Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Overnight vigil to mark Battle of the Somme centenary

Able cadet Samantha Kaszuba (L) and descendant, Alan Hamilton (R) Pic: Steven Cassidy
Image caption Able cadet Samantha Kaszuba and descendant Alan Hamilton at a memorial ahead of the event

An overnight vigil is to be held at Scotland's National War memorial as part of national commemorations of the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.

The public can apply for places to join the silent procession through the shrine at Edinburgh Castle on Thursday.

A whistle, which was sounded to lead men over the top, will be blown by a Scots soldier to mark, to the minute, 100 years since the battle began.

At 07:30 on 1 July, Alan Hamilton will blow a whistle used by his great uncle.

The Battle of the Somme was the largest Western Front battle of World War One, beginning on 1 July 1916 and ending 141 days later on 18 November.

Over one million men were wounded or killed, 420,000 of them from the British Army.

British casualties on the first day were the worst in the history of the British army, with 57,470 casualties of whom 19,240 died.

Image copyright WW100 Scotland
Image caption The first day of the Battle of the Somme

Major General Mark Strudwick, chairman of the Battle of the Somme Vigil, whose grandfather was wounded in the battle; Able Cadet Samantha Kaszuba from TS Valiant (Dunbar Sea Cadet Unit), one of the candle bearers at the vigil, and Major William Wright representing the Royal Regiment of Scotland were joined by descendant Mr Hamilton at a memorial on Tuesday ahead of the event.

Mr Hamilton, one of the sentinels at the vigil, said: "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.

"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."

Major General Strudwick, chairman of the trustees of the Scottish National War Memorial, 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."

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