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Utah pipers to honor World War I heroes

In this photo from Wikipedia, an unnamed piper faces the battle in 1916.

SALT LAKE CITY — On Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018, we mark 100 years since the end of World War One, the war to end all wars. And during all the memorials and the gatherings, you’ll hear the haunting and iconic sound of pipers playing bagpipes.

Pipers were a huge part of the battles of that first world war and Utah pipers are carrying on the tradition.

“My grandfather fought in World War One, in the Royal Scots Highlanders,” explains John Barclay. “His younger brother, same battalion, was killed. His name is John Andrew Barclay and I am named after him.”

Barclay’s grandfather was shot in the chest and walked miles to a field hospital. Part of his left lung was removed and he couldn’t play the pipes again. He had learned from his father, and he taught his children and grandchildren, who are teaching their children.

“I learned from my grandpa and my father how sacred these traditions are carried on from that war to end all wars, and how important it was and the sacrifices they made,” said Barclay.

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Pipes and uniform carried by Barclay’s grandfather

2,500 pipers were a critical part of the Great War.

“They were ordinary men put in extraordinary circumstances,” said Ian Williams, a Salt Lake City piper.

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Great War memorial in Lille

Williams says over a thousand pipers were killed or wounded over course of the war.

“They led them over the top, and so they were the first into battle,” he said.

Williams says the pipers were tasked with almost the impossible — they had to remind the troops of the home they left behind, and the future they hoped to shape.

“There’s something in the bagpipes, it stirs men’s souls and brings them to remembrance,” said Williams.

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Yorkshire Trench and Dug Out World War I Trenches in Ypres Belgium. (Getty Images)

Williams and Barclay are two of dozens if not hundreds of Utah pipers who plan to gather on the steps of the Utah State Capitol on Sunday, on the 11th hour on the 11th day on the 11th month. It’s the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I.

They’ll play “When the Battle’s O’er,” marking when the guns went silent.

“100 years to commemorate their sacrifice,” said Barclay.

“It matters to us what those pipers did because we are the inheritors of the freedom they paid for,” said Williams. “At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.”