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Remembered Today:

Debate in Scottish Parliament


BatterySergeantMajor
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I have been informed today that there will be a debate in Scottish parliament about the subject of the Scottish Memorial on the 29th of January.

In between a second motion has been introduced: the first one by Dr Jean Turner MSP and a more recent one by Murdo Fraser MSP.

We hope that the monument can be shipped to Flanders somewhere at the end of April: beginning of May.

Erwin

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Hi Erwin

Will be at the parliment on other business that day will keep my ears to the ground and try anf find out from Jean what happend.

Dan

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Its a members business debate.

5.00 pm Decision Time

followed by Members’ Business – debate on the subject of S2M-5290 Murdo Fraser: 90th Anniversary of Passchendaele

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Hello,

I read in todays paper that they are going to give £5000. It was published in the Perthshire courier.

Regards,

Stewart

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That is correct about the £5,000 , I only heard a very small part of the deabte but here is the official report:

Nice to see Erwin will be at Parliament on the 28th , hopefully I might bump into you. :)

John

Battle of Passchendaele

(90th Anniversary)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Murray Tosh): The final item of business is a members' business debate on motion S2M-5290, in the name of Murdo Fraser, on the 90th anniversary of the battle of Passchendaele. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes that 31 July 2007 will mark the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele which was launched on 31 July 1917 and continued until the fall of Passchendaele village on 6 November 1917; notes that Passchendaele saw the biggest loss of life of any battle in the First World War with over half a million British, Commonwealth and German troops killed, wounded or missing; notes that the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 is currently planning a number of events to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the battle, including unveiling a Celtic cross as a memorial to commemorate Scottish soldiers who took part in the battle; thanks all governments, organisations and individuals that have contributed towards commemorations planned and towards the memorial; welcomes the memorial as it will commemorate the Scottish regiments that played a pivotal role in the battle, which saw the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, the Black Watch, the Cameronians, the Gordon Highlanders, the Highland Light Infantry, the King's Own Scottish Borderers, the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders, the Royal Scots, the Scots Guards and the Seaforth Highlanders in combat for the United Kingdom, fighting with dignity, skill and honour in treacherous conditions, and believes that the Scottish Executive should mark the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele and contribute towards the commemorations.

17:10

Murdo Fraser (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con): I thank the many members from different parties who have signed my motion and I thank those members who have stayed behind in the chamber for the debate.

I take the liberty of expressing thanks, on behalf of the Parliament, to the local authorities and communities of Passchendaele, Wytschaete and Messines, and to the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917, for their work and planning of year-long events in 2007 to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the battle of Passchendaele. I am sure that, during the debate, other members will join me in expressing our thanks to them.

It is appropriate also to record my thanks to Dr Jean Turner, who lodged a motion in the summer of 2006 that praised the work and effort of the people of the municipality of Zonnebeke, in Flanders, for raising funds to build a Celtic cross there to commemorate Scottish and Scotland-related soldiers who fought in the great war.

The battle of Passchendaele—also known as the third battle of Ypres—was launched on 31 July

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1917 and continued until the fall of Passchendaele village on 10 November in the same year. The battle saw the greatest loss of life of any battle in the first world war. Almost 500,000 British, Commonwealth and German troops were killed, wounded or went missing. The whole of my allotted time this evening could be taken up describing the importance of the battle and the treacherous conditions in which the soldiers fought. It is hard for us, today, to explain or imagine what those men had to go through during the great war. However, I will concentrate on what is happening in Flanders in 2007 to mark the events of 90 years ago.

The Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917, in conjunction with a number of local communities, organisations and Governments, is planning events to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the battle. As part of the commemorations, a monument will be erected as a memorial to all Scottish soldiers who took part in the battle—and, indeed, in the great war. As my motion sets out, several Scottish regiments played a pivotal role in the battle: they include the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, based in Stirling, and the Black Watch, based in Perth.

