Mackie pupils to attend WWI commemorative event in France

Faubourg d'Amiens Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery
Faubourg d'Amiens Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery

Two S3 history pupils from Mackie Academy in Stonehaven are set for 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 Laura Ritchie and Amy Donaldson are among 72 pupils representing each local authority in Scotland selected for the five-day trip.

The Scottish pupils will be 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 on Sunday (April 9), where they will lay 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 will soak-up the history of the battle during their time in Arras in order to share their experience and reflections with the local community when they return.

In addition to the 9.30am service, which will be led by the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland will conduct a Beating Retreat in the Place des Heros at 7.45pm.

The Battle of Arras, which took place between 9 April and 15 May, 1917, was part of a planned offensive by British and French forces. 44 of the 120 battalions that made up the ten British assault divisions were Scottish. The average daily casualty rate was 4,076, 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.

Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, said: “The Battle of Arras is of huge significance to Scotland’s commemorative calendar. 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.”

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

Those in Scotland wishing to join in the Arras commemorations are encouraged to go to Edinburgh Castle Esplanade on the evening of Sunday 9 April, where a service taking place in the Scottish National War Memorial at 6.30pm will be broadcast on a large screen ahead of a 7.30pm Beating Retreat conducted by the Band of HM Royal Marines Scotland.

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