Burgh’s salute to the fallen

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Hundreds packed Linlithgow’s St Michael’s church on Saturday for a historic commemoration of the men massacred at the Somme in 1916.

Colour parties representing regimental associations of units such as the Royal Scots and the Royal Irish Fusiliers, as well as Royal British Legion Scotland and many others led a parade up Kirkgate to the church.

There an ecumenical service was held amid banners embroidered with the famous poppies of Flanders.

They bore the words “Lest we forget”, and “Seek peace and pursue it”.

Linlithgow MSP Fiona Hyslop, Provost Tom Kerr and West Lothian Council leader Councillor John McGinty were among the civic dignitaries present – and it fell to the Provost to give one of the most memorable readings of the day: the poem “Walking Nightmare” by Robyn Beckett.

Twenty thousand British soldiers died on the first day of the Somme offensive and 40,000 were wounded, in what was the blackest day of the British army.

Perhaps a million men died in the campaign.

Town and village communities Scotland were shattered and traumatised by the scale of the casualties.

Besides forces veterans Saturday was a special day for local organisations – like Queensferry Sea Cadets – who were fully aware of the catastrophe which unfolded in Flanders between July and November 1916.

Young adults and youngsters made powerful and moving contributions, as when the names of six “typical” servicemen who died in the carnage were read out.

Some wept when Linlithow student Julia Stevens sang “Jimmy’s Gone to Flanders”, from a show about West Lothian in the First World War performed at the Fringe.

There will be an article with more detail from the service in the forthcoming issue of the Journal and Gazette.