Local school children from South Queensferry High School joined Royal Navy veterans and Queensferry & District Sea Cadets today (Tuesday, May 10), to mark 100 years since the Battle of Jutland, and launch the national commemorations for World War One’s biggest naval battle.
A remembrance service, parade, community event, a Dazzle Ship and schools’ exhibition are just some of the events taking place on Saturday 28 May as part of the Scottish Government’s national World War One centenary commemorations. The programme of events will commemorate the contribution and sacrifices made by all those who served during the war’s largest naval battle where more than 6,000 British sailors lost their lives, and also highlight the important role of the Forth during WW1.
The events have been organised by a number of different parties working together, including the Royal Navy, Queensferry Ambition, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Edinburgh Art Festival, 14-18 NOW, The University of Edinburgh’s Scotland’s War project, and both The City of Edinburgh and Fife Councils.
Rosyth, where the Battlecruiser force was based in 1916, will mark the start of the commemorations, and will be attended by HRH The Princess Royal, Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence attending as a Commissioner for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the First Ministers of Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales, and the Secretary of State for Scotland. A wreath-laying service will take place followed by an act of remembrance in Rosyth Parish Church.
An exhibition commemorating Rosyth’s role in the Battle of Jutland and celebrating the centenary of both Rosyth Garden City and the Dockyard will be revealed, before the community come together to remember Fife’s role in the conflict. The exhibition organised by Rosyth Garden City Association also involves the four local primary schools.
Shortly afterwards, a further act of remembrance will take place in South Queensferry Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Cemetery where 40 casualties from the battle are commemorated or buried. This will be a closed ceremony, and will be attended by all VIPs who will meet with Jutland descendants, veterans, local school children and visiting school children from Wilhelmshaven in Germany.
The commemorative service at South Queensferry Cemetery, details of which are currently being finalised, will be conducted by the Reverend Scott J Brown CBE together with the Reverend Dr Marjory MacLean, Chaplain Royal Naval Reserve. Singer Barbara Dickson, whose uncle was killed in the Battle of the Somme, will sing the Scottish lament ‘Flowers of the Forest’ as a wreath is laid to remember those lost.
Members of the public are thereafter invited to line the streets at Hawes Pier, where The Band of HM Royal Marines (Scotland) will perform Beat the Retreat. HMS Kent will take departure alongside the iconic vessel MV Fingal, dazzle painted by artist Ciara Phillips.
Edinburgh’s Lord Provost and Lord Lieutenant, Donald Wilson, said: “The Battle of Jutland was the biggest naval clash of the First World War and left a tragic legacy along the Firth of Forth. The Battle itself may have lasted only a matter of hours, but close to nine thousand British and German lives were lost.
“Our commemorative events on Saturday 28th May will mark close to 100 years since the tragedy. It will be a time for remembrance and reconciliation. It is so important to bring citizens together to remember our shared past and I am impressed by how the Leith, Queensferry and Fife communities have been so eager to play their part in the commemorations. It is touching that our events will be attended by school children from Germany as well as Scotland who wish to pay their respects.
“I hope to see the Hawes Pier lined with young and old, locals and visitors alike and of course, descendants of those people lost in the Battle. The atmosphere will be palpable.”
Fife’s Depute Provost Cllr Kay Morrison said: “I am pleased that Fife and the Forth have been chosen to mark the centenary of the Battle of Jutland. Our naval heritage is an integral and valued part of Rosyth’s history.
“The Battle of Jutland was one of the most significant naval engagements of the First World War, with 6,000 British and 2,500 German personnel lost. These commemorations present an opportunity to remember their heroic sacrifice and to honour their memory.
“Scotland, and Rosyth’s naval dockyards, played a vital role in the UK’s war efforts, and the focus for these commemorations is rightly the theme of reconciliation with Germany.”
Capt Chris Smith RN, Naval Regional Commander Scotland & Northern Ireland added: “The Naval heritage of the communities along the Forth is a long and proud one. The Naval Dockyard that was built in Rosyth a hundred years ago and the Battlecruiser Squadron that was based here during the First World War are mere echoes now, testament to a different era. Yachts in Port Edgar now occupy space that once saw Battleships berthed there, so it’s very welcome that we are remembering just how important this stretch of the river has been, and indeed remains to the Royal Navy of the 21st century.
“The Battle of Jutland, the most significant naval engagement of the War, saw the loss of thousands of lives in a matter of hours and so it is absolutely right that it is a key part of the Commemorative programme, both in Scotland and indeed the UK. The main event will be held in Orkney on 31 May, the actual date of the battle, and acknowledges the important role played by Scapa Flow and the people of those Islands.
“The Grand Fleet however, sailed from Invergordon and the Firth of Forth, so it’s marvellous to see that both locations are hosting their own Commemorations. Invergordon had theirs just a few weeks ago and on 28 May we will see the second of those events in Rosyth and South Queensferry. The Royal Navy is delighted to be a part of this very special commemorative activity.”
Colin Kerr, Director for External Relations at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, said: “The centenary of the Battle of Jutland is the perfect time for us to remember those who lost their lives in one of the most important, but little known, battles of the First World War.
“Thousands of men perished during the Battle of Jutland with the vast majority having no known grave. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission sought to find a way to commemorate those who lost their lives, and erected naval memorials in the UK, namely in Portsmouth, Plymouth and Chatham. We also look after the graves of those who washed up on shore or died of their injuries days later, both here in the UK and Scandinavia.
“They must never be forgotten.”
Yvonne McEwen, Director of the University of Edinburgh’s Scotland’s War Project, said: “We have been working with pupils from South Queensferry Community High for more than two years to research and record the lives and stories behind the men buried in the 188 Commonwealth War Graves in the local cemetery. This has resulted in the Roll of Honour that will be presented during the Jutland Centenary Commemorations.
“We are delighted with the way the school children have engaged with the project, and are pleased to welcome German pupils to join the commemorations. We believe this – along with the exhibitions and public talks taking place – is a fitting legacy for those that lost their lives at the Battle of Jutland 100 years ago.”
Rev David Cameron, Chair of Queensferry Ambition, the BID (Business Improvement District) for Queensferry, said: “South Queensferry’s relationship with those who fought in the Battle of Jutland is a long and poignant one.
“The town will never forget its fallen war heroes – whether they came from Queensferry, or from distant shores, as many did.
“We are proud and very honoured to be part of this month’s commemorations.”