One of the gains of photography is the various experiences of meeting those you come in contact with.

From a recent enquiry through a business listing web site for Cpl Stevie Gibb, and in competition to other photographers, I won the opportunity of covering the Homecoming Ball for the Corporals Mess of 1 Scots at Dreghorn Barracks in Edinburgh in Oct 2010. The Royal Scots Borderers is the name given to the 1st Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland (1 SCOTS).

From this I ended up doing the group (80!!) photo for the Regimental Sergeant Majors’ (RSM) In/Out dinner – a dinner for the leaving RSM and incoming RSM. This particular event was delayed as the outgoing RSM was in Afghanistan. I was also asked to cover a second Ball – this for the Sergeant’s and Officers Mess the following Saturday.

I think this was my first ever ‘touch point’ with the army, a barracks, the various ranks, civilian access to a barracks and more. From a life in (hospitality) business and now photography, this was a new world. At every point of contact all I can say what a great ‘bunch of guys’ and I include Sgt Sarah Learmonth (who booked me for the Sgt’s Mess Ball). And at one time exiting the barracks had good chat with the MOD guards.

Anyway both evenings were a pleasure to do. Ball gowns and smart uniforms were the order of the evening. I was there to photograph couples and groups, unfortunately with not the best of backgrounds. The huge gym was transformed with marquee interior drapes, balloons and lighting.

I found out that on the Saturday afternoon of the Sgt’s Ball there was the Homecoming Parade from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Park where there was to be the medals presentation by the Lord Provost and Brigadier Richard Felton and other top army officers. Through my contact at Dreghorn with Sgt Major Mo Morrison I offered to photograph the parade and ceremony for free and make the pictures available.

An exhausting run/stop/run down the Royal Mile following the troops ended with the medal’s presentation in Holyrood Park for all who had just returned Afghanistan.

Already there in Holyrood Park were the injured soldiers and I was shocked to discover one young man there waiting to accept his medal and who had lost both legs and most of his fingers. Some other photographers took his individual picture but I couldn’t and instead took one of him being video interviewed – shown below. Seeing these guys was humbling, a full realisation in the flesh of what is sacrificed on our behalf. And whilst the able bodied in their ranks opposite also received their campaign medals, they will also have come back with their own memories of their 6 months tour – and not least of 3 comrades killed in this time.

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