Scotland

Scots mark Passchendaele centenary

Parade by veterans and serving soldiers from The Royal Regiment of Scotland Black Watch (3 SCOTS) Image copyright PA
Image caption Veterans and serving soldiers from the Black Watch took part in the Crieff parade

Thousands of people from across Scotland commemorated the centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele in World War One.

The conflict claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of soldiers, including many thousands of Scots.

About 200 of their descendents travelled to Belgium for commemorations at the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres.

There was also a parade in Crieff, supported by armed forces charity Legion Scotland.

Image copyright PA
Image copyright PA
Image caption Soldiers from The Royal Regiment of Scotland Black Watch (3 SCOTS) took part in the parade in Crieff
Image copyright DCMS
Image caption Thousands of Scots took part in the Battle of Passchendaele, fought in the mud of Flanders

Officially known as the Third Battle of Ypres, Passchendaele was fought from 31 July to 6 November 1917 in the West Flanders region of northern Belgium.

It is remembered as one of the harshest battles of the war, with heavy rain contributing to the Allies gaining only five miles of ground in three months.

About 325,000 Allied troops and 260,000 Germans died in the battle, which poet Siegfried Sassoon described as "hell".

There was a massive Scottish presence at Passchendaele, with more than 50 battalions from Scotland fighting.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Governor of Edinburgh Castle Major General Mike Riddell-Webster laying a wreath in Crieff

Descendants of those who died attended commemorations in Belgium on Sunday.

A service for them included the traditional bugle call and wreath laying as well as music by the National Youth Choir of Scotland.

A short reception followed with live performances from artists including Dame Helen Mirren, Alfie Boe, and the cast of War Horse.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney represented the Scottish government at the commemorations.

Image copyright Jack Taylor
Image caption The Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing was the focus of the commemorations in Belgium
Image caption The Menin Gate features the names of the Scottish soldiers who died
Image copyright Jack Taylor
Image caption Rows of headstones mark the dead at Tyne Cot Cemetery

In Perthshire, more than 150 veterans and serving soldiers from the Royal Regiment of Scotland paraded through Crieff in memory of those who died.

Also taking part in the parade was a group of cyclists, representing The Black Watch (3 SCOTS).

They arrived in the town having cycled more than 600 miles to Passchendaele.

Black Watch soldiers were involved in the Battle of Passchendaele, which is one of the many reasons why Crieff has such strong connections to the conflict.

The cyclists carried their bikes as a tribute to their fallen comrades from another era.

Image copyright PA
Image caption A group that cycled to Passchendaele carried their bikes in Crieff as a tribute to their fallen comrades
Image copyright PA

Also attending was James McCabe, from Crieff, whose great-uncle, David Watson McDonald McCabe, fought and was wounded during the 2nd Battle of Ypres which took place two years before Passchendaele.

He returned to the battlefield, but was seriously wounded and died as the Battle of Passchendaele loomed.

David McCabe's great-great-great nephew David McInally was on parade as a member of the Royal Regiment of Scotland band.

Image copyright DCMS
Image caption A tank and a crater during the First World War's battle of Passchendaele

A wreath-laying ceremony was attended by Lieutenant General Sir Alistair Irwin KCB CBE, the President of Legion Scotland and Poppyscotland.

Festivals Crieff Chairman Alastair McClymont said: "There's a real buzz about the town at the moment and we are delighted to have Legion Scotland's significant input to the launch of our Crieff Remembers programme.

"As well as today's wonderful parade, we also have the official opening of a truly unique exhibition of First World War material loaned from local families."

The exhibition is being held at Strathearn Artspace, Comrie Street, until Saturday 12 August.