Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Scotland's Favourite Memorials - Part 2 Result

The second part of our series of polls to determine Scotland's favourite civic memorial is now closed, and with 40% of the vote, the memorial at Barry is the clear winner.

It goes into the pot along with Cambuslang, and tomorrow we'll post up part three.

Operation to replace lost Bannockburn trees swings into action

From today's BBC Scotland News website


Bannockburn battle site trees felled in storm

An operation to replace 25 trees that were felled at Bannockburn's historic battle site in last week's storm is being mounted.

Historic Scotland said the winds, which reached 114 mph, caused significant damage to the battlefield area.

The organisation said trees at the site played an important role in evoking the landscape of the 14th Century battle.

The site, near Stirling, marks the 1314 victory of Robert the Bruce in the Wars of Independence.

Property manager Scott McMaster said: "This loss is very regrettable and we are already working to clear up the fallen trees and ensure that the public can access the grounds safely.

"Trees are an important part of the landscape at Bannockburn, playing an important role in Bruce's tactical plan which overcame Edward II and his army.

"We are already making plans to ensure that these trees are replaced."

Historic Scotland said trees that were recently planted as part of a £5m project to revamp the visitor experience at the centre were undamaged in the storm.

It said the planting was designed to create an area similar to the landscape at the time of the battle and to frame views to Stirling Castle.

"Mad Jack" Churchill - Who's Who in Scottish Military History


On the face of it, today's "Who's Who" subject wasn't Scottish. He served in more than one Scottish regiment, but he had no Scots blood in him. However, in many ways "Mad Jack" Churchill might just be the most Scottish person we've ever mentioned.

John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill (better known as Jack) was born in Hong Kong to English parents and was educated on the Isle of Man. He graduated from Sandhurst in 1926 and was commissioned in the Manchester Regiment.

His early years in the army saw him serving in Burma, where he spent a lot of his time travelling long distance on his motorbike.

Peacetime soldiering didn't seem to suit Churchill. He was once reprimanded for carrying an umbrella on parade. When asked why he had it with him he replied "Because it's raining, sir". Eventually he resigned his commission.

While out of the army he worked as a newspaper editor, a male model, a film extra, and also learned to play the bagpipes and mastered archery, even representing England in the World Archery Championship in 1939.

When war broke out he promptly re-enlisted. The "phony war" period didn't suit him and with others he volunteered for a force that would assist the Finnish Army against the Russian. The expedition was cancelled, and Churchill was back in France when the Germans launched their offensive.

Churchill remained aggressive in the face of overwhelming odds - he would mount raids, and lead small groups of picked men in attacks. He led from the front, usually armed not only with his bow and arrow, but with a basket hilted broadsword as well.

During the retreat to Dunkirk Churchill took command of his company when the company commander was wounded, and it was during this time that an unlucky German soldier became possibly the only casualty of the Second World War of a bow and arrow. Churchill's men had been ambushed, and the shot from his arrow was the signal for his men to open fire. It's interesting to speculate exactly how the German commander reported the death of one of his soldiers from a longbow...

Churchill's exploits during the retreat to Dunkirk are all the more remarkable when you learn that he had been wounded in the neck. His men had told him to run for cover, but he explained that he had been too tired to do so. For his exploits he was awarded the Military Cross. When asked why he had carried a sword he explained "any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed."

Churchill (far right) leading his men on a training exercise with his sword in hand.

Back in Britain, he volunteered for the Commandos - he didn't know what they were, but it sounded dangerous and likely to lead to more fighting so naturally he was in.

He took to the training well and seemed perfectly at home in the Highlands of Scotland. His first raid was in Norway, and he led from the front landing craft, play his pipes as the ramp lowered.

A later attack at Salerno was led by Churchill against a force much larger than his. He organised his men into six columns and had them charge in the darkness yelling at the top of their lungs. The German defenders were so confused and disoriented they had no idea ow many men were attacking them. The 50 commandos met every one of their objectives and took 136 prisoners.

Churchill was far in front of his own men, and he and a corporal named Ruffell advanced into the town on their own. Totally undiscovered, they heard Germans digging in all around them. What happened next is so unlikely that even Churchill described it as "a bit Errol Flynn-ish".

They took the first German post silently. Churchill appeared out of the dark, sword in hand and whispered "hande hoch". The Germans immediately surrendered. Churchill tied his revolvers lanyard around the neck of one of the Germans and led him along each successive post in turn. The German sentries would initially think it was one of their comrades before being confronted by a commando wielding a broadsword. Altogether, Churchill and Ruffell captured 42 prisoners, together with their weapons and a mortar which had been manned by 10 men alone.

Churchill was leading the Commandos in Yugoslavia in 1944 when he was eventually captured. His men were either all killed or wounded, and his revolver ammunition had run out, so he simply sat and played sad tunes on his bagpipes until he was wounded by a fragment from a grenade.

He was sent to Sarajevo, and then Berlin, as it was believed that he was a relative of Winston Churchill. There is a story that after landing at Berlin he managed to set the plane on fire. While it can't be proved, it seems typical of him.

He was sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp, but he eventually escaped by crawling under the wire at night. He planned to walk to the coast but was captured a few miles from the sea. Eventually he was sent to a camp in Austria.

