Just now we’re busy working with Forthview Primary School & our Historic Environment Scotland colleagues at Edinburgh Castle. Together we are exploring the topic of World War One with Primary 7. During our investigations we’ll be looking closely at the Scottish National War Memorial.
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The Scottish National War Memorial was created to honour the dead of the Great War, and is found in Crown Square within Edinburgh Castle. In 1917 before the War had even ended, the idea for the memorial was suggested by John George Stewart Murray – the 8th Duke of Atholl.
His idea caused a lot discussion and debate, not everyone agreed with his vision. Some people were worried it would focus too much on the military, rather than all Scots involved in the War effort. Also, after the site at Edinburgh Castle had been chosen, others were concerned it would look out of place – because of these challenges, early plans for the memorial were changed.
Between 1924-7, the building was designed by the architect Robert Lorimer. He suggested an existing building could be changed and altered to form a remembrance hall. Previously the building had been used as a barracks to house soldiers. The architect worked with over 200 Scottish artists to transform the barracks into the remembrance hall & create a shrine.
The memorial was estimated to cost £250,000. Therefore a lot of money that had to be raised, events like Thistle Day took place and fundraising started – for example commemorative postage stamps were issued. The public donated large sums of money in support. In August 1922 the money needed was finally raised, so construction could begin.
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Inside the building, the long hall has short wings and a central entrance gives the plan the form of the letter E.
The central shrine holds a large casket, which contains the Rolls of Honour. These are lists of over 150,000 names of those who lost their lives.
Space didn’t allow the names of the dead to be carved in stone, so they were inscribed in books of remembrance. Today visitors can still view these books, listing the names of all Scottish casualties of World War One, World War Two & all conflicts since.
It took ten years of determined work, however the Scottish National War Memorial was officially opened by The Prince of Wales, who later became King Edward VIII, on 14th July 1927.
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Images © St.Andrews University Library, Historic Environment Scotland, National Museums of Scotland, National Trust for Scotland, National Library of Scotland – Moving Image Archive | Licensor Scran
Possible discussion questions:
- Why do you think the Duke of Atholl felt it was important for Scotland to have a National Memorial?
- What impression do you get from the Memorial?
- How does it make you feel?
- Why is it important that we remember?