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Black Watch statue set for WWI event at Ypres

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A BRONZE statue of a Black Watch soldier is being prepared to leave for Belgium as part of events to mark the centenary of the First World War.

The statue will be erected to commemorate the 8,960 Black Watch officers and soldiers who died and more than 20,000 who were wounded during the war.

More than 250 veterans and serving soldiers from the regiment will travel to see it being unveiled and dedicated at Black Watch Corner near Ypres on 3 May.

The statue, sculpted by Alan Herriot, is of a Black Watch sergeant in First World War fighting uniform of kilt, jacket and bonnet with his Lee Enfield rifle and 18-inch bayonet.

Black Watch Association vice-chairman Lieutenant Colonel Roddy Riddell said: “This statue will be a unique and powerful symbol of the fighting spirit of the Black Watch which lives on to this day. As a regiment we have served with our Welsh, Irish and English brothers in arms for nearly three centuries and this battle epitomises our shared history as part of the United Kingdom.

“Although the battle at Black Watch Corner in Belgium in 1914 was a bloody and terrible time for the regiment, it is heartening to know that the memory of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice will live on in Flanders. It is fitting that 100 years later we still acknowledge that sacrifice.”

It will be unveiled at the start of four years of commemorative events to mark the centenary of the First World War.

The Black Watch Association said it will be the first Scottish event in the worldwide Great War centenary commemorations.

The statue will be cared for by people from the town of Zonnebeke, who are planning a weekend programme of events around the unveiling, with a reception and a tattoo on the agenda.

The area was chosen because of its resonance for the regiment.

Colonel Alex Murdoch, chairman of the Black Watch Association, said: “The site chosen for the statue has been known as Black Watch Corner since the remnants of our 1st battalion took part in a successful defensive action. Along with other withdrawing British forces they fought against a numerically stronger force from the Kaiser’s Prussian Guard in November 1914.

“This action brought to an end the first battle of Ypres and their heroic stand was to prove decisive because it stopped the German advance to the coast. If they had broken through to the coast the war would have been over and lost. It seemed the most appropriate place to erect our monument to the fallen.”

Senior officials from the Black Watch Association are gathering at Powderhall Foundry in Edinburgh today to see the statue before it sets off on its journey this week.

Sculptor Herriot said: “It has been a pleasure and an honour to work on this commission alongside the Black Watch Association.

“Transporting a large statue and several tons of granite base plinth is no mean feat, however the meticulous planning carried out by the association steering group has made this process easy.

“My passion for the project has thankfully resulted in a fitting memorial to almost 9,000 men from the Black Watch who gave their lives in the Great War.”

 

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