The latest in our series of poems commemorating the Somme describes how weary soldiers would drag themselves to their living quarters after a spell at the front line.
A three generation party based on the King’s Own Scottish Borderers (KOSB) Association have just returned from a pilgrimage to commemorate the centenary of one of the most tragic battles of World War One.
This fortnight’s Somme poem is a short yet effective depiction of the grief felt by those in tight-knit rural communities. In just twelve lines, Charles Murray echoes the pain and anguish they would have experienced as their young men disappeared and news of their fates trickled slowly back home.
It’s sometime in the 1920s and life in Scotland is going on just as normal – then something trips a memory, and it’s back ten years to the War… This is the scenario which is played out in our latest poem commemorating the Battle of the Somme, as poet JB Salmond recounts how his wartime memories would return to him during a mundane bus ride. He reflects on his comrades who lost their lives in the Battle of Flers-Courcelett, which was fought during the Somme 100 years this month.
In this fortnight’s Somme centenary commemoration poem, Hamish Mann revisits horrible remnants of previous battles on the same territory. In brutal yet honest wording, Mann depicts the horror of the physical reality and presence of death in the battlefields.
The latest in the series of poems commemorating the Somme is by Ewart Alan Mackintosh, about an inevitable preoccupation with death.
This fortnight’s Somme poem, selected and provided by the Scottish Poetry Library, is ‘Glory’ by Scots poet Violet Jacob, who lost her twenty-year-old son Harry in the battle. Written soon after his death and published in December of that year, the poem would surely have resonated with thousands of bereaved mothers across the country.
The second in our series of poems commemorating the Somme centenary is “War” by Jack Peterson, a Shetlander who was seriously wounded at the Battle of the Somme while serving with the Seaforth Highlanders. He survived the war and returned to Shetland, but his experiences from the war never left him, and fifty years later, he continued to recount the horrors in his work.
During the 141 day centenary of the Battle of the Somme, we will be featuring a collection of poems selected by the Scottish Poetry Library for their relevance and poignancy. On the 100th anniversary of the first day of the Somme, we are featuring “Lines Before Going” by Alexander Robertson, a Scottish academic-turned-soldier, who did not survive the day.
Chair of the Scottish Commemorations Panel, Professor Norman Drummond CBE FRSE, was honoured to deliver The University of Edinburgh’s Mountbatten Lecture 2016 in April. Each year, an expert on defence-related matters is invited to speak to staff, students and the wider public, with previous speakers including astronaut Neil Armstrong and NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson. A transcript of Professor Drummond’s address follows.
Great War Dundee is a partnership of local cultural, educational and commercial organisations formed to commemorate the First World War and its impact on Dundee. The project was recently awarded the Stephen Fry Award for Excellence in Public Engagement with Research 2016, in recognition of its outstanding achievements in improving awareness and understanding of the war’s impact on Dundee among a wider audience. Read our guest blog from the project to learn more about the important work being done to raise awareness of Dundee’s war effort.
Chair of the Scottish Commemorations Panel, Norman Drummond CBE, FRSE, reflects on commemorations in 2015 and looks ahead to the coming year.
As part of a recent Imperial War Museum event for the First World War Commemorations Partnership Group, Norman Drummond, Chair of the Scottish Commemorations Panel, delivered the speech ‘What have we learned so far?': Read more
Norman Drummond CBE FRSE – Chair, Scottish Commemorations Panel
As the opening commemorative year of the centenary of World War One draws to a close, one cannot but reflect with humility and gratitude at the number and quality of commemorative occasions and events which have taken place here in Scotland and across the United Kingdom and internationally as well.
Lieutenant General Sir Alistair Irwin KCB CBE – President of the Royal British Legion Scotland and Poppy Scotland
By the time of the Armistice on 11th November 1918 the poppy had already entered the iconography of the Great War, not least through the moving words of Colonel John Macrae’s poem In Flanders Fields: “In FlandersFields the poppies blow/between the crosses row on row/ that mark our place…”. Now, 96 years on from the end of the War, the red poppy has firmly established itself as the symbol of remembrance. Scotland’s poppies are made in the Poppy Factory in Edinburgh by a dedicated team of ex-servicemen. Each year they make an astonishing 5 million poppies and 10,000 wreaths. The poppies that they produce are worn by so many of us both to demonstrate our own personal acts of remembrance and to record our own contributions, sometimes no more than £1 and sometimes much more, to the annual fund raising effort in November each year.
Brigadier David Allfrey MBE – Chief Executive and Producer, The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
From August 1914, out of sight and earshot of the civilian population, servicemen and women would have moved away from their ‘home base’ to the theatres of war where they had been assigned. For most, this would have been the first time abroad. Some would have travelled over many months to the ends of Empire while others would have been shipped by foot, train and ship across the English Channel to ports and railheads on the Continent. The conditions they endured on these journeys would have respected social position to a degree, and as practicality allowed, but the closer to the Front, the less differentiation would have been possible. Each man, regardless of social class and upbringing would have needed to come to terms with his new situation and deal with it appropriately. Unlikely friendships would have formed with special bonds created by tension and misfortune. This in itself would have tested the social fabric of the constituent parts of the Nation and set the conditions for much greater upheavals to come in the 1920s and 1930s. Age old certainties and ideas would be under scrutiny and test each and every day.