In April 1945 he took another chance at escape. When the lights failed, he simply used the cover of darkness to walk out. He had kept a rusty can and a few onions on his person in case he got the chance and he used this, and any other vegetables he managed to purloin on the way, and decided to walk 150 miles to Italy. After eight days he met an American armoured column, who initially didn't believe he was an officer until he managed "a credible Sandhurst salute, which may have done the trick.”

After the war he qualified as a parachutist and transferred to the Seaforth Highlanders, before serving in Palestine as second in command of the 1st Battalion of the Highland Light Infantry. While there he successfully defended a medical convoy from Arab attack. All the more remarkable since he did this in full dress uniform of kilt, white spats, glengarry and red and white diced stockings - he had literally come straight from a battalion parade.

Later life saw him serving as an instructor in Australia where, naturally, he became an expert in surfing. He finally retired from the army in 1959 with a Military Cross and Bar, and two Distinguished Service Orders.

His eccentric streak remained even in retirement. When travelling home on the train, his fellow passengers were confused to see him throwing his attache case out of the window. When asked why, he replied that the train passed his house, and throwing his case into his garden saved him from having to carry it home.

So we return to my opening point. Why is Churchill the most Scottish man on our blog? Well, the evidence speaks for itself. He was an eccentric bagpipe-playing, sword wielding warrior who loved a fight. What could be more Scottish than that?

Monday, 30 May 2011

Hess flight to Renfrewshire - has riddle been solved?

Back in early May we posted an article about Rudolf Hess landing in Renfrewshire.

There has always been speculation on the reasons behind the flight, but The Scotsman newspaper is reporting today that Hess flew to Scotland with Hitler's blessing. A Russian dossier from 1948 about Hess's adjutant has been found in a Russian archive. They include interrogation papers and a notebook, and there are passages about the flight and Hitler's reaction.

The Fleets leave the Firths - On this day in Scottish Military History - 1916

Exactly ninety five years ago, one hundred and fifty one Royal Navy warships slipped their Scottish moorings and sailed into the North Sea night to face the German High Seas Fleet.

The Admiralty had broken the German Navy codes so they knew the Kaiser's warships were leaving their bases and could be heading north to reach the Atlantic, or east to go into the Baltic. The British would head for the seas off Norway and Denmark to cover both approaches.

The 1st and 4th Battlecruiser Squadrons, and the 5th Battle Squadron left the Firth of Forth from Rosyth; the 2nd Battle Squadron left the Cromarty Firth from Invergordon; and the 1st and 4th Battle Squadrons of the Grand Fleet, and the 3rd Battlecruiser Squadron left the Pentland Firth from Scapa Flow.

Whether they knew it or not Admirals Jellicoe and Beatty were about to face their opposite numbers - His Imperial German Majesty's admirals Scheer and Hipper, in the greatest naval battle of the First World War.

The two biggest naval powers of the time were about to meet in a showdown between 250 warships which would potentially change the course of the war. Whoever won the battle would control the sea lanes. If Germany won Britain's blockade of Germany would be broken and island Britain would be blockaded in return.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Anthropologist calls for survey of Harlaw Battlefield

A news item from STV Aberdeen about the battlefield of Harlaw in Aberdeenshire. This year sees the 600th Anniversary of the battle.

An anthropologist at Aberdeen University is calling for a new investigation into one of Scotland’s most historically significant battles.

Little is known about the the Battle of Harlaw, which was fought by the Gaelic army of Donald of Islay and an army assembled by Alexander Stewart, Earl of Mar, and ended with no clear victor.

Dr Ian Russell, director of the Elphinstone Institute, wants advances in geophysical surveys to be used to examine the site as the 600th anniversary of the battle approaches.

The battle – which is said to have provided the impetus for the Scots and English languages to prosper at the expense of Gaelic - was fought two miles west of Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, north-west of the Harlaw Monument, and was a contest for the Earldom of Ross.

“The Battle of Harlaw is commemorated in ballad and legend as a major conflict between Highlanders and Lowlanders but we know little of the actual events of July 24, 1411,” Mr Russell said.

“Almost all we have to go on is the cultural legacy – no documentary evidence exists apart from the poems, songs and ballads written down many years after the time of the battle.

“We know that Harlaw was of great strategic importance at the time but we do not know the exact site of the battle or the numbers involved – Donald’s army was said to be 10,000 strong but modern historians think it was significantly smaller.

“The Battle of Harlaw is a fascinating bit of history from a very torrid time and we are sure that there is more which can be uncovered.

“We know it was very bloody but where were the dead buried? We would expect a geophysical survey to show up signs of potential burial pits. The ballad The Battle of Harlaw talks of 50,000 Highland men marching but what route did they take?

“We will bring together historians, genealogists, battlefield archaeologists and experts in heraldry, genealogy and cultural history for the Harlaw Remembered conference on June 9 at the Trinity Hall of the Seven Incorporated Trades. It would be wonderful to see a proper geophysical survey of the site undertaken.”

Geophysical surveys have been carried out at battlefields in the past including Culloden where they provided new insights into the last battle of the Jacobite risings.

Seven Days, Seven Questions - 27th May

We thought that we should have a bit of fun on a Friday and introduce a weekly quiz of seven questions. There are no prizes up for grabs but you can post your results on our facebook page.

