Thursday, 31 March 2011

"River of Fire" competition winner

Thank you to everyone who entered our competition to win a copy of "River of Fire: The Clydebank Blitz".

The answer to the question we posed The mass grave and memorial to the fallen of the Clydebank Blitz can be found in which cemetery? was of course Old Dalnottar Cemetery, Clydebank.

We had quite a number of entries, but the winner drawn from the hat is Emma Mykytyn from Glasgow.

We'll be in touch with you shortly to get your address to send you the book. Congratulations, and commiserations to everyone else who entered.

We hope to run more competitions on the blog, so keep checking!

Fashion designs have their heart in the Highlanders

From yesterday's Press & Journal

Fashion designs have their heart in the Highlanders

Art Students look to medals and uniforms for inspiration in an artistic military showcase
Published: 30/03/2011

MILITARY memorabilia from a museum in Aberdeen has inspired an exhibition of fashion accessories opening in the city today.

The show features contemporary jewellery, handbags and scarves created by textiles and surface design students at Robert Gordon University’s Gray’s School of Art.

The range of accessories from 18 third-year students is being showcased and sold at the Gordon Highlanders Museum.

The artists took inspiration from medals and uniforms featured in current exhibitions at the museum.

Course leader in fashion and textiles Rachel Heeley said: “The accessories on show give a modern twist to traditional designs and textiles, providing the public with a unique opportunity to purchase a truly original piece of jewellery created by up-and-coming local designers of the future at a very reasonable price.”

The exhibition is open to the public from 10am-4pm today and tomorrow and 10am-4.30pm on Friday, in the education room at the museum in Viewfield Road.

The creations will be on sale priced from £5 to £40, with proceeds split between the students, the fashion and textiles department at Gray’s and the museum.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Scottish Poppy Appeal for 2010 raised more than £2.3 million

From the Galloway Gazette

The Scottish Poppy Appeal for 2010 has raised more than £2.3 million - the highest in its history.

A total of £2,343,150 has been donated in the 2010 appeal, with a record £2 million from collection tins. The figure is 5% up on the 2009 appeal total.

Poppyscotland ambassador and BBC Reporting Scotland presenter Jackie Bird said: "This is a wonderful result for Scotland's veterans and their families.

"The theme of the 2010 appeal was 'small things, big difference'. The simple act of buying a poppy may seem like a small gesture but all money raised can make a huge difference to the lives of Scotland's veterans."

The presenter was joined by three Royal Marines to reveal the figure near the Science Centre in Glasgow.

Colin Flinn, Poppyscotland head of fundraising, said: "It's a spectacular amount.

"It's a record throughout the 89/90-year history of Poppyscotland and the Scottish Poppy Appeal.

"This is the most we've ever raised and particularly in such a tough economic climate to be 5% up on the previous year is, I think, a real testament to the support that our veterans get from the Scottish public."

Mr Flinn said a key difference in the 2010 appeal was the public putting money in tins at a "hugely increased level" to break the £2 million barrier on the streets.

Money from the Scottish Poppy Appeal and other fundraising activity is used to provide year-round support to veterans and their families, many of whom suffer as a result of physical, psychological and financial problems as they struggle to readjust to civilian life.

Glasgow honours 'forgotten hero' Lieutenant John Young

From the BBC News website today:

A memorial will be unveiled in Glasgow later in honour of a "forgotten hero" who was killed during World War II.

Lieutenant John Young died, aged 24, while covering a withdrawal in the face of a Japanese invasion of India.
His sacrifice on 31 March 1944 allowed comrades to prepare for the ensuing 64-day Battle of Kohima, which was a turning point in the war with Japan.

A granite plaque will be unveiled outside Lt Young's former home in Glasgow's west end.

The city decided to honour Lt Young after his story was brought to the attention of the council by Roy McCallum, the managing director of a local advertising agency. He came across the story of Lt Young's bravery, which had not been previously recognised, while researching his own family's military service.

Glasgow Lord Provost Bob Winter will unveil the memorial on the pavement outside 7 Jedburgh Gardens in the city's Kelvinside area.

It reads: "7 Jedburgh Gardens was the home of Lieutenant John M.Young, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders attached The Assam Regiment who, age 24, in World War II at Kharasom near Kohima, gave his life in a heroic stand to protect India from invasion having first saved the lives of the brave men he led."

The Auld Alliance, Part I

In 1942 Frenchmen were exiled in Scotland during the German occupation. Charles de Gaulle gave a speech in Edinburgh and in it he harked back to "the oldest alliance in the world" and said "In every combat where for five centuries the destiny of France was at stake, there were always men of Scotland to fight side by side with men of France, and what Frenchmen feel is that no people has ever been more generous than yours with its friendship." But were we actually bosom buddies for five hundred years?

The mention of the Auld Alliance conjures up thoughts of an old friendship between Scotland and France where we helped each other out over the centuries. Access to claret, and its influence on our law are often mentioned as legacies of the alliance but the bottom line was that it was in place to help both countries resist English domination. So forget about the plonk, in military terms what exactly did it amount to?

The first alliance was signed in 1295 between John, King of Scots and Philip IV King of France. It was in response to the aggressive actions of Edward I of England. For much of the medieval period England controlled large swathes of France. Normandy was English as a result of William the Conqueror taking the English throne in 1066. Aquitaine in south-west France was English by marriage from 1154.

Edward was greedy for land and the terms of the treaty stipulated that if either France or Scotland was attacked by England, the other country would invade English territory. Your enemy's enemy is after all your friend. The signing of an alliance was actually a formal cementing of an existing relationship. Both France and Scotland had long realised that a war on two fronts for England was always going to be to the advantage of both countries.

However this alliance didn't last five hundred years, it actually lasted only three. The French dumped the Scots when we were subjugated by Edward. They had their own problems and abandoning the treaty suited both England and France.

Edward I's son Edward II was not much of a King, and during that period the Scots and French managed on their own. Edward III was a chip of the old Plantagenet block and he was as hungry as his grandfather for land. He attacked Scotland first; but France came to our aid, renewed the alliance and checked Edward's ambitions. French attacks on English possessions in Aquitaine focused Edward's attention on France and his invasion of 1337 started the one hundred and twenty years of warfare between France and England which is called the Hundred Years War for some reason. During this period there were many times when the two countries needed to come to the aid of each other until the English were ejected from France in 1453.

Each new King of France and King of Scots would renew the alliance over the next one hundred years. English kings continued to flex their muscles now and again and the Scots and French would look to each other for help.

In 1560 things were turned upside down. Scotland went through its reformation and it suddenly felt it had more in common with its protestant neighbours than Catholic France. At the same time the new queen in England was less belligerent than her father and realised having Scotland as a friend was in England's interest. The signing of the Treaty of Edinburgh between England, Scotland and France in July 1560 ended French involvement in Scottish affairs and effectively brought an end to the Auld Alliance.

It also coincided with a thawing in the relationship between France and England. Elizabeth I had no intentions of pursing any land claims in France (even though England had just recently lost Calais to France) and for the next hundred years France and England were at peace and sometimes even allies against Spain and Holland.

It was a fight for new empires and control of the world's sea trade which precipitated the second hundred-years-war between Britain and France in the eighteenth century. By this time Scotland and England had the same monarch and same parliament, so when England went to war with France, Scotland played a full and often enthusiastic part on Britannia's side.

The Jacobite risings of 1715, 1719 and 1745 had various levels of official French Support for the Pretenders' attempts to re-establish a Stuart Kingdom; but October 1745 was the last time an alliance was signed between a King of Scots (exiled) and a King of France. The War of Independence in America and the revolution in France finally put a nail in the coffin of any alliance as Scots regiments were raised by the dozen to fight the French. There may have been plenty of Irish volunteers in Napoleon's armies but there were few Scotsmen.

During the middle of the nineteenth century an invasion scare led to civilians forming volunteer companies for the defence of the country. The Auld Alliance was long forgotten as Scottish volunteers flocked to the colours in their thousands to see off any French invasion force.

By 1914 it had all changed again. France and Britain were allies, and when war broke out tens of thousands of Scots rushed to join up. The losses across the world were heavy on the Western Front, and heaviest of all in France. Five hundred years after an Army of Scotland had first served in France, the divisions of Scotland fought against the German invaders. In July 1918 the 15th (Scottish) Division was detached from the British XVII Corps and was rushed south to help the hard pressed French XX Corps. The Scottish troops replaced the 1st US Division in the line and fought hard, but took 3,516 casualties. After the battle the commander of the French 17th Division was so impressed by the Scottish soldiers he erected a cairn at Buzancy. On it was an inscription which would sum up a new alliance which saw thousands of Scots die on French soil during two world wars.

