Saturday, 30 April 2011

Elcho of the ‘45 - a book review

Karen Nichols, a Dundee historian, has provided today's guest blog post. It was originally posted on Karen's own book Blog in March but with our recent series of Jacobite posts it is worth publishing on here too.

Elcho of the ‘45

With an insatiable appetite for Jacobitism I eagerly clutched the chance to delve deep into one man’s experience of being a follower to Prince Charles Edward Stuart literally on to the battlefield at Culloden.

Two hand-written manuscripts, one in fluent French, by David, Lord Elcho, are the basis of this book. The Fife based family of Wemyss have a lineage dating back to the 12th century when their service to kings began. With Presbyterian allegiances since the Reformation Elcho and his brother went against family tradition. They found themselves as accidental Jacobites due to a father’s leanings and a tutor who may have been a Jacobite agent. After the obligatory Grand Tour and training at a military college in Angers, France, Elcho rose through the ranks as a competent officer in the royal army.

Despite examples around him of men who joined the Bonnie Prince then became disillusioned Elcho continued to serve the man he believed was rightful king of the newly integrated Great Britain. His life before defeat at Culloden was socialising with a Who’s Who of the aristocracy. Once exiled in Europe and inextricably linked to both the Prince and Catholicism Elcho was in turns treated as an outcast or favoured guest.

Unfortunately, their relationship fell apart over the non-repayment of a loan that Elcho maintained he gave the Prince to fund the Rising. In defeat, these funds were sorely needed by Elcho to rebuild a life in exile but his request was stubbornly ignored by his Prince. This rift meant isolation from the company that he had known since birth. To add to the anguish, Elcho remained an exile whilst other Jacobite activists were pardoned by the English government. He was destined never to receive that pardon nor return to his homeland.

There is no doubt that Elcho was sorely used by his Prince and paid the price for his loyalty for the rest of his life. The Prince Charles that is hinted at in Elcho’s Journal is not the romantic ideal of nostalgic history but a headstrong, ill-educated, vain-glorious self-seeker. For this reason alone I would recommend reading this book. Despite severe provocation Elcho maintained the mindset of his period and did not write derogatory remarks about his master. However, what also comes across is that Elcho was a dry, factual writer with no hints at emotion. His contemporaries considered him irritable and slightly eccentric. Although I think his judgment of the Prince is accurate how much did Elcho contribute to his own loneliness?

Throughout the book there are several references to the fact that these narratives were not intended, by Elcho, for publication. With the double negatives and convoluted grammar I often found myself wishing that the editors had abided by that decision. This book is for scholars of the subject and for those well acquainted with Jacobitism.

Elcho of the ’45, Alice Wemyss. Ed: John Sibbald Gibbon, 2003, Saltire Society

Friday, 29 April 2011

The last Earl of Strathearn

Prince William has been made Earl of Strathearn today. It is a royal title and was previously linked to the Duke of Connaught rather than the Duke of Cambridge.

The last Earl of Strathearn died in Canada in 1943 as a Lieutenant in the Royal Scots Greys whilst serving as the Aide-de-Camp to the Governor General.

Rank: Lieutenant
Regiment/Service: Royal Armoured Corps
Unit Text: Royal Scots Greys (2nd Dragoons)
Age: 28
Date of Death: 26/04/1943
Service No: 64562
Additional information: 2nd Duke of Connaught and Strathearn. Son of H.R.H. Prince Arthur of Connaught, K.T., G.C.M.G., G.C.V.O., and of H.R.H. Princess Arthur of Connaught, R.R.C., of Braemar.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead

He had only been the 2nd Duke of Connaught and Strathearn for just over a year when he died. Before that he used a title from his mother's side of the famly - the Earl of Macduff.

At the time of his death he was ADC to the Governor General of Canada and he died in Ottawa (His granfather, the 1st Duke, had been Governor General of Canada in the early 20th Century

His ashes are in St Ninian's, Mar Lodge Chapel which was the private chapel of the Mar Lodge estate which was owned by his mother at that time. His mother apart from being the Princess of Connaught was also the Duchess of Fife and Countess of Macduff in her own right.

The death of the 2nd Duke is quite strange. Seemingly he fell asleep beside an open window and died of hypothermia!

The fact that he died of natural causes and in Canada didn't stop him being remembered on the Scots Grey's War Memorial on Edinburgh's Princes Street

Online domination

The SMRG has expanded its online presence with a new Twitter account. Apart from this blog we also have a website and a facebook page (and two project forums). Here are the URLs for all of them.






And don't forget the two project forums too...

Scottish War Memorials Project

Scottish War Graves Project

Images of the Day - 29th April 2011

Another image from the collection of my wife's grandfather today. This one has a few unanswered questions, but we can at least identify the unit these men were serving in.

This postcard has an excellent view of the cap badges on display, and these men all appear to be serving with the Lanarkshire Yeomanry.

Apart from that, we have little else to go on. The men are all unidentified, and although we can see a shoulder title on the man in the middle, the picture isn't clear enough to read it.

As for the location...I'd like to think, given the regiment, that this was taken when boating on Lanark Loch, but there isn't enough background detail to confirm that. As for the white object in the background...I have no idea. A tent? A shed or some kind of pavilion?

So...another mystery photo, but an interesting one nonetheless. As before, if anyone has any ideas...please get in touch either through the comments here or by emailing us.

Click on the photo for a larger version of the image.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Festival of Museums - Igniting Scotland's Imagination

Over 70 museums and galleries across Scotland are putting on events over the weekend of the 13th to 15th of May in an event title Festival of Museums.

For those of you with a military interest, there are plenty of options. You can:

There's plenty of events to see and do. I made a resolution this year to visit more placesaround Scotland that I haven't been to before - this looks like the ideal opportunity to do so!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

World Wars Experience day at the Museum of Flight

This Sunday you can see the First and Second World Wars "come vividly to life" with living history presenters at the Museum of Flight in East Fortune.

There are a number of activities and re-enactments throughout the day, and more detail can be found on the NMS website:

World Wars Experience

Does Glasgow need a 'Super Museum'?

We've had some posts lately about the highs and lows of Scotland's military museums. Of special concern are those still run by the MoD and attached to regimental headquarters. With cuts across government departments a priority for this coalition the Ministry of Defence may see regimental museums as an expense too far; especially those museums with few folk coming through the door.

When the government had to reform the army they often resorted to amalgamation. In 1881, 1957, 1961 and 1994 Scottish regiments merged to form larger entities. It was taken to its logical conclusion in 2006 with the creation of the 'super' Royal Regiment of Scotland (something actually touted in 1968 by Douglas Hurd, but in a novel and not as a politician, in his book "Scotch on the Rocks")

So here is a radical solution to the museums' problems - amalgamate them. Why not have a 'super museum' to match the 'super regiment'.

I'm not suggesting we have one combined regimental museum to cover all the Scottish Infantry regiments but perhaps the regiments who traditionally recruited in the West of Scotland could come together in a new purpose-built facility in Glasgow. If we think of the old Strathclyde Region it had four famous Scottish Infantry Regiments recruiting in that area. The Royal Scots Fusiliers in Ayrshire, The Cameronians in Lanarkshire, the Highland Light Infantry in Glasgow and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in Argyll, Dunbartonshire and Renfrewshire.

If we add in the Ayrshire Yeomanry, Glasgow Yeomanry and Lanarkshire Yeomanry too, and the Territorial artillery, engineers, medical and transport units based in the area then that is a lot of units and a lot of service. In fact why not go the whole hog and add in Glasgow's own RAF squadron - 602 Squadron RAFVR. And if they are in why not the local Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve too.

So there's my suggestion - a great big Lottery funded museum supported by all the local authorities around Glasgow donating some funds and their 'war' holdings alongside the regimental material to showcase Glasgow and the West of Scotland's proud military, naval and aviation history. A Strathclyde War Museum no less.

Ok, this is just wild pie-in-the-sky thinking but what is the alternative for some of our museums if the MoD pulls the plug? Going back to the army's own solution if amalgamation isn't possible; it is suspended animation or worse, disbandment.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Royal Wedding - parade practice

The BBC News has an interesting narrated slideshow showing how the Scots and Welsh Guards, accompanied by the band of the Coldstream Guards, and the Household Cavalry, are preparing for their participation in the Royal Wedding on Friday.

Click here to view the slideshow.

WW2 crash sites in Scotland to be surveyed

From today's BBC Scotland web pages:

Archaeologists are to carry out surveys of nine World War II aircraft crash sites across Scotland.

They include a crashed US B-17 Flying Fortress on Skye and locations on Shetland and in Dumfries and Galloway.

Terence Christian, of the University of Glasgow, and volunteers excavated the wreck of a Mosquito MM244 near Inverness last year.

Items recovered included an oxygen bottle and parts of the aircraft's wooden frame showing an RAF roundel.

The artefacts will eventually be handed over to the care of a museum.

Permission to survey the nine new sites has been sought from the Ministry of Defence, which allowed the examination of the crashed Mosquito remains.

Mr Christian said the B17 bomber work was also being done in consultation with the crew's families in the US.

He told the BBC News Scotland website: "We plan to do the survey work in early May.

"The B17 was flying from Iceland to London on its way to Italy when it crashed on Skye."

