A commemoration of Edinburgh’s own heroes of the First World War – including a professional footballer with Hearts who was killed in action on the Somme – has taken place at Waverley Station.
The memorial event took place in front of East Coast’s specially-liveried locomotive 91 111 ‘For The Fallen,’ which sports a livery filled with images, stories and tributes to regiments along the route and the people who served in them during World War One.
The train also carries the insignia of five historic regiments from the East Coast route as well as those of their modern-day successors, including the Royal Scots, today’s Royal Regiment of Scotland.
The 16th Battalion The Royal Scots was raised by Sir George McCrae, a self made businessman and prominent political figure in Edinburgh, who was also a director of Heart of Midlothian Football Club. McCrae realised that if he could get players to join his battalion, supporters would join to serve alongside their sporting heroes.
In a matter of weeks, 1,350 people enlisted, including 30 professional footballers, among them Lance Corporal James Boyd, who was killed in action at the Somme on August 3, 1916, aged 21. The last message sent home by Lance Corporal Boyd before he was killed features in the special livery on East Coast’s ‘For the Fallen’ locomotive.
The rail industry is marking this year’s centenary of the outbreak of World War One, and East Coast’s ‘For The Fallen’ locomotive is a visible reminder of the conflict, and those who shaped its outcome, to millions of passengers on one of the nation’s busiest long distance lines.
East Coast Deputy Managing Director Andy Meadows said: “The whole rail industry has rightly been marking the centenary of World War One. ‘For The Fallen’ is East Coast’s individual tribute to those who went to war, and to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
“We worked on the design of our commemorative loco with five regiments on the East Coast route, including the Royal Regiment of Scotland. It takes some of the stories, images, facts and history behind the regiments, and the Great War, to millions of our passengers across the country.”
Lance Corporal James Boyd sent his final message from the Front on a Field Service Postcard, which gave soldiers a number of pre-written statements. These could be deleted as necessary, and they were not allowed to write anything on it except their name and the date. Soldiers were warned: “If anything else is added, the postcard will be destroyed”, and these provided a quick way for soldiers to say ‘I am quite well” and that a letter will follow shortly. Sadly, and all too often, that letter would never be written.
Owner of Hearts Ann Budge said: “I am very proud to be able to represent Heart of Midlothian FC at such a fitting ceremony. Especially at the station where so many of our boys set off from to defend their country 100 years ago.”