We thought we'd "borrow" the name that BBC News use for their weekly quiz - we hope they won't mind!

We'll chose a different theme for each week's quiz and today's theme is Scottish historical TV and films. There is no other reason for this choice of theme other than we could come up with seven questions on this subject at short notice!

Just click on the embedded link below to take the quiz.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Scotland hears of the loss of the Hood - On this day in Scottish Military History - 1941

A nation was stunned seventy years ago today when news filtered through that HMS 'Hood' had been sunk by the 'Bismarck'. The pride of the Royal Navy had been completely outclassed by the German warship, and was sunk on 24th May 1941 with the loss of nearly all hands. Only three sailors survived out of a compliment of 1,418

The Clydebuilt battlecruiser 'Hood' had been ordered by the Navy in 1916 after losing three battleships at Jutland. She was launched from John Brown's shipyard in August 1918 and fitting out was done at Rosyth. She was commissioned into the Royal Navy in May 1920 and from the start she was seen as something special. She was the only one of her class built, so there was no other warship like her. Memories of people who saw her, and served on her, talked of a powerful yet beautiful ship. The Scotsman from seventy years ago today reported her loss and recorded that she was 'The largest warship afloat by tonnage'.

John Brown's large scale model of her still exists and you can get an idea of what she looked like from that. (The model used to sit in the Transport Museum in Glasgow and I hope it is in the new museum at the Riverside when it opens)

During the 1920s and 1930s the Hood travelled all over the world flying the flag so she was well known throughout the Empire where her size and armament earned her the nickname 'Mighty Hood'. In 1935 she had sailed round Scotland and into Loch Eriboll on the North Coast. Whilst anchored there a party of sailors went ashore and on the hillside at Laid set out white painted stones in 6 foot high letters spelling 'Hood'.

In those happy times just before the Second World War no-one expected that she would be lost in so violent a manner and that the white painted stones in the remote Highlands would be one of the few mementos of her service and connection to Scotland.

In recent years children from the local primary school at Durness in Sutherland have kept alive the memory of the 'Hood' by repainting the stones and those of other Royal Navy ships which have followed her in laying out stones in the name of their ship.

The latest ship to do it was the Type 23 Frigate HMS 'Sutherland'. Although a Duke Class frigate, so named after the Duke of Sutherland, the people of the County of Sutherland have adopted her, and men from the 'Sutherland' have visited Loch Eriboll a couple of times to help repaint all the stones at Laid.

The former HMS 'Lochinvar'

News came out yesterday that the marina at Port Edgar at South Queensferry is going to be closed in a few years by the City of Edinburgh Council because they cannot afford to renovate it. This is the latest in a long line of financial worries for the marina because Edinburgh Leisure who run it also have to maintain the just as crumbling Meadowbank Stadium.

For many years Port Edgar was also known as HMS 'Lochinvar' and was home to destroyers and minesweepers from the First World War right up until the Cold War.

The Royal Navy left in 1975 and moved across the Firth of Forth to HMS 'Caledonia' at Rosyth. I doubt if much has been done there since the Navy left and they probably didn't do much since the Second World War.

We'll see if it struggles on but it is also near the proposed site of the new Forth bridge so it is likely to be impacted by that too.

A sad end to a forgotten naval base. There is still a memorial there to remind people of its glorious past though.

The last Jacobite town falls - On this day in Scottish Military History - 1746

On 15th April 1746 the Jacobite forces in the Far North under the Earl of Cromartie were routed at Golspie. On 16th April The Duke of Cumberland decisively beat the Jacobites on Drumossie Moor at the Battle of Culloden. On 18th April the Highland Army disbanded at Ruthven Barracks and Fort Augustus, and Bonnie Prince Charlie went on the run.

It was all over for the Jacobites in the British Isles. Except for one isolated spot. In Kirkwall in Orkney the Jacobites were still in control.

The British Government and Royal Navy were busy in late April and early May stamping out the Jacobites on the mainland but by late May it was time to remove them from Orkney.

On this day two hundred and sixty five years ago, and six weeks after Culloden, the last Jacobite occupied territory was retaken. A party of Royal Marines under local man Benjamin Moodie of Melsetter was landed by Royal Navy ships and without much of a fight retook the islands in the name of King George.

Rule Britannia.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Veritas Vincit

We recently covered Scottish re-enactors on this blog but at the time I knew it wasn't a complete list.

I have now found an Ayrshire based group called 'Veritas Vincit' who started off as a group re-enacting the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion, but in the last couple of years have moved on to other periods.

As before here are the details from their website in their own words.

Veritas Vincit

Bringing History To Life

Breathtaking entertainment and engaging education are the two things that Veritas Vincit strives to provide.

Since 2002 Veritas Vincit has been slowly growing into something that can provide this in any circumstance. Starting off as a civil duelling society the focus quickly shifted onto the Jacobite uprising of 1715. The reason for picking this particular uprising was due to the concentration of other groups on the uprising of 1745.

