I’ve promised to use my powers for good. So, here’s a plug for the most excellent King’s Own Scottish Borderers museum in Berwick upon Tweed. The museum is now closed on weekends, which isn’t going to help visitor figures. Military museums have come a long way since I was kid when all they were were a couple of glass cases with moth-eaten uniforms, some medals, and the obligatory bible/whisky flask which stopped a bullet – and the KOSB is no exception to that trend.
The decision to close old barracks, which is home to the KOSB museum and the Berwick museum, was made by English Heritage. To my mind the KOSB museum faces some challenges the other Scottish regimental museums don’t. The first is that English Heritage has big plans for the old barracks complex that don’t include a regimental museum – or the town museum. But the regimental museum has a perpetual lease. I suspect Death by a Thousand Cuts may be seen as an option by English Heritage. The KOSB museum relies heavily on visitors from the nearby caravan park, which usually gets a new batch of occupants on Friday/Saturday. This means that Sunday is usually the first day the caravan park folk get a chance to look the museum over. Odd that English Heritage is closing the barracks, and therefore denying access to the museums, on Sundays.
The other challenge is that the creation of the Royal Regiment of Scotland saw the KOSB being merged with the Edinburgh-based Royal Scots. The fear is some Whitehall pencil pusher is going to decide that regimental museums at both the barracks in Berwick and Edinburgh Castle is an extravagance. The Royal Scots museum is excellent but the knowledge of the staff there about the KOSB is naturally limited. Regimental pride has always been a corner-stone of the British Army and the various museums help foster that, with a pay-off in terms of recruiting. There’s been an upsurge in interest in family history and the various regiments, thanks to Scottish enthusiasm for things military and conscription, have played a major role in the lives of many Scots. It would be criminal to allow some bureaucrats, some Whitehall Warriors, to consign the torch-bearers for Scotland’s proud military heritage, the regimental museums, to the dustbin. In fact, it’s an insult to the memory of those who died fighting.