The Celtic cross is to commemorate not only Scottish soldiers, but also Commonwealth regiments and units that are linked to Scotland. For example, it will also be a memorial to the Canadian Seaforth Highlanders, who were based near Passchendaele, and the Nova Scotia Highlanders, who were on Passchendaele ridge. It is entirely fitting that the memorial is not just for Scots, but for soldiers of other nations, as it will symbolise the struggle that those men of different nations had to face together.

The unveiling of the Celtic cross at Passchendaele will be the climax of the Scottish memorial weekend of 25 and 26 August. A weekend of events and activities is planned specifically to commemorate the Scottish soldiers, such as a highland games, a tattoo and visits to the battlefields on which Scottish soldiers fought. The cross will be of Scottish granite and set on a plinth of original bunker stones. It is intended to be an impressive monument: it will be roughly 3m high and on a plinth that will also be roughly 3m high. It will be located at Frezenberg, which is strongly connected to the role that Scottish soldiers played during the battle. It was there that the Scottish 15th division launched an attack on 17 August 1917. Only weeks later, the Scottish 9th division took over that sector.

It is estimated that the cost of the memorial will be £21,000 and that the cost of the plinth will be £7,000. By September, around £14,000 had already been raised, primarily through the local communities where the memorial will stand. The

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Flemish Government has also contributed to the cost of the cross, through a structural grant. In the motion that I lodged at the end of last year, I asked the Scottish Executive to mark the 90th anniversary of the battle of Passchendaele and to contribute to the commemorations. It is envisaged that the memorial will be a landmark for the 400,000 visitors who come to the front each year to view the battlefields of the great war.

I would be interested to learn whether the Executive intends to be represented at the Scottish memorial weekend and whether it will consider contributing to the commemorations. I am sure that the minister will agree that it is an excellent opportunity to emphasise the bond between Scotland and Flanders and to share in the links of our past. I understand that the Executive's office in Brussels has recently been in contact with the campaign. I would be interested to learn whether the Executive is aware of that contact and the outcome of that dialogue.

I hope that the Parliament will agree that it is time to express our gratitude to the people of Flanders for the work they are doing to commemorate Scotland's fallen. It is certainly a worthwhile project and I am honoured to have the opportunity this evening to congratulate them in this chamber. I have particularly to record my thanks to Erwin Ureel, the co-ordinator of the Scottish memorial in Flanders campaign.

Even during members' business, this Parliament does not often debate motions that have support from Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Scottish National Party, Green and independent MSPs. I hope that the Executive will recognise the work that has been carried out in Flanders and will contribute to the commemorations because this was a battle in which Scottish soldiers played a central role. We should not forget them, nor should we forget the horrors that they had to endure during the battle of Passchendaele.

I would like to end by repeating Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae's famous poem, "In Flanders Fields", which remains to this day one of the most memorable war poems ever written. It was written only a few kilometres from where the Scottish monument will stand. Although it was written some time before the battle of Passchendaele was fought, it encapsulates extremely well some of the horrors of the great war.

"In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

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Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep,

though poppies grow

In Flanders fields."

17:17

Dr Jean Turner (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (Ind): I thank Murdo Fraser for tonight's debate. I should explain how I got involved in the issue. Evelyn McKechnie, who is a great historian on the subject of the Somme, was working with me. She told me about the monument and I could not believe that no monument had been erected to Scottish soldiers in particular. My first step was to lodge a motion to highlight the work of the campaigners for a Scottish monument in Flanders. It was lodged in April last year and received wide cross-party support. Many dedicated people have been involved in the campaign, as Murdo Fraser has mentioned, and their work on the project has been outstanding.

I commend the excellent work carried out by Erwin Ureel from Flanders. He is coming to Scotland next month to conduct seminars in Glasgow on the monument campaign. He is also coming to the Parliament on 28 February for a lunch time meeting that I am hosting. I hope that many people here will find time to come to that occasion.

I would also like to thank the local authorities of Passchendaele, as Murdo Fraser has done so fully.

The Celtic cross monument is entirely neutral. It is neither pro-war nor anti-war, and the campaigners do not want to dictate how people should interpret it. The monument seeks to commemorate a nation and its immigrant people, and the campaigners would like it to be accepted by all Scots. This is not about taking a stance in discussions—and there have been many—about the great war and later wars. I know that the campaigners would appreciate it if the monument could be accepted by the whole spectrum of opinion, from service personnel to pacifists.