The early vision of Veritas Vincit was of a mobile group of reenactors who could arrive at any event unencumbered and perform dazzling displays of swordsmanship. This became Veritas for many years and under the leadership of James Finnie the group flourished. In 2009 James Finnie emigrated to Canada and he was succeeded by his eldest son David Finnie. The focus of the group now changed to incorporate firearms and a working living history encampment. Veritas has now also expanded in terms of historical eras covered with the 94th regiment of foot, the only Scottish Napoleonic reenactment group in the world made up of Scots.

In the coming years Veritas Vincit aims to continue bringing history to life.

Veritas Vincit are available for Educational shows as well as entertaining shows. Veritas Vincit are forever advancing on their period costume, knowledge and understanding of the three main periods that they portray. The group largely focuses on the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion and are also available for the 1745 Rebellion, for these Jacobite eras the group has an authentic encampment. It also have a small amount of members that portray a Medieval display, educational and entertaining. The third main period is Napoleonic, where a large majority of the group are part of the 94th Regiment of Foot.

Veritas Vincit have recently moved onto the twitteverse and have taken the name @VeritasVinvit17 if you want to follow them. If you are interested in getting involved with them they have contact details on their website here.

Because this article is just about the double Vs I will add their events calendar for this year. If any of the groups we mentioned in the last article want the same publicity we will be more than happy to publish their dates here too.

Veritas Vincit's 2011 Event Calendar

18th and 19th June (as 94th Foot): The Battle of Waterloo. Waterloo, Belgium

17th July: Kinlochard Highland games, Kinlochard

30th and 31st July: Callander Highland Games, Callander

6th and 7th August: Occupation! Edinburgh 1745. St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral Grounds (North), Edinburgh

13th and 14th August: Fort George

20th and 21st August: Lanark Festival, Lanark

24th and 25th September: Battle of Preston Pans, Prestonpans

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

And the winner is...

We had quite a few entries to our Tunes of Glory competition, but there can only be one winner.
The question foxed a couple of people, with some guessing that the book George Macdonald Fraser wrote about his war experiences was "The General Danced at Dawn" - while that contains elements of his wartime experiences, it's not strictly speaking his war story, as it's a work of fiction.
The answer we were looking for was "Quartered Safe Out Here", which just happens to be one of my favourite war memoirs. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it. It's a fantastic read.
And so we come to our winner. From the list of correct entries, we picked one from a hat and that winner is Barrie Duncan.
Well done Barrie, we'll be in touch to arrange delivery. Thanks to everyone who entered.

Major General William Roy - Who's Who in Scottish Military history

When William Roy became a Major General in 1781 it wasn’t because of his exploits in battle, it was because of his work with paper and ink.

Unlike most of the men we have covered in the who’s who series he wasn’t really a warrior (although he did see action during the Seven Years War), he was chiefly a surveyor, but Roy’s legacy to his country was probably greater than most of his soldier contemporaries.

Calling him a surveyor was actually unfair because he was also a renowned engineer and antiquarian, and his achievements in either of these fields would have made him a great Scot on their own; but it as a surveyor that he is most well known. His greatest work was his Military Survey of Scotland which he worked on between 1747 and 1755 and is known today as Roy’s Map.

Roy was born at Miltonhead near Carluke in Lanarkshire in 1726, the son of an estate factor. Little is known of his youth but the indications are that he was a bright pupil and attended Lanark Grammar School.

No records survive of any further education but by 1747 he was a competent and experienced surveyor and map maker

There is no knowledge of his whereabouts during the Jacobite Rebellion and if he was at his home in Carluke it may have passed him by, however it would have an impact on him the year after the end of the Rebellion.

In 1747 the government were determined there would be no more Jacobite rebellions. The clans would be pacified, and the government would garrison the Highlands from the line of forts across the Great Glen. The government also decided it would conduct a full survey of the country recording roads, settlements, bridges, forests and fields. In short everything an army on the march would need if it was chasing an enemy. It was something they lacked in 1745-46 as they were repeatedly wrong-footed by the Prince’s Highland Army.

Nothing had been done in Britain on this scale before. Lieutenant-Colonel David Watson, the Deputy Quartermaster-General of North Britain, the man who suggested it, was given the job.

It was a big task so Watson took on three assistant surveyors to do the work for him. William Roy, Paul Sandby, and John Manson. Roy worked on the survey between 1747 and 1755 and because of the amount of work he put into it, it is his name, not Watson’s which we use today to refer to the map. In 1755 it was known simply as the Great Map.

It was a Labour of love for Roy who was also an antiquarian and wherever possible he would add little notes of Roman encampments. He also chose to mark certain events from recent history too. In the far north he notes the spot in the Kyle of Tongue where ‘Le prince Charles Edward’ ran aground in 1746.

The surveyors would go out each summer to do their measurements and they would return to Edinburgh each winter to work on the map which was on a scale of 1000 yards to an inch.

After he completed his work the War Office were so impressed they commissioned Roy as a Practitioner-Engineer with the rank of Lieutenant. He continued to work on mapping but was now also a fighting soldier, and he was present at many battles of the Seven Years War including Minden.

His impressive work on the Great Map was also said to have influenced military surveys of Canada, North America, Bengal and Ireland. All areas of concern for the British Army in the late eighteenth century.

