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Edinburgh’s bravest Royal Marine honoured as VC hero’s memorial is restored
10 October 2012

Commandos past and present honoured the memory of the last Royal Marine to earn the Victoria Cross as his memorial was restored in Edinburgh.

The monument to Corporal Thomas Peck Hunter – who charged German lines in Italy in 1945 and saved the lives of his comrades – was moved as part of planned redevelopment in Leith, but has now been restored and re-built.

Pictures: LA(Phot) Will Haigh, FRPU North

ROYAL Marines past and present gather around the newly-restored and rebuilt memorial to the last man in the Corps to earn Britain’s highest military honour.

This is the monument to Cpl Thomas Peck Hunter, hero of the Royal Marines and hero of Edinburgh, whose memorial now stands outside Leith’s Ocean Terminal after a three-year absence.

It was originally erected in 2002 at the front of the complex, but had to be removed nearly three years ago due to proposed works to construct the new tramline originally scheduled to run past the shopping centre.

With the cancellation of that section of the line it was decided to reinstate the memorial, which now sits on Britannia Walk, which runs along the waterfront.

Cpl Hunter is honoured because of his deeds in Italy in the final weeks of WW2 when he fought with 43 Commando at one of their most famous actions, the battle for Lake Comacchio.

During the fighting around the lagoon, some 50 miles south of Venice, Hunter seized a Bren gun and stormed German machine-gun positions, shooting from the hip and single-handedly capturing or driving the enemy away until he was cut down – but not before his troop reached safety.

The action saw Hunter posthumously given the nation’s highest military honour, the last (to date) of ten Victoria Crosses awarded to Royal Marines, and the only one awarded to the Corps throughout the 1939-45 war.

Attending the unveiling of his memorial were representatives from the Royal Marines Association, the Royal Marines Reserves and the Royal Naval Regional Headquarters in Scotland.

Veteran Tom Forrest, who is one of the founders involved in setting up the original memorial, said: “It’s important to preserve the memory of Thomas Hunter. We had help from Eric Milligan, a former Lord Provost of Edinburgh who went to school with Hunter and he’d suggested Leith as a possible location.”

Col Graham Dunlop (retd), President of the Royal Marines Association in Scotland, added: “For the Edinburgh branch the Thomas Hunter memorial is the most important one and they hold a parade in his honour each year.

“Now that the memorial has been replaced and in a more suitable location, I feel that’s something we can build upon. Certainly next April’s Rededication Ceremony aims to be a significant event and we hope to raise the profile of one of Edinburgh’s lesser-known heroes.

“Thomas Hunter epitomised the finest set of standards you could expect of anyone. He gave his life to save his friends, and that’s certainly something that we should be highlighting to people. I hope that the public will join us for the parade next April and recognise his sacrifice.”

The main ceremony associated with the memorial has traditionally been the anniversary of the Comacchio action in April and a large rededication parade is planned for next year.

Members of the re-formed 43 Commando (Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines) will be in attendance and it is hoped that Cpl Hunter’s sister, 81-year old Nancy Swinney, will also be there. If the surname seems familiar, it’s because Corporal Hunter’s nephew is John Swinney MSP.

So 89 years after Thomas Hunter was born, his memory endures in the city which was his home, while his courage and sacrifice is acknowledged with quiet respect by his colleagues and the following generations of Royal Marines. With this memorial now restored perhaps residents and visitors to Edinburgh can share in that legacy.