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WW100 Scotland: Why we must remember...

“My grandfather never spoke of the horrors of that day...” The Scottish Commemorations Panel honours the sacrifice of Scottish servicemen and women

Battle of Arras

At points throughout the 100 years since the horrors of World War One ravaged Europe, people in Scotland have been remembering specific battles which had particular resonance for their communities.

One of those is the Battle of Arras, which took place between April 9 and May 15, 1917, was part of a planned offensive by British and French forces. Forty-four of the 120 battalions that made up the ten British assault divisions were Scottish.

The average daily casualty rate was 4,076

The average daily casualty rate was 4,076, which was higher than that at The Somme or the Third Battle of Ypres. Of the approximate total 159,000 casualties, an estimated 18,000 were Scottish, the equivalent population of a Scottish town such as Dumbarton, Peterhead or St Andrews, or the capacity of Hearts’ ground at Tynecastle.

Writer John Buchan, working at the time as the Government’s UK Director of Information, noted that 38 Scottish battalions had crossed the parapet on the opening day of battle, which was more than the entire British force at Waterloo and seven times the number that Robert the Bruce commanded at Bannockburn.

Alasdair Hutton OBE, narrator for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, has personal family connections to the Battle of Arras. “My grandfather, George Hutton, left a successful family business in Glasgow’s Gallowgate when he went to Arras with the 9th Battalion of The Royal Scots as a 37-year-old,” he explains. “He was very severely wounded on Vimy Ridge by shrapnel in his back on the first day of battle but over time made a good recovery.

“He never spoke about the horrors of that day or of the war itself to the family and I can only begin to imagine how it must have felt leaving a young family behind and travelling to the unknown of Arras. He was one of the lucky ones.”

The Scottish Commemorations Panel was appointed by Scottish Ministers in 2013 to recommend key dates and events in World War One which had a particular significance for Scotland. Comprising experts from the military and veterans communities, community leaders, clergy, media, historians and education specialists, the Panel was tasked with creating a programme of events that would honour the sacrifice of Scottish servicemen and women, reflect on the global impact of WW1 and on the domestic effects of the war during 1914-1918. By balancing remembrance with encouraging a spirit of research and inquiry (through education and genealogy), the aim is to leave a lasting legacy.

  • It is fitting that Scotland will play a key role in the international commemorations taking place on Sunday 9 April in Arras and closer to home at Edinburgh Castle. Seventy two schoolchildren representing every local authority in Scotland, as well as a matching number of schoolchildren from France and Canada will be at the Faubourg d’Amiens Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery service being organised by WW100 Scotland on the Sunday morning.
    That evening they will witness a Beating Retreat conducted by the Band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland in the Place des Heros. The schoolchildren will be joined by 12 Army cadets from across Scotland. People in Scotland are encouraged to go along to Edinburgh Castle esplanade at 6.30pm on the evening of Sunday 9 April where a service in the Scottish National War Memorial will be broadcast on a screen ahead of a 7.30pm Beating Retreat by Band of HM Royal Marines Scotland. A range of Legion Scotland pipe bands with young members will play at the Edinburgh commemorations.

Find out more about the many battles being remembered by Scots, here: www.ww100scotland.com@ww100scotlandfacebook.com/ww100scotland

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