Roy rose steadily through the ranks of the British Army becoming a Deputy Quartermaster-General then Surveyor-General of Coasts and then Engineer-Director of military surveys in Great Britain, each position gained him a promotion and by 1781 he was one of Britains most senior engineers and a Major General in the army.

In the mean time he had spent mapping what was left of the Antonine Wall. In fact Roy mapped Scotland in the period when it moved from a mainly agricultural society to the beginnings of the industrial revolution; a time when the central belt of Scotland was transformed by heavy industry. Sites of interest from antiquity which were swept away in nineteenth century industrialisation had been recorded for posterity by Roy.

In his later career Roy concentrated on making land surveying more accurate. He surveyed parts of Southern England but he was determined a full national survey of the whole of the UK at one inch to a mile should be carried out by the army. Unfortunately the cost of that was too prohibitive for the governments of the day and Roy spent many years pleading his case to no avail.

Roy was also convinced triangulation was the way ahead for mapping and in 1787 he commissioned Jesse Ramsden, the foremost scientific instrument maker of his day, to design a theodolite and chain which would hopefully allow his dream of a fully mapped Britain to become a reality.

He was not to see it happen. Roy died in 1790 and was buried in London. In Carluke they erected a monument near where he was born.

Just before he died he had completed a survey of a stretch of Hounslow Heath with Ramsden’s instruments. This short stretch of accurate mapping became the baseline of the Trigonometrical Survey of Great Britain launched in 1791. As before with his Military Survey of Scotland the new survey was to ensure the British Army had accurate maps of their own country. This time in case of a French invasion. As a military mapping exercise the task of the Trigonometrical Survey was given to an army department, the Board of Ordnance.

The Ordnance Survey was eventually published in 1801 when the threat of invasion by Napoleon was at its peak. Luckily the Board of Ordnance’s maps were not needed to repel invasion. Even luckier was that Roy's vision, the Ordnance Survey, continues to be updated and is still with us today.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Highlanders in Palestine - On this day in Scottish Military History - 1936

We usually do the Scottish military 'On this days' ourselves but I came across this one on the 'New York Times' website. It comes from the files of the 'International Herald Tribute' from seventy five years ago and mentions two Highland regiments.

The recent news of a Palestinian State being discussed between Israel and the United States of America shows that the issue of the West Bank and Jerusalem goes back further than 1967 and even 1947.

1936 Troops Arrive in Jerusalem

The situation here continued critical today, with Arabs firing shots at buses and cars entering the city, although they were accompanied by armed convoys. Motor traffic in the southern half of the country is allowed to proceed only with police permits. Relief was felt today when more British troops arrived, comprising the First Battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders and a field company of the Royal Engineers dispatched from Egypt to reinforce the Cameron Highlanders. The Highlanders received orders to suppress shooting and sniping by Arabs and street fighting. The Royal Engineers will have the duty of ensuring communications and safe guarding transport and will also be responsible for running trains and working telephones. Arab leaders have disclaimed responsibility for the strife which has lasted for five weeks.

Competition - your last chance to win!

We've had a very good response to our competition to win a copy of "Tunes of Glory" on DVD, but you can still be in with a chance of winning.

The closing date for the competition might be today, but that means you have until midnight to get your entry in - don't delay, you've got to be in it to win it!

Details of how to enter can be found here. Go on, give it a go!

The Scots who died in Iraq 2003 - 2007

Since 2003 British Armed Forces had been involved in fighting and security duties in Iraq. Most British troops were withdrawn in 2009 but at midnight last night the final unit pulled out and Operation Telic ended.

Today seems a fitting day to list the Scottish servicemen, and those from other nationalities serving in Scottish Regiments, who died on active service in Iraq between 2003 and 2007

Stephen, Barry ‘Baz’ - 24/03/2003
Tweedie, Alexander - 22/04/2003
McCue, James - 28/04/2003
Smith, Jason - 13/08/2004
Beeston, Russell - 27/08/2003
Craw, Andrew James - 07/01/2004
Thomson, Robert - 31/01/2004
Gentle, Gordon C. - 28/06/2004
Ferns, Marc - 13/08/2004
McHale, Kevin Thomas - 29/10/2004
Lowe, Paul Aitken - 04/11/2004
Gray, Stuart R.T. - 04/11/2004
McArdle, Scott William - 04/11/2004
Tukatukawaqa, Pita - 08/11/2004
Williams, David Edward - 30/01/2005
Douglas, Allan - 30/01/2006
Pritchard, Gordon A. - 31/01/2006
Palmer, Richard - 16/04/2006
Kennedy, Scott - 28/06/2007
Kerr, Jamie - 28/06/2007
Ferguson, Stephen - 14/12/2007

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Old Scottish War Graves

When we think of war graves we think of white stones in massed ranks in beautifully tended war cemeteries around the world. The dignity shown to the dead of the First World War is far removed from the lot of the dead from previous wars. Up until the late nineteenth century dead bodies on a battlefield were quickly stripped of any valuables and then put in a mass grave to be covered over as soon as possible to stop the smell and the spread of disease.

The last pitched battle on British soil was Culloden in April 1746. It was a massacre for the Jacobites and it was up to the victors to dispose of the bodies. Clansmen were taken to pits dug beside the road through the battlefield for burial.