'Unmodified time capsules'

Mr Christian's research aims to develop new aircraft archaeology-specific methodology as a means to record and manage World War II crash sites.

He said: "With a production total of nearly one million units, aircraft represent the largest composite artefact classification of the Second World War.

"Even with such vast production numbers, less than 5% of operational aircraft remain.

Terence Christian will survey the B-17 wreck site in May "Indeed, the majority of the extant 5% only exists in a wrecked state amongst the forests and fields of towns worldwide."

But the archaeologist said rather than being buried "unmodified time capsules" many crash sites have seen "large-scale human alteration" over the past 70 years through people handling, or removing, artefacts.

The Mosquito wreck crash site dig was carried out last July.

The aircraft of No 544 Squadron crashed on 25 November 1943 after experiencing engine problems during a training mission with six other Mosquito crews.

Pilot Flying Officer Joe Burfield and navigator Sgt Alexander Barron, a Glaswegian, baled out and parachuted down to opposite sides of Loch Ness.

Dubbed the Wooden Wonder because of its wooden frame, the Mosquito was operated on low-level bombing raids.

Historian hopes to exhume body

An interesting article from The Northern Echo about a possible exhumation of a man from the north of England. The man was serving with the Tyneside Scottish, and another man who died at the same time was serving with the Lothian and Border Horse. Henry Thomson is listed in the Scottish National War Memorial and his listing can be seen here.

A North-east historian will travel to Poland in the hope of exhuming a body to carry out a DNA test as he hunts for his uncle who died in a Second World War Prisoner Of War (POW) camp.

Lance Corporal John Thomas Saunders, known as Tommy, was captured by the Germans at Arras in France on May 20, 1940.

A month later he arrived at Stalag VIIIB POW camp and in 1942 was transferred to Lamsdorf, a large camp in Germany, now part of modern-day Poland.

On July 21, 1944, Mr Saunders, who was 25 and a member of the Tyneside Scottish Black Watch, was working in woodland with some other prisoners when an argument arose between the workers and guard.

The armed guard was unhappy with the amount of work the prisoners were doing but Mr Saunders, from Bishop Auckland, and his colleagues argued they had completed their work quota.

The guard, who felt threatened as the workers had saws and axes, shot and killed two of the men, Mr Saunders and a member of the Lothian and Borders Horses called Henry Thomson (CORR).

Mr Saunders' family received a letter explaining how he had died and, at the end of the war, a second letter was sent claiming he had been buried in a village near the woods.

Now his nephew Tom Hutchinson, from Birtley near Chester-le-Street, County Durham, wants to travel to Poland to find the grave he believes is his uncle.

He has made contact with villagers in Popielow (CORR) and according to local knowledge there are three unmarked graves that are believed to contain British troops.

The church's records, which could have confirmed who was in the graves, were destroyed in a fire in 1945.

Mr Hutchinson hopes to use DNA from his mother and surviving uncle to match that from one of the unmarked body's.

If a match is found, his uncle's body will either remain in the Popielow cemetery with a new headstone or be moved to a British war cemetery in Krakow about an hour away.

To get the exhumation Mr Hutchinson needs to convince the English War Graves Commission that there is enough evidence that one of the graves is his uncle's, but said he is relying on eye witness accounts and local knowledge in the Polish village.

He plans to travel there later this year to speak to the local authority in Popielow and get their permission to exhume the body.

He said: "It is a fascinating tale and I know the whole family would like to know if this is Tommy's grave."

He said, however, repatriating his uncle to Britain would not be possible.

A second historian from Bishop Auckland, John Dixon, who is creating an online war memorial archive, is investigating who the third grave might belong to.

Light fantastic for Navy tribute

We've blogged about the Merchant Navy memorial in Leith before, and it seems that it has proven to be a popular memorial, receiving up to 100 visitors a day.

This article from The Scotsman discusses a proposal for the memorial to be lit at night.

It was created to stand as a tribute to the thousands of merchant seamen who gave their lives in British conflicts.

The Merchant Navy Memorial on the shore at Leith has since become a shrine to visitors from around the world.

In fact, the bronze statue is so popular that a planning application has been lodged to light it up at night in response to demand.

The memorial was opened by HRH The Princess Royal, patron of the Merchant Navy Memorial Trust, in November last year and since then has seen close to 100 visitors a day.

The nearby Malmaison Hotel reported that guests often asked why it was not lit up, so the trust has agreed to fix a spotlight to the roof of the hotel that will make sure the memorial can be seen 24 hours a day.The light is to be fixed to a part of the roof which will make it "invisible" yet will create a dramatic effect in illuminating the statue below.

Artist Jill Watson, who designed and created the memorial, has been closely consulted about the floodlighting and is said to be thrilled at the tests.

She said: "I am delighted that the memorial is to be floodlit. It will make the scenes around the column even more dramatic. Sculpture comes alive with light.

"And it means that visitors to the area will be able to see the monument in the evening, during the winter months."

Gordon Milne, the founder of the Merchant Navy Memorial Trust (Scotland), said: "The memorial has been far more popular than we ever imagined, and there have been people coming from all over the world to see it.

"It has been far beyond above our expectations, and it is perhaps because so many people come to Leith to find out about the maritime history, but there is not much there to visit.

"People from all over the world have visited it, and many of them have seen it as a very personal experience, a place to remember loved ones who were lost in conflict at sea.

"The management at the Malmaison said that a lot of people had asked why it wasn't lit up at night. We have taken that on board and come up with a design that will see it lit up in a very special way.

"We did a test of the light a few weeks ago and the effect was very dramatic, very striking, and it really shows the statue in all of it's glory."

Mr Milne said it was hoped the floodlighting would be put in place within the next few weeks after an agreement was reached with Malmaison.

The £100,000 memorial was put up to mark the loss of the 6500 Scottish merchant seamen, who died in the first and second world wars, the Falklands War and other disasters.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Invitation to ANZAC day ceremony

Australians and New Zealanders living in the Capital are invited to attend the ANZAC Day service at the Scottish National War Memorial, Edinburgh Castle, on Monday.
The ceremony, under the auspices of the Royal British Legion Scotland, begins at midday.

The popular event, which has been marked at the Castle since 1928, does not require a ticket and entry to the Castle for the service is free. ANZAC Day commemorates the Gallipoli campaign in the First World War.

Friday, 22 April 2011

James Stewart of Blairgowrie

This New Zealand blog mentions the help of members of the Scottish War Memorials Project in locating an extended family member who died in the Second World War. It's always a pleasure to help someone with their research. Although we can't in most cases do your research for you, we can provide pointers to useful sources of information - it's what we're all about.

I thought it worthwhile to highlight the blog post as it's an interesting story.

Lost without trace – Sentimental Sunday 

I had no idea who this dashing young airman was until Auntie told me “that’s your Granny’s brother, James. He was in the Air Force and went missing in World War II around the time Great Grandpa Stewart died”. 

I didn’t know that Granny had a third brother, and I wanted to find out more about James so I did a bit of digging. Great Grandpa (James Cameron Stewart) died on 5 February 1941, so James must have been reported missing around then. If I hadn’t asked about this photo, he could have been lost without trace a second time :-( 

I searched the casualties on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website and found: “in Memory of Sergeant JAMES STEWART 945565, 149 Sqdn., Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve who died on 21 February 1941. Remembered with honour. Runnymede Memorial” along with a photo of the memorial. 

I then posted an appeal for help at the Scottish War Memorials Project and a very helpful member was able to tell me that there is mention of a James Stewart, Sgt Royal Air Force, on Blairgowrie War Memorial. He also gave me the following information: “Shows as born Blairgowrie, seved in Bomber Command. Airborne at 18.25 from Mildenhall that night in Welllington R-1045 on operation to Wilhelmshaven. Aircraft lost without trace, all crew commemorated at Runnymede.” The Scottish War Memorials Project have photos and information on many of the war memorials in Scotland, posted by volunteers, many of whom are extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic

While googling for a photo of a Wellington R-1045, I came across the Aircrew Remembrance Society which mentions the Wilhelmshaven Raid: “Took off from R.a.F. Feltwell, Norfolk at around 19.00 hrs to take part on a raid on Wilhelmshaven. a total of 54 Wellingtons took part with 19 actually bombing the target area. No details were available of damage to the town. This was one of two aircraft lost on this raid – the other a Wellington IC R1045 OJM from 149 squadron flown by F/O. Ian Henderson was also lost without trace, together with all six crew. Another Wellington IC T2547 crashed on landing, colliding with a fence near the airfield perimeter – all this crew survived.” 

My great uncle James was presumably part of the crew on F/O Henderson’s plane. I will contact the Aircrew Remembrance Society to see if they have any further information, or if they would like a copy of James’s photo. They are doing a great job of helping relatives of fallen and missing airmen from the 1939-45 air war and preserving memories, documents and photographs – their website is well worth a visit. So, this week I will check for a birth record for James in Blairgowrie, Perthshire, which should confirm his parents as James Cameron Stewart and Janet Christian (Chris) Hardie. Then I’ll see what else I can find out about James’s short life – he would have been around 26 or 27 when he died. I can’t imagine what Chris went through, losing her husband and a son in less than 3 weeks.

Thursday, 21 April 2011


I mentioned the wristbands in my post the other day about the proposed Black Watch memorial. An article by Alan Ducat in the Forfar Despatch yesterday provided more information:

Readers may recall how members of the public supported the Black Watch soldiers serving in Afghanistan in 2009 by wearing wrist bands in the regiment’s colours.