Here the noble thistle of Scotland will flourish for ever among the roses of France

This post has been an overview of the Auld Alliance. Part II in the near future will cover in detail the wars where Scotland and France were allies.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Women’s Land Army Memorial for Fochabers

From today's Press & Journal

Estate will host memorial to members of wartime Female ‘soldiers’ who played a crucial role in keeping Scotland farming, and in food, during the grim years of world war 11

By Joe Watson Published: 29/03/2011

A PERMANENT memorial to the women who kept Britain farming and in food during World War II is to be erected in Moray. The Crown Estate has donated land in its Fochabers estate to the Land Army Memorial Scotland, a charity set up nearly two years ago to fund the tribute.

It has raised nearly £40,000 and is now in the closing stages of selecting a sculptor. The Women’s Land Army and its 8,000 Scottish “soldiers” – better known as the Land Girls – played a crucial role in the dark years between 1939 and 1945. They worked on farms, taking the place of men who were called up to serve king and country in the fight against Hitler and the Nazis. During World War II, the ‘army’ nationally had more than 80,000 members – four times as many as during the Great War. It was disbanded in 1950.

The new memorial addresses a longstanding anomaly as there is no Scottish tribute to the Land Girls, just one for the Women’s Timber Corps at Aberfoyle. Up to now, the only recognition of the Women’s Land Army – often referred to as the forgotten army – was a medal awarded in 2006.

The memorial group includes representatives of NFU Scotland, the Crown Estate, National Museums Scotland and NFU Mutual, as well as former Land Girl Mona McLeod. Among the instigators of the appeal was immediate past NFU Scotland president Jim McLaren, whose mother, Janie, Crown Estate head of countryside management Andrew Wells said his organisation looked forward to seeing the project come to fruition and the memorial being erected.

Mr McLaren said donations to the appeal were still welcome and could be made through Sarah Anderson at NFU Scotland on 0131 472 4108.

Meet David McNay - The SMRG Team

Another one of those articles where we have to talk about ourselves. This time, it's my turn...
Any excuse to post this photo again...
I have always had an interest in military history of some description: from an early age I remember playing at soldiers with my brother – we had a huge bag of plastic toy soldiers and would arrange battles with them in endless row where they were gunned down in increasing number until there were perhaps only one or two left among a huge pile of the “dead”. Like other children, we would build model planes and hang them from our ceiling and have imaginary dogfights, and we would lap up films like “Battle of Britain” and The Bridge at Remagen”.

As I got older though, my interest faded a little as I pursued other interests. It was only when I began working on my family tree that my military interest was rekindled. The spark of my interest was ignited when my mother and I visited a cemetery in Renfrewshire, looking for an elusive family stone. One finding it we discovered a name on it which was listed as having died in South Africa in 1900.

What had caused a relative to be there at that time? I had a vague idea that the Boer War had been fought at that time, but knew next to nothing of the conflict. I decided therefore to find out more. That in turn led to me trying to find out more about the men from Scotland who didn’t survive the conflict – I was aware that men from the First World War were commemorated but anyone from conflict pre-dating 1914 were almost ignored. That resulted in my starting a project to compile accurate lists of Scotland’s Boer War dead.

I think that’s where my interest in War Memorials came from. I had travelled around photographing the few Boer War memorials there are in Scotland, and I had come to appreciate the styles and designs of different war memorials. From there it was a short step to photographing memorials wherever I saw them.

Around this time I had noticed a post on the Great War Forum from someone working for the Archives of the Royal Bank of Scotland. They had compiled a list of their war dead and were looking for further information. I work for the Bank of Scotland and was curious to find out if my employers had a similar list. I therefore contacted the banks archives and five years later I am still working on completing a list of the war dead of the constituent banks that make up HBOS (as it was at the time, now part of Lloyds Banking Group).

That research led me to cross paths with Adam Brown, who works for RBS and was doing similar work with his employers list. That initial contact has led to a very good friendship and an almost daily email correspondence that covers many projects, ideas, suggestions and outright fantasy of what we’d do if we won the lottery and could jack our jobs in to do research full time!

For me, this sort of research takes military history beyond the bare bones of places, dates and campaigns. For me, history is about the people who lived it; what they did, how they reacted, what they thought. I’m not sure if it’s a quote that I lifted from somewhere, but whenever I am asked why I spend all my time in libraries, compiling lists, I simply say this: these men have stories to tell, and they did not live to tell them. We have to tell the stories for them.

Monday, 28 March 2011

The Scotsman who crippled the Italian Navy - On this day in Scottish Military History - 1941

On this blog I have always written new biographies for the Who's Who posts and my own take on the events for the On this Day posts. I'm taking a slightly different approach today. I'm not going to use my own words to summarise the Battle of Cape Matapan which took place seventy years ago today, I'll let the text from the Royal Navy's own webpage do that. Why I've chosen this battle for a Scottish Blog is that the man who led the Royal Navy forces seventy years ago today was the Scot Andrew Cunningham.

Battle of Cape Matapan 1941

"I myself was inclined to think that the Italians would not try anything. I bet Commander Power, the Staff Officer, Operations, the sum of ten shillings that we would see nothing of the enemy". Admiral Andrew Cunningham

At the end of March 1941 the campaign in Greece was approaching a climax. Hitler decided that German forces were needed and had ordered an invasion of Greece and Yugoslavia to begin in April. A British expeditionary force was despatched to bolster the Greek defences, arriving in convoys from Alexandria in Egypt. The Germans wanted the convoys disrupted and the Italian Navy was the only force capable of achieving this.

German dive-bombers had seriously damaged the aircraft carrier 'Illustrious' in January and their intelligence believed that Mediterranean Fleet possessed only one operational battleship. Accordingly the Italians, whose battlefleet was crippled at Taranto, calculated that a force of heavy cruisers supported by the battleship 'Vittorio Veneto' would be sufficient to deal with light British forces around Crete.

In fact the British were in much better shape. All three battleships were intact and another carrier, 'Formidable', had recently arrived. With torpedo-bombers in Crete and R.A.F. bombers from Greece, Cunningham held a crucial advantage over an Italian Navy with no air cover. Some British ships possessed radar sets and many were experienced in the art of night fighting, of which Cunningham was the navy's foremost expert. Ultra had broken Axis codes and warned when the Italian fleet sailed on 26 March.

Cunningham cleared the area of convoys and despatched Vice Admiral Pridham-Wippell's cruiser squadron to the south of Crete. On 27 March a reconnaissance aircraft from Malta spotted three Italian cruisers and four destroyers heading for Crete. Cunningham sailed with his battlefleet that evening.

The battle commenced at 0745 on 28 March when Pridham-Wippell's four light cruisers sighted a squadron of three Italian heavy cruisers. The Italians 8 inch/203mm guns opened fire at a range at which the 6 inch/152mm weapons of the British ships could not initially reply. Pridham-Wippell retired towards Cunningham's force at the full speed in the hope of drawing the enemy into a trap, but at 0855 the Italians suddenly withdrew.

The Italian commander, Admiral Iachino, planned to annihilate the British cruisers involving a pincer movement with the battleship 'Vittorio Veneto'. The action began well for the Italians when the Veneto's 15 inch/381mm guns opened fire at 1055 to the complete surprise of the British. Pridham Wippell's cruisers laid a smokescreen, but were caught in the crossfire between the Veneto and the Italian cruisers.

Cunningham's air forces now changed the course of the battle. 'Formidable's' Albacore torpedo-bombers attacked the Italian battleship without success, but having no air cover Iachino realised his vulnerability and ordered his forces to retire. The chase was on.

In a further attack at 1510, the Veneto was hit by one torpedo and her speed was reduced. Cunningham knew he had no chance of catching the Italian battleship unless she was hit again, so he ordered at final air strike at dusk. Instead the heavy cruiser 'Pola' was torpedoed and stopped dead in the water.

The Italian Admiral, unaware of the Cunningham's pursuing battlefleet, now made fateful error. He ordered a squadron of cruisers and destroyers to return and protect the 'Pola'. None of the Italian ships were equipped for night fighting.

The British battlefleet detected the Italians on radar shortly after 2200. In one of the most dramatic moments in the war at sea during World War Two, the battleships 'Barham', 'Valiant' and 'Warspite' opened fire at only 3500 metres annihilating two Italian heavy cruisers in five minutes.

In the melee that followed British destroyers sank two Italian destroyers and the unfortunate 'Pola'. Although 'Vittorio Veneto' escaped, the accolades given to Cunningham for continuing the pursuit at night, against the advice of his staff, cannot be overstated. There was no doubt how much the Italians wanted an Admiral of a similar calibre.

After the disaster at Taranto the defeat at Cape Matapan dealt another crushing blow to the Italian Navy's morale as much as its material. Five ships were sunk and around 2,400 Italian sailors were killed, missing or captured. The British lost only three aircrew when one torpedo bomber was shot down.

Cunningham lost his bet, but added another famous victory to the annals of the Royal Navy. Chastened by its defeat the Italian Navy did not intervene in the evacuations of Greece and Crete later in 1941, but much heavy fighting lay ahead until the battle for the Mediterranean was finally won in 1943.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

'ABC' - Viscount Andrew B. Cunningham - Who's Who in Scottish Military History

On this blog we've recently covered the Scotsman who was Constable of France. We've also covered the Scotsman who commanded the biggest British army ever fielded. Today's Who's Who is the Scotsman who led the Royal Navy to victory in the Second World War.

