One of the candle bearers at tonight's Edinburgh vigil, Able Cadet Samantha Kaszuba from TS Valiant (Dunbar Sea Cadet Unit), with descendant Alan Hamilton, who will blow his great uncle's Somme whistle tomorrow to signal the end of the two-minute silence (Photo: WW100 Scotland)

Focus on Scotland's Centenary Vigil for the Somme

Posted on on 30 June 2016
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Descendants of Battle of the Somme soldiers are playing a central role in the overnight commemorations at the Scottish National War Memorial in Edinburgh Castle.

Alan Hamilton, whose great uncle fought in the 1916 offensive, will be among the sentinels standing guard at the vigil, part of a series of national tributes in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The public will file silently through the Memorial before a commemorative service this evening, passing the shrine containing the original Roll of Honour for the fallen of the First World War.

Mr Hamilton will use a whistle, blown by his great uncle to lead troops into battle on July 1st 1916, to signal the end of two minutes' silence at 7.30am tomorrow morning.

The nationwide silence is being synchronised across all four nations of the UK.

"I am honoured and humbled to be a participant in the vigil to commemorate that 100 years ago, fathers, brothers and sons of thousands of families lost their lives or were wounded in mind and body in one of the greatest battles in our history," Alan Hamilton said.

"My great uncle Robert, then a young officer, blew this whistle and led his men into a fierce battle where many of them, his friends, were killed and wounded. He was with them until he, himself, was wounded.  

"Throughout the vigil I will stand with others in silent reflection in an unspoken comradeship with those who went before us."

Alan Hamilton with his great uncle's whistle from the Somme (Photo: WW100 Scotland)

Fifty one Scottish battalions took part in the Somme offensive, among them the 16th Battalion Royal Scots, or 'McCrae’s Battalion', which was largely composed of professional and amateur sportsmen and their supporters. It lost 12 officers and 573 soldiers in the attack on the first day.

Major General Mark Strudwick, Chairman of the Trustees of the Scottish National War Memorial and the Centenary Vigil, is himself the grandson of a soldier wounded on the Somme.

He said: "The courage and sacrifice of the British soldiers who fought at the Battle of the Somme should never be forgotten. Few words conjure the tragic scale and staggering loss of life during the 141 days that battle raged."

"One hundred years on, we come together to honour them, to remember them and to ensure their memory and legacy lives on for generations to come."

Edinburgh Castle will be floodlit red from dusk tonight as part of the commemorations. Admission to the vigil is by free ticket. For details see the Scottish National War Memorial website.

More on tonight's vigils in the UK can be found here in Centenary News.

Information & images: WW100 Scotland

Posted by: CN Editorial Team