Hundreds lined the streets of Rosyth and South Queensferry today (Saturday, May 28) to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland.
Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, Commissioner for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon and Baroness Annabel Goldie joined the nation in remembering the service and sacrifice made by those who fought at World War One’s biggest naval battle.
Rosyth, where the battlecruiser fleet was based in 1916, marked the start of the commemorations, where wreaths were laid followed by an act of remembrance in Rosyth Parish Church. Local schoolchildren carried out readings on behalf of the community, before laying a book of remembrance on the altar of the church. A poignant minute’s silence saw the ringing of a bell made from the hull of HMS Tiger, a battlecruiser which suffered only light damage during the Jutland campaign despite suffering many hits by German shells.
Shortly afterwards, a further act of remembrance took place in South Queensferry Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Cemetery where 40 casualties from the battle are commemorated or buried. Singer Barbara Dickson, whose uncle was killed in the Battle of the Somme, sang the Scottish lament ‘Flowers of the Forest’ as a wreath was laid by HRH on behalf of the nation to remember those lost.
HRH, Sir Tim and the First Minister met with sons and daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those who served during the battle, along with local school children from Queensferry Community High School, Broxburn Academy and visiting school children from Wilhelmshaven in Germany. Sean Stone from Queensferry Community High School and Kim Rautenberg from a school in Wilhelmshaven laid a wreath at the Battle of Jutland memorial within the cemetery.
Evie Dramsfield and Rachel Bowden from South Queensferry High School presented Sir Tim/HRH with a Roll of Honour, the culmination of a two-year research project led by the University of Edinburgh’s Scotland’s War Project, working with pupils to research and record the lives and stories behind the men buried in the 188 Commonwealth War Graves in South Queensferry.
The day concluded at Hawes Pier in South Queensferry, where hundreds came out in droves to pay their respects. HRH, Sir Tim and the First Minister met representatives from the local community who have worked tirelessly researching the battle and documenting the area’s significant role.
The Band of HM Royal Marines (Scotland) performed the Beating Retreat and ceremonial sunset, while HMS Kent took departure as a reference to the departure of the battlecruiser fleet 100 years ago, alongside the iconic vessel MV Fingal, dazzle painted by artist Ciara Phillips. HRH unveiled a commemorative plaque which will later take permanent place at South Queensferry’s shore.
The Band of HM Royal Marines (Scotland) thereafter led the community on a parade through the streets to South Queensferry Priory Church to end a poignant day of commemoration.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:
“This centenary commemoration is an opportunity for us to honour and pay tribute to the many thousands of sailors from both sides who lost their lives during the Battle of Jutland. The sacrifices made by those who fought in this battle, the largest naval encounter of the First World War, and by other seafarers throughout the conflict must never be forgotten.”
Fife’s Depute Provost Cllr Kay Morrison said:
“These commemorations provide an important opportunity for communities to come together to honour those who sacrificed their lives during the Battle of Jutland, one of the most significant naval battles of the First World War.
“The events in Fife and South Queensferry are also about remembering the sacrifices made by all of all those who contributed to the war effort, and ensuring that their compelling stories are told for generations to come.
“Our naval heritage is an integral and valued part of Rosyth’s history. Scotland, and Rosyth’s naval dockyards, played a vital role in the UK’s war efforts, and the focus for these commemorations is reconciliation.”
Edinburgh’s Lord Provost and Lord Lieutenant, Donald Wilson, said:
“It has been a proud moment for me to stand alongside the ancestors of those who fought and died for their country to commemorate the Battle of Jutland. Looking out across the Firth of Forth, it is heart-breaking to think that close to nine thousand British and German lives were lost during the naval clash.
“It is also incredibly touching that, 100 years on, people from all over Scotland and Germany have come together to remember this shared piece of WW1 history in Queensferry. Her Royal Highness unveiled a commemorative plaque which will later take permanent place at South Queensferry’s shore. I hope it will provide a lasting tribute for at least the next 100 years.”
Capt Chris Smith RN, Naval Regional Commander Scotland & Northern Ireland, said:
“Next Tuesday sees the centenary of the Battle of Jutland, fought 300 miles East of Edinburgh out on the Jutland Bank between the British Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet, in a bid for control of the seas. Over 252 ships from both sides engaged in the action and 100 000 sailors and more than 8000 lives were lost in under 12 hours.
This weekend we are commemorating the role played by the River Forth, not only as the departure point of Admiral Beatty’s Battle Cruiser Squadron, 52 ships which were the first into action, but also for its much wider contribution to the Great War at Sea. The support given by the Fishing Fleet, and other merchant vessels, and the support of the local population in amongst whom many sailors made homes and started families, is something we recognise and are grateful for.
Of the 3 locations which are directly linked to the Battle, Scapa Flow in Orkney and Invergordon on the Cromarty Firth, where the bulk of the Grand Fleet were berthed, as well as Rosyth and South Queensferry on the Firth of Forth, each has or will commemorate the Battle and the huge loss of life. Just last month Invergordon’s Commemoration was supported by HMS Sutherland, while HMS Kent is actively involved in both this weekend’s event on the Forth and then next week in Scapa for the actual Centenary of the day of Battle. The Royal Navy is very proud of its heritage and it is entirely fitting that we are involved in the commemorations for the largest naval battle of the First World War.
Whilst no Royal Navy ships are now permanently based in the Forth, aside from HMS Archer supporting the Edinburgh University Royal Naval Unit, the Port of Leith continues to provide a warm welcome to visitors and remains popular with the Royal Navy. Also of course it is 101 years since the opening of the Rosyth Dockyard – no one would have predicted back then that the largest Aircraft Carriers the Royal Navy has ever seen would begin construction here, but again this River and its people are making a very significant contribution to the Royal Navy of the 21st century.”