Arras commemoration 2017

In April 2017 a large group of Scottish secondary school pupils and teachers travelled to France to commemorate the centenary of the Battle of Arras. This battle saw the biggest concentration of Scottish battalions and soldiers at any one battle during WW1, and the Scottish Government identified this as a key event to mark in the national WW1 commemorative programme.

The Scottish Commemoration Panel conceived the unique idea of having two participating pupils from every one of the 32 Scottish Local Authorities undertake a study visit to Arras, and with the support of local Councils achieved this truly national representation. Scottish Government contracted with Mercat Tours International to deliver this experience for the young people, and a very strong programme of activities was organised. The assistance of the Mayor of Arras enabled French pupils to join the commemorations.

The Scottish programme covered three intense days in France and Belgium, with guided visits to battlefield sites, cemeteries, memorials, and a museum in the underground tunnels beneath the city of Arras. A very moving service of commemoration was held at Faubourg d’Amiens cemetery in Arras, and Scottish military pipe bands performed a Beating the Retreat in the main square of the town that evening attended by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The young people learned a great deal about the history of the period and the contribution of Scottish soldiers to the western front campaigns. Frequently there were very moving experiences. Some pupils were able to trace the graves of relatives who died around Arras and make a very personal remembrance at the graveside.

The visit was a great success, and a video which features key elements from the trip will be made available online.


CWGC Internships in France and Belgium, summer 2017

cwgcThe Commonwealth War Graves Commission is inviting applications for paid internships working at their sites in France and Belgium over the summer of 2017. These posts are for 18-25 year olds, and will last four months. The duties focus on welcoming visitors to the cemeteries and memorial sites managed by CWGC, providing a service which is informative and supportive, to help them gain full benefit from their visit.

It is an opportunity for young people leaving university or college with a strong interest in the history of World War One. They will gain a deeper understanding of the work of CWGC, and participants will develop valuable employability skills in working as part of a team and dealing with people.

Full details are available on the CWGC website, with applicants needing to meet a deadline of 27th January.

Vote now ! – “Films of Remembrance” primary school competition

films-competitionLegion Scotland invites you to vote for your choice as the winner in their 2016 competition for Primary school children in Scotland, which invited pupils to make a film about “the impact of conflict and the importance of remembrance”. Voting closes on Sunday 11th December, so don’t delay.. Vote here.

Full details can be found on their website, including the competition prizes and sources of support such as local veterans groups.

Pupil groups were asked to create a two-minute documentary, TV report or short film which explored the impact of conflict and remembrance on the people and communities of Scotland. This provided a lot of scope for exciting learning and the development of skills in Literacy, ICT, Social Studies and more.



Battle of the Somme

sommeThe Battle of the Somme was fought in northern France over 141 days in 1916, from 1st July to 18th November, in a series of bloody and costly actions on this small section of the Western Front. The centenary in 2016 will be marked by a number of commemorative events across the UK and in France itself.

Department for Culture, Media and Sport news release describes plans for commemorations at national and international levels, and encourages the development of local events. A high-level international commemorative event will take place at Thiepval Memorial in France on 1st July 2016, with participation by representatives of many nations.

In Scotland a national vigil service will be held at the Scottish National War Memorial in Edinburgh through the night of 30th June / 1st July. In the coming months, other vigils will be staged at locations around Scotland organised by regimental associations and others to tie in with key dates and battles involving individual regiments.

New education resources will assist teachers who want to help their students learn about the nature and importance of this particular campaign. The National Army Museum resource includes a video about the battle; PowerPoint slides which offer photographs and images from 1916 with detailed captions, which can be re-used by teachers. (such as the image used in this blog post, by kind permission); and NAM also offers downloadable exhibition panels to which local material can be added. A British Council pack ‘Remembering the Battle of the Somme’ offers material for wider aspects of the fighting.

There are many online assets which cover aspects of the conflict. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has a dedicated Somme site. Imperial War Museum covers the history in text, images and audio. The BBC iWonder resource “Why was the Battle of the Somme film bigger than Star Wars” discusses the huge public appeal of a 1916 documentary film shown in cinemas, which has now been digitally re-produced and made available by Imperial War Museum for showings in local venues. A BBC news video clip describes one section of the tunnels under the battlefield.







HMS Hampshire disaster, Orkney

memorial marwick headOn 5th June 1916 warship HMS Hampshire struck a German mine off the coast of Orkney and sank with the loss of 737 men. Only 12 sailors survived.

This weekend commemorative events were held at Marwick Head, close to the site on which the ship sank, to mark the centenary of the loss and the deaths of so many men. The Orcadian published a report.

The wreck made national news at the time partly because of the presence on board of Field Marshal Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War, travelling to Russia on a diplomatic mission to meet with Britain’s Russian allies.

After the war a memorial was constructed on the headland overlooking the sea, but it focused solely on Kitchener and was named after him. To mark the centenary, and respond to the need to commemorate all the men who died in the sinking, the memorial has been refurbished and a new wall built around it with plaques naming all the victims.

A Scotsman article reports that a book to be published later this year will offer fresh information about the history of the HMS Hampshire disaster.



Dazzle Ship Scotland

dazzle ship leithScotland now has its own Dazzle Ship, berthed in the Prince of Wales dock in the port of Leith. The inspiration for this particular vessel’s design comes from artist Ciara Phillips, who was co-commissioned by Edinburgh Art Festival and 14-18 Now. A BBC news story describes the work.

Phillips’s work is entitled “every woman” and celebrates the roles played by women during the war; for example, as painters in the shipyards implementing dazzle designs on warships.