Admiral of the Fleet Andrew Browne Cunningham (or ABC) could often be an impatient martinet, and he certainly demanded nothing less than the best from his men; but as demanding as he was, he was always fair and rewarded hard work and loyalty. He was brave and intelligent with nerves of steel. He was a brilliant tactician, strategist and seaman, and could be counted on to make instant decisions. In short he was just the sort of naval officer Nelson would have approved of. The principle he always followed, the same as Nelson, was that the primary function of a Royal Navy fleet was to seek out and destroy the enemy.

Throughout his career Cunningham was well respected by his superiors, his peers and his subordinates and by the time he took command of the Royal Navy as First Sea Lord in 1943 he had been a fighting sailor for over forty five years and knew just what it took to lead the Royal Navy to victory.

His parents were Scottish and he considered himself a Scot but apart from some schooling in Edinburgh at the Academy and fishing trips during his leave, and retirement, he actually spent very little of his life in Scotland. He was born in Dublin on 7th January 1883 and as a boy he decided he wanted to grow up to be an admiral. When he turned fourteen he passed out from the Royal Navy's officer training ship HMS "Britannia" at Dartmouth and over the next forty years he steadily rose through the ranks and served in many places.

It would be impossible to put Cunningham’s career before the Second World War on a blog post so I’ll give the briefest of summaries. By 1939 he had earned the Distinguished Service Order and two bars for his bravery and leadership. He had served in Destroyers, Motor Torpedo Boats, Cruisers and Battleships. He had seen peacetime service in the Mediterranean and war at Gallipoli, the North Sea and the Baltic. He had fought alongside the army in South Africa, and had taken a very active part in the landings at Gallipoli.

He had become an expert on anti-torpedo boat and anti-submarine warfare and had attended the Imperial Defence College. The IDC took the risings stars of all three armed services who were expected to go on to be the generals, admirals and air marshals of the future and taught them how to work together in combined operations. He had also been lucky to work under two dynamic Admirals (Admiral Walter Cowan and Sir William Fisher) who were as driven as he was, and from them he learned much about commanding Royal Navy fleets.

In 1934 he had achieved his boyhood dream of becoming an admiral when he took command of the Royal Navy’s Mediterranean destroyer flotillas and it was in the Med he spent most of the next five years. He had a short spell at the Admiralty during the desperate times in 1938 and 1939 preparing for war, and in spring 1939 he returned to Malta to take command as Commander-in-chief Mediterranean Fleet.

He was often starved of resources and ships but he was an aggressive commander who took the battle to the Italians. He oversaw the Royal Navy Fleet-Air-Arm’s very successful attack on the Italian navy at Taranto. He was also in command at Cape Matapan in 1941 when a daring night battle effectively finished off the Italian Navy.

Up until early 1942 the Second World War was mostly a series of reverses for the British and Cunningham was often faced with sending his ships into perilous situations. There were many ships and men lost during the evacuations of Greece and Crete and many more sending convoys to Malta and Tobruk. He even lost ships to Italian frogmen in Alexandria’s harbour. The losses at Crete especially troubled Cunningham but his attitude was summed up by his quote "It takes the Navy three years to build a new ship. It will take three hundred years to build a new tradition". Whatever else happened the Navy was not going to abandon the army. They lost three cruisers and six destroyers but saved 16,500 soldiers.

In 1942 he was recalled from Alexandria and sent to Washington to help the US navy prepare for a world war. His time there led to him forming a good relationship with Eisenhower and in turn led him to being made the Allied naval commander in charge of the Operation Torch landings in North Africa in November 1942. Eisenhower recorded in his diary that Cunningham "...remains in my opinion at the top of my subordinates in absolute selflessness, energy, devotion to duty, knowledge of his task, and in understanding of the requirements of allied operations. My opinions as to his superior qualifications have never wavered for a second." He followed 'Torch' by commanding all allied naval forces for the invasion of Sicily in 1943. Cunningham was now in charge of 3,000 vessels.

With Sicily captured Italy soon capitulated and Cunningham was able to signal the admiralty “‘Be pleased to inform Their Lordships that the Italian Battle Fleet lies at anchor under the guns of the fortress of Malta”. It was to be Cunningham’s last signal as a fleet admiral.

The First Sea Lord Sir Dudley Pound was dying and a replacement was needed. Churchill didn’t want Cunningham; he didn’t think he had the patience or diplomacy for the top job. Churchill was wrong. Cunningham had shown at the surrender of a French fleet at Alexandria in 1940, and in his time in Washington in 1942 that he could be diplomatic, persuasive and patient. In October 1943 Cunningham left the Mediterranean to take on a political role in charge of the whole Royal Navy.

Cunningham’s main role now was trying to manage the expectations of his prime minister, his allies and his fleet commanders around the world. At the same time he had to ensure his ships still protected the convoys in the Atlantic, North Sea and Pacific, and on top of that they must support the army in Europe and Burma. It was a juggling act which Cunningham took in his stride.

By 1945 he was in charge of over 850,000 sailors, 900 major warships and thousands of small vessels; twice the size of the Navy in the First World War. He may have been in the Navy for forty five years but as a commander he was not stuck in the past. He had pushed for the expansion of the Fleet Air Arm and the Women’s Royal Naval Service, and was also committed to making the Royal Marines Commandos the strike-force for any future combined operations.

The end of the war saw him granted honours like the other senior British commanders. His first title was Baron Cunningham of Hyndhope, of Kirkhope in the County of Selkirk, in 1945. He was also made a Knight of the Thistle, a rare and great honour for a Scot.

The World War had bankrupted Britain and the Royal Navy was to take the brunt of the cuts needed in her armed forces. It was a bitter pill for the old sailor. When Cunningham had joined the Royal Navy in 1897 it was a pre-dreadnaught Victorian navy and Britannia still ruled the waves. By 1945 the battleship was obsolete and the United States had the biggest navy in the world.

In June 1946 Cunningham chose to stand down from his position as head of the Royal Navy. He was suffering from heart problems and was not relishing his new role of running down his beloved Navy. He also chose to turn down the offer of the governor-generalship of Australia; his three years in charge of the Royal Navy had taken its toll. Shortly after his retirement he was elevated in the peerage to Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope. He didn’t give up on public duties completely, and he took up his position in the House of Lords to make sure he still had a say on Navy matters.

Unlike Haig he didn’t retire to Scotland and he stayed near the Navy’s home of Portsmouth, but in the summers of 1950 and 1952 he was given the appointment of Lord High Commissioner to the Church of Scotland.

He died in 1963 at the age of eighty. A great warrior like Cunningham could have been buried at Westminster Abbey but he had salt in his blood and was buried at sea off Portsmouth.

Trafalgar Square in London is dominated by Nelson, but on the wall behind his column are the busts of the Royal Navy’s greatest twentieth century admirals. Beatty and Jellico of Jutland fame are there. There was only one man worthy of a plinth in Nelson's shadow for the Second World War: Scotland’s greatest sailor - Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

The Capture of Prince Charlie’s gold - On this day in Scottish military history - 1746

A little known but important episode during the Jacobite Rebellion took place 265 years ago today.

Even though the Jacobites had retreated from the Lowlands, in March 1746 they were still a force to be reckoned with in the North. The main government force was still in Aberdeen and Loudon’s force had been routed from Dornoch. Jacobites were roaming the Highlands attacking government barracks and Independent Companies.

In mid march the French decided to send £13,000 in gold, arms and other supplies to Inverness to help their allies, and sent the sloop “Le Prince Charles Stuart" to the Moray Firth. (the ship was an ex-Royal Navy sloop HMS ‘Hazard’ which had been captured by Jacobites in Montrose harbour in late 1745 and sailed to Dunkirk)

With Irish volunteers from the French Regiment Berwick and Scots from the Garde Eccosois to guard the cargo, and exiled Scots officers in French and Spanish service returning home to join the Jacobite army; Capitaine de frigate George Talbot took his ship northwards.

By the 24th of March they were approaching their destination of Portsoy in Banffshire (coincidentally about 10 miles from where German spies landed in 1940). Unfortunately for the French they came across a squadron of Royal Navy ships off Troup Head barring their way to Portsoy. Capitaine Talbot had to quickly turn northwards to try and escape the British ships.

The frigate HMS “Sheerness” was detached from the squadron and gave chase. She was about twice as big as “Le Prince Charles Stuart” and it was a moonlit night so Talbot had to keep pushing his ship further north and further away from the Jacobite base to keep ahead of the “Sheerness”.

By daylight of the 25th “Le Prince Charles Stuart” was off the Pentland Firth and still being chased by the “Sheerness”. Talbot knew if he tried to sail to the Minch he would be overhauled by the bigger ship. Hailing some local fisherman he found out that he had a chance if he made for the Kyle of Tongue where his smaller ship should be able to sail in but the “Sheerness” would not be able to follow.

The French ship would be trapped but the supplies could be put ashore with their guards and the ship could be scuttled to stop it being recaptured.