We are talking about remembering the sacrifice of Scottish soldiers, many of whom lied about their age. My grandfather did that, but he returned. Many of those men lie in unmarked graves in Flanders field. We could walk along the front line on the western front and every six paces, we could be walking on the body of an unknown soldier.

The monument idea initially came from the burial of Private John Robertson Thomson from Lochgelly in Fife. He was a Gordon Highlander who went missing in action on 4 October 1917 and was reburied in October 2004 after being

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accidentally found in an unmarked grave on the battlefield in Flanders where so many thousands are still lying.

The 2nd Gordon Highlanders was one of many Scottish regiments that were involved in the horrific slaughter of Passchendaele. However, apart from monuments to the Liverpool Scottish and the London Scottish, no monument remembers the Scottish involvement on the Salient. Soon after Private Thomson's funeral, some Scottish Flemish people decided to organise a campaign to raise a long-overdue monument to the Scottish soldiers in the great war, whatever their regiment.

I was very grateful to have been able to help them in some small way and I am hopeful that they will reach their financial target so that, in August of this year, the monument can be unveiled halfway along the ridge at Frezenberg, in sight of the spires of Ypres and north of Passchendaele. I hope to attend the unveiling weekend and look forward to it immensely.

When I wrote to the First Minister to find out what support might be given to the monument, I was informed that the issue was a reserved matter as it came under the Ministry of Defence. I was surprised to learn that the Scottish Executive did not want to set any precedent, as I was aware that the United Kingdom Government had given £400,000 to the Somme Association in 2003 to purchase Thiepval wood—I hope that I have pronounced the name correctly—which is sacred to the memory of the 36th (Ulster) Division. When Thiepval wood came on the open market, the secretary of state, Paul Murphy, said that it was a golden opportunity and he was delighted to help. However, the Scottish Executive has been a wee bit slow in helping the project, although I am reliably informed that €8,000 might now be set aside to help with the unveiling weekend in Flanders this August. That is wonderful.

I cannot finish without mentioning Stobhill hospital, which is both dear to my heart and the main reason that I was elected to the Parliament. Immediately following the outbreak of the first world war, on 4 August 1914, Stobhill was requisitioned by the military authorities for the care of wounded servicemen. Patients were brought by rail directly to the hospital grounds. As early as September 1914, wounded soldiers were brought to Stobhill. As Stobhill Hospital was now devoted to military purposes, a temporary railway platform was erected in the grounds and trains from London were diverted from the main line at a point in the suburbs of the city so as to proceed direct to the hospital. So many soldiers came back with injuries from that horrific war that Stobhill had to run at full capacity to cope. I wish that our health

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service could be given the same resources in peacetime as it has often been given in war.

I am fully supportive of the campaign and wish it every success. The monument in memory of the Scottish soldier will be a wonderful testament from the people of Flanders.

17:22

Donald Gorrie (Central Scotland) (LD): Murdo Fraser deserves credit for lodging the motion. He is quite right to concentrate on the excellent work that is being done to commemorate the events this year and to look forward as well as back.

Interest in the first world war has remained steady and, I think, grown in recent years not because people want to glorify it, but because they appreciate that it was the worst war. The conditions under which men fought day after day on both sides were quite incomprehensible to the ordinary person. The fact that the men kept going with such tenacity, loyal comradeship, discipline and good humour shows that the real hero of the war was mankind. It shows that human beings can rise to great heights of behaviour. Arguably, that happened in an unfortunate cause in that they were all killing each other, but their behaviour and the way in which they were loyally committed to their fellow human beings was quite extraordinary. I think that people accept that. That is why they are interested in the vestiges of the first world war and that is why such tourism continues and why people still read up books about it. Passchendaele is the most extreme example of that.

Haig's basic idea was that we needed to break through to capture the channel ports to prevent the German submarines from sinking all our ships. That was a good idea, as we were under extreme pressure from possible starvation. Unfortunately, however, he had not studied the drainage system or the weather forecast for the area, so his unfortunate troops had to fight in a permanent swamp in conditions that were worse than had ever been the case elsewhere. We are quite right to support those who want to commemorate those events.

