Hearts in 50 objects: No.29 – World War I plaque

The plaque that marks the World War I heroes
The plaque that marks the World War I heroes
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This plaque adorned the outer wall of Tynecastle’s old main stand and will also be given a prominent position in the new structure. It is in honour of the Hearts players and staff who enlisted for duty in World War I, some of whom made the ultimate sacrifice and never came home.

The plaque was unveiled in 2013 to offer a constant reminder of those sacrifices. Hearts had a strong, vibrant young side in 1914 and had stormed to the top of the Scottish league when their playing staff left to go to war. They formed what became known as McCrae’s Battalion, or the Footballers’ Battalion.

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Hearts had won their first eight games of the season and were looking unstoppable when their players departed. With their team decimated inside a few days, they could not sustain the challenge and Celtic eventually took the title.

Thirteen players from the greatest team in Hearts’ history enlisted for duty in the Great War and seven did not come home. The iconic team photograph taken outside Tynecastle on November 25, 1914, was transformed into this impressive plaque.

Harry Wattie, Duncan Currie, Ernie Ellis, Jimmy Speedie, Jimmy Body, Tom Gracie and John Allan all perished. Paddy Crossan and Robert Mercer eventually suffered wartime gassing, while Alfie Briggs was crippled in action and unable to play football again. All of them enlisted for duty as Hearts players.

Their memory lives on at Tynecastle and Hearts’ memorial service each year at Haymarket is a poignant reminder of their selflessness. This plaque at the stadium will do likewise into the future as Hearts endeavour to remember their players and others who gave their lives for their country.