Scotland to commemorate Battle of Arras 100 years after the carnage

A poignant ceremony is to be held in France to commemorate the sacrifice of Scottish soldiers who took part in the bloody Battle of Arras 100 years ago.

Photograph by: Imperial War MuseumThe Battle of Arras 1917

The battle, which saw the largest concentration of Scots ever to fight alongside one another, took place between 9 April and 16 May 2017.

On the first day of the attack a total of 44 Scottish battalions and seven Scottish-named Canadian battalions took part. And, by the end of the battle, just over a month later, one third of the 159,000 British casualties were Scottish.

To mark the occasion the Scottish Government is funding two pupils from each local authority to visit Arras, learn more about the battle and represent the people of Scotland at the commemorative events. A special ceremony will take place at Arras, France, on 9 April during which there will be a commemorative service at Foubourg d’Amiens Cemetery at Arras in the morning, followed by a Beating Retreat by the Pipes and Drums of the Royal Regiment of Scotland at the Place d’Heros in Arras in the early evening.

“The Battle of Arras is of huge significance on Scotland’s commemorative calendar. The battle had the highest concentration of Scottish troops fighting in a single battle during World War One,” said Fiona Hyslop, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs

“The battle suffered 159,000 casualties, one third of whom were Scottish – a devastating impact for those back home, and it resonates to this day in our collective memory. I’m heartened our young people will join us on this commemoration – it will help future generations not to forget the horrors and grief associated with battle.”

Later in the year the centenary of the death and funeral of Dr Elsie Inglis will be marked on 26 and 29 November respectively in Edinburgh.

Dr Inglis was responsible for establishing the Scottish Women’s Hospital for wounded soldiers in France. There will be an Act of Remembrance at Dean Cemetery on 26 November and a Service of Thanksgiving at St Giles Cathedral on 29 November, where there is a plaque to commemorate her work.

Elsie Inglis

After establishing the Scottish Women’s Hospital in France, subsequent hospitals were established in Serbia, Russia, Greece, Malta and Corsica. Dr Inglis died in Newcastle on 26 November 1917 on her way home. She was awarded honours from France, Serbia and Russia. Representatives of the countries where Dr Inglis established hospitals will be invited to attend commemorative events.

“Dr Elsie Inglis is celebrated for her tenacity as much as her contribution to the health and welfare of soldiers during the First World War. She met great opposition when she took other women doctors and nurses to France to establish a hospital, but the Scottish Women’s Hospital movement proved to be an unstoppable force,” said Ms Hyslop.

“There are many aspects of the First World War that impacted on our nation and left an lasting social and civic legacy. Our national commemorations one hundred years on are evidence of this.”