The Scots made an above-average contribution to the war and all the Scottish regiments that are listed in the motion made a big contribution. It is unfortunate that Scots like my father, who fought in the Royal Artillery in the Ypres Salient and elsewhere, do not get a mention, but we cannot have everything. The commemorations are a good cause and I hope that the Executive will support them. Unfortunately I will not be able to attend, because I will be celebrating my golden wedding and it might be considered a bad thing if I was not present for that.

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17:25

Alasdair Morgan (South of Scotland) (SNP): I congratulate Murdo Fraser on securing the debate.

Last summer, while I was staying near Lille in northern France, I went to Belgium to visit Ypres. The first place at which we stopped was the Tyne Cot cemetery, which I think is the largest war cemetery. The panels at the cemetery—I am not talking about the tombstones—commemorate about 35,000 missing soldiers, whose names could not be accommodated on the main memorial.

We moved on to Ypres and its glorious town centre, which has a street that is so wide that it is almost a square, and magnificent old buildings. It looks like a typical Belgian town, but it is all a reconstruction, because the entire city centre was destroyed in the period from 1915. Close to the town centre is the Menin gate memorial, which was built in a gap in Vauban's fortifications, from the 17th century wars, on one of the main roads to the Passchendaele battlefields. The Menin gate memorial is huge and holds the names of 55,000 men who were missing after the battles—the rest are commemorated at Tyne Cot. Despite the presence of tourists, the last post, which is sounded at 8 o'clock by the Ypres fire brigade, is truly moving and I defy anyone not to experience a lot of emotion when they hear it.

When we add to the casualties that were suffered at Passchendaele, or the third battle of Ypres, the casualties that were suffered at the first battle of Ypres, in 1914, which in effect destroyed the first British expeditionary force, we arrive at numbers of missing, wounded and dead that beggar comprehension. The conditions in which civilians and soldiers on both sides fought are beyond our comprehension.

South of the border between Belgium and France, near Arras, there is a Scottish memorial, although I am not sure which division it commemorates. Such are the changes over time that the memorial is now in the central reservation of a dual carriageway, so it is not the easiest place to visit, although I did achieve that feat.

There are a vast number of war cemeteries, which range from Tyne Cot, which has 12,000 tombstones, to cemeteries that have only a few graves. A few years ago, I visited the cemetery on the Sambre canal at Ors and came across the grave of Wilfred Owen, who was killed seven days before the armistice. I recommend a visit to one of the first world war cemeteries to any politician who thinks that he or she might ever be in charge of their country's troops, because I hope that their visit would make them think long and hard about the nature, purpose and consequences of war. I

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never leave any of those places without having an overwhelming sense of the futility and waste of what happened during those five years.

17:28

Euan Robson (Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (LD): I add my congratulations to Murdo Fraser on having secured this debate on an important subject. He talked about the nature of the battle of Passchendaele and how it saw the greatest loss of life. He also mentioned the significant contribution that Scots soldiers made to the battle and I noted that the King's Own Scottish Borderers, from my part of the world, took part. The commander-in-chief, Earl Haig of Bemersyde, is buried at Dryburgh Abbey, just inside my constituency.

Passchendaele was an ill-starred campaign, as has been said. It began at the end of July—it was supposed to have started slightly earlier, if I remember correctly—and it ended in November, after an unusually wet summer. The profound memory of those who survived was perhaps less of enemy fire than it was of mud. Many men lost their lives simply by falling into large mud pools and were never seen again. As Donald Gorrie said, the conditions were beyond belief. I hope that no one has to experience them ever again.

Some years ago, when I was conducting research on a different subject, I read in a Glasgow newspaper from 1918 a report about parents who had had four sons when the war started in 1914: one son was lost in 1915; one was lost on the Somme in 1916; another was lost at Passchendaele in 1917; and the last was lost in November 1918. The story is terribly sad, but I am sure that its events were reflected not only in many households throughout Scotland, but in households throughout other Commonwealth countries and in the households of those who were then described as "the enemy".

