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Charles and Camilla attend Battle of Loos centenary service in Dundee

Published 26/09/2015

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are to attend a service to remember those who died in the Battle of Loos
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are to attend a service to remember those who died in the Battle of Loos

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall have joined around 1,000 people in Dundee to remember those who fought in one of the biggest battles of the First World War.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish Parliament's Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick and veterans and serving soldiers also attended the service marking the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Loos.

An estimated 21,000 British soldiers died in what was described as The Big Push, 7,000 of them Scottish.

Around 8,000 lives were lost within the first four hours of fighting on September 25 1915, the first day of battle.

Charles's great uncle, Captain Fergus Bowes-Lyon, died on the third day.

Dundee was one of the worst-affected areas, with a large number of the casualties coming from the 4th Black Watch based in the city.

The centenary commemoration began with a parade of about 250 current service personnel and 300 veterans.

The City Square was then transformed into a ''cathedral'', with four ministers from Dundee representing the Scottish Episcopal, Roman Catholic Church of Scotland, Church of Scotland and the Chaplain General to the Armed Forces.

Charles, known as the Duke of Rothesay when in Scotland, laid a wreath against a specially-commissioned memorial stone along with the First Minister and Lord Provost of Dundee Bob Duncan.

Dressed in Army general staff number 2 service dress (field marshal rank), Charles was joined by his wife Camilla, wearing a pink suit by Mr Roy trimmed with Rothesay tartan, for the service and a reception afterwards for forces personnel and veterans.

Events to mark the centenary of the battle started on Friday with the lighting of a beacon at dawn at the top of Dundee war memorial.

Ms Sturgeon said: "With around 30,000 Scots serving at Loos, its effect was felt throughout every village and town in Scotland.

"The weekend of national commemorations will be a fitting tribute to those that fought, those that died and those that were left at home."

Mr Duncan said: "The battle affected every Scottish regiment and was also Dundee's darkest hour.

"The terrible losses, particularly among local Black Watch battalions, had a profound effect on the city.

"This weekend presents an opportunity to remember their heroic sacrifice and to honour their memory."

Among those attending the service was Gordon Gow, 64, from Falkirk.

Mr Gow's uncle, Alexander Gow, of the Royal Scots, fought during the Battle of Loos and survived.

But he was badly wounded in a German counter-attack in 1916, and died in hospital, aged 19.

"These were young men, they were bairns who were killed for us to have our freedom," Mr Gow said, speaking before the service.

"It would be almost impossible to imagine the carnage, the living in trenches with lice and rats, being uncomfortable ... you are depending on your friends, " he said.

"The only books you could read are those that were sent over, or maybe a Bible. I imagine some of these men would look to some sort of religion to give them comfort during those dark, dangerous days."

Jimmy Sinclair, 103, the last surviving member of the Desert Rats soldiers, was also present.

Mr Sinclair, of Kirkcaldy, said: "It (the service) means a great lot to me.

"In the Second World War I was in Tobruk for nine months during the siege and I lost three very good pals.

"They were a brave lot."

He added: "It is terrible that so many died."

James Buchanan Smith described the service as a "wonderful commemoration".

His great-uncle, George Buchanan Smith, who fought with A Company, 2nd Battalion The Gordon Highlanders, died on the first day of the Battle of Loos, aged 24.

"I think it is so important that we reflect on what those who fought and died went through, " he said.

"There were so many who lost their lives at a very young age, and it's vital to remember that."

Unveiling a commemorative plaque at the reception, Charles said: "The units involved at the Battle of Loos form a roll-call of Scotlands finest regiments. They left the farms, factories and fishing villages of their native country and fought ferociously for our freedom in a foreign land.

"Their example is deeply humbling and is something in which the people of Scotland can take enormous and justifiable pride."

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