The wrist bands retailed at £2 each, coming in the Royal Regiment of Scotland colours and bearing the slogan “supporting the Black Watch, 3 Scots in Afghanistan 2009”.

The sale of the wrist bands boosted the coffers of the Army Benevolent Fund and Erskine Hospital, which provides nursing and medical care for ex-servicemen and women.

The Angus branch of the Black Watch Association has decided to re-launch the sale of the popular wristbands.

This time the proceeds will go to the association’s welfare fund, for the benefit of ex-Black Watch soldiers in the area, and towards the cost of erecting a new memorial for the regiment at the scene of one of the telling battles of first world war.

The Black Watch played a major role in helping to stem the German advance through Belgium in 1914 and the Battle of Polygon Wood heralded the start of what became known as trench warfare.

The area of Belgium is now better known as Black Watch Corner.

Major Ronnie Proctor, chairman of the Angus branch of the Black Watch Association, is driving forward a proposal first mooted by Tom McCluskey of Monifieth for a memorial to be erected in memory of the Black Watch soldiers who lost their lives at Polygon Wood.

“The Black Watch lost a lot of men in this battle, and the plan is to erect a memorial in their memory at Black Watch Corner ahead of the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the first world war in 1914.

“We have been in touch with the Belgian authorities, who are supportive of the proposal and, all going well, the memorial will be commissioned and in place in time for ceremonies staged to mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of world war one.

“It is important to us that the memorial will be sourced and produced in the regiment’s homeland.

“The stone will come from Perthshire and it is to be carved by well-known sculptor Bruce Walker from Kirriemuir.”

The sale of the wrist bands is just one local fund-raiser being organised to help meet the costs of the commissioning and erection of the memorial, estimated to be in the region of £25,000.

Following last week’s re-launch of the wrist band initiative, at Kirriemuir Hill at the weekend, members of the local association will be making arrangements to have them on sale at various outlets throughout the county.

Images of the Day - 21st April 2011

Usually with these "Image of the Day" posts the subject has been an almost total mystery - that's been the nature of the photographs I've had to work with recently.

This batch of photos are slightly different in that I can name one man in all of them.

These photographs are in an album belonging to my wife, and they feature her grandfather, John Struthers.

John served in the 10/11th Battalion of the Highland Light Infantry, and was taken prisoner in March 1918. In addition to these photographs, the album they were in contain a number of other pictures which we will post in future "Image..." articles. However, I've decided to group these three together as they are the only ones to feature John Struthers.

John wrote a number of letters home to his parents, and we have copies of these as well as some originals - but that's for another time...

The first picture is a studio portrait, the date of whch is unknown.

The second picture appears to be a group of signallers. John Struthers is standing third from the left. We don't know what duties he performed in the battalion - he may have been a signaller.

The third and final picture is a more informal shot, taken "after a hard 'days graft'". The last word on the photo is unreadable. Is it "operation"? John is standing second from the right.

As with previous "Image of the Day" posts, if you have any further information on these phhotos, please do get in touch with us.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

John Mackenzie, Count of Cromarty - Who’s Who in Scottish Military History.

Today’s Who’s Who is about one of several Scots who fought for the Jacobites during the ’45 Rebellion and ended their military career in the British Army.

John Mackenzie, Lord MacLeod was the eldest son of the 3rd Earl of Cromartie. He was born in the family seat of Castle Leod near Strathpeffer in 1727. At the age of four he was first styled Lord Macleod and that was how he was best known for the rest of his life.

For the next fourteen years he had an uneventful life; then in 1745 his life changed forever. In December 1745 his father came out for the Jacobite cause and raised a Clan Regiment for Prince Charles’s army.

By the time they mustered the Jacobites had turned back at Derby and were now marching north. Cromartie and his son took their men south to meet and join the army.

Cromartie’s regiment joined the Jacobite host outside Stirling and it was near there at the Battle of Falkirk where Lord Macleod fought in his first battle. After the Jacobite’s reached Inverness Cromartie and his men were included in the Duke of Perth’s force which routed Loudon from Sutherland March 1746. Cromartie moved into Dunrobin Castle and sent his son further north in his first independent command.

He was only eighteen but Lord Macleod was given 300 men to go to Caithness and Orkney to find Jacobite recruits and plunder Hanoverian sympathisers’ lands for supplies and arms.

After three weeks without much success he returned to Dunrobin and was captured there on the day before the battle of Culloden by Highlanders loyal to the government.

He was taken to London with other Jacobite officers to be tried before the Commissioners. He pleaded guilty to high treason, but his youth and the limited part he played in the Rebellion may have counted in his favour. He was spared, death or slavery and pardoned. A condition of his pardon was the forfeiture of his title and he was sent into exile, but at least by 1748 he was alive and free.

He ended up under the wing of one of many Scots serving in European armies. Field Marshal James Keith. In 1750 Keith arranged MacLeod’s commission into the Swedish Army through the wife of the Swedish King – who also happened to be the sister of the Prussian King who was a friend of Keith.

Pomerania is in North Germany and Poland, opposite Sweden, and in the 1750s part of it was Swedish territory. Sweden coveted the parts of Pomerania they had ceded to Prussia in 1720 and the spread of the Seven Years War across Europe gave Sweden an excuse to attack Prussia in 1757. For the next five years Sweden and Prussia were at war over Pomerania and Macleod was involved in the fighting.

In 1762 Sweden ended the war after it had recovered no territory for the cost of 40,000 lives and vast sums of money it couldn’t afford to spend. Improbably Macleod then joined the army of his former enemy, Prussia, and fought alongside them against Russia.

Prussia and Russia ended their war in 1763 and Macleod returned to Swedish service. For the next few years he gave loyal service to Sweden; becoming an ADC to King Adolf Frederick and a earning a promotion to Lieutenant Colonel. Amongst his honours he was given the Order of the Sword of Sweden and was made a Swedish count. The title he took was Count of Cromarty.

In 1777 he returned to Scotland. The War against the American States was draining the resources of the army and at the same time trouble was brewing in India. New regiments were needed for both theatres of war. Many former Jacobites or their families saw this as a way to help pave the way for the restoration of their lands and titles if they raised or served as soldiers in the British Army. In all eleven regular battalions were raised in Scotland in 1777 and 1778.

Macleod set to work immediately. In the 1770s there was no set recruiting areas in Scotland and any new regiment could send out recruiting parties across the country. The reputation of Lord MacLeod preceded him and he had no difficulty finding recruits. 840 men from the Highlands and 236 from the Lowlands. He had so much success at recruiting that a second battalion of the 73rd was authorised and that started recruiting as well shortly after the first had reached its establishment. The 2nd Bn 73rd was commanded by the Honourable George Mackenzie, Lord Macleod’s brother.

In late 1777 the 1/73rd (Highland) Regiment of Foot (MacLeod's Highlanders) first mustered at Elgin under their colonel, John Mackenzie, Lord Macleod. A year later George II recognised Macleod’s Swedish title and the Count of Cromarty led his regiment to embark for India a month later in January 1779. (In the peerage a count and an earl are the same rank so in effect, though not in name and lands, he was the fourth Earl of Cromartie).

The regiment stopped off in West Africa for a short time and didn’t arrive in India until a year after it had left the UK. It landed in Madras in January 1780.

In September 1780 several companies were despatched to join a British force under the Scot Major General Sir Hector Munro, which was fighting the Indian army of Hyder Ali. The Companies were soon lost in an action against the Mysore Army at the Battle of Pollilur and the captured troops imprisoned at Seringapatam. They included a young officer called David Baird who would later lead a British force back to Seringapatam nearly twenty years later to take revenge on his former captors.

By this time McLeod had been promoted to Major General. He soon made it clear to Munro he was unhappy with the way his detached troops from the 73rd had been used. They were the same rank and about the same age but Munro had been in the British Army for many years and had served in India for most of that time and there may have been a clash of personalities.

By this time Macleod was over fifty and after many years service in Scandinavia he may not have taken to the tropical heat of Southern India. Whatever the reasons: age, temperature or arguments with his superiors; the old soldier left his regiment to return home before he had a chance to lead them into action.

He retired from army life on half pay and in 1782 he was promoted to Major General. In the mean time he decided on a political path and entered parliament as the MP for Ross-shire.

A final act of rehabilitation took place in 1784 when he purchased his family estate for £19,000 on the back of an Act of Parliament. The Count of Cromarty gave up his constituency and became a laird (His replacement at Westminster would later raise the 78th Highlanders).

He moved into a home at Tarbet on the Black Isle and stayed there for the next five years, spending his time rebuilding and improving his estate.

He was in Edinburgh in 1789 when he died; and probably fitting for a man who was in exile for so many years, he was buried in the kirkyard in the Canongate rather than his family lands in Ross-shire.

Macleod had returned from India in 1780 but remained the Colonel of his regiment until his death. Before he died he saw his regiment survive a reduction of the army and its renumbering as the 71st (Highland) Regiment of Foot (MacLeod's Highlanders). As the 71st it would later achieve more fame as the Highland Light Infantry.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

2014 target for Black Watch memorial at Ypres

An article from The Courier today. Frustratingly it mentions wristband available for sale, but doesn't mention how you can get one...

