Scotland’s role in the battles of the Great War cost the country more than 105,000 men. In all, around 750,000 Scottish men fought in World War I.

There were many reasons for signing up. Solders may have been motivated by patriotism, others drawn by the promise of a military wage - while some would have been carried along by peer pressure.

But in the volunteering period between 1914 and early 1916, Scotland provided a disproportionate number of soldiers.

A new documentary from Scottish filmmakers is now looking at one of the most important battles in Scotland’s history, which also became infamous as one of the bloodiest, ending the lives of an estimated 18,000 Scots.

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The Battle of Arras took place in a small French town in April 1917, and was hugely significant - not just for the thousands of Scottish soldiers involved, but as a strategic turning point on the Western Front.

Filmed in Scotland and France, Glasgow-based Up Next Studios’ latest documentary speaks to world experts, to uncover the story of this largely-forgotten battle, and of the men who paid the ultimate price.

Presenter and historian Fergus Sutherland told The Herald just why the battle of Arras was particularly significant for Scots.

“Going by the numbers, it’s the biggest battle in Scottish history”, he explained. “More Scots were gathered together to fight than at any other battle in history.”

Thousands of men from a total of 44 Scottish battalions, as well as 7 Canadian battalions with Scottish heritage were present, marking the first time that all of the Scottish regiments had fought together.

Mr Sutherland added that a third of the 159,000 allied casualties were Scottish, making it a huge event in Scotland’s national history, despite it being “very rarely talked about.”

“We rightly hear about the Somme, Passchendaele, Loos, Mons, all horrific battles which are scarred onto our collective memory, but Arras? – not so much”, he said.

“Our documentary tries to go some way to correcting that gap in our history.”

The Scots, who were very much in the front line of the first assault on the morning of 9th April, remained so throughout the ensuing 5 weeks.

One of the most remarkable stories told in the documentary is of how underground tunnels were used to bypass the barbed wire and the killing fields of No Man’s Land.

Over 20,000 men lived hidden for weeks underneath the “shattered” city of Arras, in what became an incredible subterranean town still accessible for visitors today.

HeraldScotland: Over 20,000 men lived hidden for weeks underneath the townOver 20,000 men lived hidden for weeks underneath the town

Mr Sutherland said: “When they appeared out of the blizzard on that first morning and attacked the German soldiers in their own trenches it must have been an incredible shock – and it was incredibly effective, leading to the greatest breakthrough on the Western Front up to that date.”

The 60-minute long documentary will also feature some of the latest GFX techniques, used to rebuild the town of Arras and explore what it was like for the Scots who fought in the town.

However, it’s the story of Lieutenant Donald Mackintosh that will always stick with the historian.

“I already knew of his father from having researched the history of the Western Infirmary where he was Medical Superintendent and he was a major figure in its history”, he explained.

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“So finding out that one of the 25 men who received the Victoria Cross for their bravery during the Battle of Arras was actually his son, brought the story very close to home to someone who’s lived in the West End of Glasgow for most of my life.

“As one of our expert contributors says in the film, there were probably many many acts of bravery that we never hear about but, even then, Donald Mackintosh’s story stands out.”

He led his men on an assault on German lines that Mr Sutherland described as “nothing more than a suicide mission”, he “walked into a wall of machine gun bullets”, and was only brought down when after being wounded for a third time - until then continuing to lead fearlessly from the front.

“When you stand on the Sunken Road and walk into the broad, flat fields that they marched across the full reality of what happened and how desperate their situation was is physically, immediately clear – there was nowhere to hide or to take cover”, explained Mr Sutherland.

“No wonder nearly every man in that attack was killed or injured – they had no chance at all, which makes the achievement of Mackintosh and his men of reaching the enemy line so remarkable, if, ultimately, of no lasting effect.“

In the documentary, the filmmakers visit the grave of Donald Mackintosh in one of the many local war cemeteries, which Sutherland described as “a moment of great truth and privilege.”

“To kneel beside the grave and know what this 21 year old Glaswegian had done and had given – that’s not something you forget.”

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 The documentary ‘Arras: Scotland’s forgotten battle’ has been picked up by the American distribution company 7 Palms, and will be available for international release soon.