Thousands of people from across the country descended on the town of Crieff to watch a poignant parade and service to mark the 100-year commemoration of the Battle of Passchendaele – a conflict that claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Allied soldiers.
The national event, which launched the wider ‘Crieff Remembers’ fortnight and was supported by Armed Forces charity Legion Scotland, featured a parade through the town with more than 150 veterans and serving soldiers from The Royal Regiment of Scotland taking part. There were also fundraisers from Poppyscotland on hand to raise money for the charity’s life-changing support to the Armed Forces community.
These days, Passchendaele is a small and sleepy village in the western part of Flanders, but a century ago it was the scene of one of the deadliest battles of the First World War, claiming the lives of more than 500,000 men.
There was a massive Scottish presence at Passchendaele, which was Sir Douglas Haig’s attempt to break through Flanders, with more than 50 battalions from Scotland fighting, joined by their expat comrades in Scottish battalions from Canada, England and South Africa.
Also taking part in Sunday’s parade was a group of cyclists, representing The Black Watch (3 SCOTS), that arrived in the town having cycled more than 600 miles to Passchendaele. Crieff and the surrounding area was a rich recruiting ground for The Black Watch, who were heavily involved in the Battle of Passchendaele, which is one of the many reasons why Crieff has such strong connections to the conflict. The cyclists carried their bikes as a poignant tribute to their fallen comrades from another era.
The service was led by the Legion Scotland national padre with a wreath-laying ceremony featuring Lieutenant General Sir Alistair Irwin KCB CBE, the President of Legion Scotland and Poppyscotland. Following the service, entertainment was provided in the form of pipe bands, charity stalls and music from Legion Scotland singing sensation Amy Hawthorn ensuring that a day of Remembrance was also one of joy and happiness.
Festivals Crieff Chairman Alastair McClymont said: “There’s a real buzz about the town at the moment and we are delighted to have Legion Scotland’s significant input to the launch of our Crieff Remembers programme. As well as today’s wonderful parade, we also have the official opening of a truly unique exhibition of First World War material loaned from local families. It is open to the public from tomorrow until Saturday 12th August and is supported by a programme of evening events. It is a very moving experience and one not to be missed!”
In attendance on the day was James McCabe, whose great-uncle, David Watson McDonald McCabe, fought and was wounded during the 2nd Battle of Ypres which took place two years before Passchendaele. He would return to the battlefield, but was seriously wounded and died as the Battle of Passchendaele loomed. There was added poignancy as David McCabe’s great-great-great nephew, David McInally, was on parade as a member of the Royal Regiment of Scotland band.
Neil Combe, manager of the Crieff Succeeds BID Ltd, added: “Festivals Crieff has worked tirelessly to deliver a remarkable programme of events. We work on behalf of the local business community and are delighted to have been able play a part in the staging of a commemoration that means so much to the town of Crieff.”