The bravery of Black Watch soldiers in the first world war is to be celebrated in an ambitious project forged in the regiment's heartland but with its focus on a tranquil corner of rural Belgium.

For almost a century, Polygon Wood has stood in calm remembrance of the horrors of war experienced by the men who wore the red hackle.

Some 8000 of those heroes fell in the first world war, and although their sacrifice has lived on in the memory and historical records of the regiment there has never been a permanent memorial to honour that sacrifice.

However, with the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the war looming, Black Watch Association veterans in Angus have taken the lead in a project to create a fitting monument for the men of Tayside, Fife and beyond who were destined never to return from the fields of Flanders.

Association members across the country will be joining their comrades in Angus on a drive to raise the estimated £25,000 for the planned 2014 unveiling of the memorial in the poignant location of what, for the past nine decades, has remained Black Watch Corner in the countryside close to Ypres.

The project was revealed to The Courier at the weekend when senior association figures visited the Kirriemuir war memorial on which it is planned to model the Belgian tribute.

Angus Black Watch Association branch chairman Major Ronnie Proctor said, "We lost 8000 men in world war one and there is no specific Black Watch memorial in France or Flanders. One of our members, Tom McCluskey, mooted the idea that, with such an important milestone approaching in 2014, it would be fitting to create a memorial to these men.

"I was then able to propel it forward. Brigadier Edward de Broe Ferguson, the association chairman, is very much behind the idea, as is the rest of The Black Watch community.

"It is important to us that the memorial will be sourced and produced in the regiment's homeland, so the stone will come from Perthshire and is to be carved by well-known sculptor Bruce Walker from Kirriemuir... We hope to model it on the figure from the war memorial at Kirrie which is a striking monument, and it will take the form of a large stone slab with a Black Watch soldier carved in relief."

Angus branch is aiming for part of its contribution to come from the sale of specially commissioned wristbands created in the regimental colours which are now on sale.

"The association works to support the welfare of Black Watch soldiers and their dependents, and the wristbands are aimed at raising money for that continuing work," continued Major Proctor. "Proceeds will go into the welfare fund and hopefully we will be able to make a contribution from that to the memorial project.

"Three years seems a long time away but it will come round quickly so we are hopeful that the project will gather pace."

 The origins of Black Watch Corner

The origins of Black Watch Corner are revealed in a passage from The History of the Black Watch in the Great War 1914-1918, written by Maj-Gen A.G. Wauchope.

"November 11, 1914 — Ypres Sector, South West Corner of Polygon Wood: Between 6.30 and 9 a.m. on the 11th of November, the heaviest bombardment so far experienced by the British forces broke out; as it ended, a Division of the Prussian Guard, with orders from their Emperor to break the line at all costs, attacked the front of the 1st and 2nd Divisions. Under the cover of the bombardment, a strong force drove back D Company and the two platoons of A Company entrenched at the south-west corner of Polygon Wood, and broke through the line. Second Lieutenant M. McNeill, commanding this portion of A Company, was last seen on the parapet of his trench, revolver in hand, fighting right gallantly to the end with all his men.

"The supporting point of C Company, under Lieutenant F. Anderson, held out firmly, and split the attack into small parties of twenty or thirty men, many of whom were soon lost in the woods behind. It is interesting to note that Lieutenant Anderson's post was the first instance in the war of the "strong point," or wired-in locality, which later became a salient feature of defensive warfare. This particular post was sited and constructed by a great friend of the regiment, Major C. Russell-Brown, R.E., commanding the 23rd Field Company.

"B Company and the two platoons of A Company, under Lieutenant Sprot, who were in reserve in the paddocks of Verbeek farm, were overwhelmed by the first onrush of the enemy; Lieutenant Sprot and most of his men were killed. A few men, amongst whom were Privates Jackson and Gardner, were taken prisoner; but when their captors took cover from a chance shell, they slipped away and escaped into the Nonne Boschen Wood.

"Verbeek Farm, the joint Headquarters of The Black Watch and the Cameron Highlanders, was temporarily occupied by the enemy; the actual Headquarters dug-out, a primitive brushwood lean-to against the farmhouse was, however, kept safe by the spirited defence of the two commanding officers, Lieutenant Colonels C. E. Stewart and D. McEwan, and of Sergeant D. Redpath, The Black Watch signalling sergeant. Lieutenant Colonel Stewart was wounded in the head at point-blank range by a German who was, in his turn, despatched by Sergeant Redpath.

"Lieutenant Rowan Hamilton and Captain Brodie of the Camerons, the two adjutants, had previously, when the attack commenced, gone to 1st Brigade Headquarters in Nonne Boschen Wood to report the situation. Lieutenant Rowan Hamilton, in returning to report to Colonel Stewart at Verbeek Farm, was wounded.

"Meanwhile, Nonne Boschen Wood, in which the 1st Brigade Headquarters was situated, was held by 1st Brigade Signal Section, The Black Watch party that had been with the North Lancashire Regiment for the past three days and had reported at 1st Brigade Headquarters during the preliminary bombardment, and a few men who had got away from the the front line. Several small parties of the enemy had broken past Lieutenant Anderson's Post and Verbreek Farm and had attempted to enter the wood or passed along its eastern edge, but they were successfully dealt with. During this fighting Captain Brodie of the Cameron Highlanders and Lieutenant Lawson were killed. Lieutenant Lawson had recently been granted a commission having come out to France with the Battalion as Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant - a most gallant officer, who fell fighting, having served the Regiment loyally for nineteen years.

"About 3.30 p.m. three companies of the 1st Northamptonshire Regiment, assisted by a party of The Black Watch and Camerons, advanced from Nonne Boschen Wood and regained the line Veerbeek farm — Lieutenant Anderson's Post, south-west corner of Polygon Wood, this corner being known on all later maps as "Black Watch Corner." Lieutenant Anderson was most severely wounded and his garrison suffered many losses; but they had accounted for a large number of the enemy - Lieutenant Anderson having himself shot several - and had broken up the main German attack in this area.

"The net result of the German effort was to drive back the British line about five hundred yards on a front of a mile. Only one officer, Captain V M Fortune, remained unwounded at the end of the day. The casualties were: killed, Lieutenant Lawson and 18 other ranks; missing (nearly all ascertained to have been killed), Lieutenants Sprot and McNeil and 49 other ranks; wounded, Lieutenant Colonel Stewart, Captains West and Rowan-Hamilton, Lieutenant Anderson and 52 other ranks."

Mixed fortunes for Scotland's regimental museums

In Victorian times line regiments sometimes felt aggrieved when they were in a battle next to a highland regiment because the Highlanders would steal all the glory. No matter if they had done as much if not more fighting than the Scots, the kilted warriors stood out and were a favourite for news illustrators. In a period when most armies wore uniforms based on French and Prussian styles the highlanders of Scotland were unique.

By 1881 the Lowland regiments raised to fight the Jacobite highlanders two hundred years before were transformed into pseudo-highlanders with tartan trews and basket hilted broadswords. In 2006 the transformation was complete when all Scottish infantry battalions were subsumed within the Royal Regiment of Scotland which became a highland regiment. All battalions of the regiment no matter their history or traditions became Black Watch clones in Government tartan kilts.

In 21st Century Scotland it seems that a Scottish soldier equals a highland soldier. When it comes to the museums of the Scottish infantry regiments this new pecking order seems to have taken precedence over the old Regimental Order of Precedence too.

The Highlanders museum at Fort George and the Black Watch museum at Perth have recently announced ambitious and expensive plans for their museums whilst just this week the complete opposite has happened at the King's Own Scottish Borderers Museum in Berwick which has been forced to reduce its opening hours because of a spat with English Heritage (who own the Barracks in Berwick where the Museum is based).

The other two museums to Highland regiments, The Argylls in Stirling Castle and the Gordon Highlanders museum in Aberdeen seem to be doing well too. The Argylls have the benefit of being in one of Scotland's top visitor attractions and the Gordons have a relatively new and well maintained museum at the former Bridge of Don Barracks.

The Royal Scots boasts a prime location in Edinburgh castle so it is guaranteed a large number of visitors but they are the luckiest ones when it comes to the four Lowland regimental museums.

The Cameronians are included in the South Lanarkshire run Low Parks Museum in Hamilton. It is open seven days a week and is free, but because of council cuts will that remain the case? I hope so. With the museum being in the care of a local authority you'd hope the items will always be on display. The downside is there may not always be money they want to improve their displays.

We've mentioned the KOSB museum above. It is a small museum with limited visitors and funding, and it seems that their troubles are probably going to get worse. With no more handouts from English Heritage, and no weekend opening to encourage more visitors where will they get the money they need to run the museum? It seems to me that this will lead to a downward spiral. Reduced opening hours means fewer visitors, which means less income, which probably means a cut in staff, which means a further reduction in opening hours, and then fewer visitors and so on...

Is there an answer to the KOSB Museum's problems? I hope so, and I hope former KOSB's and Berwick folk rally round their regimental heritage. It may be fifty years since the regiment last had a depot in the barracks but it is their spiritual home.

Finally last, but by no means least, is the poor old Royal Highland Fusiliers Museum. It sits forlornly at the wrong end of Sauchiehall Street and has such limited opening hours it is a wonder it gets any visitors at all. Like the KOSB they seem to be moving in ever decreasing circles. Currently the museum is only open Monday to Friday between ten and four. It isn't open in the evening and it isn't open at the weekends. Do they actually get anyone going through their door?

