The Fraserburgh R.B.L Pipe Band lead the way. Image: Duncan Brown.

Helen’s fond RAF memories

Now retired at 81, Helen is under the care of the Faithlie staff, but she remembers fondly the time she jumped out of planes, causing mischief at the same time.

“I used to be a parachute packer. I also did jumps!

“There is a big scar on my shoulder from hitting the rocks where I landed! It was my own fault though, I wouldn’t be told what to do by my officer.

“He ordered me a certain thing and I refused – so now I have that scar.

“I wanted to prove to everyone else, especially the young men, what using a parachute was really like.”

Helen McGruther RAF
Helen pictured at Bicester Air Base while serving on the Force.

Biggest Regret

Leaving the RAF was Helen’s biggest regret she often tells – having served in Singapore during the Malayan emergency.

She had to retire from the force after the passing of her mother to look after her brothers, one of which was an infant, eventually becoming a nurse looking after the mentally ill in a facility near Stonehaven.

Helen McGruther
Helen originally trained as a nurse but enlisted in the RAF after a falling out with her ward sister.

Having started her life born in Ayrshire, travelling for her job, she eventually settled down in Maud in Aberdeenshire.

She continued: “She was ill in hospital, and when she passed away I had three young brothers to look after with my Great Aunt.

“I wish I never had to leave when I did.”


Medals at Fraserburgh Remembrance Parade.
Helen was keen to show off medals earned for her service emblazoned on her jacket.

A big effort from Faithlie Care

However, it was a big effort on the day from the staff at Faithlie to give Helen her big Remembrance march she always wanted since arriving in April.

Claire Birney, 40, who is a care home manager at Faithlie, said that the Remembrance Day march has been a long time coming for Helen.

Thanks to all of the team, the care facility has been decked out in remembrance decor, with knitted poppies being strewn around reception and posters put up in communal areas.

Picture of poppy display in Fraserburgh.
Faithlie was given a big Remembrance Day makeover by staff. Image: Faithlie Care Home.

And it all came to a crescendo on the big day.

Claire said: “She has been showing an interest in Remembrance Day with all the build-up to the service in Fraserburgh.

“Originally we thought that she just wanted to observe the service – but she has been practising her marching!

“So we got all of her medals looked out, and we organised something with the British Legion to get her something to wear. We wanted her to look her best and so she looks smart and feels more included.”