Of all the First World War centenaries that deserve special commemoration, the Battle of Arras is particularly poignant for Scots.
The offensive on the Western Front which ran from April 9 to May 16 saw a sustained attack on German defences near the French city of Arras. It was the longest advance since trench warfare had begun. It also saw the highest concentration of Scottish troops fighting than in any other engagement during the First World War. Of the 129 battalions that took part, 44 were Scottish. By the end of the offensive, 18,000 Scots had perished
After initial advances, the battle became a costly stalemate for both sides and by the end the British Third and First armies had suffered about 160,000 casualties and the German 6th Army 125,000. It is particular battles such as these that bring the enormity of the First World War and its appalling toll of casualties to the fore
Descendants of soldiers killed in the battle gathered at events over the weekend in Scotland and France. They were joined by politicians including First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, schoolchildren and veterans at ceremonies at Faubourg d’Amiens Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Arras, northern France. A ceremony also took place at the Scottish National War Memorial in Edinburgh Castle.
A total of 72 schoolchildren, representing all 32 local authorities in Scotland, were in Arras where they were joined by an equal number of pupils from France and Canada, as well as 12 army cadets from Scotland. How heartening that the sacrifices of a hundred years ago are marked today with such poignancy and dignity.