It is a real shame because it is a cracking museum. It is based in a Rennie Mackintosh building and out of all the regiments it probably has the most interesting history. The mix of Highland and Lowland regiments. The Royal Scots Fusiliers' long service and Highland Light Infantry's battle honours. The 71st at Waterloo and Vimiero, the 74th at Assaye and on the Birkenhead. The 21st at Blenheim in 1704, Inkerman in 1854, at the Jemappes Bridge in 1914 and countless other battles and campaigns from the Earl of Mar's regiment in 1678 up to 2 Scots in Afghanistan in 2011.

I hope the powers that be in charge of the RHF museum can see sense and make their collection more accessible. The history of Glasgow's infantry regiments should make Glasgow proud. Glaswegians, and especially the former members, and the families of former members, of the Royal Scots Fusiliers, Highland Light Infantry, Royal Highland Fusiliers and 2nd Bn Royal Regiment of Scotland should start supporting their local regimental museum and learn a bit about their glorious past.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Highland Army disbands - On this day in Scottish Military History - 1746

On 16th April 1746 the Jacobite army was soundly defeated on Drumossie Moor by the Duke of Cumberland's Army. Hundreds of Jacobites retreated south through Daviot and headed towards the safety of a small Jacobite force at Ruthven Barracks near Kingussie. By 18th April there were nearly fifteen hundred Jacobite soldiers gathered there

Hundreds more streamed back through Inverness as the British dragoons chased them off the battlefield. They knew that they couldn't stay in Inverness so a large number headed down the Great Glen to regroup at Fort Augustus.

Prince Charles also followed that route but went further west; down to Invergarry.

Between the two forces at Fort Augustus and Ruthven there were many clansman like the Master of Lovat's battalion which had missed Culloden and were still ready for battle; but it was unrealistic to think that this shadow of the Highland Army which had taken the field just two days before could fight another pitched battle against the huge numbers of government troops which Cumberland now had at his disposal.

Some of the clan chiefs argued that they should take to the hills and continue to fight on in small groups. The summer was coming and France could send more men, arms and gold to help their allies. Cumberland could not stay in Scotland for ever; Britain was struggling against France on the continent and the majority of his men would need to go south in the near future.

Many other Jacobites had grave doubts about continuing the fight. There were clans loyal to King George in the Far North and Argyll. The Royal Navy controlled the seas and Fort William was a government outpost deep inside Jacobite clan territory . The route south was blocked by the Hessians, and Cumberland controlled the North-East. Where could they go to escape the government soldiers?

The outcome of the discussions between the Jacobite commanders was never really in doubt. On this day two hundred and sixty five years ago they were given orders by their fleeing commander to disperse and they were happy to obey them. The Highland Army which had marched to Derby, and sent London into a panic, disbanded itself.

The Battle of Culloden on the 16th April had effectively finished the Stuart cause; but it was on 18th April 1746 when the Jacobite Army ceased to exist.

After eight months of incredible high and lows Prince Charles was now on the run, and The Duke of Cumberland was about to take revenge on the rebels who dared to try and take his father's throne.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Black Watch battlefield will bring 18th century soldiering to life

An article from The Courier:

Curatorial assistant Jill van Millingen with some of the pieces which can be seen during the tours.
 The chaos of the battlefield will be brought to life at an event in Perth in May when re-enactors arm themselves with swords and antique muskets.

Battles of The Black Watch is a free, fun drop-in event for all the family at Balhousie Castle when there will be a chance to experience life in an 18th century army camp and learn about a day in the life of a soldier.

To be held on Saturday, May 14 there will be shows at 11am, 1pm and 3pm.

The event is part of the Festival of Museums weekend, a new festival celebrating Scotland's wealth of culture.
As part of the same event there is a chance to take part in an exclusive guided tour of the regimental museum collections.

The tour is on Friday, May 13 from 7-9pm, will be followed by drinks and canapes and a chance to talk to museum staff.

Tickets are £5 for adults, £3 for children and £1.50 for Friends of the Museum.

There is a maximum of 20 places and booking is essential.

Behind the scenes tours are an opportunity to find out about the objects in the museum stores.

There will be further tours the following day giving a chance to see objects not usually on display to the public.

The tours are at 11am and 2pm with the same prices as above.

There is a maximum of eight places per tour and booking is essential.

For more information on these events and The Black Watch Castle and Museum visit

The Antonine Wall on World Heritage day tomorrow

It is World Heritage Day tomorrow so to give you advance notice of it we'll blog about a Scottish World Heritage site that has a military past.

The 60km Antonine Wall was built by the Romans between the Forth and the Clyde in the AD140s. It was granted UNESCO World Hertiage status in 2008 as part of the Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site.

There is a website with more detail here

For the big day tomorrow at Callendar House in Falkirk, where there is a section of the wall, there will be a "light installation and soundscape which will recreate the effect of a Roman encampment".

THE ANTONINE WALLDiscover the sights and sounds of a Roman encampment as created by artists Ruth Macdougall, Tim Fitzpatrick and pupils from Easter Carmuirs Primary School. Special tents, created by the school pupils, will be displayed on the grounds of Callendar House. A sound collage will fill the space, capturing the atmosphere of the site while the Antonine Guard will also be on hand.

Grounds of Callendar House, Falkirk

Saturday, 16 April 2011

The Battle of Culloden - on this day in Scottish Military History - 1746

Over the past few weeks I have been covering the smaller and less well known incidents in the Jacobite Rebellion.

Well today's 'On this Day' is about the most well known day of the lot so there isn't really much I can say that hasn't be said a thousand times before.

Instead I'll list some recent and fairly books that will give you the full picture of the Battle of Culloden. Most also give you some background to the campaign that preceded it. Most of them have been written or co-written by Stuart Reid who seems to have cornered the market in books about the Jacobites.

Expert though he is he is not above making mistakes and in a couple of his books has placed the Battle of Littlferry aka Golspie south of Loch Fleet at Embo.

Culloden: The History and Archaeology of the Last Clan Battle
Edited by Tony Pollard
Published: 2009
ISBN: 1848840209

Culloden Tales: Stories from Scotland's Most Famous Battlefield
Author: Hugh G. Allison
Published: 2007
ISBN: 9781845962395

Culloden and the '45 (Battles & Campaigns)
Author: Jeremy Black
Published: 2010
ISBN: 978-0752456362

1745: A Military History of the Last Jacobite Rising
Author: Stuart Reid
Published: 2000
ISBN: 978-1862271302

Cumberland's Army: The British Army at Culloden
Author: Stuart Reid
ISBN: 978-1858185293

Culloden Moor 1746: The death of the Jacobite cause (Osprey Campaign 106)
Author: Stuart Reid
Illustrator: Gerry Embleton
Published: August 2002
ISBN: 9781841764122

Stuart Reid has also written the following illustrated books which shows the dress, arms and equipment of the Jacobites and loyal highlanders.

King George's Army 1740–93 (2) (Osprey Men-at-Arms 289)
Author: Stuart Reid
Illustrator: Paul Chappell
Published: November 1995
ISBN: 9781855325647

The Scottish Jacobite Army 1745–46 (Osprey Elite 149)

Author: Stuart Reid
Illustrator: Gary Zaboly
Published: October 2006
ISBN: 9781846030734

Highland Clansman 1689–1746 (Osprey Warrior 21)
Author: Stuart Reid
Illustrator: Angus McBride
Published: September 1997
ISBN: 9781855326606

Highlander: Fearless Celtic Warrior (Military Illustrated Classic Soldiers)
Author: Stuart Reid
Illustrator: Angus McBride
Published: 1990
ISBN: 1903040035

Another illustrated book on all the Jacobite rebellions is this Osprey book:

The Jacobite Rebellions 1689–1745 (Men-at-Arms 118)
Author: Michael Barthorp
Illustrator: Gerry Embleton
Published: January 1982
ISBN: 9780850454321

Friday, 15 April 2011

The Second Last Battle on British Soil - On this day in Scottish Military History – 1746

Culloden is widely recognised as the last pitched battle on British soil. On this day 265 years ago the penultimate battle took place.

It was during the Jacobite Rebellion but didn’t involve Prince Charles’s main army. It was fought between local troops of the Earl of Sutherland, who were loyal to the Government, against the Jacobite troops of George Mackenzie, Earl of Cromartie. This wasn’t highlander vs. lowlander, or English vs. Scot. This was a battle between clansmen; a chance to settle some scores.

On 15th April 1746 word reached Cromartie that he and his men were now needed back in Inverness to rejoin the main army as Cumberland approached. They would leave Dunrobin, cross Loch Fleet at the narrows at Littleferry and head for Inverness.

Thinking that there were no government troops in the area Cromartie did not arrange a proper order of march and let his force split into two; the main body of his troops headed off first whilst Cromartie and his officers were entertained by a local Jacobite sympathiser - the Countess of Sutherland in Dunrobin.

They seriously underestimated their opponents. Sutherland men, supported by Mackays, were watching the Jacobites from the small hills above Golspie. Eager to take revenge on the Jacobites who had been pillaging their homes for weeks, the locals saw their chance when the main Jacobite Force passed along the narrow strip of land between the hills above Golspie and the sea.

