Battle of Jutland commemorated with student exchange

More than 8000 people died during the Battle of Jutland. Picture: Callum Bennetts

More than 8000 people died during the Battle of Jutland. Picture: Callum Bennetts

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CHILDREN from Scotland and Germany are to attend centenary commemorations in each other’s countries to mark the biggest maritime conflict of the First World War.

The Battle of Jutland, which took place off the coast of Denmark, started on May 31, 1916, lasted 72 hours and saw more than 6000 British and 2500 German deaths.

Some of those who died were men who had been injured and were brought to South Queensferry, but passed away while being cared for at a naval hospital set up at Port Edgar.

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Events will take place this weekend to mark the loss of so many lives 100 years ago.

Pupils from South Queensferry will tomorrow welcome 30 youngsters from Wilhelms­haven, the base for the German ships, to take part in the commemorations here.

SEE ALSO: Queensferry commemoration for Battle of Jutland dead

A group of 14- to 16-year-olds from Queensferry Community High School, along with others from Broxburn Academy, will then go back with the German pupils to take part in equivalent ceremonies in Wilhelmshaven.

Historian Yvonne McEwen, project director for Scotland’s War, based at Edinburgh University, has been working with the Queensferry pupils for more than two years to gather information on casualties of the battle.

She said there were 180 First World War graves in the South Queensferry Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Cemetery, including 42 for men who served in the Battle of Jutland.

By the end of the centenary commemorations in 2028, she hopes they will have researched and recorded the lives and stories behind all the men buried in the cemetery.

SEE ALSO: Remembering the fallen South Queensferry soldiers of WWI

They have managed to find enough information about the Jutland casualties to produce a Roll of Honour which will be presented during the commemorations on Saturday.

Ms McEwen said: “You can’t give them back their lives, but you can give them their identity, because they’re not statistics, they’re real people.”

The pupils used newspaper announcements, naval records and census information to piece together details of the men’s lives.

“We have built up as much information as we can and put together a Roll of Honour.”

The project has also got names of 42 German casualties from Jutland which will also feature in the commemorations. Ms McEwen said: “We’ve got little jars and inside each jar will be the name of a German and a British casualty and two poppies. They will be placed in the Priory Church in South Queensferry, which was a naval chapel in the First World War.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com