ABs and Scots play on day of remembrance

Last updated 05:00 10/11/2012

SOMBER SITE: Edinburgh Gardens where white crosses, form a sea of remembrance.

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Twelve-thousand tiny crosses. Twelve-thousand lives lost.

As freezing rain sprinkles down in Edinburgh, the Scottish capital, volunteers meticulously plant white crosses, forming a sea of remembrance around the towering monument in the city centre.

In a matter of seconds bullets and bomb blasts cruelly claimed these soldier's futures.

Contrastingly, this memorial takes all week to complete.

Each of these crosses represents absent loved ones. Each are personalised by family members. Each has a picture and detailed messages of the fathers, brothers, friends and mentors who died on the battlefields; gave their lives for what they thought was the greater good.

This is a powerful image, one which will inspire the Scots as they face their own battle with the All Blacks at Murrayfield on Monday morning (NZT).

For the last 91 years, on 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the moment which marked the end of the Great War hostilities, this nation stops to pay tribute with two-minutes silence.

Even the BBC Scotland television and radio airways cease.

Obviously, in this case, words only cheapen pictures. Sometimes silence is the greatest gift. 

Offices, schools, shops, main streets, airports and homes come to a joint standstill.

So will All Blacks great Bryan Williams and selected players who attend that service.

The moving remembrance theme has been impossible to escape this week - people constantly surround the memorial to catch a glimpse of preparations.

Seemingly every citizen is donning a red poppy, fittingly on the left-side of their chests, signifying blood spilt during duty.

Of course, every New Zealander can resonate with the poppy - we use the same symbol to honour our brave soldiers on Anzac day.

Standing in the rain at the Edinburgh Gardens, as the familiar bagpipes ring out across the city, just as they do throughout New Zealand on Anzac day, is war veteran Euan Scroggie, who gave full service to the Royal Scottish regiment. 

"They've got a garden laid out and families put little wooden crosses there to remember the soldiers lost in the various wars," Scroggie explains.

Even today, the death toll continues to rise.

Since their deployment in 2001, Britain has lost 437 men in Afghanistan alone.

"It carries on going up every year," Scroggie laments.

 The All Blacks are well aware of the alternatively named Armistice Day. Not long after arriving they attended the military parade.

"We are playing on the remembrance day of World War One so it's a bit of a spectacle. There's a good buzz around town," All Blacks flanker Liam Messam observed. "It's going to be the same on Sunday (local time). I'd say that's why they pushed the game out to then."

Not everyone is pleased the fixture has been moved, but there are no doubts the majority of Edinburgh locals are behind the concept with the traditional clash almost sold-out for the first time since Murrayfield was redeveloped in 1994. 

"That is a huge sign of respect," Scroggie says. "It shows an appreciation for how important the 11th is.

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"It is a very good thing that there is a lot of respect for this particular occasion. There are a lot of old soldiers about and the crowds will gather in town on Sunday."

In another sign of respect, the All Blacks' tracksuits will feature poppies during the national anthems. And while the tourists have the haka for inspiration, Scotland and their passionate people will soak up the one-minute silence at the famous ground before kick-off, as poppies flash up on the big screens. 

Scottish rugby and the military have a long history. Their players are sure to be fired up to recognise those fallen comrades, and there will no shortage of ammunition in the opening exchanges. 

- Stuff


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