Professor Norman Drummond CBE FRSE, Chair of the Scottish Commemorations Panel and WW100 Scotland, reflects on Scotland’s commemorative events of 2017.
WW100 Scotland and the Scottish Commemorations Panel is very grateful to all those who in various parts of Scotland have arranged and organised and conducted outstanding commemorations of the centenary of the First World War, whether in collective community parades and gatherings and discussion groups or in the discovery of personal memorabilia followed by research and sharing of the stories of loved ones who served and of those who made the supreme sacrifice 100 years ago.
To those hundreds of organisers and consequent events we send our respect and gratitude along with our considerable high regard for all those who, as 2018 and the centenary of the first Armistice beckons, are still hard at work preparing the ground for similar events on behalf of others.
As far as WW100 Scotland is concerned, the centenary of the Battle of Arras on Sunday 9 April 2017 was commemorated here in Scotland over a weekend of events culminating with a Service organised by Legion Scotland in the Scottish National War Memorial within Edinburgh Castle and a well attended Beating Retreat Ceremony on the Castle Esplanade.
WW100 Scotland was also invited to represent the United Kingdom alongside representatives of France, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in the several centenary commemorations in the City of Arras and upon Vimy Ridge in France. Our contribution, in addition to being in support of the other nations most particularly New Zealand at Carriere Wellington in Arras and Canada at Vimy Ridge, was to hold a Service of Commemoration in Faubourg d’Amiens CWGC Cemetery in Arras where lie the remains of all Scottish Regiments.
This Service was conducted by The Rt Revd Dr Russell Barr, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in the presence of senior representatives from France, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa and we were delighted that the United Kingdom was represented by Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence in his capacity as Vice Chairman of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
The evening of 9 April 2017, following the Canadian commemorations of Vimy Ridge that afternoon, concluded with the Pipes & Drums of 3rd Battalion The Black Watch and the Military Band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland performing an outstanding Beating Retreat in Place des Heros in Arras in the presence of the First Minister of Scotland, The Rt Hon Nicola Sturgeon MSP, and a packed crowd estimated to be between 5,000 to 10,000 strong.
The Scottish Commemorations were significantly commented upon by our French hosts and our other international collaborators as being extremely appropriate and dignified – a fitting tribute when remembering how some 50,000 Scots within 44 Scottish Battalions and seven Scottish-named Canadian Battalions took the field of Battle on 9 April 1917 in a number greater than the entire British force at Waterloo or the number that King Robert the Bruce assembled at Bannockburn.
On Sunday 30 July 2017 the Third Battle of Ypres, also know as Passchendaele, was commemorated by the UK Government in Belgium first of all at the Menin Gate, then outside Clothmakers Hall in Ypres and thence the following morning to Tynecot Cemetery. Alongside this various communities in Scotland and throughout the United Kingdom conducted special home grown ceremonies, not least of which ‘Crieff Remembers Passchendaele’ caught the eye and attention in respect of a large gathering and a wider online international audience.
Also in Belgium over the weekend of 19/20 August 2017, the Scottish Memorial at Frezenberg Ridge was Dedicated to commemorate those of the 9th and 15th (Scottish Divisions) who died at the Battle of Passchendaele. The KOSB Association unveiled a plaque in memory of the 7th/8th KOSB to commemorate their successful assault by the 7th/8th KOSB on the Frezenberg Ridge Redoubt, where now stands a series of highly evocative soldier silhouettes which will form a significant part of the trail of Scottish War Memorials in France and Belgium for years to come.
The centenary commemoration of the amazing work of Dr Elsie Inglis and of the Scottish Women’s Hospital Movement took place in the Dean Cemetery in Edinburgh in the afternoon of Sunday 26 November 2017, 100 years to the day of Dr Inglis’ death in Newcastle on her way home to Scotland.
The following Wednesday, 29 November 2017, a magnificent and widely appreciated and heralded National Service of Commemoration took place in the presence of HRH The Princess Royal in St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh, 100 years to the hour of Dr Inglis’ Funeral in St Giles’ Cathedral where she had been a devoted Member over the years.
WW100 Scotland has produced a series of historic documents, one for each and every commemoration since 2014, and the historic document in relation to Dr Elsie Inglis and the Scottish Women’s Hospital Movement is both revelatory and powerful in the sense that the position of women in Medicine, as indeed in Scotland, was never the same again.
Dr Inglis was a pioneering doctor and surgeon who recruited nearly 1,500 women and raised £53 million (in today’s terms) for the Scottish Women’s Hospitals in Serbia, Russia and France. She had earlier been told by the War Office, when she offered her Nursing Movement, to ‘go home and sit still’. She did for a while before smoking a cigarette and then offering herself to the French and the Russians and the Serbs by whom she is revered as a Saint to this day.
The City of Edinburgh and the University of Edinburgh have plans to name a square at the University in her honour and fundraising has begun towards an Elsie Inglis statue in grateful memory to her and to all those who served with her in the Scottish Women’s Hospital Movement.
In his next blog, Professor Drummond will be looking ahead to the rest of 2018 and the centenary of Armistice Sunday.