A battalion of young soldiers who died a hundred years ago inspired a group of young people from Leith to achieve more than they ever believed possible, in honouring their memory.

The group of young people came together as part of The Prince’s Trust Achieve programme which helps young people who are struggling at school, giving them confidence and motivation. 

They were all underachieving in education and lacking in self-belief. In addition, some were experiencing difficulties around mental health problems, offending behaviour, as well as poor school attendance.

The group chose to help with a local history project commemorating 216 young soldiers from Leith who died in a rail crash en route to the front in Gallipoli. The disaster had a huge impact on Leith in 1915 and to mark its centenary, the group decided to raise awareness of the battalion within their local community. 

The commemoration involved creating a stained glass poppy wreath, designing glass dog tags to hang on a ‘Tree of Life’, now on display at a local arts centre. They stencilled 216 personalised poppies along one of the city’s busiest street, one for each causalities, which marked the trail for a public parade and commemoration service.  

Posters raising awareness of the crash were also designed by the group and were distributed throughout the area, with one being delivered to address that every casualty left from. 

The group were also involved in planting 215 trees as part of the World War I Centenary Wood in the Pentlands, and the final tree was planted by HRH Anne, Princess Royal.

Much of this was driven by the group’s passion and enthusiasm and gave them a sense of purpose within the school and the wider community. 

The young people learned a vast range of new skills and gained confidence, motivation and a feeling of achievement. The project has changed the way they view their lives and are they now taking positive steps towards their futures.

Maria Leslie, 17, says:

It was really scary at first but it turned out to be the best thing I’ve ever done. I feel really proud of our project.