City MP says war commemorations are ideal chance to save historic site

Allied soldiers  climb out of a trench during World War I, Ypres, Belgium.
Allied soldiers climb out of a trench during World War I, Ypres, Belgium.
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NATIONWIDE commemorations for the centenary of the First World War will provide an ideal opportunity to save Edinburgh’s historic trenches from being lost forever, a city MP said today.

The Evening News revealed last month how training trenches in Dreghorn woods – where young soldiers got their first taste of war before being shipped overseas – were 
overgrown, crumbling, full of mud and at risk of being swallowed up by nature.

As little as £10,000 could be enough to preserve one of the most poignant pieces of Edinburgh’s military history.

Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday promised a programme of events to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War in 2014, Armistice Day in 2018 and the dates of major battles in between.

He said there would be an educational programme for school pupils, including trips to the battlefields, and the Heritage Lottery Fund would support work by young people to “conserve, explore and share local heritage of the First World War”.

Today, Edinburgh West Liberal Democrat MP Mike Crockart said: “With the Prime Minister announcing more than £50 million to commemorate the Great War, it seems fitting that the training trenches in Dreghorn woods be preserved.

“The trenches are a very real reminder of the sacrifice that young men from Scotland made in preserving the freedom we enjoy today. I cannot think of a better way to commemorate the war and those brave men who fought in it than to preserve this historic site.”

The campaign to save the trenches, as a memorial to those who died overseas and a place where schoolchildren can learn about what they had to endure, is being led by writer and historian Lynne Gladstone-Millar, whose father trained in the trenches before he was sent to the Western Front.

Miss Gladstone-Millar said she was “at a loss” to understand why the trenches were not considered an important part of the city’s heritage.

If the preservation is successful, it is hoped a management plan could be put in place to see the introduction of an interpretation board and leaflets for walkers interested in the area.

Announcing the commemoration plans, Mr Cameron said an advisory board of former defence secretaries, chiefs of staff and military specialists would bring together ideas.

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said the Scottish Government was working with military and veterans’ organisations, cultural bodies, education groups and the UK Government on proposals to commemorate the centenary.

She said: “Many schools already organise visits to battlefields as part of the history curriculum, and we are discussing how these trips and other existing learning activity might support and complement the Centenary Education Programme.”