Photo archive aims to bring Great War to life

Lieutenant Colonel Roger Binks, secretary of the Scottish National War Memorial Trustees. Picture: Greg Macvean
Lieutenant Colonel Roger Binks, secretary of the Scottish National War Memorial Trustees. Picture: Greg Macvean
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A DIGITAL photographic archive and a new book will be created by trustees of the Scottish National War Memorial to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the Great War.

Officials in charge of the memorial at Crown Square at the top of Edinburgh Castle have launched unprecedented efforts to update and refurbish the Rolls of Honour containing the names of more than 200,000 Scottish casualties who died in military conflicts.

The £50,000 initiative will be timed to finish by August next year, marking a century since the outbreak of World War One.

Nearly 150,000 Scottish casualties were recorded in one of the bloodiest campaigns in human history.

A new website allowing members of the public to access the video archive will also be completed to replace the existing outdated resource.

Memorial trustees have written to every council in Scotland asking for financial contributions to complete the project.

Trustees chairman Major General Mark Strudwick said: “The trustees are conscious that the memorial website is nearly two decades old, that modern communications is putting its identity and relevance at risk and that the photographic archive is woefully inadequate.

“We have therefore decided to embark on a corporate communications project to update our archives and modernise our approach and considerably increase our outreach.”

Retired Edinburgh University Professor Emeritus Duncan Macmillan has been appointed to complete the book, which will tell the history of the memorial and the meaning behind the structure.

The document, due to be published in summer 2014, will also pay tribute to the memorial’s artists and to fallen Scots who died in campaigns including World War One, the Second World War, the Malayan Emergency, Korean War, Northern Ireland, the Falklands War and the Gulf War.

The memorial, which is open free of charge, was designed by architect Sir Robert Lorimer and completed in 1927. Two hundred Scottish artists and craftsmen helped create the hall of honour and shrine where the names of the dead are contained in books.

Trustees secretary Lieutenant Colonel Roger Binks, pictured below, said: “We’re reviewing some of the information on the database because there are a few errors, there are omissions, certainly. I am still adding people to that list. Only in the last week have I added two or three more names, which we didn’t know before. For example, one of them was notified to me because he was Scottish born, but he served in the Canadian forces.”

The names of Scots, and those of Scottish descent, from countries including Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are also in the records.

Poppyscotland chief executive Ian McGregor: “We hope this will encourage a new, wider audience to learn more about the sacrifices made during the First World War.”

Edinburgh City Council will make a yet-to-be-determined contribution to the project.

Lord Provost Donald Wilson said: “This is a hugely worthwhile and timely project.”

A death toll of nine million

World War One, one of history’s bloodiest conflicts, started on July 28, 1914, and would last until November 11, 1918.

It involved all the world’s great powers, which were assembled in two opposing alliances: the Allies, led by the United Kingdom, France and Russia, and the Central Powers, based around Germany and Austria-Hungary.

Militarism, imperialism and nationalism all played major roles in starting the conflict, but the trigger was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife by Serb Gavrilo Princip.

The Austro-Hungarians fired the first shots of the war as preparation for the invasion of Serbia. Germany then invaded neutral Belgium and Luxembourg on the way to France, prompting Britain’s declaration of war.

More than nine million combatants were killed. The Allies eventually won the war by driving the Germans back in a series of offensives as American forces entered the trenches.