Veterans Minister attends Somme commemorations.
The role played by professional footballers, and the many others who served at the Battle of the Somme, has been marked at a ceremony in France.
Veterans Minister Graeme Dey took part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the McCrae’s Battalion Cairn in Contalmaison, as part of the memorial events to mark the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
Representatives from clubs including Heart of Midlothian, Hibernian, Falkirk, Dunfermline, and Raith Rovers regularly attend the annual event.
Mr Dey said:
“At the start of WW1 a campaign was launched against professional footballers who were labelled ‘shirkers’ and ‘cowards’ who were happy to stay at home while better men risked their lives at the front.
“The players who joined McCrae’s Battalion proved the critics wrong and demonstrated incredible bravery. Indeed, many of them made the ultimate sacrifice. They went from being called shirkers and cowards to become known as ‘Edinburgh’s finest – Scotland’s Sporting Battalion’.
“Today we honour the bravery of those young men and all those who fought and died on the Somme.”
During his visit Mr Dey also met with the Mayor of Arras, Frédérique Leturque, as part of the Scottish Government’s European engagement work, which aims to strengthen ties with priority EU countries and their regions.
The 1,350 strong McCrae’s Battalion, led by Sir George McCrae, was formed in Edinburgh and included volunteers from Heart of Midlothian, Raith Rovers, Falkirk, Dunfermline, Hibernian, St Bernard’s and East Fife. In all around 75 clubs (of all levels) provided volunteers along with many other athletes and football supporters most notably of Hearts and Hibernian.
The Battle of the Somme eventually lasted for 141 days. Some 20,000 soldiers were killed in the initial assault on 1 July 2016 with a further 30,000 wounded.
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