On the surface it is a simple story of some footballers who joined the army and most of them were killed. Beneath the surface there is a tremendous tale of glory, sacrifice and shame. A football team who challenged and beat the best clubs in the country, they were the best in the country and then shamed by society for their apparant indifference to the Great War raging overseas. Many answered the call and paid the ultimate sacrifice alongside many of their countrymen.
After the war their story slipped in oblivion until a young local author many years after the events tackled their story and highlighted the shame of those in authority who chose not to remember.
The story is one of football, of soldiering, of war and of sacrifice. When I was reading the book I started to recognise the locales, I am born and bred in Edinburgh. I also started to recognise the characters, the families and the men, the jobs that they did and the society in which the story lives. My mothers father would have recognised much more, he was one of that generation although he had joined up before the outbreak of hostilities and was a regular in the Royal Scots serving in India and Palestine before doing his bit in the trenches. He left many of his chums behind in Flanders.
From The Scotsman, Friday, 28 December 1928:
McCrae. - At Turluish, North Berwick, on 27th December, Colonel Sir George McCrae, DSO. Service in Lady Glenorchy's Established Church, Roxburgh Place, Edinburgh, on Saturday 29th December at 2 p.m.; thereafter funeral, with military honours, to Grange Cemetery. Those desirous of attending, kindly accept this (the only) intimation and invitation.
A great many people were 'desirous of attending' - as friends, mark you, not just respectful strangers. The turn-out for Sir George McCrae's funeral remains the largest ever seen in Scotland. Businesses closed, traffic was suspended, the streets of the capital's old southside were so crowded that in the words of one was there, 'you might have thought the King had passed away'. Yet today the memory of the man, and of the brilliant battalion that he raised and later commanded on the Western Front, has dimmed to the point of extinction.
This, at long last, is their story.
I can strongly recommend that you read this story!