Unfortunately the Kyle was narrow and no-one on the ship knew the waters so it soon ran aground on a sandbank at Melness on the west bank of the Kyle. The “Sheerness” managed to sail far enough up the Kyle for its guns to be in range of the trapped “Le Prince Charles Stuart” and it started a punishing bombardment.

The British frigate outgunned the French sloop and it was taking a battering. When darkness fell Talbot ordered the gold and stores ashore. This prompted a landing of sailors and marines form the “Sheerness”. Knowing his situation was now hopeless, Talbot ordered all his unwounded crew ashore where they would march with the Jacobite soldiers overland to Prince Charles’s base at Inverness. Talbot couldn’t set fire to his ship to scuttle her because of the wounded on board who could not be taken with them.

For once luck was with Talbot. If he had beached on the eastern bank of the Kyle he would have been on the land of the government supporting Lord Reay. He had landed on the west bank and came across the Laird of Melness, William Mackay, who had Jacobite sympathies.

With two of Mackay’s horses to carry the gold and his sons as guides the French sailors, and Scots and Irish Jacobite soldiers, headed into the night to escape the Royal Navy sailors behind them.

That was the end of Talbot’s luck. The captain of the “Sheerness” sent more men ashore on the east bank of the Kyle to find loyal highlanders and they found Lord Reay. Reay had men of his own Independent Company of soldiers to hand and in the area there were remnants of Loudon’s force which had been chased from Dornoch two weeks earlier by Jacobites under the Duke of Perth.

Taking a hundred men with him, and ordering reinforcements to follow when they were ready; Reay marched down the east side of the Kyle to cut off the Jacobites.

By dawn of the 26th Talbot’s force had marched to the head of the Kyle of Tongue. At first they could see off any of Reay’s men who were trying to stop them but eventually Talbot’s men were surrounded by men of Lord Reay’s Independent Company, loyal Clan Mackay men and about 100 men of Loudon’s own 64th Highlanders. In all about 320 men by Talbot’s estimate. He may have been exaggerating the numbers but he was clearly outnumbered and his only option was surrender.

The Jacobites threw the gold into a nearby locahan (possibly Lochan Hakel) and then lay down their weapons.

The Highlanders quickly retrieved most of the gold from the shallow water but were in no great position of strength. A large Jacobite force from Dornoch under Coll Ban MacDonald of Barrisdale was marauding through Mackay lands looking for Reay and the remnants of Loudon’s force which had retreated to the North-West corner of Scotland. Reay feared he would now be a target for MacDonald and the rest of Cromartie’s force as soon as the news of the gold’s arrival in Scotland reached the Jacobites.

Taking the prisoners, the gold and his troops, Lord Reay left his home and boarded the “Sheerness”. The hastily repaired “Le Prince Charles Stuart” was refloated and sailed with them too.

After a brief stop in the Orkney the ships headed to Aberdeen; with them went the Jacobite pay chest. The meal in store at Inverness was now Prince Charles’s only method of paying his troops. Without payment of food his Highland troops would melt away into the glens so Inverness needed to be defended at all costs to preserve his army.

The loss of the French gold on 26th March 1746 helped seal the fate of the Jacobites. There would be no more retreat; they would have to face Cumberland’s army in the near future on a battlefield outside Inverness.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Robert Bruce crowned King of Scots - On this day in Scottish Military History - 1306

In March 1306 the Scots had been without a king for nearly ten years. King John 'Toom Tabard' Balliol had abdicated his throne in July 1296 after his defeat and capture by Edward I of England.

William Wallace and Andrew de Moray had both fought and died to try and win back Scottish independence. Robert Bruce and John Comyn took up the cause, but bitter in-fighting took up their time rather than any attacks on the English.

Matters came to a head in February 1306 in Dumfries when Bruce stabbed Comyn to death in Greyfriars Church.

Without another claimant to the throne Bruce hurridly arranged his coronation. He was crowned King of Scots at Scone in Perthshire on 25th March 1306. He knew Edward would never accept his legitamacy so as soon as he was crowned he re-newed the offensive against the English which had died with Wallace in August 1305.

The war for Scottish independence now entered a new phase, 705 years ago today.

Thursday, 24 March 2011


From today's Press & Journal. Some news which is a bit lighter than what we've been used to of late; a new addition to the Gordon Highlaners Museum


The Gordon Highlanders Museum in Aberdeen has a new member on board – Bydandy.

He’s not just any Gordon Highlander, but a magical stag that can explore the regiment’s history like no other as he can travel through time.

He’s being introduced to visitors during the first week of the Easter break, April 2-10, when he will show them what the museum has to offer to families.

Bydandy will also launch his own website on Saturday, April 2. This site is designed for children to interact and enjoy the stories of the past and will offer exclusive information for parents and teachers.

That date coincides with a visit to the museum by famous comic book artist Colin MacNeil, whose work includes 2000 AD – Judge Dredd.

He has created Bydandy’s own comic, which will be handed out free to every child visiting the museum with a fee-paying adult.

Other events taking place during the week include a host of art and craft workshops and interactive sessions. All the events are free of charge, but booking may be required as demand could be high.

For full details of what’s happening at the museum on Aberdeen’s Viewfield Road, call 01224 311200 or visit

Release of the movie "The Eagle"

It's not often a war film set in Scotland gets released and a big budget Hollywood one at that. Tomorrow is the release date for "The Eagle". It's based on Rosemary Sutcliffe's 1954 book "Eagle of the Ninth".

I haven't seen the film so can't possibly comment on how good or bad it is but it was filmed in Plockton and used locals as extras so I hope it has an authentically Scottish (well Pictish / Celtic) feel.

It is known that the Roman Ninth, or IX Hispana Legion was based in the North of England in the second century A.D. from an inscription in York in 108 A.D. By 162 A.D. a list of all the Roman Legions around their Empire doesn't list the Ninth, so between 108 and 162 it ceased to exist. Unfortunately records from that time are too patchy to know whether it was or wasn't destroyed in what is now Scotland, and all the evidence either way seems to be pretty circumstantial

By tracing evidence of a campaign from Roman marching camps, local historians from Roman Scotland have put forward a theory that the legion was marching along the Tweed valley in 117 A.D. when it disappeared around what is now Cardrona near Peebles. They have put a lot of effort into this investigation so I'd be interested to see if their theory turns out to be right.

Anyway enough about the real history; we're talking about Hollywood history (and one based on a children's novel from the 1950s). So forget about the facts and enjoy the trailer we've posted.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Rifleman Daniel Thomson Memorial Window, Uddingston - Featured memorial

I'll make no excuses for another stained glass window as today's featured memorial. They are a favourite of mine and this one is no exception.

I can't comment on the quality of the workmanship but I can comment on the subject. It's not often you see Second World War infantrymen on a window so this was a nice surprise when I saw this one on the Scottish War Memorials Project.

The window is a memorial to Rifleman Daniel Thomson of the 7th Bn Cameronians who died on 18th January 1945 in the Netherlands. The window was designed by Douglas Hamilton

Interestingly the soldiers depicted in the window have rolled up sleeves and I wouldn't have imagined that Rifleman Thomson was dressed liked than when he died during the winter of 1944-45 in Holland. Therefore I take it the artist wanted the rolled up sleeves to signify something. Most stained glass windows are full of meaning so I would be surprised if this depiction hasn't some meaning.

The memorial is to a Cameronian and the group of figures reminds me of the Cameronians memorial in Glasgow.

The memorial window was formerly in the Uddingston Chalmers Church and has now been moved to the Uddingston Old Church.

One hundred years ago there were thousands of churches across Scotland. As we enter a more secular age and as congregations age and shrink we hear of more and more church mergers and closures. With every church being closed there are the fittings to consider. Memorial plaques on walls aren't too hard to relocate; communion tables may move too. It's not always easy to move windows though, especially if the building is listed and Historic Scotland have a say.

Luckily this window was moved and is still in a church, and in still in Uddingston.

Anyway I don't want to end this post on a glum note when we can enjoy looking at a beautiful piece of art in memory of Rifleman Thomson

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

John Stewart, Constable of France - Who's Who in Scottish Military History

Between 1060 and 1626 there were forty-four Constables of France. This was the premier appointment of the five Great Officers of the Crown of France.

In Medieval France this was a rank one step down from the King, and the holder of the title was also the commander-in-chief of the army of France.

To be given this title was a very great honour and during a period of crisis for France the title was given to a Scotsman.

John Stewart, 3rd Earl of Buchan, had been in France for four years when Charles the Bold, Duke of Lorraine renounced the title of Constable of France in January 1424 and it was offered to the man from Scotland.

Fifteenth Century France was not the country we know today. The English held Normandy and the North including Paris, and also Aquitaine along the West coast around Bordeaux. In the East the English allies, the Burgundians, held large tracts of land and were frequently at odds with their countrymen.

