When members of all three armed forces marched down the Royal Mile yesterday accompanied by ­veterans and cadets, it marked the official start of Scotland's commemorations of the centenary of the First World War.

The march followed a service at Edinburgh Castle which recreated the drumhead services that were held on the front 100 years ago in which the troops used drums to create makeshift altars.

At the end of the march there was also an opportunity for personal remembrance and reflection at a memorial in Holyrood Park created from 1000 headstones. Brigadier David Allfrey, chief organiser of the service, said the memorial provided a sense of focus for acts of individual and collective commemoration.

Loading article content

There will always be some observers who feel uncomfortable with such events, but the first major event in Scotland's commemoration programme has succeeded in striking the right tone. From the start, the key objective of the commemorations has been to raise awareness, but it must also be to ask questions. And the most important of those questions is also the hardest to answer: what, 100 years on, can we learn from all this?