The Sutherland men charged into the flank of the column. The leaderless Jacobite clansmen unprepared for battle took to their heels and streamed towards the ferry crossing to try and escape. A few escaped on the boats that were there, but most were rounded up by the Sutherland men

A company under Ensign Mackay quickly followed this victory by capturing Cromartie and his officers who had locked themselves in Dunrobin Castle.

Over two hundred Jacobite prisoners were taken and the rest of Cromartie’s force melted away into the hills to go home. 150 of those prisoners were transported as slaves to the West Indian and American plantations. They would have had plenty of time on the long voyage across the Atlantic to rue the day when they marched through Golspie without any pickets to guard their column, and deprived Prince Charles’s army of 500 valuable men.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Scottish Re-enactors

A couple of posts I've typed up for the blog recently have brought to my attention some military re-enactors based in Scotland.

I have found a few on the internet which I'll list below but if anyone knows of others please let us know. The flip side of that is if any of these organisations no longer exist please let us know too.

For example there seems to be a Napoleonic 95th Rifles unit in Scotland but I can't find anything about them. There also used to be a Napoleonic Royal Scots unit based in Edinburgh but I don't know if that has disbanded. Also I've found references to a medieval group called 'Gaddgedlar' but can't find any details of them.

Quite a few cover the same period so I don't know if there is friendly rivalry or snobbery within re-enactment?

Anyway we'd be happy to publicise any forthcoming Scottish re-enactment events either here or on our facebook page so if you belong to any of these groups please get in touch

There is a Second World War German re-enactment group based in Scotland but don't bother contacting us about them. They rightly deny they are a non-political group but I still don't like the idea of promoting a group which re-enacts units of Nazi Germany.

The words used below are from the re-enactors own web pages and I have no involvement with any of them so can't comment on their authenticity or aims.

The Antonine Guard

We are a Scottish based Living History Re-enactment Society and have adopted the Legio VI Victrix Pia Fidelis as our parent legion,this being one of the legions which built the Antonine Wall and Hadrians Wall.

The Glasgow Vikings

Bringing history to life for over 25 years.

The Glasgow Vikings are one of Scotland's oldest re-enactment groups. We pride ourselves on our skills both on and off the battlefield. We regularly train in a variety of weapons, from dagger to dane axe, spear to seax and most in between.

We also have a fully certified school visiting team.

Marr agus Fibh

"Marr agus Fibh" is a local group of Regia Anglorum, the UK's premier re-enactment society for the Anglo-Saxon and Viking age.

It is the aim of Marr agus Fibh to recreate, as accurately as possible, life throughout the period roughly between 950AD - 1070AD. This period of history is an incredibly exciting and complex time, with people from Northern Europe, partcularly Scandinavia, entering Britain and spreading their culture, religion and other influences across the lands of the native people. The main "eras" which we recreate are that of the Scots, Vikings, Anglo-Saxons and Normans, each having their own fascinating history and culture. Battles between kings and powerful lords in this period are commonplace and we try to recreate these combats using authentic weapons and fighting techniques. Everyday life is also an important area which we try to recreate, as the majority of the people would not be involved in such warfare and lived simple, peaceful lives. We use two main resources to help us recreate these periods, the Living History Exhibition and battle reenactment.

Carrick 800 Battle Re-enactment Society

Founded in 1986 the Carrick 800 Battle Re-enactment Society re-enact Mediaeval Scots, Viking and Mary Queen of Scots period living history camps and battle scenes throughout Scotland.


Aberdeen and North-east Scotland's premier group of mediaeval re-enactors, primarily portrays Scottish life during the late fifteenth century. We also re-enact the period of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce (1297-1329) and that of the Jacobite era of 1745-1746.

We depict historical events and stage banquets, focusing on the art and culture of the time. Group members make and wear costumes appropriate for the domestic, commercial and military sides of mediaeval life. Schiltron has performed throughout Scotland at castles, fairs and other locations, indoors and outdoors; including Traquair House, Castle Fraser, Drum Castle, Fyvie Castle and Aberdeen city; and also at mediaeval events at Dinan in France and Tewkesbury in England.

The Company of Saint Margaret

The Company of Saint Margaret is historical re-enactment group operating mostly from Edinburgh, Scotland. Our current focus is on the time periods around the year 1300 and the later end of the 1400's.

At present we try to represent a travelling Medieval household. This includes a lord and his lady, their family, retainers, household servants and craftsmen.

We provide a living history encampment with displays of medieval life, crafts and combat. We also take part in medieval battles, foot combat tourneys and archery competitions.

The Borderers

"The Borderers" is a small group of enthusiasts, from all over Britain (as well as some members who travel across from the Netherlands) who have come together in order to pursue and research the way of life of the Border Reivers - "The Steill Bonnets" -and is carried out through a programme of "Living History".

The group is based at Old Buittle Tower in Dumfries and Galloway Region in the South West of Scotland, not too far from the ancient haunts of the Reivers. The Tower is home to Jeffrey and Janet Burn who provide the facilities used by the society, which include horses, stables, a forge, a dyeing facility and a recreated Period Kitchen and Medieval Hall. The work of the Society can be seen by the public at weekend shows. The Easter and August Bank Holidays events are open to the general public. Other events are held approximately every six weks apart from Easter to December (see “Diary” page).

Earl of Loudoun's Regiment of Foote

As part of the English Civil War Society the Earl of Loudoun's Regiment of Foote, which belongs to the Armie of the Covenant, participates in the accurate re-enactment of 17th century life and warfare.

We are a Lowland Scots infantry regiment based on the actual recorded regiment which was raised in Glasgow and which saw extensive military service on the smokey battlefields of the 1640s. We meet at "musters" which can vary in size from small "living histories" and small drill displays up to full blown "majors" or battles. All arms of military life are employed in the society; regiments of infantry armed with pike and musket, squadrons of horse (cavalry) and batteries of ordnance (cannon). The regiment prides itself on its skill at arms on the battlefield, its historic realism both in combat and lifestyle, its individual members knowledge of the period and above all its friendly family atmosphere.

The regiment also gets involved in re-enacting periods beyond the life term of the actual regiment, in fact anything between 1638 and 1746. Preston 1648, Worcester 1651, Killiecrankie 1689 and Prestonpans 1745 are battles which have been re-enacted by the regiment, obviously in a different guise from Loudoun's. We have alter egos in the form of Pirates and Jacobite Highlanders.

Col Hugh Fraser's Dragoones

Fraser's Dragoones today are the most northerly regiment of the Sealed Knot society and were formed in the 1970's by a group of friends at Aberdeen University. Today the majority of our membership still lives in the North East of Scotland but we have active members from all walks of life living all over Britain.

As well as travelling throughout the UK to take part in the Sealed Knot's "major muster" battle re­enactments Fraser's Dragoones also organise other events at historic properties throughout Scotland, visit schools and museums to give educational presentations and have an active social scene.

On the Sealed Knot battlefield we portray a veteran musket unit as part of the Scots Brigade and as such can be deployed, depending on circumstances, as either Parliament or Royalist.

We are proud of our authenticity and attention to historical detail and our aim is to recreate 17th Century military camp life and display the use of musket, pike and artillery in an educational way which is exciting for visitors and participants alike. Our extensive "Living History" camp is a full immersion experience and as well as soldiers we portray the armourers, barber surgeons, cooks, beggars, washer women and other camp followers who would have lived under the colours of the regiment. There is a place in Col Fraser's for everyone.

With the opportunity to participate with friends and comrades in events at such prestigious castles as Edinburgh, Stirling, Urquhart, Edzell, Drum, Blackness, Dumbarton and Duart as well as other locations throughout Scotland, what better way to spend a weekend!

Manus O'Cahans Regiment of Foot

Manus O’Cahans Regiment of Foot are a group of reenactors, and form part of the Sealed Knot, Europes premier Reenactment Society

Manus O’Cahans has active combatants both male and female, of all ages and occupations, based in Central Scotland and with membership throughout Britain and Ireland

Manus O’Cahans takes part in, and organises, events all over the British Isles and Europe, from battles and skirmishes to living history displays and talks. During the winter months we have training events and banquets, and many of the members meet socially on a regular basis all year round. We also have a regular regimental newsletter, and The Sealed Knot has a full colour bi-monthly magazine.

The Gordon Highlanders 1914-1918

The Gordon Highlanders 1914-18 exist to re-create as accurately as possible the life of the soldiers of the Gordon Highlanders during the Great War 1914-18.

We believe we are currently the only living history group in the United Kingdom devoted full-time to portraying the Highland Soldier in the Great War.

Commando D Living History Group

We revive and teach the original training methods of the WWII Commandos and Allied forces. Specialising in the close-quarters system of Fairbairn and Sykes in the hand to hand, knife fighting and pistol shooting, plus we also raise money for veterans with sponsored speed marches

The Scottish Military Re-Enactment Society

The Scottish Military Re-enactment Society was raised in 1993. The intention was then, and is now, to ensure that the memory of those men and women who fought for the allied cause during World War II, shall never be forgotten. The Society is a non profit making organisation although it has taken part in fundraising events for various charities, including the annual collection for the Scottish Poppy Appeal.