It is right and proper that we remember these things and that we tell our children what happened. We need to understand the mistakes of the past because, as the famous saying goes, those who forget the lessons of history are condemned to repeat it. As a result, it is particularly appropriate for us to join the commemorations that are associated with the memorial either directly by helping to buy the stone and erect it, or by taking part in the ceremonials that will mark its unveiling.

Although uncovering such memorials is immensely important, we must also, through education, remind future generations of earlier generations' mistakes, triumphs and sacrifices. If it is possible, even at this late stage, for the Scottish Executive—and, indeed, Parliament—to make a

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contribution, such a move will be immensely appropriate.

17:32

Christine Grahame (South of Scotland) (SNP): I commend Murdo Fraser for lodging a very solemn and fitting motion and I endorse everything that he said. Passchendaele was known as the battle of the mud. Indeed, one soldier, Private Richard W Mercer said:

"Passchendaele was just a terrible, terrible place. We used to walk along these wooden duckboards—something like ladders laid on the ground. The Germans would concentrate on these things. If a man was hit and wounded and fell off he could easily drown in the mud and never be seen again. You just did not want to go off the duckboards."

As for the battle itself, by spring 1917, the British had placed 21 huge mines totalling 450 tons of the high explosive, ammonal. At zero hour—03:10 on 7 June 1917—after the most intense bombardment of the entire war, the allied mines were detonated, killing an estimated 10,000 German troops in moments. The explosion was said to have been audible as far as London and Dublin and was possibly the loudest man-made noise that had been made up to that point.

The battle spared no one. After three months of fighting, the Australian, New Zealand and United Kingdom casualties—wounded and killed—numbered 448,000 and the Germans suffered 260,000 dead or wounded. The Canadian corps finally took the village of Passchendaele on 6 November 1917.

As for what life in the trenches was like, I will quote Siegfried Sassoon's poem, "Suicide in the Trenches":

"I knew a simple soldier boy

Who grinned at life in empty joy,

Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,

And whistled early with the lark.

In winter trenches, cowed and glum,

With crumps and lice and lack of rum,

He put a bullet through his brain.

No one spoke of him again.

You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye

Who cheer when soldier lads march by,

Sneak home and pray you'll never know

The hell where youth and laughter go."

I do not want to end on a sour note, but I do not think that we have learned the lessons of the past. I want to read another passage—again from Siegfried Sassoon—that could well have been written today. He said:

"I am making this statement as an act of wilful defiance of military authority, because I believe that the War is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it. I am a soldier, convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers. I believe that this War, on which I entered as a war of defence and liberation, has now become a war of

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aggression and conquest. I believe that the purpose for which I and my fellow soldiers entered upon this war should have been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible to change them, and that, had this been done, the objects which actuated us would now be attainable by negotiation. I have seen and endured the sufferings of the troops, and I can no longer be a party to prolong these sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust. I am not protesting against the conduct of the war, but against the political errors and insincerities for which the fighting men are being sacrificed."

I am sorry, but I think that we could say that of some of the wars that we are engaged in today, such as the war in Iraq. I fully support the proposal that the minister should put funding towards a commemorative memorial to the men who died at Passchendaele, but the greatest commemoration to those men would be not to go into any more wars.

17:35

Mr Jamie Stone (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) (LD): I take the opportunity to apologise to the Presiding Officer and the minister because I will have to leave after my speech to meet visitors who await me. I congratulate Murdo Fraser on securing the debate and on making what I thought was a very fine speech.

As many MSPs do, I lay a wreath every remembrance Sunday. As I did when I was a councillor, I go to the remembrance service in the parish church in my home town of Tain. Why do I do that, when I was born after the second war? My parents were in the second war, but the first world war is a long time ago. There are two reasons why I do so. The first is to do with my late father, who lost two uncles in the first war. Euan Robson mentioned a family that lost all four sons. There is not a family in the Highlands or in Scotland as a whole that was not touched by the first world war. My father lost Uncle Walter and Uncle Arthur, who both died bravely. He never forgot that. He would talk about them and about how it was said in the family that their death hastened the death of their father, who died of a broken heart shortly after the first world war. I have never forgotten that. When I go to Tain parish church, I think about such things and remember my late father for what he said.

