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Last Updated: Sunday, 7 November, 2004, 16:00 GMT
Memorial tribute to brave Hearts
Image courtesy of Jack Alexander/McCrae's Battalion Archive
Hearts players answered the call at the start of the war
A memorial to Hearts footballers and supporters from the east of Scotland who fought in the Battle of the Somme has been unveiled in France.

The stone cairn in Contalmaison stands as a tribute to the men of the 16th Royal Scots, including the entire Heart of Midlothian first team.

The players were top of the league when they enlisted in November 1914.

The Royal Scots were involved in fierce fighting at the Somme in 1916 and many never returned home.

The battalion, which was raised by Lieutenant Colonel Sir George McCrae and became known as McCrae's Own, pushed ahead of other Allied units into Contalmaison on 1 July, the first day of the battle.

It is vital that this and future generations of Scots know about this critical period of our history and what these brave men did
Rhona Brankin
Deputy health minister
However, three quarters of the battalion became casualties and several players from the Edinburgh team were among the dead.

A stone plaque honouring the Royal Scots was unveiled in Edinburgh's Haymarket in 1922 but McCrae did not live to see his plan for a memorial in Contalmaison become a reality because of a lack of funds.

Hearts Great War Memorial Appeal members have now completed that "unfinished business" in France.

Supreme sacrifice

They spent about a year raising the required 50,000 and received 5,000 from both Edinburgh City Council and the Scottish Executive.

Midlothian MSP and Deputy Health Minister Rhona Brankin attended the event and paid tribute to those who made the supreme sacrifice in World War I.

Ms Brankin said: "I am honoured to be able to represent the Scottish Executive at this very important event.

"Hearts provided the focus for the battalion but it also drew substantially on contingents from players at Raith Rovers, Falkirk and Hibernian supporters.

"It is vital that this and future generations of Scots know about this critical period of our history and what these brave men did."

Wait is over for Hearts memorial
24 Oct 04  |  Scotland
Memorial to football's soldiers
14 Jan 04  |  Scotland


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