PUPILS have planted 215 trees to form a special grove at Scotland’s First World War centenary wood as a “growing tribute” to the 216 Scots soldiers who died in Britain’s largest rail disaster.

The 216th tree will be planted on May 23 by children from Leith High in Edinburgh in the Pentland Hills woodland to mark the centenary of the Quintinshill rail crash in Gretna Green in


The disaster involved five trains and remains the UK’s largest rail crash in terms of loss of life. All but 10 of the 226 casualties were soldiers from the 7th (Leith) Battalion Royal Scots, who were on their way to fight at Gallipoli.

Carol Evans, director of the Woodland Trust Scotland, said: “Scotland’s First World War centenary wood is a growing tribute to everyone who lived through the conflict, from those who paid the highest price and their families, to the hardworking men and women off the battlefield.

“The First World War led to enormous sacrifices from the people who served and the people who lived through it. The tragic impact of this rail disaster was felt around the world and we were proud to be asked by the Leith Trust to create this special grove within the woodland.”

Leith High School head teacher Jack Simpson said planting the trees had made pupils more aware of the tragedy.

He said: “Given the importance of this commemoration of an event with huge reverberations for the Leith community in 1915, it is right and proper that pupils from the school, as representatives of the youth community in Leith in 2015, are involved in a practical way.

“The pupils’ involvement has made them more aware of the tragedy and of the lives of some of the individuals affected and given them a better understanding of the scale of what happened. The tree planting will, in a very tangible way, emphasise just how many lives were lost and it is a fitting tribute that the school is pleased to be associated with.”

The Woodland Trust Scotland is working in partnership with the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) – the MoD’s property and services provider – to create the centenary wood. It is one of four to be planted by the charity in the UK to create a living memorial of the conflict.

The Woodland Trust is planting millions of trees to mark the centenary with the support of lead partner Sainsbury’s, key individuals and charitable trusts, landowners, schools and community groups.

The First World War Centenary Woods project is supported by the Trust’s lead partner, Sainsbury’s, helping to plant millions of native trees to commemorate the First World War.

Sir Andrew Cubie CBE, chair of The Leith Trust, said: “The train crash at Quintinshill was a tragic event for the community of Leith with many families affected by personal loss. It is therefore very appropriate that the young people of Leith today are paying tribute to those young men who died 100 years ago by planting this lovely grove of trees.”