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Church Remembers WW2 Battle Fallen

Thursday May 6 2021

The Cassino Cross in Blackhall St Columba's Church

An Edinburgh church will next week hold a special service in remembrance of those who fought and died in the capture of Monte Cassino in Italy during World War 2.

Blackhall St Columba’s Church has a historical connection to the Battle for Monte Cassino, in which 55,000 allied soldiers and an estimated 20,000 Germans were killed or wounded, through the Rev R J Watson Mathewson, who became its minister in 1952.

During the war he had served in a Corps Reinforcement Unit, which was established behind the lines at the battle. As part of the efforts to 'build' a church there a member of the Pioneer Corps had made a simple wooden cross. The Rev Mathewson said later: "When I first saw it, I was disappointed; the crossbar seemed too long and out of proportion. Then I realised that this was the only kind of cross the Pioneers were accustomed to make; one to set over the grave of a soldier, the crossbar had to be long enough to accommodate his name, rank and number and unit. So, I left it as it was, a perfect symbol of the comprehensive love of God in Christ for the individual."

The minister brought the cross with him when he was called to Blackhall St Columba’s and it has been in the sanctuary and part of the worship of the church ever since. 

The story continued when, following a major refurbishment of the sanctuary, an article appeared in Life and Work which mentioned not only the redevelopment but also the Cross of Monte Cassino. This article resulted in the present minister, the Rev Fergus Cook, getting in touch with the son of a veteran of the campaign, and through him, The Monte Cassino Society and veterans of the campaign. The Society, which had never heard of the cross until now, was keen to learn more and inform its membership. An offer was made to hold an Act of Remembrance on Saturday May 15, which is the Saturday nearest to the date the battles ended.

Interest in the service, through the society, has resulted in contact being made with numerous communities and nationalities including Americans, Polish, Italian, Gurkha and of course from people all over the United Kingdom. The service will be attended by those who are able to secure a place (within the present coronavirus restrictions) and it will also be streamed  through the church website and YouTube channel, starting at 4pm.

The Rev Fergus Cook said: "It is amazing to think that some of those who may attend, or watch, this service may have worshipped and prayed to God in front of this very cross all those years ago in Italy. It helps us to see how eternal God is and how he can use the actions of everyday faithful people, such as the Pioneer who made the cross, to continue to comfort and offer peace to those who seek it."


Bill Blunt - Saturday, May 15th, 2021

“Please thank Rev Fergus Cook for his very moving service this afternoon. From the Blunt Family in Kendal. ”

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