Something else happened that brought home to me very directly and in a way that I cannot forget the effect that the first world war had on people's lives. When I was about 12 or 13, I was sent to stay with two elderly sisters in Tain because my parents had to go away. It was remembrance Sunday when they told me the story of how their brother, Ian Mackenzie, had been killed. He had fought with the Seaforth Highlanders right through the war, but was killed in its closing weeks just before the armistice on 11 November 1918. They talked of his brilliance. He was the son of the town clerk in Tain, who had gone all the way from a wee

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Highland town to Balliol College in Oxford, where he had been one of the brightest of his generation. I am slightly ashamed to say that as they told me about him, the tears poured down their cheeks. To them, although it had happened many years earlier, his death was as yesterday—he was their beloved elder brother. As we all know, as we get older such events are as yesterday. I have never forgotten that.

I accept that members have different attitudes to Europe. In a way, that is why I and many others are so passionate about, if not the European Commission, other forms of links between European countries. We have experienced the longest period of peace in Europe's history. Some would say that Europe has the most sophisticated societies in the world, but they are also the most bloodthirsty, in that their citizens have been given to killing each other for many hundreds of years.

I will close on a lighter note. When my Great Uncle Walter's will was read in 1918, to my family's concern it transpired that he had left what little money he had to children in Canada. He had never married, but he had worked in Canada before the war, so I obviously have cousins there. I do not know them and they do not know me, but I wish that they knew how brave their grandfather had been.

As Euan Robson said, it is right that we remember such events and that we teach future generations about them. We would be insane to forget history. I again congratulate Murdo Fraser on his motion.

17:39

The Deputy Minister for Communities (Des McNulty): As we have heard, on 7 June 1917, under the fields of Flanders, the most powerful man-made explosion to that date was detonated, an event that triggered an equally powerful and destructive earthquake. The explosion was the beginning of the Flanders offensive that culminated five months later with the taking by Canadian troops of what little remained of the village of Passchendaele and the loss of more half a million soldiers' lives. We now live in an age of remotely-controlled, high-tech warfare devices, but the death and destruction that were inflicted by artillery, machine guns, rifles, bayonets and barbed wire 90 years ago was just as devastating.

By 6 November 1917, when troops eventually occupied the village, allied forces had advanced hardly five miles—there was a huge cost in human life for little apparent gain. Some 300,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers—more than a quarter of the troops deployed—lay dead, injured or missing. On the other side of the lines, almost as many German soldiers lay dead or seriously

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injured. It is no coincidence that the Tyne Cot cemetery at Passchendaele, which Alasdair Morgan described, is the single largest British war cemetery anywhere in Europe. Indeed, of all those who died, it is estimated that two thirds, or 200,000 men, have no known grave.

Those of us who heard the poem by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, which Murdo Fraser read out tonight, or who have read the poems of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon or Erich Maria Remarque's "All Quiet on the Western Front" will have learned an instinctive revulsion for trench warfare—the sending of young men over the top to be mown down by the enemy—with its almost certain death. Yet even now, some military historians claim that, despite the carnage on both sides, the Flanders offensive helped to turn the tide of the war. The claim is that it provided time for defenceless French troops to recuperate and reorganise, thereby preventing German forces from taking advantage of low-morale and near mutiny in the French ranks. Moreover, such was the loss of German equipment at the battle of Passchendaele that the German high command could not recover sufficiently to prevent Germany's ultimate defeat less than a year later.

I would like to think that whatever contribution Passchendaele made towards ultimate victory, its bigger significance lies in our determination to ensure that all wars that involve the mass destruction of participants and civilians should be avoided. The history of the past 90 years tells us that the

"war to end all wars"

did not halt subsequent wars. Surely the horror of Passchendaele has not lost its impact. As members have said, it must influence Governments and individuals to choose peace over the dreadful consequences of war.

