The Proudest Moment of a Proud Club
Never have so many owed so much to so few. Although these words were spoken by Winston Churchill in assessing the Second World War, the same applies to the conflict that preceded it. And this sentiment is well represented the Heart of Midlothian War Memorial which stands at Haymarket.
In November 1914, with Heart of Midlothian comfortably leading the First Division, sixteen players removed their football boots for those of the army, enlisting to fight in France. In doing so, they became the first British team to sign up en masse. They were part of the now legendary "McCrae's Battalion" (the 16th Royal Scots) or the Provost's Battalion (the First Royal Scots) and fought valiantly. Nowhere was this more true than at the horrors of the Somme, where the British army lost 20,000 men on the first day alone. This included three Hearts players.
The example of Heart of Midlothian inspired fans and fellow professionals alike to answer the call of King and country. By the time the war concluded, seven Hearts first-teamers had made the ultimate sacrifice. They were:
SERGEANT DUNCAN CURRIE
SERGEANT JOHN ALLAN
LANCE CORPORAL JAMES BOYD
CORPORAL TOM GRACIE
PRIVATE ERNEST ELLIS
PRIVATE JAMES SPEEDIE
PRIVATE HENRY WATTIE
To honour these men and the many others who fought in both world wars, a memorial was erected in 1922. It is presently situated in the Haymarket, near the offices where the first batch of players enlisted. In all likelihood this will be moved when the City of Edinburgh Council finalises their proposal for new tram lines.
Every Remembrance Sunday officials, players and supporters of Heart of Midlothian Football Club gather to pay their respects. There also exists a Great War Committee, which has raised funds to finance a commemorative cairn at Contalmaison in France. For more information on this, see the Great War Memorial Committee website.
Image courtesy of Jack Alexander McCrae's Battalion archive.