Midlothian pupils remember Arras fallen

A recent Arras memorial service at Edinburgh Castle. Photo: Ian Georgeson

A recent Arras memorial service at Edinburgh Castle. Photo: Ian Georgeson

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Two S3 history pupils from Lasswade High School took part in a once-in-a-lifetime trip to France to observe the centenary of the Battle of Arras at Scotland’s national commemorations.

Organised by WW100 Scotland, students Courtney Simpson and Cara McGaff were among 72 pupils representing each local authority in Scotland selected for the five-day trip. The Scottish pupils were joined by a matching number of French and Canadian students at a memorial service at the Faubourg d’Amiens Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Arras, where they laid a wreath on behalf of the nations that fought together and place poppy crosses on graves.

The Battle of Arras had the highest concentration of Scottish troops fighting in a single battle during World War One and 18,000 Scots lost their lives.

Organised by WW100 Scotland in conjunction with the Armed Forces in Scotland, Legion Scotland, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Education Scotland and Mercat Tours International, the commemorations will drive WW100 Scotland’s aim to encourage a spirit of research and inquiry, particularly among young people, to help create a lasting legacy. Pupils were able to soak up the history of the battle during their time in Arras in order to share their experience and reflections with the local community on their return.

The Battle of Arras, which took place between April 9 and May 15, 1917, was part of a planned offensive by British and French forces. Forty-four of the 120 battalions that made up the 10 British assault divisions were Scottish. The average daily casualty rate was 4076, which was higher than that at The Somme or the Third Battle of Ypres. Of the approximate total 159,000 casualties, an estimated 18,000 were Scottish, the equivalent population of a Scottish town such as Dumbarton, Peterhead or St Andrews, or the capacity of Hearts’ ground at Tynecastle.

Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, said: “The casualties had a devastating impact on those back home at the time, and resonate to this day in our collective memory.”

s well as participating in the Arras commemorations, students visited a range of other battlefields, cemeteries and memorials relating to the battles of Loos, the Somme and the Third Battle of Ypres.

For further information, visit ww100scotland.com