A commemoration of Edinburgh’s own heroes of the First World War – including a professional footballer with Hearts who was killed in action on the Somme – has taken place at Waverley Station today (Tuesday 16 December 2014).
The memorial event took place in front of East Coast’s specially-liveried locomotive 91 111 ‘For The Fallen,’ which sports a livery filled with images, stories and tributes to regiments along the East Coast route and the people who served in them during World War One across the East Coast route.
The locomotive also carries the insignia of five historic regiments from the East Coast route as well as those of their modern-day successors; including the Royal Scots, and their Scottish combat infantry descendants in today’s Royal Regiment of Scotland.
The 16th Battalion The Royal Scots was raised by Sir George McCrae, a self made businessman and prominent political figure in Edinburgh, who was also a director of Heart of Midlothian Football Club – ‘Hearts’ to football fans in Scotland’s capital city. McCrae realised that if he could get players to join his battalion, supporters would join to serve alongside their sporting heroes.
In a matter of weeks, 1,350 people enlisted, including 30 professional footballers, among them Lance Corporal James Boyd, who was killed in action at the Somme on 3 August 1916, aged 21. The last message sent home by Lance Corporal Boyd before he was killed features in the special livery on East Coast’s ‘For the Fallen’ locomotive.
The rail industry is marking this year’s centenary of the outbreak of World War One in several ways, and East Coast’s ‘For The Fallen’ locomotive is a visible reminder of the conflict, and those who shaped its outcome, to millions of passengers on one of the nation’s busiest long distance lines. No fewer than 700,000 people worked on Britain’s railways 100 years ago: 20,000 of them died after volunteering to serve in the Great War.
For today’s commemorative event veterans of the Royal Scots and serving soldiers of the Royal Regiment of Scotland joined representatives of McCrae’s Trust and the family of L/Cpl Boyd at Waverley. Appropriate musical support was provided by the Band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland with a trumpeter sounding the Last Post ahead of a minute’s silence.
East Coast Deputy Managing Director Andy Meadows said: “The whole rail industry has rightly been marking the centenary of World War One. ‘For The Fallen’ is East Coast’s individual tribute to those who went to war, and to those who made the ultimate sacrifice. This includes the 20,000 rail workers who signed up for the War, never to return.
“We worked on the design of our commemorative loco with five regiments on the East Coast route, including the Royal Regiment of Scotland. It takes some of the stories, images, facts and history behind the regiments, and the Great War, to millions of our passengers across the country.
“By setting an example, sportsmen played a key role in encouraging young men to sign up for service. One of those brave men was James Boyd.
“The sacrifices of James and his comrades secured our freedom. To quote from Laurence Binyon’s poem, For The Fallen, ‘We Will Remember Them’.”
Lance Corporal James Boyd sent his final message from the Front on a Field Service Postcard, which gave soldiers a number of pre-written statements. These could be deleted as necessary, and they were not allowed to write anything on it except their name and the date. Soldiers were warned: “If anything else is added, the postcard will be destroyed”, and these provided a quick way for soldiers to say ‘I am quite well” and that a letter will follow shortly. Sadly, and all too often, that letter would never be written.
Major Gary Tait MBE of The Royal Regiment of Scotland said: “The naming of this locomotive ‘For the Fallen’ is a great example of the wider community recognising and remembering the service of soldiers. This engine bears the badges of the Royal Scots and their modern day successors within The Royal Regiment of Scotland. So it is a reminder of not only those who gave their lives in 1914 but those who serve now in 2014. Volunteers from Edinburgh and the surrounding area continue to serve in the Scottish infantry today in our regular Battalions and in the Army Reserve with 52nd Lowland, 6th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland. ”
Ann Budge from Hearts FC said: “Today’s commemoration in Edinburgh, featuring East Coast locomotive number 91 111 ‘For The Fallen’ in its striking and thought-provoking livery, followed the introduction in 2011 of East Coast’s popular policy of train namings to promote the people and places, communities and heritage on its flagship route. The train operator’s fleet also includes East Coast electric locomotive 91 110 ‘Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’, which features the insignia of the Royal Air Force Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (RAF BBMF) and its three famous World War Two aircraft – the Spitfire, Hurricane and Lancaster.”
- World War One and the railway:
The railway played a major part in Britain’s war effort one hundred years ago, and was key to moving troops and equipment around the country. As soon as war was declared on 4 August 1914, the railway helped Britain’s forces to mobilise.
Transporting men and machinery from around the country to Southampton was a priority and on 10 August 1914, the first dedicated military supply train departed London Waterloo for Southampton. Over the next three weeks, a further supply train would arrive at Southampton every 12 minutes during a 14-hour day – and by the end of the month, trains had transported 118,454 army personnel, 37,649 horses, 314 guns and numerous vehicles and other luggage.
Although vital to the war effort, railway workers in their thousands enlisted to fight, and women stepped into many of their roles on the Home Front. With the exception of train driving and shovelling coal into the fires of steam engines, women went on to perform most railway tasks.
It is estimated that the railway lost 20,000 men during World War One, and many main line stations in Britain have a memorial to their sacrifice, listing the names of those who worked on the railway, but never returned to their jobs when peace returned in 1918.
-The Royal Scots Regiment in World War One:
While Sir George McCrae raised his battalion in 1914, The Royal Scots date back to King Charles I, when Sir John Hepburn raised 1,200 men to fight in France. The Great War saw the number of battalions increase to 35, 15 of them serving at the front line. More than 100,000 men passed through these, 11,162 being killed and over 40,000 injured. Along with the Western Front, the Royal Scots saw action in Egypt, Macedonia, Palestine and Russia.
Founded in 2006, today’s Royal Regiment of Scotland is the modern embodiment of 14 historic Scottish Infantry Regiments, including the Royal Scots. Since its formation, it has been on near constant operational deployments, with three battalion tours in Iraq and 11 battalion tours in Afghanistan.