World War One commemorations in 2015

Gretna, Leith, Stirling and Dundee will host national events in 2015 to mark the centenary of First World War dates with particular resonance for Scotland and the Scots, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop announced today.

The focus of the Scottish Commemorations Programme in its second year will extend from the capital to include other areas of Scotland whose communities are closely associated with the anniversaries being marked. On May 22 and 23, Gretna and Leith in Edinburgh will mark the centenary of the Quintinshill Rail Disaster, a train crash on the Caledonian Railway Mainline just outside the Border town that claimed the lives of 216 of the Leith-based 7th Battalion TheRoyal Scots, Territorial Force as they journeyed to Liverpool prior to sailing for Gallipoli. To this day Quintinshill remains the worst rail crash to have ever happened in the UK in terms of loss of life.

On June 4 and 6, Stirling will host a national commemoration to mark the 100-year anniversary of the date the 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division arrived in Gallipoli after training in Stirling. The division, including many Scottish battalions, left from Larbert on 21 and 22 May and landed on the Gallipoli peninsula on June 4 to take part in the allied naval and military operation to force the Dardanelles which aimed to secure entry to the Black Sea and to the then capital of Turkey, Istanbul.

On September 26, Dundee will host a national event to commemorate the centenary of the start of the Battle of Loos, in which around 30,000 Scots fought. Battalions from every Scottish regiment fought in the Battle of Loos and suffered huge numbers of casualties. Of the 21,000 killed, over 7,000 were Scottish soldiers. Almost every town and village in Scotland was affected by the losses at Loos. Six Battalions of the Black Watch, mostly drawn from Dundee and its surrounding counties, took part. The 4th Black Watch, “Dundee’s Own”, suffered huge losses with 57% of men killed or wounded on the first day of battle. The beacon on top of the Dundee Law War Memorial is lit annually to remember the fallen.

Through the Scottish Commemorations Panel, Ministers are liaising with Stirling Council, Dundee City Council, City of Edinburgh Council, Dumfries and Galloway Council and the Royal Scots Regimental Association on arrangements for each event. Further details will be announced later in the year.

Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, said: “Throughout 2015 – the busiest year in Scotland’s five-year commemorations programme – we will continue to encourage people in all parts of Scotland to join with us to consider the impact of the First World War, which claimed the lives of more than 100,000 Scots and left many more injured or disabled.

“The Quintinshill Rail Disaster, Gallipoli campaign and Battle of Loos each had a profound and long-lasting impact on Scotland and it is right that we pause to remember each event, and the Scottish communities who were affected.

“The First World War had a significant and broad impact on our nation. Through our national commemorations the people of Scotland will have opportunities to reflect on its lasting social and civic legacy.”

Norman Drummond, Chair of the Scottish Commemorations Panel, said: “This year commemorations will again be taking place all over Scotland to mark the centenary of events which had such a huge impact on the people of Scotland in the communities which were most affected.

“2015 will be the busiest year in Scotland’s five-year commemorations programme, and we will further pause to reflect on the horror of war, the service and sacrifice of our servicemen and women and of those at home, and the lessons we continue to learn from World War One.”