Alasdair Hutton OBE, narrator for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo and grandson of a wounded survivor of the Battle of Arras, was joined by singer Amy Hawthorn at Edinburgh Castle for the launch of WW100's Arras Centenary programme (Photo: Michael Boyd/WW100 Scotland)

Battle of Arras Centenary update - Scotland remembers

Posted on on 27 March 2017
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Centenary commemorations paying tribute to Scottish soldiers who fought at the Battle of Arras will be held in France and Scotland during a day of international events on 9 April 2017.

The fighting at the Arras, part of a renewed Allied offensive on the Western Front in spring 1917, had the highest concentration of Scottish troops fighting in a single First World War battle, WW100 Scotland explains.

John Buchan, author of 'The 39 Steps' and the British Government's Director of Information at the time, noted that 38 Scottish battalions crossed the parapet on the opening day, more than the entire British force at the Battle of Waterloo. 

Scotland's programme: 
*A service at the Faubourg d'Amiens Commonwealth Cemetery in Arras at 9.30 am, conducted by the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (open to the public).
*The Band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland will conduct a Beating Retreat in the Place des Héros at 7.30pm. Visitors are encouraged to line the streets.
*Those in Scotland wishing to join in the Arras commemorations are invited to go to Edinburgh Castle esplanade at 6.30pm where a service at the Scottish National War Memorial will be broadcast on a screen ahead of the Beating Retreat by the Band of Royal Marines Scotland.
Ceremonies will also be held to remember Commonwealth forces who served at Arras (see below). 

Alasdair Hutton, narrator for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, will deliver a commentary during the Beating Retreat in Arras. 

"My grandfather, George Hutton, left a successful family business in Glasgow’s Gallowgate when he went to Arras with the 9th Battalion of The Royal Scots as a 37-year-old," Alasdair Hutton says. 

"He was very severely wounded on Vimy Ridge by shrapnel in his back on the first day of battle but over time made a good recovery.

"He never spoke about the horrors of that day or of the war itself to the family and I can only begin to imagine how it must have felt leaving a young family behind and travelling to the unknown of Arras.  He was one of the lucky ones."

Young people will be put at the centre of the centenary commemorations, WW100 Scotland says.

Seventy two schoolchildren representing every local authority in Scotland will attend events in Arras, joined by a matching number of schoolchildren from France and Canada, as well as 12 Army cadets from across Scotland.

Scottish singer/songwriter Amy Hawthorn will lead the singing of anthems.

Young members of Legion Scotland pipe bands will play at the Edinburgh commemorations.


Of the 159,000 Allied casualties during the five-week Battle of Arras, an estimated 18,000 were Scottish, WW100 Scotland says.

"The Battle of Arras is of huge significance to Scotland’s commemorative calendar," says Fiona Hyslop,  the Scottish Government's Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs.

"Forty four Scottish Battalions and seven Scottish-named Canadian Battalions took part in the engagement – the highest concentration of Scottish troops fighting in a single battle during World War 1.

"The casualties had a devastating impact on those back home at the time, and resonate to this day in our collective memory. I am heartened that our young people will attend this commemoration – helping to ensure future generations will not forget the horrors and grief associated with war."

Scotland's Battle of Arras commemorations are organised by First World War Centenary body WW100 Scotland, and veterans' charity Legion Scotland, in conjunction with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the Royal Regiment of Scotland and Royal Marines Bands. For further information, see WW100 Scotland.

Canada will mark the centennial of the Battle of Vimy Ridge with a memorial service at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. Entrance is by ticket-only, and registration is now closed.  A new visitor education centre is being opened at Vimy Ridge as part of Canada's 'Vimy 100' events.

New Zealand's First World War tunnellers will be commemorated with the dedication of a new memorial, The Earth Remembers, during a dawn ceremony at the Carrière Wellington Museum on April 9.  

Full details of Battle of Arras Centenary events can be found on the Arras 14-18 website. 

Images courtesy of Michael Boyd/WW100 Scotland

Posted by: CN Editorial Team

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