Monday, 3 January 2011

Every cloud has a silver lining

Both World Wars saw the battalions of the Scottish regiments suffering heavy casualties. The regular battalions of the regiments were particularly hard hit with them being involved in the opening phases of both wars and fighting on to the end. In one particular regiment though a peculiar thing happened. In 1914 and 1940 in the early stages of both wars the 1st Bn Gordon Highlanders were forced to surrender.

In 1914 they were trapped by encircling German Troops at Le Cateau and in 1940 they were trapped at St Valery. In both cases the battalion was swiftly recreated from depots and drafts and served on to win laurels for the regiment.

So where is the silver lining to this cloud? Well, the surrenders in both 1914 and 1940 meant that instead of being killed the pre-war regular soldiers were made prisoners of war and in many cases will have survived to return to their regiments in peace time. This means they will have returned with the traditions of the regiments which may have been lost to other regiments which suffered heavy casualties of their pre-war officers and men.

In both wars other Scottish battalions surrendered, in fact the Gordons had the misfortune to surrender three battalions in WW2 (1st and 5th in France in 1940, and 2nd Bn in Singapore in 1942) but as far as I can see only the old 75th, 1st Bn Gordon Highlanders surrendered early on in both world wars so the continuity of traditions between 1918 and 1939 and post-1945 may have been stronger in that unit than in others.

This is just an observation from me, but perhaps it's something worth delving into further. It's not something I'll be looking into but maybe someone out there may care to use it as a basis for a academic thesis?

(Text by Adam Brown)

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