The Executive believes that what happened in Passchendaele deserves to be remembered and appropriately commemorated—all the more so because of the significant role of Scottish soldiers. As the motion correctly recognises, some 10 Scottish regiments participated in the offensive. Indeed, the organisers of the commemorative events that are to be held later this year in Belgium rightfully acknowledge the important and significant endeavour of the Scottish units, noting in particular the valour of the ninth, 15th and 51st divisions.

In raising a magnificent Celtic cross on the Frezenberg in Flanders, as part of an entire weekend of events, the organisers are commemorating the bravery of Scottish troops not only in Flanders or at the battle of Passchendaele, but throughout the entire first world war. As Tom

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Devine pointed out, Scottish soldiers suffered proportionately the heaviest battlefield casualties.

The organisers' efforts are to be highly commended. The Executive and, I am sure, the Parliament, supports them fully in that work. Indeed, as members have said, officials from the Executive's office in Brussels have been liaising closely with the organisers to assess how best and most appropriately the Executive can contribute to the commemorative events. As members will appreciate, veterans issues, including matters related to war memorials, are reserved to the Westminster Parliament. It has been a long-standing policy of successive Governments that the cost of erecting war memorials and associated projects are usually met not from public funds, but from private donations or public subscription.

However, in my view, it would be most inappropriate and disrespectful if the Executive were not to support the commemorations that are dedicated to the Scottish soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice some 90 or so years ago. Our soldiers fought alongside soldiers from other parts of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, France and the USA to defend our traditions, values and way of life.

Although we are unable to contribute directly towards the costs of the memorial itself, the Executive has demonstrated in the past that it is more than willing to contribute to the costs of commemorative events that recognise the courage, valour and sacrifice of Scots in conflict around the globe. In continuation of that commitment to commemorate and remember the valiant efforts of Scotland's armed forces, at home and abroad, past and present, I am happy to announce to Parliament this afternoon that the Executive will contribute the sum of £5,000 towards the overall costs of the commemorative events that are to be held in Zonnebeke as part of the Scottish weekend on 25 and 26 August. I hope that the Executive will also agree to be represented at the event that weekend, but I will not pre-empt the decision on that, which will of course be made following the election in May.

When we honour the fallen comrades of conflicts past, we should also acknowledge the contribution of Scottish servicemen and women who, even today, are putting their lives at risk in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. Our obligations to service personnel do not end when they hang up their uniforms, but continue when they have completed their time in the armed forces. Although the vast majority of servicemen and women return to civilian life successfully, some experience problems reintegrating into civilian society, sometimes as a direct consequence of their experience in conflict situations.

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It is therefore important that veterans who need holistic care and support services can access them, in the same way as any other vulnerable group in society. The Executive will continue to support the work of organisations such as Veterans Scotland in seeking new and innovative ways in which to meet the needs and aspirations of Scotland's veteran communities. It is essential that we offer ex-service personnel the right opportunities for productive and sustained employment; that we improve their access to opportunities and services in health, education or training; and, crucially, that we sustain the support and assistance that veterans need to make the transition into civic society as smooth as possible.

The importance of the entire series of commemorative events in Flanders this summer should not be underestimated. In the municipality of Zonnebeke, there are no fewer than 13 memorials that are dedicated to various units that fought at Passchendaele, although none of them is currently dedicated to a Scottish unit or regiment. Therefore, once the Scottish monument is inaugurated, it will be the first in the area to honour our fellow countrymen who fought and died in the fields of Flanders during 1917.

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In remembering our own, we must remember the fallen from elsewhere in the UK and from other countries, including Ireland, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, and the German soldiers who lost their lives in what was the single greatest slaughter of the first world war.

As members have said, we must renew our determination to avoid such carnage in the future. Scottish troops, in combination with service personnel from other parts of the UK and Europe, have worked together since 1945 to preserve the peace in Europe—a peace that has lasted. We must do our utmost to maintain that shared purpose and common commitment.

The Executive is happy to support fully Murdo Fraser's motion. I congratulate him on lodging it and on stimulating such a timely and thoughtful debate. I certainly hope that the events that take place later this year will be successful.

Meeting closed at 17:47.

