HUNDREDS gathered in Dundee yesterday to mark the 100th anniversary of one of the biggest battles of the First World War, in which an estimated 21,000 British soldiers died.

The Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and veterans and serving soldiers were among more than1,000 people attending the service to remember the Battle of Loos.

Around 7,000 Scottish soldiers were killed in the battle, with many casualties from the Dundee-based 4th Black Watch - leading it to be described as the city's "darkest hour".

The battle, in the north of France, was part of the Artois offensive. While it failed to provide a major breakthrough for the Allies, German defences were heavily penetrated with around 8,000 yards of enemy trenches were seized.

The casualties included the great-uncle of Prince Charles, Captain Fergus Bowes-Lyon, who died on the third day.

Among those attending the service yesterday was James Buchanan Smith, who described the service as a "wonderful commemoration".

His great-uncle, George Buchanan Smith, who fought with A Company, 2nd Battalion The Gordon Highlanders, died on the first day of the Battle of Loos, aged 24.

"I think it is so important that we reflect on what those who fought and died went through, " he said.

"There were so many who lost their lives at a very young age, and it's vital to remember that."

Jimmy Sinclair, 103, from Kirkcaldy, the last surviving member of the Desert Rats soldiers, was also present.

He said: "It (the service) means a great lot to me. It is terrible that so many died."

The centenary commemoration began with a parade of about 250 current service personnel and 300 veterans.

The City Square was then transformed into a ''cathedral'', with four ministers from Dundee representing the Scottish Episcopal, Roman Catholic Church of Scotland, Church of Scotland and the Chaplain General to the Armed Forces.

Prince Charles laid a wreath against a specially-commissioned memorial stone, along with the First Minister and Lord Provost of Dundee Bob Duncan.

Events to mark the centenary of the battle started on Friday with the lighting of a beacon at dawn at the top of Dundee war memorial.

Sturgeon said: "With around 30,000 Scots serving at Loos, its effect was felt throughout every village and town in Scotland.

"The weekend of national commemorations will be a fitting tribute to those that fought, those that died and those that were left at home."

Duncan said: "The battle affected every Scottish regiment and was also Dundee's darkest hour.

"The terrible losses, particularly among local Black Watch battalions, had a profound effect on the city.

"This weekend presents an opportunity to remember their heroic sacrifice and to honour their memory."