In 1415 the cream of French nobility had been killed at Azincourt by English archers and in 1418 the French had asked Buchan's father, the 1st Duke of Albany for help. Robert Stewart, 1st Duke of Albany, was acting as Regent in Scotland whilst the young King James I was held prisoner by the English. Scotland was too weak to fight England directly but by helping France with 6,000 Scottish soldiers she would gain a strong ally.

John Stewart had been born around 1380 and had always been a pawn in his father's political scheming. His appointment to the French expedition was just another extension of that. He had shown no great talent before going to France and was probably seen as expendable by his father. Certainly he was not being groomed as the successor to his father's role and he was now more useful keeping the Scots in with the French.

At first Buchan's troops were not seen as much of a bonus for the hard pressed French. They were described as "consumers of mutton and wine" and were used as garrison troops in French castles. After Azincourt the French were happier to sit in their castles and make the English besiege them rather than face the English longbows.

Buchan's finest hour came on 22nd March 1421. At Le Vieil Baugé in Anjou his Scots troops destroyed an English invasion force and killed the heir to the English throne.

The fortunes of the Scots in France immediately changed. The war-weary French now knew they could count on the Scots to help them as the Scotsmen had proved their willingness to fight the English. In 1422 The death of mad King Charles VI allowed Charles VII to take the throne. Charles VII as the Dauphin had been the one who had asked Albany for the contingent of Scots.

Charles had great faith in the Scots and in return the Scots flocked to France. It wasn't just anti-Englishness which drove them to France, great fortunes from ransoms were to be made if you captured an English or Burgundian knight.

Unfortunately for Charles, Henry VI of England also had a legitimate claim to the throne of France and a new round of fighting took place starting in 1423. In the summer the English and Burgundians raised a force of 4,000 men and marched into France. The Scots combined with French to take them on and a force of about 8,000 men under Buchan's command marched east.

Unfortunately Buchan misjudged his tactics and let the outnumbered English take the advantage when they met at Cravant. Once the English bowmen opened their devastating fire the rest of their army advanced across the shallow River Yonne. An attack over a bridge split the Scot-French force and the French troops abandoned the battlefield. The Scots had nothing to lose, the English considered them traitors and dealt with Scots prisoners savagely, and so they fought on. Now outnumbered the Scots were overwhelmed by the English-Burgundians and Buchan was captured. He was lucky, 3,000 Scots had died at the battle.

He was also lucky that there were valuable English prisoners from previous campaigns to be exchanged and he was not a prisoner for long.

Charles VII was eager to have more Scotsmen on his side, they at least would stand and fight the English. Buchan returned home for another 6,000 Scottish soldiers to make up for the men lost at Cravant. He also recruited his father-in-law to lead them, The 4th Earl of Douglas.

The Duke of Lorraine renounced his title of Constable of France in early 1424 and the King of France knew who he wanted for the post. He wanted the man who commanded his shock troops, the Scotsman John Stewart.

Buchan may have been the King's favourite but his appointment was not met with joy by the French nobles. The upstart Scotsman had come from nowhere to be appointed as the King's number two and to add to that the Earl of Douglas was made Lieutenant-General and Duke of Touraine when he landed in France.

Douglas was the first foreigner and also the first non-royal to be given a dukedom and it further strained relations between the Scots and the French nobles.

The Scotsman were eager to prove their worth and soon moved north to attack the English and relieve the besieged Ivry, near Le Mans.

When Ivry fell to the English the Scots and French pressed on; they wanted a battle. The older French were reluctant. They knew they couldn't defeat the English in open battle and could remember the carnage at Azincourt. The Scots and younger Frenchmen were determined to fight. Buchan who had been beaten by the English at Cravant, and Douglas who had been beaten by them at Homildon Hill should have known better but they still insisted on a battle.

At Verneuil in August 1424 the two armies met. It was to be one of the bloodiest battles of the Hundred Years War. The English archers took their toll but it was no one-sided battle like Azincourt, and although the English won the day they lost 1,600 killed.

The English had attacked and driven the French from the field and eventually surrounded the Scots. At Verneuil the Scots died in their thousands and amongst them was the new Constable of France.

Buchan had only held the title for a few months but he and his fellow countrymen had been held in high esteem by the French king and had shown themselves to be trusted allies. Thanks to the courage and tenacity of Buchan and his men the Scots would continue to fight in France against their auld enemy for many years to come.

Monday, 21 March 2011

English arrogance hands Scots victory at Baugé – On this day in Scottish Military History - 1421

Henry V has been immortalised by Shakespeare as the English King who led his under-dog army to victory at Azincourt. What is conveniently forgotten is that the battle fought in 1415 was part of an opportunistic campaign by Henry to grab land in northern France while the French king struggled to keep control of his mind, and the Duke of Burgundy.

Azincourt saved Normandy for England and allowed Henry to open a new phase of the Hundred Years War between England and France for control of large parts of northern and western France.

By 1418 France was struggling. They had lost the cream of their nobility at Azincourt, their king was mad and there were power struggles in France between the powerful Dukes. It fell to the Dauphin (later Charles VII) to ask Scotland for help.

Scots had been fighting for France since the twelfth century but this was to be the biggest expedition to date. Six thousand men under the command of John Steward, third Earl of Buchan and Archibald Douglas, Earl of Wigtown were to be sent to help fight the English.

Buchan was the son of the Duke of Albany, the regent of Scotland (King James I was a prisoner of the English). Albany had agreed to send the Scots army to France because Scotland needed a powerful friend to help protect her from Henry V’s land grabbing.

In September 1419 a fleet of ships from Castille and Aragón carried the force to France. Avoiding English ships they landed at La Rochelle and were soon put to use reinforcing French garrisons. Some were present at the Siege of Melun near Paris in 1420.

At first the French didn’t seem that impressed. The Scots were seen as a drain of resources rather than an asset but that was soon to change as the campaigning season of 1421 started.

The English started the campaign under Henry’s brother the Duke of Clarence who was a senior English royal; at the time Henry had no children and Clarence was the heir to the throne.

In early March 1421 Clarence and his army of about 5,000 English troops had marched from Bernay in eastern Normandy to attack Angers in the Loire valley. The town’s defences were too strong for the English and they moved eastwards to raid further into French Territory to justify their expedition before returning to Normany. At the same time the Scots moved west from their base at Tours to cut of the English from their Normandy base.

By 21st March the two armies were only a few miles apart. The Scots were at Le Vieil Baugé just outside Baugé. Nine roads converged at the town at the only bridge in the area over the River Couasnon, and it was an important position to hold.

As soon as he heard of the presence of the Scots at Baugé, after some Scots scouts were captured, Clarence made preparations to attack them. Baugé needed to be taken if the English wanted to reach the safety of Normandy and Clarence thought this was the ideal chance to catch the Scots napping.

Forgetting how the English fought their battles, with overwhelming support of their archers, Clarence quickly moved north with his mounted men-at-arms. He left his subordinate the Earl of Salisbury to round up his archers.

The Duke of Clarence had not been at the Battle of Azincourt and was seeking some glory as heir to the English throne. If he had been there he would have known how foolhardy he was being. With quite staggering arrogance he ignored all the advice to wait for his bowmen and rode on with 1,500 men towards Baugé.

His force started to stretch out along the road to Baugé but still he pushed on. Convinced that speed and surprise would count in his favour he allowed his numbers to dwindle.

When Buchan heard of the English advance he hurridly organised his army at Le Vieil Baugé. He had about 130 men in the town of Baugé under the command of Robert Stewart of Railstone to guard the bridge. There were also some French troops under Jean de la Croix on hand. The French and Scots in the town fought hard to deny Clarence the bridge for as long as possible to allow Buchan to form his army for battle.

Eventually they were over-run at the bridge but not before they had inflicted heavy casualties on the English.

Once the bridge was taken Clarence pushed on towards the main Scots army outside town. His numbers had been reduced further by the battle at the bridge and he had to leave men to guard the vital bridge but he still pushed on without waiting for his army.

There is a small rise between Baugé and Le Vieil Baugé and the Scots formed up behind it. As the English approached the Scots waited until the last moment before charging over the crest of the hill into the English knights.

The English knights stood no chance, the Scots were amongst them before they had a chance to charge and without the support of their archers the English were overwhelmed.

Clarence was one of the first to fall and many of his men soon followed. It was common for high ranking knights to be taken prisoner for ransom but the lower ranking men-at-arms were killed out of hand and in the vicious fighting which took place many earls and lords were slain too.

It is estimated the English lost 1,500 men at Baugé, the Scots about 200. It was one of biggest defeats of an English army at the hands of the Scots and it had been in the middle of France.

For the first time since Azincourt the English had been given a bloody nose and had lost the heir to their throne. The main bulk of their army had escaped back to Normandy but it was with their tail between their legs.

On hearing of the victory, Pope Martin V said that "the Scots are well-known as an antidote to the English".

The reputation of the Scots had changed. No longer were they seen as "Consumers of mutton and wine"; they were the fighting cocks of the French army. When the Dauphin became King Charles VII in 1422 his royal bodyguard was made up of Scotsmen. On top of that Buchan was later made Constable of France. That made him commander-in-chief of the French Forces and second only in rank to the King.