Over two hundred and fifty years the widening of the road and the planting of trees did not eradicated the mounds where the Jacobites were buried and the National Trust for Scotland has worked hard over recent years to return the field back to the state it was in 265 years ago.

In the late nineteenth century the local landowner placed simple headstones over the mass graves but it is unlikely the Redcoats detailed to dispose of the dead would have taken the time to separate the piles of tartan clad dead. As far as they were concerned the only good rebel was a dead one, and they would have been only too happy to tip the corpse into the nearest pit whatever regiment or clan he had served in.

That is really quite irrelevant though because the fact is the Jacobite dead ARE commemorated, which can't be said for the dead of most of the battlefields of Britain. The mounds in the middle of the battlefield are war graves, a place of pilgrimage as solemn and personal for some as the Menin Gate in Belgium or The Somme in France are for others.

In a twist of fate which the victorious British soldiers would not have imagined all those years ago; the men they considered traitors and brigands are commemorated, and the men who won the day lie in unmarked graves.

They are not forgotten at the new visitor centre though, where a handful of names of those known to have died on both sides are listed in one of the rooms. They are also commemorated on one of the walls of the centre where prominent stones represent deaths from both armies.

I have only used a few photographs of the Culloden graves here. To see them all please visit the Scottish War Graves Project or the Scottish Military Research Group's Facebook Photo Album.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Scotland's Favourite Memorials - Part 2, Dundee and Angus

With yesterday's result in the bag and Cambuslang in the final (by only one vote), it's time to look to another part of Scotland, this time Dundee and Angus.

Which memorial will join Cambuslang to decide Scotland's favourite civic memorial?

Your vote could decide it. As before, clicking the links will take you to the relevant page on the Scottish War Memorials Project, where you can view more photographs and additional information for each memorial. Then go to the bottom of this page and use the voting buttons.

Your candidates for your favourite memorial in Dundee and Angus:

Voting will close on the 30th May, so don't delay!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Black KOSB's diary found in Glasgow attic

Quite a few newspapers have covered the story of the find of the diary of Arthur Roberts which covered his time in the trenches in the First World War.

The diary had been found in a loft in Glasgow and is currently in the hands of the King's Own Scottish Borderers Museum in Berwick.

The Scotsman covers it here.

Image of the Day - 19th May 2011

Today's image is another from the album owned by my wife's grandfather. Frustratingly none of the photographs are named or have any text at all on the back, so we are left with a series of puzzles.

The couple in today's image are unknown. My wife doesn't know of any of her family that served in the Navy, and her father (who might have been able to identify some of these images) is sadly no longer with us.

What we do know is that the sailor at one point served on board HMS Implacable.

Implacable was a Formidable-class battleship, launched in 1899 and commissioned in 1901. She was the second ship in the Royal Navy to bear the name.

She served for almost the entire duration of the First World War, bombarding German troops on the Belgian coast, and then supporting the Dardanelles campaign. Later she helped reinforce the Italian Navy and saw service at Salonika.

Already outclassed when the war began, she served as a depot ship from March 1918, paid off in 1919 and sold in 1920. She was sold for scrap in 1921, and finally scrapped in 1922.

Where did this sailor serve on her? We can only wonder whether he saw Salonika, or the Dardanelles. Perhaps he was only on board during her time as a depot ship. Perhaps he even served on her pre-war? Like many of the images we post on the blog, we have more questions than answers.

Click on the photo to see a larger version, and as always, please email us, post a comment here, or on our Facebook page if you can provide any further information on this image.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Book launch and exhibition in Thornhill

Today sees the launch of Gladys Cuttle's latest war memorial book.

"Morton War Memorial and Memories in Thornhill, Dumfriesshire" compiled by Gladys Cuttle is being launched in Lodge St John's Masonic Hall in Thornhill (66-68 Drumlanrig Street) at 7.00 pm. It is going on sale at £10.00.

The author of Monday's post on Fighting Ministers, Paul Goodwin will be there too.

Tomorrow there is an exhibition in the same location between 11.00am and 3.00pm called "War memorials and War Years"

The other books on Nithsdale war memorials which Gladys has compiled are:

'History of the Penpont War Memorial and Parish Memories' (Updated Reprint) - £10.00
'Keir War Memorial and Parish Memories' - £10.00
'Closeburn War Memorial and Parish Memories' - £10.00
'Letters of a Durisdeer Soldier: james Hendrie 1889 - 1916' - £15.00
'Durisdeer War Memorials and Parish Memories' - £10.00

All books including the latest one can be purchased directly from Gladys (at the price given above, plus £2.00 p&p). Please use the feedback form on the SMRG website and we can put you in touch directly with Gladys if you wish to order any books.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Still time to vote for your favourite Lanarkshire memorial

The first part of our poll to find Scotland's favourite civic memorial has a few more days left to run, and it's still a close race. You've got until the 19th May to vote, when we'll close the voting and open up voting for a new area of Glasgow.

Take a look at the Lanarkshire post, remind yourself of the candidates, and place your vote!

Royal Regiment of Scotland, freedom of Scottish Borders

In 2009 1 SCOTS aka 1st Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland, The Royal Scots Borderers, (which was an amalgamation of 1st Battalion, The Royal Scots and 1st Battalion, The King's Own Scottish Borderers) were given the freedom of Berwick, the old garrison town of the KOSB.

