Ceremonies held 100 years on from Arras

Ceremonies were held in Edinburgh Castle. Picture; Ian Georgeson
Ceremonies were held in Edinburgh Castle. Picture; Ian Georgeson
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Descendants of soldiers killed in the Battle of Arras gathered at events in Edinburgh and France to mark the centenary of the Battle of Arras, in which 18,000 Scots died.

They were joined by politicians including First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, schoolchildren, veterans and members of the public who paid their respects yesterday during ceremonies at the Faubourg d’Amiens Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Arras, northern France.

Scottish school children lay poppy crosses at the WW100 Scotland Service at Faubourg d'Amiens Cemetery in Arras France. Picture; Lenny Warren

Scottish school children lay poppy crosses at the WW100 Scotland Service at Faubourg d'Amiens Cemetery in Arras France. Picture; Lenny Warren

A ceremony also took place at the Scottish National War Memorial in Edinburgh Castle, followed by a Beating Retreat by the Royal Marines Scotland band on the castle esplanade.

The battle took place between April 9 and May 16, 1917, and saw the highest concentration of Scottish troops fighting of any engagement in the First World War. Of the 129 battalions that took part, 44 were Scottish.

The Right Reverend Dr Russell Barr, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, who conducted the service at Arras, read out the Arras WW100 Scotland Prayer, which he wrote for the occasion.

It included the lines: “Weaving together past sorrow and future hope, help us to be mindful of the debt we owe others and of the opportunities which lie ahead.

“As we recall the terrible cost of war in particular the price paid at Arras by those who served there, let us also recall Your command to love our enemy and care for our neighbour.”

The Moderator’s wife, Margaret Barr, laid flowers on the grave of her great uncle David Wyllie, who was killed aged 29.

The Royal Regiment of Scotland band conducted a Beating Retreat in the town’s Place des Héros.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Forty-four Scottish battalions and seven Scottish-named Canadian battalions took part in the Battle of Arras – the highest concentration of Scottish troops fighting in a single battle during World War One.

“Pupils representing every local authority in Scotland are in Arras this weekend to learn more about its impact.”

She added: “These young people are not much younger than many of those who fought in the battle – many of whom never returned to Scotland.”

Wreaths were laid by Lord Llewellyn, British Ambassador to France, Professor Norman Drummond, chairman of the Scottish commemorations panel, and Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence.

In a poignant tribute, a school pupil from Scotland and one from France laid a wreath together on behalf of the UK, French, Canadian, New Zealand, Australian and South African nations who took part in the battle.

A total of 72 schoolchildren, representing all 32 local authorities in Scotland, were in Arras.

They were joined by an equal number of pupils from France and Canada, as well as 12 army cadets from Scotland.