Edinburgh Art Festival staff are developing a Learning programme to engage children and young people with the ideas behind the project and encourage visits to the ship. This includes an introductory guide for teachers, and teacher workshops; a Family “Dazzle Day Out” will take on Sunday 19th June 2016 from 1300-1600. Further activities will follow over the summer. During the Festival there will also be a Dazzle Hub in a shop unit at Ocean Terminal shopping centre. Contact the EAF team for more details.

Financial support for this project was provided by 14-18 Now, the UK-wide cultural programme which marks the centenaries of World War One with a series of artistic and cultural projects specially commissioned to engage the public and create an artistic legacy.  The Tower of London poppies are the best-known of previous projects, with a range of other successful projects and more work still in process and to be commissioned.

The original Dazzle concept was a response by artist Norman Wilkinson to World War One submarine warfare in the Atlantic and the threat to British shipping. Ships which were repainted in dazzle designs were thought to confuse the German U-boat submariners trying to target ships for torpedo attack. A BBC iWonder resource “How did an artist help Britain fight the war at sea” describes this work.


Battle of Jutland – commemorations 2016

hms malayaCommemorative events to mark the centenary of the 1916 Battle of Jutland are now complete, and attracted great interest from the public. Events in May and June 2016 were focused in 3 particular locations: Orkney (the base for the British Grand Fleet); the Forth (and the naval base at Rosyth); and in the North Sea on the Jutland Bank.

A BBC news story  and a Guardian article describe the activities at the different memorial sites, including the ceremonies in Orkney at St.Magnus Cathedral and at Lyness cemetery, which were shown on TV.

The photograph shows a memorial cross in Lyness Cemetery dedicated to the men who lost their lives on H.M.S Malaya.


Further stories on the web add extra dimensions to the story of this great naval battle. A Daily Record article tells the personal story of a war grave gardener in Glasgow who discovered that a grandfather had fought at Jutland. A Glasgow University project blog post describes how medical staff at Jutland treated battle casualties.

The Scottish Commemorations Panel  has produced a booklet ‘The War at Sea 1914-1918’, which was distributed among people attending public events. It will be made available online shortly.




Jutland – preparing for the centenary

HMS New ZealandThe centenary of the Battle of Jutland, the most important naval battle of World War One, will be commemorated over the next few days. Major events will take place in Orkney and on the Firth of Forth, near to the major bases for the British fleets of 1916 around Scapa Flow and Rosyth. For events in Orkney, go to the VisitOrkney website.

On the Forth, an exciting addition to local events will be Scotland’s Dazzle Ship – a vessel repainted to the design of artist Ciara Phillips, as part of the 14-18 Now cultural programme.

A Daily Telegraph article give some background to the battle. BBC produced a timeline of the battle, and also an iWonder resource “Did anyone win the Battle of Jutland“, that probes the issue of which side in the conflict gained most from the fight.

In the lead up to these events there has been a lot of media coverage online, often focused on the personal stories of individual servicemen and sailors. Examples: the letters of a teenage sailor; another Scottish sailor who had a premonition of death; and a BBC piece about boy sailor Jack Cornwell who won the Victoria Cross for his bravery during the fighting.

Several TV channels ran special documentary programmes about this clash of two great navies, its impact and importance. BBC 2 broadcast “Battle of Jutland: the Navy’s bloodiest day“, which is available to watch on the iPlayer catch-up service for one month.

In Invergordon, where many dead sailors were buried after the battle, a ceremony of remembrance has already been held at a local war memorial.

Special exhibitions are also attracting public interest. For example, ‘The Forth at War’ at the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther, Fife.

The image of HMS New Zealand, one of the ships involved in the battle and built on the Clyde, was kindly provided by Fairfield Heritage. The heritage centre at this Govan shipyard actively promotes the role of shipbuilding as a war industry, and works with local schools.

Women, Industry, and the Rent Strikes

RRRT 20 JanWorld War One brought many changes to the cities and rural areas of Scotland, and one of the most significant was the change in the industrial workforce. With many thousands of men leaving Scotland for armed service overseas, thousands of women moved into jobs in factories and manufacturing to contribute to the war effort and keep up industrial productivity.

Fairfields in Glasgow was one of the most important shipbuilding yards on the Clyde, and took on many female workers alongside its remaining male staff. The warships it built include several that fought at the battle of Jutland in June 1916.

The Heritage centre at Fairfields in Govan is now staging an exhibition titled “Rent, Rivets and Rotten Tatties“, created with the assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund. The exhibition and accompanying programme of activities focus on the role of women in Govan in the war years, in the shipyards and on the ‘domestic front’, including coverage of the Rent Strikes and the role of local women such as Mary Barbour.

The centre is also offering workshop sessions for Primary 7 children.

Contact Fairfield Heritage for more details. 0141-445-5866


Legion Scotland primary schools competition – Vote!

HMS New ZealandLegion Scotland, the veterans organisation, themed its Primary schools competition for 2016 around the Battle of Jutland 1916 (with great things planned for the centenary in May and June). School pupils that participated in the competition investigated the lives of the crews of the warships of the British fleets and thought about the impacts of the battles these sailors faced.

The task for pupils entering the competition was to produce a report in the style of a newspaper story, with an associated image (such as the photo of HMS New Zealand, which took part in the battle. Photo by kind permission of Fairfield Heritage)

The work of twelve schools has now been shortlisted by the judges, and the public can vote for their preference among the entries displayed on the Legion Scotland website.

Vote now!


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