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War graves hero is saluted for her selfless devotion; Honoured: Loved ones celebrate 'inspiring' Isobel.

Byline: JOHN ROSS

Family and friends around the world paid tribute to a great-grandmother as she received a BEM for her selfless commitment and respect for others.

A small but poignant ceremony was organised on Saturday for Isobel Harling, 97, at Kingussie's Memorial Gardens and beamed online to relatives as far afield as Norway and New Zealand.

For more than 70 years the former Wren looked after the graves of men from the Royal Indian Army Service Corps, who died during the Second World War while based in the area.

Each year since 1946 she has also placed poppies on the headstones on the anniversaries of each of their deaths.

Mrs Harling was recommended for the BEM for her dedication to the graves and also other community commitments.

Due to lockdown the medal was sent to her in the post, but the ceremony was arranged to celebrate her achievements.

Mrs Harling was still in her 20s when she began looking after the nine graves of the men from Force K6, the Muslim troops who played an important role at Dunkirk in 1940 and throughout the rest of the hostilities.

Sir Alistair Irwin, head of Royal British Legion Scotland, said in a prerecorded message that Mrs Harling, a long-standing Legion member, is "one of those very special people whose life of service to others makes the rest of us seem more than ordinary".

He said: "After she returned from war service she was determined to ensure that these nine soldiers would not be forgotten."

Mrs Harling's daughter Gaynol gave her the medal during the ceremony which was also attended by her son John and daughter-inlaw Kit.

Mrs Harling later spoke via Zoom to her brother, Douglas Macpherson, who lives in New Zealand, and a nephew in Norway.

She said the ceremony was "short and quiet, just as I like it" and added: "I haven't done anything out of the ordinary that other people would not have done in the circumstances."

One of the organisers of the event, Major Heather Lawrie, from the Royal Corps of Signals, said: "When I first heard the story I could not believe that such self-sacrifice had gone unnoticed by anyone outside the Kingussie area for so long.

"She inspired me and should inspire further generations as well to always do the right thing."

CAPTION(S):

TRIBUTE: Family and friends celebrated Isobel Harling who has tended to nine war graves for more than 70 years

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Author:JOHN ROSS
Publication:The Press and Journal (Aberdeen,Scotland)
Date:Jun 29, 2020
Words:408
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