Scots pupils to visit Arras battle site during WW1 commemorations

Arras men leaving the trenches
Arras men leaving the trenches
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Scottish school pupils are to visit the site of the Battle of Arras as part of this year’s First World War commemorations.

The battle had the highest concentration of Scottish troops fighting in a single battle during the war and resulted in around 160,000 British casualties, a third of whom were Scottish.

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said two pupils from each local authority will travel to France in April to represent the country at centenary events.

The battle took place between April 9 and May 16 1917 on the Western Front.

Ms Hyslop said: “The Battle of Arras is of huge significance on Scotland’s commemorative calendar.

“The battle had the highest concentration of Scottish troops fighting in a single battle during World War One. It included 44 Scottish Battalions, and seven Scottish-named Canadian Battalions.

“The battle suffered 159,000 casualties, one third of whom were Scottish - a devastating impact for those back home, and it resonates to this day in our collective memory.

“I’m heartened our young people will join us on this commemoration - it will help future generations not to forget the horrors and grief associated with battle.”

Later in the year, the centenary of the death of Dr Elsie Inglis, who was responsible for establishing the Scottish Women’s Hospital for wounded soldiers in France, will be marked.

There will be an act of remembrance at Dean Cemetery on November 26 and a service at St Giles Cathedral on November 29, where there is a plaque to commemorate her work.

Ms Hyslop said: “Dr Elsie Inglis is celebrated for her tenacity as much as her contribution to the health and welfare of soldiers during the First World War.

“She met great opposition when she took other women doctors and nurses to France to establish a hospital, but the Scottish Women’s Hospital movement proved to be an unstoppable force.

“There are many aspects of the First World War that impacted on our nation and left a lasting social and civic legacy. Our national commemorations one hundred years on are evidence of this.”

Scottish ministers will also take part in events to mark the third Battle of Ypres in July with leaders from across the UK.

Norman Drummond, chairman of the Scottish Commemorations Panel, said: “2017 will see centennial commemorations at Arras in France, Ypres in Belgium and in Edinburgh alongside a growing number of local and regimental and service centenary commemorations across Scotland.

“At each and every commemoration we are reminded of the thousands of those ‘who for our tomorrow gave their today’, and as we approach 2018 Armistice we ask ourselves ‘What do we learn from all this?’”