Thanks to the arrogance of an Englishman, 790 years ago today the Scots were the toast of France.

Note the small community of Le Vieil Baugé has two roads commemorating the battle. Rue de la Bataille and Chemin de la Bataille

Sunday, 20 March 2011

The Rout of Loudon from Dornoch - On this day in Scottish Military History – 1746

When Loudon retreated north from Inverness he chose as his base the land of Southeast Sutherland around Dornoch. The Kyle of Sutherland and River Shin protected his flanks and by placing most of his men along the two rivers his aim was to stop the Jacobites reaching their sympathisers in Caithness and Orkney. Whilst at Dornoch Loudon had also been reinforced by nearly 400 clansmen of the Earl of Sutherland and 100 men from Lord Reay’s Clan Mackay.

The Jacobites were not happy to have such a large force of Hanoverian troops threatening their flanks and hampering the recruitment of new supporters from the North. It was decided that a frontal attack was out of the question, Loudon was in too strong a defensive position. Instead the Jacobites would land men by fishing boats across the Dornoch Firth from Tain to the sands at Lonemore, two miles west of Dornoch

Fishing boats were rounded up from the Moray coast under the noses of the Royal Navy, and the Duke of Perth took a force of 1,800 Jacobites north from Dingwall. Loudon was not expecting a seaborne invasion and had split his force in positions along the Kyle of Sutherland and River Shin to repel any landward attacks between Bonar and Lairg. A small number of Loudon’s troops guarded Meikle Ferry near Skibo but there were not enough to stop a large attack.

As the day broke on this day 265 years ago the Mackays guarding Meikle Ferry would have been shocked to see boat loads of Jacobites approaching them. Heavily outnumbered the Mackays fled. A company of the 64th Highlanders tried to intercept the Jacobites whilst they disembarked but in a highly professional operation the Jacobites landed hundreds of men in good order and secured their landing ground.

Loudon’s men knew they were in a very difficult position. Retreating through Dornoch they headed for Little Ferry at Loch Fleet. At the same time word was sent to Loudon who was inspecting his defences at Invershin.

Knowing the rest of his force was now in an untenable position Loudon scattered his troops. He sent the local recruits of Mackay and Sutherland men north through Lairg with some of his 64th Highlanders under the command of Lord Reay. Loudon took the rest of his regiment west with his loyal MacDonald and Macleod volunteers and eventually reached Skye a week later.

In a surprisingly efficient operation the Jacobites had routed Loudon’s small army with very little loss. They had opened up the North for supplies and recruits, captured a large number of prisoners and as a bonus they had found four ships hiding in Loch Fleet with valuable cargoes of arms and ammunition.

The Jacobites were still a force to be reckoned with.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

1/4th Bn Cameron Highlanders broken up - On this day in Scottish Military History - 1916

The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders always had a problem with its recruiting area. Their area was large in size but small in population. The county of Inverness couldn't really support a regiment on its own and traditionally they made up their numbers from places like Glasgow and Ireland.

In 1881 when all British infantry regiments formed two battalion regiments the Camerons only had one battalion. They were nearly turned into the 3rd Bn Scots Guards but Queen Victoria made her displeasure known about her own Highland regiment disappearing and the matter was quickly dropped.

In 1897 it was decided to raise another battalion and the Camerons were given the unusual privilege to recruit throughout Scotland and not just in their Inverness-shire recruiting area. I'm sure there were eyebrows raised by other Scottish regiments when that bombshell hit their Depots.

In 1908 when the Territorial Force was created most Scottish regiments formed several Territorial battalions. The Cameron's neighbours the Seaforths had three, the HLI had five and The Royal Scots had seven. The Camerons formed one: the 4th Battalion.

On the outbreak of war 1914 the Camerons recruitment luck changed. An enthusiastic officer took up the challenge of recruiting men from all over Scotland for the new Kitchener Service battalions being raised. Cameron of Lochiel's hard work delivered thousands of volunteers from Glasgow and Edinburgh into the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Battalions.

Even the Territorial battalion increased in size. In September 1914 a 2/4th Battalion was formed and in April 1915 a 3/4th Bn was raised to provide new recruits for the first two battalions. There had never been so many Cameron Highlanders in uniform.

At the outbreak of the First World War the 1/4th Bn was brigaded along with the three territorial battalions of the Seaforth Highlanders in the Seaforth and Cameron Brigade of the Highland Division.

In late 1914 1/4th Seaforths and 1/4th Camerons were up to strength of over 1000 men and were ready to go to France, but the Camerons had an outbreak of measles which delayed their departure until early 1915. (Measles was a killer to the Highland boys of the Camerons and 28 died).

The Camerons were first attached to 24th Brigade in 8th Division and saw action at The Battle of Neuve Chapelle within three weeks of arriving in France. They took 300 prisoners for the loss of 140 casualties.

Another change of division followed soon after. 1/4th Camerons joined 21st Brigade in 7th Division in April 1915. In May 1915 it was in action at Festubert where it took 250 casualties. It was in action again in June, and at Loos in September 1915 where it suffered another 200 casualties.

It had been hard fighting for the 7th Division throughout the year and in late 1915 there was a reorganisation with new battalions arriving from the UK taking their place. The Camerons (now with fewer than 500 men) stayed with the Division but moved to another Brigade. It was a short stay, and in January 1916 it returned back to its old home, the Highland Division.

154th Brigade in the Highland Division had been rebuilt with Scottish units but it was another short-lived stay in a formation for the 1/4th Camerons because three of the four units which had joined the brigade in January 1916 were replaced with other Scottish units only six weeks later.

On 28th February 1916 the three under-strength battalions were pulled out of the Division and sent back to the rear. Two Black Watch battalions were sent on to 39th Division and amalgamated to form one battalion, but it was announced the 1/4th Camerons would not go to another division and instead would be broken up and its men sent to other units.

Instead of men from 2/4th and 3/4th battalions Cameron Highlanders being sent from Scotland to rebuild it, it would disappear. Why this happened is still not entirely clear. No other Scottish Territorial battalion suffered this fate.

At this time voluntary recruitment had all but dried up and conscription had been introduced. Perhaps it was felt that the Camerons couldn't sustain so many battalions? But why did their only territorial battalion go instead of one of the three Kitchener Camerons battalions in France. Maybe Lochiel's influence meant his battalions were saved at the expense of the Territorials?

Whatever the reason; on this day ninety five years ago the only front line territorial unit of the Cameron Highlanders was broken up.

Friday, 18 March 2011

The Jacobites leave Fort Augustus - On this day in Scottish Military History – 1746

In early March 1746 a small force of Jacobites had been despatched from Inverness to harry Hanoverian forces down Loch Ness. Clan regiments under the command of Cameron of Lochiel, MacDonnell of Glengarry and MacDonald of Keppoch along with some Irish Piquets and French gunners quickly reached the small Government outpost at Fort Augustus.

It had been built as part of General Wade’s improvements in the 1720s. It was a garrison post rather than a defensive position and was built to keep out marauding clansmen. It was not built to stop French gunners with siege cannon.

After only two days the fort fell when a shot from a French howitzer landed on the ammunition magazine and blew away part of the defences. Three compaines of the British regiment Guise's Foot (6th Foot) were taken prisoner, and more importantly the valuable cannon and supplies in the Fort could now be sent back to Inverness to help defend the Jacobite base.

Cameron of Locheil had other plans. He had been sent out by Prince Charles to flush the Hanoverians from the Great Glen and he intended to carry out that task. It suited him better to reduce Fort William which threatened his lands than to reinforce the main army at Inverness.

After time to regroup, Locheil's force left Fort Augustus on this day 265 years ago. Clan self-interest rather than Prince Charles's cause won the day. Instead of moving north to reinforce the main army at Inverness the Jacobites moved south again - towards Fort William.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Monument to Andrew de Moray proposed for Stirling

I missed these two articles published on 12th March. Thanks to @ScottishHistory on Twitter for the link to The Scotsman

Fighter, patriot and leader - monument call for the other hero of Stirling


TOGETHER they were heroic freedom fighters and leaders of the army of Scotland.
But while William Wallace has been immortalised in print, monument and film, the man said to have masterminded Braveheart's most famous victory is all but forgotten.

Andrew de Moray was knighted at about the same time as Wallace and was once held
in equal regard, but he is now relatively unknown, Mel Gibson failing to even mention him in his movie.

But now there are plans to create a national monument to commemorate Moray near Stirling Bridge, where both men jointly led the Scots to victory over the English in 1297. Moray was mortally wounded in the battle, and died soon after, disappearing into relative obscurity, while Wallace went on to become Scotland's hero with a world-famous monument overlooking the site of the victory.

Plans for the national monument to honour both men and raise the profile of Moray are to be discussed by Stirling Council.

Councillor Steven Paterson said "He gave his life for the cause of Scottish independence at the Battle of Stirling Bridge.

"A fitting memorial to him is long overdue, and I am delighted to have brought forward a motion that will see a permanent memorial to him established by Stirling Bridge."

