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Hundreds mark centenary of First World War's Battle of Jutland

Published 28/05/2016

HMS Warrior during the Battle of Jutland
HMS Warrior during the Battle of Jutland

Hundreds have gathered to mark the centenary of the largest naval battle of the First World War at the beginning of a week of commemorative events.

More than 8,500 British and German seamen died off the coast of Denmark in the 36-hour Battle of Jutland which began on May 31 1916 and changed the course of the war.

The Battlecruiser force deployed at Jutland sailed from the Firth of Forth, and events took place on both sides of the water in Rosyth, Fife, and South Queensferry, West Lothian.

Princess Anne and Vice-Admiral Sir Tim Laurence were joined by Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and Baroness Annabel Goldie to lay wreaths at Rosyth Parish Church.

The ceremony was followed by a service to remember those involved in the battle, during which local school pupils carried out readings and laid a book of remembrance on the church altar.

A minute's silence was held following the ringing of a bell made from the hull of HMS Tiger, a battlecruiser that suffered damage during the Jutland campaign.

Ms Sturgeon said: "This centenary commemoration is an opportunity for us to honour and pay tribute to the many thousands of sailors from both sides who lost their lives during the Battle of Jutland.

"The sacrifices made by those who fought in this battle, the largest naval encounter of the First World War, and by other seafarers throughout the conflict must never be forgotten."

Fife's depute provost councillor Kay Morrison said: "These commemorations provide an important opportunity for communities to come together to honour those who sacrificed their lives during the Battle of Jutland, one of the most significant naval battles of the First World War.

"The events in Fife and South Queensferry are also about remembering the sacrifices made by all of those who contributed to the war effort, and ensuring that their compelling stories are told for generations to come.

"Our naval heritage is an integral and valued part of Rosyth's history. Scotland, and Rosyth's naval dockyards, played a vital role in the UK's war efforts and the focus for these commemorations is reconciliation ."

Several hundred people lined the street outside the church in bright sunshine to watch the Princess Royal and other dignitaries arrive.

Their departure was delayed slightly after two cars were involved in a minor collision directly outside the church, and, in a separate incident, an elderly woman became unwell and collapsed in the road, later being taken to hospital by ambulance.

The dignitaries then attended a remembrance service at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery in South Queensferry, where 40 of those who lost their lives in the battle are commemorated or buried.

Relatives of those who fought at Jutland were among those attending, as well as school pupils from both Scotland and Germany.

Former Royal Naval Chaplain of the Fleet, Reverend Scott J. Brown and Chaplain of the Royal Naval Reserve Reverend Dr Marjory MacLean led the service.

Reverend Brown told the congregation: "We come together today in remembrance and thanksgiving to honour all Naval personnel who served in the Battle of Jutland and especially those who lost their lives in the service of their king and country and in the cause of liberty and peace."

"We recall with thanksgiving the importance of South Queensferry, and the wider Firth of Forth, in the Battle of Jutland, and the care given here for the injured and the bereaved."

During a prayer he asked "that we may be taught to live by those who learned to die".

Singer Barbara Dickson sang the lament Flowers Of The Forest then the Princess Royal laid a wreath to commemorate those lost. A Scottish and a German pupil also laid wreaths for the fallen.

The royals and the first minister spoke to the families of casualties of the battle. Elizabeth Dickson, 80, was present as her father and uncle both fought. Her uncle Archie, 16, died, and her father Bertie, 18 at the time, survived.

She said: "I feel like the present and the long-ago past were all together today. I feel the whole thing was that forgiveness is fundamental."

After the service, hundreds of people lined the streets at the town's Hawes Pier for the final event of the day, HMS Kent recreating the departure of the Battlecruiser force.

The band of HM Royal Marines (Scotland) performed the Beating Retreat and Ceremonial Sunset while the ship weighed anchor and fired a gun, then sailed alongside the MV Fingal, dazzle painted by artist Ciara Phillips.

The Princess Royal unveiled a commemorative plaque which will be put in place at the town's shore.

On Tuesday, exactly 100 years since the battle started, members of the UK Government and Royal Family will join descendants of those who fought for a service at St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall.

They are being remembered on Orkney as the British Grand Fleet was launched from Scapa Flow to repel German forces attempting to break a British blockade.

Both sides claimed victory as the Germans lost 11 ships and Britain 14, but the enemy's naval fleet was seriously weakened and failed to significantly challenge the British again during the conflict.

German president Joachim Gauck will join the Duke of Edinburgh at the service, which will be followed by a second memorial at Lyness Cemetery on Hoy - the final resting place for more than 450 service personnel who died in the war, including sailors killed at Jutland.

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