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Last Updated: Saturday, 1 July 2006, 12:18 GMT 13:18 UK
Clubs commemorate Somme sacrifice
Wreath being laid at the cairn
Wreaths were laid at the cairn in Contalmaison
Officials from Hearts and Hibernian football clubs have taken part in a service to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the battle of the Somme.

Both teams contributed to an Edinburgh battalion which suffered heavy losses on the first day of the battle.

Fifteen Hearts footballers and one Hibs player enlisted for the 16th Battalion of the Royal Scots.

Former managers, players and supporters were among 200 people who attended the service at the village of Contalmaison.

Wreaths were laid and a Royal Scots piper played at the event, which took place as other services of remembrance were held in France.

We must not and will not forget the greatest achievement in the history of Hearts
Club spokesman

More than 19,000 British soldiers died on the first day of the battle - the British Army's worst day - and 125,000 were killed over the next five months.

Four Hearts players lost their lives at the Somme, including captain Sergeant Duncan Currie.

Players from the two Edinburgh clubs had been persuaded to enlist by Colonel Sir George Macrae.

This proved to be a useful recruiting tool and their lead was followed by hundreds of supporters of both clubs.

The battalion, which was among the first to go over the top and into battle, suffered devastating losses, with about three quarters being killed.

Killed in action

A small group managed to reach the village of Contalmaison, where wreaths were laid at a traditional Scottish cairn on Saturday.

The flag the battalion carried into battle 90 years ago was also unfurled at the memorial service.

Actor Ken Stott, a lifelong Hearts fan, read from the letters of an officer and head maths teacher at an Edinburgh high school who was killed in action.

Veterans in Dundee

The vice-chairman of the Royal British Legion Scotland, George MacDonald, said the ceremony had been "first class".

"By being here and laying our wreaths we remembered all that happened here on 1 July, 1916," he said.

"Many people made the trip to mark the occasion and it shows that those who gave their lives will never be forgotten. Their bravery will always be remembered."

A Hearts spokesman said: "We must not and will not forget the greatest achievement in the history of Hearts. We are forever indebted to those brave men."

A Hibernian spokesman added: "We are proud of the part these men played in making the ultimate sacrifice and we are ever grateful for any opportunity to remember them."

'Sense of unity'

Meanwhile, hundreds of servicemen and women gathered in Dundee to mark Scotland's first Veterans Day.

The event, which coincided with the Somme anniversary, saw the soldiers parading through Dundee city centre before holding a wreath-laying ceremony and badge presentation.

The minister for veterans, Tom Watson MP, said: "I hope the event in Dundee will be instrumental in encouraging a sense of unity between veterans and raise awareness amongst the public of the roles of veterans in the community."

A spokeswoman for Veterans Scotland said it was hoped the Dundee event could become an annual occasion.


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