Royal Navy remembers American sacrifice 100 years on

Sailors from the UK’s newest aircraft carrier gathered in Edinburgh on Monday 28 May to pay their respects to American soldiers who gave their lives in the First World War

Royal Navy remembers American sacrifice 100 years onThe monument, known as ‘The Call’, immortalises the sacrifice made by the 199 men of the American Expeditionary Force who died at the Battle of Cantigny one-hundred years ago on 28 May 1918.

Captain Chris Smith ADC, the Naval Regional Commander for Scotland and Northern Ireland laid a wreath at the event on behalf of the UK Armed Forces. 

He said: “It is a real honour to be part of this commemoration on the centenary of the first American combat in the First World War and to acknowledge that they made the same sacrifice that British troops did on the Western Front. The involvement of US Troops tends to get lost amid the focus on more well-known battles, but their contribution was absolutely essential to the Allied success.”

He continued, “Having recently been part of the commemoration for the loss of American troops off the coast of Islay, the Royal Navy is very happy to have been asked to take the lead at this year’s annual service at the Scottish American War Memorial.”

It is a real honour to be part of this commemoration on the centenary of the first American combat in the First World War and to acknowledge that they made the same sacrifice that British troops did on the Western Front

Captain Chris Smith ADC, the Naval Regional Commander for Scotland and Northern Ireland

The memorial was erected in 1927, funded by Americans of Scottish descent who wished to recognise the bravery and sacrifice of Scottish soldiers during World War One. It depicts a seated, kilted, soldier on a low plinth with a rifle across his knees.

The service in Edinburgh was timed to coincide with Memorial Day in America and was organised by the Royal British Legion. HMS Prince of Wales formed the Colour Guard for the event, with an American Honour Guard from the 48th Fighter Wing US Air Force based at RAF Lakenheath. Also attending were members of the Edinburgh Garrison and the Highland and Lowland Bands of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

The US joined the War in April 1917, but it wasn’t until May the following year that they became directly involved in the fighting.  After months of training, their first taste of the conflict came with the Battle of Cantigny on 28 May 1918. 

The US 1 Division captured the village of Cantigny, a valuable position providing a lookout over the surrounding area and held it against seven counter-attacks by the Germans, resulting in 1,067 casualties of which 199 were fatal.

At the time of declaring war on Germany, the US’ armed forces were roughly equivalent in size to those of Portugal and designed to fight the wars of previous years. Resisting the call to simply provide US soldiers as reinforcements to British and French battalions, General J ‘Black Jack’ Pershing insisted on deploying his men as American divisions, which required a period of training.

Sensing that American involvement could tip the balance in the Allies’ favour, Germany launched a series of offensives in the spring of 1918, aiming to divide the British and French armies.  As a result, the US divisions were sent into action earlier than planned with the Battle of Cantigny being the first offensive led by the US with French support.

HMS Prince of Wales is the second of the new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers to be built for the UK and was formally named in September last year at Rosyth dockyard.