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Looking forward to it John.

Stewart, would it be possible to make a scan? We try to follow a bit how the media are responding. Have you been in touch with our pipe major already?

Thanks

Erwin

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Hello Erwin,

Thanks for the email you sent, sorry I have not had a chance to reply, I've been busy organising my trip to ieper in August! :) I'm staying in the Chat Noir. I've not emailed the Pipie, yet. Will probably do that at the weekend.

Are you coming to Edinburgh? How long are you staying? I could try and come down and pass the newspaper cutting and CD of WW1 pipe music to you. Let me know what you think?

Regards,

Stewart

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Hello Erwin,

Thanks for the email you sent, sorry I have not had a chance to reply, I've been busy organising my trip to ieper in August! :) I'm staying in the Chat Noir. I've not emailed the Pipie, yet. Will probably do that at the weekend.

Are you coming to Edinburgh? How long are you staying? I could try and come down and pass the newspaper cutting and CD of WW1 pipe music to you. Let me know what you think?

Regards,

Stewart

Stewart if it's easier for you I work at the Parliament and could pass the items on if you wish. - John

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  • 4 weeks later...

I met Erwin at the Parliament today and what a privilige it was to meet a man so dedicated to the memory of our ancestors. I was also fortunate in that I was able to sit in (blag) on his presentation which was very well received. A number of MSP's including Dr Jean Turner, Murdo Fraser and Tommy Sheridan were present and suitably impressed. Erwin was presented with a magnificent display of Scottish regimental badge in case by Forumite Danny Macrae and looked well chuffed.

Erwin also presented magnificent lead statues to Murdo Fraser and Tommy Sheridan (dr Turner got hers yesterday) which had been cast by Shrapnel Charlie. Beautiful pieces of work and I can tell you Tommy Sheridan was near to tears as I was sitting next to him.

I think it's pennies in the jar time for me so I can get over in August, it's the day before my birthday as well. It was breathtaking the damage done to Erwin's home down during the battle , but he was quick to point out the town has been rebuilt , the Scots that fought there are gone, but crucially not forgotten. He was kind enough to remember my Grandfather during his talk.

Apolgies to anyone else that was there that I have not mentioned.

John

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Cripes , this must be the first time that anyone has said anything remotely interesting in a British parliament for many a year. Well done Erwin and all the Scottish Pals who helped organise this.

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John was a picture sitting next to Tommy Sherridan whom is more than used to Police presence . Evelyn McKechnie who helped to have this project to the attention of the parliment was there and was well chuffed with the whole process and Erwins presentation was superb .

Danny

post-2583-1172698570.jpg

post-2583-1172698593.jpg

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Thanks for that Dan :lol: Tommy and I have had a natter many a time, mainly about a certain group of exponents of the round ball game that we both follow :blink: - some of the family ex Rutherglen. The other John in the centre is the son of a Scots guardsman. For the record must be the only time that theres been cross party agreement on anything.

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Thanks for that Dan :lol: Tommy and I have had a natter many a time, mainly about a certain group of exponents of the round ball game that we both follow :blink: - some of the family ex Rutherglen. The other John in the centre is the son of a Scots guardsman. For the record must be the only time that theres been cross party agreement on anything.

You are welcome John :blink: did you say a cross party group agreed na my ears must need a clean

Dan

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It was nice to meet up with Dan and Avril for a drink in the Ewart in the afternoon. Sorry I missed the others. We are proposing to meet up again later this month with hopefully lots more forumites.

Aye

Malcolm

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A pity I missed you Malcolm.

Our Scottish tour was a succesful one, thanks to the splendid praparation of some Scottish friends, amongst them our own GWF pal Dan.

We had some very useful contacts which will surely be helpful in the preparation of the event on the 25th and 26th of August.

Hope to meet many Scots then

Erwin

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John was a picture sitting next to Tommy Sherridan whom is more than used to Police presence . Evelyn McKechnie who helped to have this project to the attention of the parliment was there and was well chuffed with the whole process and Erwins presentation was superb .

Danny

I forgot to add The photos was taken by Avril Williams in the parliment.

Dann

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