Beerfest salutes those who died at Jutland

The British Grand Fleet  on its way to meet the German Kaiserliche Marine at Jutland.
The British Grand Fleet on its way to meet the German Kaiserliche Marine at Jutland.

Bo’ness Real Ale Appreciation Society (BRAAS) has adopted many different themes for its annual festivals over the years, beginning in 2001 with the 400th anniversary of the town being officially designated a port.

But the commemorative festival glass this time is very different from any of the designs which have appeared before.

It marks the centenary year of the 1916 Battle of Jutland – the largest naval battle of the First World War, and arguably the largest surface clash in history.

There’s a specific local resonance, because many Bo’ness men were among those who died on three ships in particular – HMS Black Prince, HMS Queen Mary and HMS Invincible.

As beer festivals are usually seen as jolly affairs some muight consider a First World War battle may seem an odd choice of theme, but it can also be seen as a chance to raise a glass, without fuss, pomp or ceremony, to men whose lives were hostage to the fickle fortunes of war – just like their counterparts in the Kaiserliche Marine.

As BRAAS points out in its own advance publicity for this year’s event: “Jutland was almost immediately overshadowed by the subsequent land battles, notably the Somme a month later. After the war, it became marginalised and misunderstood.”

Yet it was decisive to the outcome of the First World War as the German High Seas fleet (despite disasters inflicted on the British) never put to sea again.

The Germans launched unrestricted submarine warfare instead, hoping to starve Britain into defeat, but instead goaded the USA into war – a development which guaranteed defeat.

At a local level, says BRAAS, a group of local people have been seeking to uncover the names of all the sailors from Bo’ness, to recognise and commemorate the sacrifice they made.

It adds: “This year’s glass theme supports them, and remembers the sailors from Bo’ness who gave their lives at the Battle of Jutland”.

The festival is over two days on Friday and Saturday October 7 and 8, and runs from 5pm till 11pm on the Friday and noon till 11pm on the Saturday.