Comment: Spare a thought for horror of the Somme

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AT 7.30am on Friday, most of us will be still getting ready to face the day, perhaps enjoying our first cuppa or scrambling to get ready for work.

You may stop this Friday, like millions of others, to think of the events in France 100 years ago. The full horror of the Battle of the Somme is of course impossible for us to imagine today. Even the bare facts are mindboggling; more than one million killed or injured, including 300,000 fatalities, the introduction of the tank with all its destructive power, the effective stalemate at the end.

Acts of rememberance like this week’s vigil at the national war memorial in Edinburgh Castle are in many important senses more important than ever today. The involvement of young cadets in the event is a very welcome move.

Many of us have known people who fought or lived through the war. Those growing up today will of course not have that direct connnection, but they will be far more connected to those events than any previous generations were to their history.

The vast majority of children growing up in Scotland today will, for instance, be able to trace their family tree back to the First World War and learn about their ancestors who played a part. They will be able to watch film footage albeit in grainy black and white. They can read more first hand accounts from those who fought and died on the battlefields than for any previous conflict. All these things will help keep the story alive for generations to come.

Centenary events like those taking place in the Capital and their coverage in the media will undoubtedly inspire more people, both young and not so young, to learn more about the Great War.

That is so important, not just as a way of honouring all those brave individuals who lost their lives, but as a way of helping us to remember the lessons of the past.