Tributes have been paid to an “outstanding and inspirational” Edinburgh soldier who rose through the ranks to become a lieutenant colonel after serving his country for 36 years.
Lieutenant Colonel Gary Tait MBE served with both the Royal Scots and then subsequently The Royal Regiment of Scotland, being continuously promoted throughout his service career.
He died earlier this month after a courageous battle with cancer.
Colleagues last night described the 52-year-old as “the outstanding soldier of his generation” and said his contribution to the army and beyond leaves a massively powerful legacy.
Lt Col Tait grew up in the Portobello area of the Capital, the second of four children, and attended Portobello High School. On leaving school in 1983, he immediately joined the army and was posted to his local regiment, the Royal Scots (The Royal Regiment), who were then stationed in Kirknewton. A friend said: “Gary was immediately identified as someone with unusual talent and potential. He was promoted so rapidly through the ranks that the pace of his success overtook his own ambition.
“He was commissioned to be an officer before he’d even had the chance to be the Regimental Sergeant Major. That was unheard of in those days, but it was simply a reflection of just how talented Gary was.”
He led soldiers on dangerous operations all over the world, including the First Gulf War, and the recent operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He was also a distinguished instructor, at various times training both recruits in Penicuik and young officers at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, leaving his mark across all parts of the British Army.
He was awarded the MBE in 2003 and HM The Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service in 2014, and a Chief of the General Staff’s commendation in 2016.
He was passionate about military history and, as chairman of the McCrae’s Battalion Trust, he was a driving force behind respecting the memory of 16th Battalion of TheRoyal Scots.
That was “McCrae’s Battalion”, which was famously made up of a great many Capital professional and amateur sportsmen and which fought with such great distinction and sacrifice at the battle of the Somme. He also recently led a team that was credited as the Army Benevolent Fund fundraisers of the year.
Lt Col Tait became ill in 2016 and remained remarkably strong and dignified throughout his illness.
Friends and former comrades paid tribute to Lt Col Tait on social media after news of his death emerged.
Craig Herbertson said: “It was an honour and a privilege to know Gary. He was a remarkable man.”
John Handling said: “I spent two years at Glencorse with Gary as training corporals. He was a true gentleman.”
Gary married Moira in 1988. They raised four children together – Amy, Murray, Fraser and Katie – and divorced amicably in 2018. He is survived by his wife Valerie, his children and his mother Joan, and siblings Harvey, Sharon and Cameron.