When war was declared in September, 1939, my father, Alexander MacRae, was a trooper in the Scottish Horse that was billeted in Dunkeld, in Perthshire. My mother, Mabel Martin, was a private in the 10th Perthshire Auxiliary Territorial Service.
They were women who carried out the invaluable work of cooking, storekeeping and organising various festivities for the men.
My parents had been courting prior to the outbreak of war and three weeks later they decided to marry.
There were no months of preparations to be made, but one pre-wedding event that did take place was my father’s stag do – or blackening – when he was wheeled through the streets of Dunkeld in a wheelbarrow and dressed only in his underwear. He later discovered that he had been blackened with shoe polish, which was extremely difficult to remove using just a scrubbing brush and water.
The wedding was organised by both their commanding officers, and the presiding minister was the chaplain of the Scottish Horse. As both regiments were billeted in Dunkeld, it was decided to hold the ceremony in the splendour of the cathedral. All members of the wedding party were to be in uniform, bar my grandfather. The Duke of Atholl, Colonel Commandant of the Scottish Horse, wishing to keep the ceremony a stately affair, asked if he could give my mother away, but my grandfather flatly refused.
On September 27th, 1939, my parents were married. The women of the ATS sported their Murray tartan skirts, and lying at the altar were pith helmets, gas masks and a rifle; a quiet reminder that Britain was at war.
As the newlyweds left the cathedral, four pipers from the Scottish Horse played as they walked through an archway of swords formed by a Guard of Honour. A photo was taken at that moment and all the guests were given a postcard-sized black and white replica.
Fifty years later, one of these photographs was returned to my mother by the sister of Ewan Cameron. Ewan was part of the Guard of Honour and sadly later died in the Western Desert. The photo was part of the belongings that had travelled with him throughout the war.
When the war was over, my parents set up home outside Pitlochry, and the wedding photograph took pride of place over the living room fireplace. I have often looked at it and wondered if that special day had helped assuage the fear of what lay ahead for those present.