On 11th June in Melrose the whole Royal Regiment of Scotland will be given the freedom of the Scottish Borders. (But not Berwick, which is in Northumberland)

The regiment will be represented by men from 1 Scots and 6 Scots, the TA 6th Battalion, 52nd Lowland Volunteers. The volunteers are the inheritors of the traditions of the 4th Bn KOSB which recruited in what is now the Scottish Borders Council area, and which suffered very heavy losses at Gallipoli in 1915.

The Relief of Mafeking - On This Day in Scottish Military History - 1900

One hundred and eleven years ago today, the Siege of Mafeking was lifted when British forces under the command of Colonel B T Mahon fought their way into the town.

(We say today, but varying accounts place the date as the 16th, 17th or the 18th. We'll take it as the 17th and ready ourselves for the complaints...)

This event isn't particularly notable as a Scottish event, but today we feature two items that have a Scottish hint to them.

The first is a film made in 1900, offering a dramatised reconstruction of the Siege which was probably filmed in New Jersey. The description of this film on this page states that Highland soldiers are featured, although it's hard to tell who is who!

No Highland regiments were present during the siege. The Gordon Highlanders were under siege at Ladysmith - perhaps the film makers got their towns confused? Or perhaps they just liked the look of the Highland lads?

The second item is a poem from the proclaimed "World's Worst Poet" - William Topaz McGonagall. Enjoy!

The Relief of Mafeking

Success to Colonel Baden-Powell and his praises loudly sing,
For being so brave in relieving Mafeking,
With his gallant little band of eight hundred men,
They made the Boers fly from Mafeking like sheep escaping from a pen.

'Twas in the year of 1900 and on the 18th of May,
That Colonel Baden-Powell beat the Boers without dismay,
And made them fly from Mafeking without delay,
Which will be handed down to posterity for many a day.

Colonel Baden-Powell is a very brave man,
And to deny it, I venture to say, few men can;
He is a noble hero be it said,
For at the siege of Mafeking he never was afraid.

And during the siege Colonel Baden was cheerful and gay,
While the starving population were living on brawn each day;
And alas! the sufferings of the women and children were great,
But they all submitted patiently to their fate.

For seven months besieged they fought the Boers without dismay,
Until at last the Boers were glad to run away;
Because Baden-Powell's gallant band put them to flight
By cannon shot and volleys of musketry to the left and right.

Then long live Baden-Powell and his brave little band,
For during the siege of Mafeking they made a bold stand
Against yelling thousands of Boers who were thirsting for their blood,
But as firm as a rock against them they fearlessly stood.

Oh! think of them living on brawn extracted from horse hides,
While the inhuman Boers their sufferings deride,
Knowing that the women's hearts with grief were torn
As they looked on their children's faces that looked sad and forlorn.

For 217 days the Boers tried to obtain Mafeking's surrender,
But their strategy was futile owing to its noble defender,
Colonel Baden-Powell, that hero of renown,
Who, by his masterly generalship, saved the town.

Methinks I see him and his gallant band,
Looking terror to the foe: Oh! The sight was really grand,
As he cried, "Give it them, lads; let's do or die;
And from Mafeking we'll soon make them fly,
And we'll make them rue their rash undertaking
The day they laid siege to the town of Mafeking."

Long life and prosperity to Colonel Baden-Powell,
For there's very few generals can him excel;
And he is now the Hero of Mafeking, be it told,
And his name should be engraved on medals of gold.

I wish him and his gallant little band every success,
For relieving the people of Mafeking while in distress;
They made the Boers rue their rash undertaking
The day they laid siege to the town of Mafeking.

For during the defence of Mafeking
From grief he kept the people's hearts from breaking,
Because he sang to them and did recite
Passages from Shakespeare which did their hearts delight.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Arandora Star Memorial, Glasgow

The other evening the two regular writers on this blog happened to be walking past St. Andrew's Cathedral in Glasgow. We noticed that the garden had been done up, but little did we realise that we were looking at the new Arandora Star memorial.

Today it was unveiled by our First Minister Alex Salmond and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow, Mario Conti. The BBC reported on today's events here.

It is a tribute to the hundred Scots-Italian internees who were amongst the 800 men killed when their transport ship was torpedoed by a U-Boat in 1940.

We don't have any photographs of the new memorial, but on the Scottish War Memorials Project Guido Blokland has recorded some of the graves of those who died in the sinking and were washed ashore on the Western Isles.

Bodies of internees, merchant seamen and guards from regiments like the Lovat Scouts were found washed up all along the coast of Scotland and Ireland. This photograph is of the grave of Oreste Fisanotti buried in Borve Graveyard

The Fighting Ministers of South West Scotland

Today's article is from guest blogger Paul Goodwin. Paul was one of the first members of the Scottish War Memorials Project and is one of its most enthusiastic members. The Dumfries and Galloway section of the Project has so many entries thanks to Paul's dedication.

The Fighting Ministers of South West Scotland

Things were different then! You wouldn’t imagine nowadays that ministers of the church would elect to serve as combatant soldiers with all that entails, including the taking of human life. But in the Great War this was more common than you might think.

