Selkirk students will observe Arras centenary in France

Selkirk High School pupils Andy Brown and Joe Bell will travel to France to take part in the Battle of Arras commemorations.
Selkirk High School pupils Andy Brown and Joe Bell will travel to France to take part in the Battle of Arras commemorations.

Two Selkirk High School pupils are travelling to France to remember the 18,000 Scots who died during the Battle of Arras which started 100 years ago this weekend.

Second year pupils Andy Brown and Joe Bell are among 72 pupils from across Scotland selected for the five-day trip organised by WW100 Scotland as part of international commemorations.

The youngsters will join French and Canadian students to observe a memorial service at the Faubourg d’Amiens cemetery in Arras on Sunday, where they will lay a wreath on behalf of the nations that fought together and place poppy crosses on graves.

Joe said: “I’m really looking forward to being part of the commemorations, and learning first-hand about the reality of World War One.”

They will also visit other battlefields, cemeteries and memorials relating to the battles of Loos, the Somme and the Third Battle of Ypres as part of the once-in-a-lifetime trip. 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.

Cabinet secretary for culture, tourism and external affairs, Fiona Hyslop, said: “Forty four Scottish Battalions and seven Scottish-named Canadian Battalions took part in the engagement – the highest concentration of Scottish troops fighting in a single battle during World War One.

“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.”

She added: “The Battle of Arras is of huge significance to Scotland’s commemorative calendar.

“The casualties had a devastating impact on those back home at the time, and resonate to this day in our collective memory.”

Forty four of the 120 battalions that made up the ten British assault divisions were Scottish and of the approximate total 159,000 casualties, an estimated 18,000 were Scots.

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.

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.