Today's news that Hearts will wear a Remembrance Shirt with an embroidery of the club's Cairn at Contalmaison is as a result of the club's finest hour.

Today we tell that story once again...


In November of 1914 Heart of Midlothian topped the Scottish First Division.

However, possibly the greatest team to ever wear the famous maroon jersey stepped forward for a much greater cause.

Eleven Hearts players became the first professional footballers in the country to enlist in a new battalion which was being raised by the charismatic and much-loved Edinburgh politician and businessman Sir George McCrae.

Within a week 1350 men had been gathered including many shareholders and supporters of 'the Hearts'.

They were joined by fellow professionals from Raith Rovers, Falkirk, Dunfermline and East Fife.

Supporters of these teams and Hearts city rivals Hibs stood side by side for a cause far nobler than football and took their place in "McCrae's Battalion".

On 1st July 1916 - the bloody opening day of the Battle of the Somme - seventeen British divisions assaulted an impregnable German defensive system, bristling with barbed wire and machine guns.

20,000 British soldiers died that morning, a further 40,000 were wounded. Entire battalions of pals, brothers, neighbours and work-mates were wiped out in a matter of minutes.

Amid this awful carnage it was 'McCrae's' - the Sportsman's Battalion - that penetrated furthest into the enemy position.

They lost almost three quarters of their strength in doing so. Somehow though a small pressed on to reach the tiny ruined village of Contalmaison, deep inside the German trench system.

They were heroes were their achievement lay largely unrecognised for decades until almost 90 years later.

In November 2004, a 14-foot high traditional Scottish cairn was unveiled in Contalmaison to "set right a historic wrong".

Constructed by Scottish craftsmen, using entirely Scottish materials, sourced in Caithness, Nairnshire, Moray and the Lothians, it is already recognised as the most handsome battalion memorial to be erected in the Somme since the high-water mark of such commemorative projects in the 1920s.

The fundraising committee that built the Cairn has now evolved into the Scottish Registered Charity number 037303 - the "McCrae's Battalion Trust".

The Trust now runs annual pilgrimages to Contalmaison on the anniversary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme and it is fitting that representatives from Hearts, Hibs, Falkirk, Raith Rovers and East Fife are amongst the regular attendees to pay their respects to former colleagues and supporters that won a trophy much more valuable than any piece of silverware.