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Joint Commemoration for Somme Fallen

Tuesday April 19

The sacrifices made by two Edinburgh battalions at the Battle of the Somme are to be commemorated with services in Edinburgh and France on July 1 – the 100th anniversary of the start of the offensive.

More than 20,000 men were killed and 40,000 were wounded on July 1 1916, most in the first hour of the attack. The 15th and 16th Royal Scots, leading the advance on a formidable German defensive position at the village of La Boisselle, lost more than three quarters of their strength.

Those who survived that day regrouped in a small French village called Contalmaison, where a Scottish Cairn was erected in 2004 and services are held every July 1.

This year, Contalmaison has been chosen as one of five major events in France marking the centenary of the battle.

In Edinburgh, a civic service will be held at St Cuthbert’s Church, starting at 12.30pm. The service, organised by McCrae’s Battalion Trust and led by Army chaplains, will include screened highlights of the Contalmaison event.

The 16th Royal Scots is better known as McCrae’s Battalion after its Colonel, Sir George McCrae. It is also known as the Sporting Battalion after a group of Heart of Midlothian players enlisted, followed by professionals from other football and other sporting clubs, and their supporters. The centenary of the raising of the battalion was marked in St Cuthbert's two years ago.

Jack Alexander, who has written a book on the story of the Battalion, said: “The Somme is particularly poignant because so many of the lads who went over the top were civilian volunteers. We made a covenant with them that they would enlist and defeat the German Kaiser, but so many of them died trying to do that. Many of them were very young. We have a responsibility never to forget them."


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