The Society participates in many events during the year. A typical weekend can include the static display of equipment, uniforms, weapons and vehicles. We also have a large tent which houses our audio-visual presentation as well as a "hands on" equipment display.

Training weekends can be arranged for Field-Craft, Map Reading, Weapons Handling and, if you are really keen, Drill! (Photos opposite show a Small Scale Raiding Force in operation).

Units within SMRS include: a Combined Operations Section in particular the Small Scale Raiding Force, the Special Operations Executive, Airborne (British and American), Infantry, Royal Navy, Home Guard and the Auxiliary Territorial Service.

The G.I. Guys

The GI Guys have a passionate interest in the WW2 period.


We are located in West and Central Scotland and combine to provide living history displays at WW2 /1940’s themed events, parties, school and club talks.

We class ourselves as Amateur Historians, with a good knowledge and understanding of several aspects of WW2, including the British Home Front, US Airborne Forces, the US Airforce, the US Navy, the French Resistance, Arctic Warfare and the SOE/OSS (Clandestine Warfare).

We feel that by doing this, we are playing our part in keeping the spirit of the 40's alive......a time of great sacrifice but also a time where nations united for the common good, where community spirit and helping a neighbour was the order of the day, a time when people survived on very little and the make do and mend mentality ruled supreme.

Although this is a hobby, all displays are presented in a proper, respectful and safe manner. We are affiliated to the All Forces Reenactment Association

Liberte SOE

We are a small group of like minded individuals with a long standing interest in the WW2 Period. We are located in central and West Scotland and have been involved in the Military Vehicle/Living History scene for a few years now.

We can mount small to medium displays and have access to a Wartime Jeep, original Wartime equipment, including our very own Air Raid Siren!

We also attend Primary schools to engage the children and assist in their studies of Britain and WW2. We do this by offering sessions on the lead up to WW2, The Blitz, Evacuation, rationing, local history relating to WW2 (tailored to each school) and finish with Wartime James Bond.

These groups covers several periods.

Fire and Sword

Fire and sword was started in 1998 by Hugh Robertson. He was soon joined by like minded folk, they started doing shows at local museums and private events.

Within the year they had progressed to the pinacle of Historic Scotland properties.

With time came a well rounded show of arms, displaying the use of the norman sheild wall, the famouse scottish schiltron, the dreaded war bow and amazing combats from quarterstaff though to axe and shield to the sword fight.

Now, with new members bringing other skills and ideas and with other members studying the original fighting manuals, Fire and Sword has

expanded it's ideas and now can do displays from the early 1200's all the way to the 1700's including everything from padded armour to plate, from plaid to red coat,

The Historic Saltire Society

The Historic Saltire Society is an organisation dedicated to two things. The first is living history and the second is Fun!

From humble beginnings in Inverness, the group now has members from all over the country, and travel the length and breadth of Scotland to various venues to perform for our audiences.

The society has many members, ranging from noble knights, their squires who help put on their armour, their enlisted peasants who end up doing most of the fighting, ladies of the court in fine dresses who, when not too busy with their embroidery, look on anxiously, to the craftsment and tradespeople who just get on with their jobs, from candlemaking to pole lathing.

The Society was started many years ago when our wise and venerable (not to mention old) leader, Alan, picked a fight with a baldy man called Alistair. The two have never looked back, and have seen the group grow over the years to its current large size.

Northern Alliance

Recreating the Wars of Independence, the 15th Century and the Jacobite Risings in the North of Scotland

Northern Alliance is a historical live interpretation group based in the Highlands of Scotland. Although the group’s core is based around the Inverness area, we have members from all over Scotland, and even some from England. The group organises, and takes part in battle recreations, and living history presentations portraying elements of three distinct periods of Scotland’s history: The Wars of Independence; the fifteenth century; and the Jacobite Risings of the early/mid eighteenth century.

Live interpretation is a very powerful communication tool, and as such should be used responsibly. However, it does provide an immediate, tactile and accessible interpretation of the past which is popular with historic sites around Scotland. Presentations can re-enforce mistakes and myths or they can be used to correct misconceptions and educate in an entertaining manner. Our history is often more exciting and enthralling than legends and modern films portray.

Northern Alliance thoroughly researches all elements of their presentations and displays, in order to educate through entertainment, and undertakes valuable experimental archaeology; for if the events and lives portrayed are not historically accurate, not only in material detail but more importantly in attitudes and social consciousness, increasingly our present lives will be based on a fictitious past. The ethos and driving force behind the group is to represent, as accurately as possible, the lives of ordinary people from our history, who often lived through extraordinary times.

Although Northern Alliance takes the accuracy of their displays seriously, enjoyment can be had from mixing with a group of likeminded people, sharing their interests and their passion for history. Members get the opportunity to learn and experiment with historical skills and discover how our ancestors lived their daily lives. Throughout an event, all food is cooked in a period manner, and everyone lives in a historical camp with period clothing and authentic accommodation. This level of commitment to accuracy and detail is continued when participating in battle recreations where the armour, equipment and skills have been thoroughly researched to present faithful recreation of Scottish soldiers on military campaign.

Why do members do it? There are various reasons, but these frequently include getting away from the hustle & bustle of the everyday life, taking a step back into the past, learning traditional skills, and making friends with people who share their love of our history, these friends often become friends for life. Members get the opportunity to meet and learn from people with different experiences and expertise, pooling ideas to enhance the overall experience and discover new things about our past or learn skills in danger of being forgotten.


Lothene is a historical re-enactment group specialising in aspects of Scottish history, in particular the 16th Century and the Viking era.
We recreate both combat and the civilian life of the era.

We have also taken part in recreations of Saxon era life, the 18th Century and the Wars of Independence in the 13th and 14th Centuries.

Swords of Dalriada

We are the Swords of Dalriada (pronounced 'Dal-ree-adda'), a Scottish historical re-enactment group based in Ayrshire, who perform all over Scotland (and occasionally outwith). Our group focuses on bringing the conflicts that shaped Scotland to life. The time periods we cover include; the Scottish Wars of Independence, the Viking invasions, Iron Age Caledonia and the Jacobite rebellion. We do both living history and battle re-enactment. This means that not only do we recreate battles, we also demonstrate what life was like throughout Scotlands history.

Our work covers a large range of shows and displays. From working by ourselves to working with other groups. From taking part in large scale shows to putting on small displays for gala days and fetes.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

British Military Nurses from 1875 - websites of interest

British Military Nurses from 1875 by Sue Light is an absolute must for anyone interested in Military Nurses.

As part of her work she has created an index of those who served in the Scottish Women's Hospital during the First World War:


On the following pages are the names of women who served with the various units of the Scottish Women's Hospital during the Great War. These transcriptions are taken from original lists held at the Imperial War Museum and were originally published in early 1920. The information was supplied by the individual units, and has been combined here to form one list in alphabetical order of surnames. The units that made up the Scottish Women's Hospital were:

Abbaye de Royaumont
Ajaccio, Corsica
America Unit
Calais Contingent
Canteen units at Creil, Crepy-en-Valois and Favresse
Girton and Newnham Unit
London Units
Sallanches, Haute Savoie
Units in Serbia during the early days of the war, which are given in the lists as:

There is no history of the Scottish Women's Hospital on this site at present, and the lists have been produced entirely as an aid to identifying women who served during the Great War. There is much information to be found on the internet and in books about the work of the SWH, but it is anticipated that some information will be added here in the future, including more transcriptions of original documents.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

1914 Hibs - Hearts derby to be recreated at Pozières

From today's Edinburgh Evening News

Hearts and Hibs back at war . . on a French battleground

Published Date: 12 April 2011

IT was one of the most poignant scenes of Edinburgh's war years - the derby at which the entire Hearts team signed up to serve in the First World War, followed by supporters from both sides.

Now the match at Tynecastle, which gave birth to McCrae's Battalion, is to be re-enacted on the French battlefields.

The event will be at the heart of commemorations at the village of Pozières, close to where the battalion, 16th Royal Scots, fought in the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

For the past five years, the anniversary of the start of the battle, July 1, has been marked by a Son-et-Lumière show at the village, with a different theme each year.

This year's events will honour Edinburgh and the role played by the 16th Royal Scots and their founder and commander, Sir George McCrae.

Jack Alexander is the author of the book McCrae's Battalion, and was part of the group that arranged the creation of the Edinburgh Cairn, a monument to the battalion in nearby Contalmaison in 2004.

He said the re-enactment of the December 1914 derby - which Hearts won 3-1 - would be organised by the authorities in Pozières. The game famously saw Sir George parade the players to encourage others to join.

Mr Alexander said: "This year (the French authorities] have chosen us as their central theme and it's quite an honour. We've worked very hard to make friends with the locals.

"They don't know a great deal about the details of the match, so they've been asking me questions about things like what colour strips, so I'm talking to Hearts and will be talking to Hibs about finding old-style kits. It's going to be the portion of the football match with the reciting of a speech from Sir George.

"A local will make his speech and then people depicting the players and supporters will all join together and enlist together.

"From an Edinburgh point of view, it's something we should be very proud of."

The day will also include a re-enactment of the bravery of Edinburgh Corporation greenkeeper Corporal Michael Kelly, who single-handedly overcame a group of German signalmen.

Mr Alexander said: "The production values are quite spectacular. It's quite a rural area but it's a little bit like one of the re-enactments at Edinburgh Tattoo."

