THOUSANDS gathered across the Lothians yesterday to pay their respects to those who made the ultimate sacrifice fighting for freedom.
Vast crowds assembled outside the memorial clock in Haymarket to remember the fallen, including seven Hearts players known as “McCrae’s Battalion”.
Meanwhile, First Minister Alex Salmond laid a wreath at the Stone of Remembrance outside the City Chambers before attending a service at St Giles’ Cathedral to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.
Mr Salmond said: “We will always honour, with respect and appreciation, the memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf.
“It takes an incomparable event to bring a whole nation to a halt – united in remembrance, reflection and gratitude – and there is no more profound an event than a conflict that saw over a hundred thousand sons, fathers, uncles never return from the front line.”
Among those united in remembrance was 12-year-old Aidan Newell, of Costorphine, great great great nephew of a Hearts striker who fought in the First World War.
Percy Dawson, who went to Blackburn Rovers for a world record transfer fee of £2,500, survived the war and remained with the club until 1922. Aidan, who has been studying his relative in school, said he was “proud” to be at the event.
Wheelchair-bound Second World War veteran David Bremner, oldest member of Dunfermline Hearts Supporters, laid a wreath at the foot of the clock.
The 91-year-old former Bomber Command squadron leader, who made 30 flights into enemy territory, said: “It means everything to me to be here today”.
In 1914, Hearts players signed up en masse. Seven players – Duncan Currie, John Allan, James Boyd, Tom Gracie, Ernest Ellis, James Speedie and Harry Wattie – lost their lives.
Supporters and players from Hibs, Falkirk, Dunfermline and East Fife also signed up to fight in the conflict.
Yesterday team affiliations were put aside as everyone wore the same colours, the crimson of the poppy.
Michael White, club historian for Falkirk, said: “I find this one of the most moving events in the sporting calendar.
“This is a story that deserves to be told and is now getting the audience it deserves.”
Paying tribute to the fallen, Hearts chaplain Andy Prime said we must not only remember them but learn from them.
He said: “I stand here in some senses embarrassed on behalf of me and the majority of my generation.
“We are the generation of laziness and entitlement. They were the generation of supreme sacrifice.
“We are the generation obsessed with fitness for the sake of a decent selfie. They were the generation drilled into fitness for the sake of selfless service.
“We are the generation who has reduced war and killing to entertainment on a games console.
“They were the generation who lived and died in the horrors of real war.