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Shetland pays tribute to those who gave their lives

ISLANDERS commemorated the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War with a Festival of Remembrance. Alex Garrick-Wright reports.

Over a number of nights leading up to the weekend the images of 560 Shetlanders who died in the conflict were projected onto the wall of Lerwick Town Hall. Of the 4,300 Shetlanders who went to serve in the war in the various armed and support services over 600 did not return.

Saturday saw the Festival of Remembrance held at Clickimin. It opened with a special exhibition on Shetlanders in the war bringing together the work and research of schools, history groups as well as local historians.

The day was brought to a close with a moving and informative concert which combined a history lecture by local broadcaster Mary Blance, readings of soldiers’ letters, journals and poetry by Jim Mainland, and music by a variety of local musicians including the Lerwick Brass Band, the Lerwick Pipe Band, the Shetland Choral Society and fiddle group Hjaltibonhoga.

In addition the Rev Thomas Macintyre led a multi-denominational ‘drumhead’ service, a military tradition where drums are assembled into a pyramid and draped with the regimental colours to form a makeshift altar in the field. Following the service, two minutes silence and Last Post, came a cascade of paper poppy leaves which fluttered down in front of the altar.

On Sunday morning – Armistice Day – the traditional remembrance ceremony took place at the Lerwick War Memorial. Well attended by dozens of locals as well as representatives of a wide range of military, emergency services and civilian organisation, the service was conducted by Rev Macintyre.

Scenes from the 14-18 Now Pages of the Sea commemoration of those who lost their lives in the First World War held at St Ninian’s beach, Bigton, Shetland. Photos: Austin Taylor

Anderson High School history teacher Jon Sandison said: “It was a really poignant morning and just a reminder of what then isles lost 100 years ago. It was great to see the community come together and remember that.”

In the afternoon, almost 1,000 people turned up at St Ninian’s Isle beach to take part in Pages of the Sea, part of a nationwide art commission by the 14-18 NOW project.

Using large stencils and rakes, volunteers drew silhouettes of serviceman. Nurses, munitions workers and others into the sand, to be washed away by the rising tide.

St Ninian’s Isle was one of dozens of beaches throughout the UK taking part in the project, although the volunteers had to operate in a far tighter window than those in other parts of the UK owing to Shetland’s early sunset.

“The turnout’s been fantastic,” said National Theatre of Scotland’s Derek Gilchrist who was coordinating the event. “We’re celebrating – or commemorating – the 100thanniversary of the armistice at the end of the First World War, so it’s a really important day for everybody to sit back and reflect of those millions of people who lost their lives or contributed to the war effort.”

Up to 40 million people worldwide died in the four-year conflict, including an estimated 19 million servicemen from all involved nations.

Known at the time variously as the Great War and the War to End All Wars the First World War came to an end on 11 November 1918 when the German government signed the Armistice in a railway coach in the forest of Compiègne, near Paris.