Although the battalion is closely associated with Hearts, Mr Alexander said he was keen to stress the contribution of other teams, including Hibs.

He said: "The heart of the battalion was the Hearts players, but once they made the gesture of joining up they became a footballers' battalion.

"There were substantial contingents from people who followed Hibs, there were Falkirk players, Raith Rovers players, it was a very broad church."

A group from Edinburgh will travel to Pozières by coach for the event and there are still a small number of places available - contact Mr Alexander on 07876 106 509 for further details.


BY December 1914, football players were being criticised for not signing up for the war effort while other young men went off to fight. Lieutenant-Colonel Sir George McCrae announced that he would raise a battalion of men and pledged to fill it within seven days.

At Tynecastle on December 5, during the Edinburgh derby, he paraded the Hearts team members who had already enlisted and gave a speech, inviting anyone else in the stadium who wanted to follow their lead to join the parade. The entire Hearts first team signed up, followed by 500 of their supporters and 150 Hibs supporters. By the end of that day, 980 men had enlisted at the recruiting office in Castle Street.

Sir George commanded the battalion on the Western Front, where it was credited with achieving the deepest penetration of the enemy line anywhere on the battlefront at the Somme. The battalion suffered massive losses, including seven of the Hearts players.

Bonnie Dundee's standard raising re-enacted on Dundee Law

From the Dundee Courier

One of the most significant events in Scotland's history was commemorated on Dundee Law.

By Marjory Inglis
Published in the Courier : 11.04.11

Members of several Jacobite re-enactment societies in period costume, and local author Andrew Murray Scott, marched from Dudhope Castle to the top of the Law.

They recreated the raising of the royal standard of King James VII and II on 13th April, 1689.

Mr Scott said that event triggered the first Jacobite rebellion, putting Dundee at the centre of UK politics when the rival claims of King James and the invader William of Orange were in dispute in Scotland — with England having already accepted the new monarch.

He said Dundee was the starting place for the Jacobite movement and John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee, or Bonnie Dundee as he was known, was the first Jacobite leader.

Mr Scott, who wrote a biography of Bonnie Dundee and also collected and edited Claverhouse's letters for the Scottish History Society, spoke on the Law of the political and historical context of 1689 and the background to the event.

He said, "A number of suggestions have been raised by historians as to why Bonnie Dundee 'stuck his neck out' on behalf of King James when most of the leading nobles were waiting to see which way the wind was blowing.

"It has been said that he was ‘an unthinking servant of the Stuarts', or a reckless gambler intent on bravado, or that he had calculated greater rewards would come if he could restore James.

"When you consider all of these potential motives you have to conclude that it was a difficult decision to make.

"But Claverhouse took it — at some risk to his family and himself — and stuck with it, doing his utmost over the final three months of his life to achieve his aims, before his untimely and almost accidental death at Killiecrankie.

"His was a fight for a principle in which he believed. At that time nearly everyone in Scotland was potentially a supporter of James. The Stuarts had reigned in Scotland since 1371, and some said for hundreds of years before that.

"Replacing them by a foreign line was not something done lightly. The Williamites were a small minority, and in April 1689 could have been relatively easily overthrown in Scotland.

"They did not have popular support although they did have an English-Dutch army backed with elements of the Scots army which Claverhouse had previously led.

"But Dundee's prodigious efforts were undermined by the deviousness of leading nobles — on both sides — and particularly by James' leading adviser, the Earl of Melfort — who, instead of assisting Dundee, betrayed him, denied him resources and successfully kept that fact from the king.

"Bonnie Dundee is a tragic and glamorous figure and one of the best known and most significant historical figures associated with the city of Dundee, and it is appropriate that we commemorate this significant event every year of which all Dundonians should be proud."

Senior Scottish Generals of the First World War

In the First World War four commanders-in-chief of British forces were Scottish. It was probably more accident than design why a small group of Scotsmen should hold such high command around the same time. They don't seem to have been great friends and they had different backgrounds before achieving high rank.

The titles they held were Commander-in-Chief India, Commander-in-Chief Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, Commander-in-Chief British Expeditionary Force and Commander-in-Chief British Salonika Army.

The four soldiers were Douglas Haig, Ian Hamilton, Beauchamp Duff and George Milne. We've covered two of them in Who's Who posts on this blog already so it will only be a quick summary today.

Douglas Haig, Commander-in-Chief British Expeditionary Force

We have covered Haig before. He’s the most well known of the four and he had the top job. In late 1915 he took over the command of the British Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders and oversaw the bloody battles of the Somme and Passchendaele. He also led the British Army to victory in 1918. It was his army which beat the German Army in the field and captured 188,700 prisoners and 2,840 guns almost as much as the French, American and Belgian armies combined. General Pershing the US commander in France called him “The man who won the war”. Apart from commanding the BEF, the divisions and corps fighting at the front; he also commanded all British and British Empire armies in France. That meant at its peak he commanded four million men.

Ian Hamilton, Commander-in-Chief Mediterranean Expeditionary Force

Hamilton was a Who’s Who not so long ago. He was a very experienced soldier when he got the top job in the Mediterranean in March 1915; this theatre covered Egypt and later Gallipoli. Hamilton was expected to take Constantinople and knock the Ottomans out of the war. It didn’t work out that way and by October 1915 his campaign in Gallipoli had stalled with huge loss of life and he was out of his job. This sacking effectively finished his military career.

Beauchamp Duff, Commander-in-Chief India

In March 1914 Lieutenant General Beauchamp Duff from Turriff in Aberdeenshire was appointed to one of the top jobs in the Empire. The Commander-in-Chief India was responsible for 250,000 men across what is now India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma and Aden. It was a huge responsibility for Duff. And when war broke out a few months later he faced a huge challenge. He had to oversee an expansion of his army, he sent 100,000 men to France to help the then tiny British Expeditionary Force and he then had to send most of his forces to Egypt and later Mesopotamia. At the same time he had to continue to garrison the sub-continent.

In 1916 he was the man ultimately responsible for the disaster at the Siege of Kut-El-Amara where eight thousand British and Indian troops surrendered to the Ottoman Army and there had been a further twenty-three thousand casualties trying to relieve them. Duff was the fall guy and was sacked. He returned to the UK and faced an enquiry. Blamed for the debacle along with the Viceroy he tried to clear his name but when that failed he took his own life.

George Milne, Commander-in-Chief Salonika Army

Aberdonian Milne had a background in the army as a gunner, serving in the Royal Artillery from 1885. He was a Major General in command of 27th Division when he first was sent to Salonika in the north of Greece in 1915. His next appointment was to take over as Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in Thessalonika when it expanded and was renamed The Salonika Army. This wasn't a command as big as the others; there were seven British divisions fighting alongside French, Serbian, Greek, Italian and Russian troops all under the combined command of French general
Franchet d'Esperey. From 1915 his troops fought against the Bulgarians but after their collapse in October 1918 he finished the First World War pushing his troops towards Constantinople which soon capitulated. The Ottoman capital was in Milne's hands three years after Ian Hamilton had failed.

Out of the four only Milne survived the war with his reputation intact and lived to a long age.

Haig worked hard to do his best for his ex-soldiers but the work took its toll and he was dead within ten years of the end of the war. Duff had killed himself before the war was over. Hamilton lived a long life but his career was finished.

Milne made the rank of Field Marshal and was Chief of the Imperial General Staff from 1926 to 1933. He was appointed Constable of The Tower of London from 1933 to 1938 and also in 1933 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Milne, of Salonika and of Rubislaw in the County of Aberdeen. Field Marshal George Francis Milne, 1st Baron Milne GCB, GCMG, DSO passed away peacefully aged 81 in 1948.


It is also worth mentioning another Scottish general who died just after the outbreak of the war. Lieutenant General James Grierson died of a heart attack in France on 17th August 1914 just as the British Army was arriving to fight the Germans.

Grierson was from Glasgow and like Milne had seen his early army service in the Royal Artillery. He had written several books military subjects and after the TF was formed in 1908 he wrote the history of the Scottish Volunteer force from 1859-1908. It was a comprehensive history and is still the definitive history of the Scottish volunteers over one hundred years after it was published.

Grierson was sent to France to command I Corps whilst Haig commanded II Corps. He was peer and rival of Haig, and in war games on Salisbury Plain in 1912 had actually beaten Haig. If Grierson had not died an untimely death he may have taken the top job instead of Haig in 1915.

Another Scot worth mentioning is the Edinburgh man Richard Haldane. Haldane had been in charge at the War Office in 1908 when he reformed the army and created the Territorial Force. Haldane and Haig worked together to prepare a British Expeditionary Force which could be sent to France at short notice.

Kitchener gets the glory for forming the New Armies of volunteers in 1914 but it was Haldane's foresight back in 1908 which prepared the British Army for the continental war ahead.

Not in a top job but another senior general was the Ayrshire man Lieutenant-General Sir Aylmer Gould Hunter-Weston. The former Royal Engineer commanded VIII Corps at Gallipoli and on the first day of the Somme. There’s not much good you can say about Hunter-Weston. He seems to have had little imagination when it came to tactics and he sent thousands of his men to their deaths throughout the war.

I think I’ve covered the Scotsmen in the top jobs in the Great War but if you know of others in army Commander-in-Chief, or corps Commander roles please leave a comment here, or on our facebook page.