A BRITISH Armed Forces veteran’s exploits during National Service 60 years ago will be front and centre of an innovative UK-wide new heritage project.

Eric Blackie, who grew up in Haddington and Edinburgh before serving at Cardington, is one of 18 former servicemen included in a National Lottery-funded project called National Service Remembered.

It has been 60 years since National Service ended in the UK and the campaign, run by the not-for-profit organisation Same but Different, captures a period of the country’s cultural history through the eyes of the men who served.

Eric, who lived in Haddington – although he cannot remember where – before moving to Edinburgh at the age of 10, was posted to Germany as a dog handler in the military police and says the project, powered by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, is allowing him to revel in a dose of National Service nostalgia.

Eric, who was first conscripted in 1958, said: “I am still a member of an RAF association – it’s lovely to look back at photos.

“I think this is important to remind people that citizens had to do their National Service if they were that age – there was no choice.

East Lothian Courier: Eric Blackie, who grew up in Haddington, is part of a new national project.

“Sometimes they didn’t agree, and I can understand that, but it’s good for everyone to know the history.

“I think it’s different now – youngsters go through cadets, army, air cadets and naval cadets. There’s a lot of support for them, but it’s not National Service.”

Eric now lives in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, after enjoying a career in the fire brigade.

His wife of 36 years, Hilary Rose, has passed away but he has two grandchildren, aged 32 and 30, and two great grandchildren, who are 11 and six.

The 83-year-old also guarded American nuclear missiles in Norfolk and is seeing his story told by Same but Different, which uses the arts for positive social change and to highlight inequalities and bring communities closer together.

Same but Different’s work is being showcased with the help of the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

East Lothian Courier: Eric Blackie, who grew up in Haddington, is part of a new national project.

The fund aims to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, and while Eric does not class himself as a veteran, he believes that National Service laid the foundations for a successful professional career.

“National Service definitely helped me in the fire brigade,” he added.

“I wasn’t in combat or anything, so I don’t see myself as a veteran.

“But I do have a National Service medal that my daughter bought for me.

“I could understand being called a veteran if I’d been up to my neck in muck and bullets, but I suppose I am in a way, because I served my Queen and country.”

East Lothian Courier: Eric Blackie, who grew up in Haddington, is part of a new national project.

Some of Eric's National Service memorabilia

Ceridwen Hughes, photographer and founder of Same but Different, has combined striking portraits, video interviews and written narratives to bring alive conscripts’ experiences in one powerful exhibition.

She said: “We are really grateful to the players of the National Lottery, who funded this project along with the Armed Forces Covenant Fund.”

High-profile stars were far from exempt from conducting National Service, with the likes of Brian Blessed, Michael Caine and Anthony Hopkins among some of the household names to serve.

And television veteran Johnny Ball, who served in the RAF during the 1950s, is supporting the Lottery-funded National Service Remembered campaign after describing his time serving as “the making of him” at the end of last year.

National Lottery players raise £30 million every week for good causes and help support people, projects and communities.