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Lord Provost

Reflecting on the Battle of the Somme Centenary

I’m in store for another busy week as preparations get underway for Royal Week.

As the Lord Lieutenant - the Queen’s representative in Edinburgh - it is my duty and honour to welcome Her Majesty and His Royal Highness to Edinburgh and to attend their many engagements during their stay, starting with the Ceremony of the Keys.

From the official Opening of the Scottish Parliament on Saturday to the Queen’s Garden Party, Royal Week never fails to create a real buzz around the city giving residents and tourists a rare glimpse of the Queen, reminding us of the Royal family’s ancient and enduring links with Edinburgh.

But before it kicks off, I am looking forward to taking the opportunity to pause and reflect on one of the biggest and saddest moments in British military history – the Battle of the Somme.

Fought between July and November 1916, the Battle of the Somme was one of the defining events of the First World War and the largest battle on the western front. It saw over one million people wounded, killed or missing on both sides of the battlefield – affecting the lives of millions more back home.


The first day of the 141-day campaign was July 1 1916. It was and still is the deadliest day in the history of the British Army. Almost 20,000 British Empire soldiers lost their lives in just 24 hours making it one of the bloodiest battles in human history. In fact, only the German clashes with Russia during the Second World War caused more deaths.

Fifty one Scottish battalions took part in the campaign, including the renowned 16th Battalion Royal Scots ‘McCrae’s Battalion’, which was largely composed of Hearts players along with those from several other Scottish teams. Last year, I unveiled a new street sign for the area in front of the Usher Hall in their memory - McCrae's Place. The Battalion lost 12 officers and 573 soldiers in the attack on the first day.

One hundred years on, people from all over Edinburgh will come together at the Scottish National War Memorial tonight to honour those men who fought and died for their country and to ensure their memory and legacy lives on.

I will be attending the vigil and will light a candle in remembrance. If you would like to take part, there are still a few free tickets available to the vigils taking place and you can reserve them here.

Tomorrow morning, Edinburgh will also take part in a national two minute silence at 7:28am. It will mark the moment the first wave of soldiers went over the top in the Battle of the Somme. I hope you will join me and countless others to pause and reflect before another busy day commences.

Until next time,