Fellow councillor Neil Benny said: "Stirling has always been the key to Scotland and our history is something that every one of us can and should be proud of.

"Placing the monument here in Stirling will help to attract visitors to learn about our history and visit our fantastic town."

The move is also backed by local list MSP Murdo Fraser, the deputy leader of the Scottish Conservatives.

He said: "It is fitting to have a monument jointly for Andrew de Moray and William Wallace as they were co-commanders at the Battle of Stirling Bridge and fought alongside one another."

Moray, a Highlander, was the son of Sir Andrew de Moray, a staunch patriot and fighter who was once captured and held in the Tower of London.

Not much is known about him before 1296, when he was taken hostage and imprisoned in Chester following the Battle of Dunbar. But it was from the family home at Avoch in the Black Isle that Moray led the rising against King Edward I of England in the north of Scotland in the summer of 1297.

He captured castles in Aberdeen, Inverness, Montrose, Brechin, Forfar and Urquhart, successfully regaining control of Scotland north of the River Forth for King John.

He later merged his forces with those led by Wallace, and jointly led the combined army to victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge.

Some historians say Moray was the senior partner of the two, and he is credited with devising the successful tactical plan that led to victory

How Forth crossing was a bridge too far for the English infantry

The Battle of Stirling Bridge began at dawn on 11 September, 1297. Wallace and Moray held their army on the soft, flat ground to the north of the River Forth as the English knights and infantry made their slow progress across the bridge.
When the vanguard - 5,400 English and Welsh infantry plus several hundred cavalry - had crossed, they ordered the attack. The heavy cavalry to the north of the river was trapped and cut to pieces, and those to the south were powerless to help.

Thousands of English were slaughtered, including more than 100 knights.

The English leader, Hugh de Cressingham - King Edward's treasurer in Scotland - was flayed and his skin cut into small pieces as tokens of the victory. Wallace is said to have used a strip to make a belt for his sword.

The remaining English fled to Berwick, leaving the garrison at Stirling Castle isolated and abandoning the Lowlands to the Scots.

The battle was a shattering defeat for the English and showed that, where the conditions were right, infantry could be superior to cavalry.

Sutherlandshire Roll of Honour - Picture a Museum Day

It's picture-a-museum day today. All the big museums are involved but I'd like to highlight two items in two small museums in Sutherland.

The museums in question are the Brora Heritage Centre and Historylinks in Dornoch.

Both have Rolls of Honour for Sutherland from the First World War. They look similar but are actually different.

The one in Brora is called Sutherlandshire (c) and lists the men who served from East Sutherland from the parishes of Kildonan, Loth, Clyne and Golspie. The one in Dornoch is called Dornoch and District but is quite clearly done by the same people who did the one in Brora.

This leads me to suspect that there are other Sutherland Rolls of Honour. Perhaps Sutherlandshire (a) and Sutherlandshire (b) covered the other seven parishes of the county?

The one in Clyne used to hang in the drill hall in Brora and was thrown in a skip during its conversion to a library in the 1990s. Luckily a passing member of the Heritage Society saw it and rescued it.

The paper used is not the usual vellum used for rolls of honour and I think the local newspaper "The Northern Times" may have been involved in producing the rolls in 1919. That may mean several copies of the same rolls were produced to hang in drill halls or other prominent local places across the parishes of Sutherland. Historylinks have three copies of their roll which supports this theory.

The Scottish War Memorials Project now has hundreds of rolls of honour from all over Scotland and it is obvious many communities wanted to display rolls like these to highlight not only those who died but also those who served so I'm sure there would have been a demand across Sutherland for these Rolls of Honour.

Hopefully the other copies have not been lost. Many halls, churches and schools have war memorials and rolls of honour in storage in cupboards, and back rooms. I live in hope that the other rolls in this series will some day turn up in another museum or heritage centre in Sutherland.

It is picture a museum day so here are the photos of the rolls. The Historylinks' Roll is taken from this webpage.

Peebleshire Militia jacket to remain in Borders

It looks like the bid to save the Peebleshire Militia jacket in the Borders has been successful.

We first posted about it here.

BBC News - South of Scotland report that Scottish Borders Council's museums service raised nearly £5,000 to buy and display the uniform in the Tweeddale Museum in Peebles.

Full story on BBC website here.

Lord George Murray besieges Blair Castle - On this day in Scottish Military History - 1746

The Jacobites had reached Inverness on 19th February 1746 but the Hanoverian forces had not followed them. The Duke of Cumberland wanted to prepare his army for the advance along the Moray coast in the Spring, and was content to leave the Jacobites in their base in Inverness whilst he received his supplies via the sea into Aberdeen.

His main body of troops were in Aberdeen but he had a detachment of Campbell Militia at Blair Castle. Others from his army were at Castle Menzies near Aberfeldy, and there were detachments strung along the two Wade roads running north. Cumberland also had his Hessian reinforcements at Perth and other Hanoverians troops had arrived at Stirling. Finally there were loyal troops in Sutherland under the Earl of Loudon.

With the Hanoverians sitting tight the Jacobites took the initiative. By mid-March Cameron of Lochiel had taken Fort Augustus and was preparing to advance on Fort William. Lord George Murray proposed a further audacious plan to move south to retake his family home of Blair Castle and recruit more men from the Atholl lands.

On 15th March Murray made a rapid march into Perthshire with his Atholl Regiment. At Ruthven he was joined by Archibald Menzies of Struan, and Cluny MacPherson. He had 700 men in total and by the night of 16th March he had reached Bunrannoch (near what is now Kinloch Rannoch).

The first Hanoverian outpost at Rannoch fell within minutes and throughout the rest of the night and the early hours of the 17th the Jacobites captured thirty government outposts across Perthshire. By noon on this day 265 years ago Lord George Murray's force was at the gates of Blair Castle.

Some Hanoverian garrisons had fought, some had given up quickly and some had even mutinied and gone over to the Rebels. Most posts were commandeered farm houses and offered little protection to the defenders. They were no match for a determined force of several hundred Jacobites itching for a fight.

The Jacobites had struck a blow against Cumberland's forces in the Southern Highlands. Prince Charles's army may have retreated north but they could still fight back.

It was not all going the Jacobites way on this day. Lieutenant Colonel Sir Andrew Agnew and his 300 Campbell Militia in Blair Castle had no intention of surrendering. They were in a strong position with arms and supplies and Lord George Murray would have to conduct a siege to retake his ancestral home.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Rome's IX Legion & Hadrian's Wall

From today's BBC News website magazine page:

The Roman Ninth Legion's mysterious loss

An article about the Roman IX Legion and its 'loss' in the first century A.D.
The article has been published in the run up to the UK release on 25th March of the movie "The Eagle". The film is based on the Rosemary Sutcliff book "Eagle of the Ninth".

Lancaster bomber crash memorial service on Beinn Eighe

From yesterday's Press & Jornal

Moving memorial to RAF crew at the summit of Beinn Eighe - Mountain rescue team climbs to crash site to lay wreath

By Neil MacPhail

Published: 15/03/2011

A POIGNANT memorial service took place yesterday in Wester Ross, amid some of Scotland’s wildest mountains, to commemorate an RAF aircrew who died there in 1951.

The crash, near the summit of Beinn Eighe, happened in the early hours of March 14, 1951, after a Lancaster bomber from RAF Kinloss went missing off Cape Wrath.

The bomber hit the mountain and wreckage came to land in what became known as Fuselage Gully. In the harsh conditions it took days to get to the wreckage, and months to recover all the eight bodies.

The lessons learned from the recovery resulted in major improvements to the training and equipping of RAF mountain rescue teams, who have been responsible, with civilian teams, for saving many lives among the Scottish mountains.

It is for this reason that the event is etched in the collective memory of the RAF mountain rescue service, and yesterday members of RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue climbed to the crash site to lay a wreath in memory of their former colleagues.

Peter McGowan, a former RAF Kinloss team leader, said: “It’s important to remember the victims of this tragic crash and the dramatic effect this had on the development of the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team.

“Back then the team was just in its infancy, but the Lancaster tragedy was key to it becoming the highly-equipped and trained unit it is today.”

The stunning sandstone and quartzite mountain, where the crew met their death is also home to some of Europe’s most precious wildlife, and the reserve is managed for the nation by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). There is a long history of involvement of SNH staff within the local mountain rescue team and current reserve manager, Eoghain Maclean, is leader of the Torridon and Kinlochewe Mountain Rescue Team.

He said: “Beinn Eighe is a very special place and, as a National Nature Reserve, attracts thousands of visitors every year. Most of the people who visit the reserve will not be aware of this sad, but important, story, and it’s fitting that we can pay respect to the airmen who died.”

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Images of the Day - 15/03/11

In the past we have occasionally posted up photos to one of our forums, looking for information on the subject or the location of the photograph.

What we thought we'd do on the blog is have a semi-regular showcase of some photos in our collections. We post these, together with whatever information we have, and see if there's any information forthcoming.

