Wednesday, November 11, 2009

We shall remember them

As football remembered the fallen over the weekend, one of the most poignant acts of remembrance came at Tynecastle.

13 Hearts players volunteered to fight in 1914. The McCrae's Battalion website takes up the story:

In August 1914 Great Britain went to war with Germany. As eager young men flocked to join Lord Kitchener’s volunteer army, professional football became the target of a vitriolic campaign of unfounded abuse. Footballers, said the critics, were shirkers and cowards, content to hide at home while better men risked their lives at the front. The game was on the point of being ‘stopped’ by the government, until its reputation was saved by the enlistment of thirteen Heart of Midlothian players in a new battalion being promoted in Edinburgh by Lieutenant-Colonel Sir George McCrae.

The 'Football Sensation' captured the country’s imagination: McCrae’s Battalion (the 16th Royal Scots) was raised in record time. The example of the Tynecastle men was followed at once by around 500 of their supporters and ticket-holders – along with 150 followers of Hibernian. Other professionals volunteered from Raith Rovers, Falkirk and Dunfermline. In total, around 75 local clubs (of all levels) were represented – along with rugby players, hockey players, strongmen, golfers, bowlers and athletes of all persuasions.

Many would never return and, down the years, their sacrifice has become an integral part of Tynecastle's emotional history.

The author Jack Alexander published the definitive history of a quite remarkable story in McCrae's Battalion: The Story of the 16th Royal Scots.

It is a vivid and moving account of ordinary men required to adapt to the most extraordinary circumstances.

They are remembered at this time every year and with permanent memorials in Edinburgh (currently in storage) and in Contalmaison in France.

Take a moment to think about them today.

You can help the veterans of conflicts past and present at Poppyscotland