New tourist trail opens in memory of Lochaber training commandos

A Royal Navy helicopter performed a flypast at the ceremony
A Royal Navy helicopter performed a flypast at the ceremony

Lochaber’s role in training 30,000 commandos during World War II was remembered at the weekend, with the opening of a new tourist trail in the area.

The attraction, which has been created by Lochaber Archaeological Society, commemorates those who trained at Achnacarry Castle, near Spean Bridge.

The path starts at Spean Bridge station, where the commandos arrived by train before speed marching to Achnacarry for their training.

The route takes in some of the locations where the troops trained.

More than 200 people attended the opening ceremony at the famous Commando Memorial at 11.30am on Saturday.

Leading representatives of the armed services and Charles Kennedy MP were among those who attended to lay wreaths.

The castle was used to train elite commandos from the UK and the USA as well as France, the Netherlands, Norway, former Czechoslovakia, Poland and Belgium from 1942-45.

A two-minute silence was held as a Royal Navy helicopter from HMS Gannet circled the memorial at Spean Bridge and then returned to fly low over the crowd flying the white ensign.

Prayers were led by the Reverend Adrian Varwell, of Duncansburgh MacIntosh Parish Church.

Army cadets, sea cadets and Air Training Corps members were among those who marched to the memorial to music by Lochaber Schools Pipe Band.

The new trail has interpretive panels placed at eight locations, each including a barcode which can be scanned with a smartphone device to provide more information and show where the other panels are located.

A World War II open day and gala at Caol Community Centre near Fort William was held after the ceremony.

The new trail and Saturday’s event were funded by a £25,000 grant from the Armed Forces Community Covenant and £2,000 from the Highland Council.

Peter Wilson, a member of the Lochaber Archeological Society, said: “There were 33,000 commandos that trained there. They were a decisive part in battles in World War II and subsequent conflicts, and it’s felt to be very important that their role should not be forgotten but remembered.

“We have got something more interactive now for people to learn about the history by using the latest technology.”