At the very least, it makes for some interesting viewing.

Today's photos come from my personal collection. I don't know any of the men in these photographs. The only thing I do know is that they are Highland Light Infantry. My wife's grandfather served in the 10/11th Battalion in the First World War, and I believe they came from her family. Her grandfather is not pictured in these photos.

Click the images for larger versions.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Reservists to recreate Jacobite night march of 1746

This article, by Steven McKenzie, appeared on the BBC News website:

The Territorial Army (TA) is preparing to retrace a possible route followed by Jacobite forces who were attempting to ambush a government camp in 1746.

The night march of 15 April, 265 years ago, was aborted short of its target on the outskirts of Nairn.

Bonnie Prince Charlie's forces were defeated at Culloden the next day.

In 2009, four people required hospital treatment to foot and leg injuries during the first "real-time" re-enactment of the march.

This will be only the second recreation to be held in the same time frame as the original march.

It has been planned by C Company, 51st Highland, 7th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, also known as 7 SCOTS.

Commandos of the Royal Marines Reserve and several members of re-enactment group, Battlescar, are expected to join about 30 TA soldiers on the trek.

A further 30 people drawn from the Army Cadet Force, Air Training Corps and Sea Cadets are also due to take part on stages of the latest recreation.

The march, which will not be open to the public, will be staged ahead of the 265th anniversary of the Battle of Culloden on 16 April.

The TA hopes to further understand the effects of 1746 night march on the Jacobites.

Research will include measuring and observing the affects of lack of sleep on judgement and the importance of food and provisions, or lack of them, for the soldiers on the march.

On 16 April, commemoration events at the battlefield will include a traditional service led by the Gaelic Society. A lone piper will also be present.

Visits to the National Trust for Scotland managed site are high with 124,053 visitors in 2008-09 - when a new visitor centre opened - and 112,565 in 2009-10.
Marcher on 2009 Jacobite night march re-enactment 2009 saw the first "real-time" re-enactment of the night march

Archaeologist and Culloden expert Dr Tony Pollard, from the University of Glasgow, took part in the 2009 night march.

He said the battlefield and its history continued to captivate the imagination of archaeologists as well as the wider public.

Dr Pollard said: "On an objective level, Culloden is a very interesting period of history.

"It came at the time of improved literacy and increased military bureaucracy meaning the battle is well recorded, however, we cannot take all these accounts at face value and there has to be a marrying of the archaeology with the records."

He added: "The investigations at Culloden are by no means over. Culloden is a flagship laboratory for battlefield archaeology and the new visitor centre has reinforced that.

"In terms of casualties it was a very small battle and the death toll pales when you consider other battles such as Pinkie, where tens of thousands were killed.

"Yet it still has that resonance and there is a romance related to it. Everyone loves an underdog and Culloden is an ultimate tale of that."

Army pipes and drummers return to Stirling Castle

I've just discovered the Stirling Castle blog, where this article was posted today.

The rhythm of daily life for generations of soldiers based at Stirling Castle was dictated by pipers and drummers. On March 19 they make a welcome return when we host a day of competitions between four bands made up of members of the Army’s University Officer Training Corps (UOTC). It should be quite a spectacle for visitors. From 10am onwards the 60 talented young military musicians, from all over Scotland, will challenge each other to decide the best individual, small group and massed band performances. They will play in different parts of the castle, scrutinised by judges, but will unite towards the end of the day to Beat the Retreat.

Up until the mid-60s the castle was the training depot for the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, taking raw recruits and turning them into soldiers. Each morning they were roused by a piper and a drummer – playing his bugle. Thereafter their drills, parades, meals and eventually their bed time was all signalled by the musicians. The musicians were the mechanism that made regimental life run like clockwork.

Anyone coming to see the competition, or cheer on someone taking part, will probably enjoy a visit to the regimental museum of The Argyll’s which is based at the castle. They can see historic items like a Boer War drum, pierced by an enemy bullet. There are also the pipes which belonged to Eric Moss, an officer who risked his life to hide regimental silver from the Japanese at the fall of Singapore. He kept hold of his pipes while a prisoner, but the pipe bag rotted in the atrocious conditions. However, he created an improvised replacement in order to perform a morale-boosting concert for his comrades.

All those taking part in this weekend’s Northern Lights Pipes and Drums Competition are studying for degrees at universities close to home in Stirling, or further afield in Edinburgh, Glasgow or Aberdeen. After graduation, some may join the Army full time and continue the traditions of those remembered in the museum.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Kilmainham records catalogued

Thanks to Chris Paton for the following piece of news:

The National Archives at Kew has announced that 20,000 records of soldiers who discharged to pension at Kilmainham Hospital in Dublin have now been catalogued from WO119, and can be viewed on the archive's main catalogue. The period covered is 1783-1822, and includes soldiers from all over the British isles who ended their careers pensioned in Ireland, rather than Chelsea. The work was carried out by the Friends of he National Archives.

These records are in fact being digitised at present by FindmyPast, which has already made TNA's Chelsea pension records available online.

For more, see

The Clydebank Blitz - On this day in Scottish Military History - 1941

To cover the whole horror of the two night blitz on Clydebank by the Luftwaffe over the nights of 13th and 14th March 1941 would be impossible in a blog post.

Instead I'll quickly summarise the terrible facts of that night exactly seventy years ago:
  • Out of a population of 47,000 people 35,000 people were made homeless
  • One third of the buildings in Clydebank were destroyed
  • Only eight houses in the town were left unscathed
  • 528 people were killed and 617 were wounded
  • 22 bodies were unclaimed or unidentified
  • 1,000 bombers attacked Clydebank
  • Only 2 bombers shot down

It's a night which still haunts those living in the town today. The scale of the attack on the factories and shipyards meant many of the nearby houses were hit instead.

The town couldn't cope with the huge number of bodies and those who died on those two nights were buried in a communal grave.

At first a simple large headstone marked their grave but after many years research the names were added on bronze panels in March 2009.

Over the next day or so there is bound to be a fair amount of media coverage. We'll be sure to update this post with links to any articles.

BBC Scotland are also showing a documentary on the Blitz. This is only being shown in Scotland but it should be possible for those outside Scotland to view on the BBC iplayer.

There are also a number of web resources where you can learn more. Tom McKendrick has a site with some recollections and a list of casualties, and the Clydebank Restoration Trust has some material on their page.

You can also read our review of the recent book "River of Fire", as well as enter the competition to win a copy of the book.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Alexander Brook - The Story Behind The Name

Of all the names listed on the Bank of Scotland war memorial, Alexander Brook is noteworthy for two reasons. Firstly, he is (so far as we can tell) the oldest casualty of the bank for the First World War, and as a Lieutenant-Colonel, he is also the highest ranking.

Alexander Brook was born on the 12th of June 1865, the only son of John Brook, a master grocer and Annie Leckie, of Primrose Bank, Haddington. He attended the Knox Institute in Haddington, before attending Edinburgh University as a Student of Arts between 1883 and 1887, gaining an M.A. He was appointed Writer to the Signet in 1891.

Shortly before the outbreak of War he was appointed County Clerk and Treasurer to the County of East Lothian. He was also a member of Haddington Town Council.

He served as joint agent at the Haddington branch of the Bank of Scotland from 1895 until his death in 1915. At the time bank agents usually had no formal training and were normally "upstanding" members of the community, such as lawyers, and it was while working as a solicitor that Brook was joint agent.

Brook had joined the 8th Battalion of the Royal Scots in 1886, and had been awarded the Volunteer Decoration for his services, and on the outbreak of war he was mobilised as a Major. He was subsequently promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel in November 1914 and was Mentioned in Despatches.

At the time of his death his battalion had taken part in three days of fighting, and he and a Major Gemmill were in a trench studying a map when a shell burst beside them. Major Gemmill was deafened and buried by the shell, and on clearing himself found the Colonel Brook had suffered a head wound from shrapnel.

Four men were detailed to carry Colonel Brook to an aid post, and in the process two of these men were themselves wounded. It was to no avail as Colonel Brook died shortly afterwards on the 19th of May 1915. He was buried the following day, 100 men from the battalion attending the service.

Colonel Alexander Brook is buried in Section II, Row H, Grave 12 of Bethune Town Cemetery. He is commemorated on the Bank of Scotland memorial in The Mound, the civic memorial at Haddington as well as at Edinburgh University.

Friday, 11 March 2011

The Istanbul suitcase bomb - On this day in Scottish Military History - 1941

Even amidst the horrors of the Second World War an act of senseless violence in Turkey seventy years ago today so shocked people that 'Time' Magazine in the U.S.A. devoted a lengthy article on it.

It is an act commemorated on our Scottish blog because a young woman from Canonbie in Dumfries-shire was involved, and she is listed on Canonbie's War Memorial because of it.

We have actually mentioned Eleanor Armstrong on the blog before back on 29th January 2009 so it's not worth going over the details again today when you can go to the old post here.

It's such an unusual story though that I think it's worth mentioning her tragic death again on this anniversary.