The Scottish Ministers War Memorial in St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh records that 14 ordained Church of Scotland Ministers and 6 ordained United Free Church Ministers died as combatants during the First World War. Four of those listed came from overseas parishes and of the 16 who came from Scottish parishes, an amazing 7 came from the South West of Scotland.

Andrew Stewart was the minister of the United Free Church on the Isle of Whithorn and was commissioned into the Northumberland Fusiliers. On 18th September 1917 he was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry but was killed in action at Ypres just two days later. There is a memorial plaque and font dedicated to him in his former church at the Isle of Whithorn. His citation for the MC reads “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. Under heavy machine-gun fire he crawled up to within five yards of an enemy strong point and opened fire with a Lewis gun to cover his platoon's attack on the strong point.”

John Davis was the minister at Buittle near Dalbeattie and enlisted into the Royal Army Medical Corps as a Private in 1916. He died on active service on 22nd July 1917 and is buried in Amara Cemetery, Iraq. Although some may regard medics to be non-combatants, they are trained to use firearms and expected to use them in defence of themselves and their patients, he is listed as a combatant on the St Giles memorial. There is a memorial plaque to him in his former church also a gravestone type memorial to him has been placed inside the grounds of a listed derelict church in Buittle church grounds. He died leaving a widow.

Herbert Dunn was the minister at Sheuchan Church in Stranraer and was commissioned into the Cameronians. He died as a 2nd Lieutenant on 25th October 1915 and is buried in Alexandria, Egypt. There is a plaque memorial to him in his former church which is now the High Church of Stranraer.

Lieutenant Frank William Saunders was the minister of Anwoth Church, Gatehouse of Fleet before he was commissioned into the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders. He was 37 years old when he died on 1st August 1918 leaving a widow and was buried in a small churchyard in France. Anwoth church is now privately owned but available for private use as a church or hall and contains a memorial to him consisting of a brass plaque with a bust of him plus a frame with photographs etc.

Robert Gordon Millar from Dumfries was the minister of St Mary’s Church, Dumfries when he was commissioned into the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders as a 2nd Lieutenant. He died (leaving a widow) on 11th May 1917 from wounds received the previous month and is one of nearly eleven thousand British soldiers buried at Etaples cemetery in France. Like others in this article, he is recorded on a number of memorials including individual and parish memorials in his church, St Andrews university Roll of Honour, Dumfries memorial, Arbroath High School memorial and Arbroath and District Roll of Honour (he was a native of Arbroath). [Ed. note, we have covered 2nd Lt. Millar before on the Blog, here]

Dugald McArthur from Ardrossan was a 2nd Lieutenant in the Black Watch and died on 21st April 1917. He is commemorated on the Basra memorial in Iraq but we have not yet identified any other memorials that he may appear on other than the main civic memorial in Ardrossan.

John Rankin Donald Smith was the minister of Cathcart Street church in Ayr and served in the Royal Scots Fusiliers as a 2nd Lieutenant. He died at Ypres on 31st July 1917 and is remembered on the Menin Gate memorial. He was only 33 years old when he died leaving a widow. We have yet to identify any memorials to him apart from the main Ayr Burgh memorial.

In the 21st century we have come to expect a relatively passive role of our men of the cloth in ministering to the sick and injured, consoling the bereaved and giving spiritual guidance. So it may come as some surprise that, during the Great War, the conscience of a church minister could often take him on a more active path to take up arms against the enemy, especially in the South West of Scotland.

Readers will note that this is only a small part of what may be found about these men but further information about the men and their memorials can be found on www.scottishwarmemorials.com. More detailed research should probably begin with two books: "Sons of the Manse Muster Roll" (1915) and "Muster Roll of the Manse" (1919).

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Pipefest Normandy

From http://www.pipefest.com/normandy/

Pipefest Normandy pays tribute to Piper Bill Millin who was personal piper to Lord Lovat on D-Day and piped the invasion forces on to the shores of France; going to war with his bagpipe, he played as men fell all around him. Pipefest Normandy follows in the footsteps of Bill Millin, with events planned on Sword Beach, Pegasus Bridge and Caen.

Pipefest Normandy is part of a campaign led by the D-Day Piper Bill Millin Association to build a statue near Sword Beach to celebrate Bill Millin and remember those that fell on D-Day. This campaign sets out to raise enough funds to build this statue – with the unveiling planned during Pipefest Normandy. All pipers and drummers are asked to become involved. For more information please visit the campaign site: www.ddaypiperbillmillin.com

As part of this campaign Pipe Bands, Pipers, Drummers and Drum Mayors from all over the World are invited to take part in Pipefest Normandy and help pay tribute to Piper Bill Millin. Pipefest Normandy will be held on the weekend, 4-5 June 2011, with lots to do for players and families. Apart from Pipefest events there is a huge amount to explore in Normandie including museums, galleries and famous landmarks.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Uproar over Kelso War Memorial Flowers

The Southern Reporter today reports of a bit of a kerfuffle in Kelso after the local parks maintenance manager ordered the filling in of flower beds around Kelso War Memorial, without the local councillors knowing about it.

Although none of the photographs on the Scottish War Memorials Project show the flowerbeds around Kelso in full bloom it does show you how prominent they are.

Future Coupar Angus Roll of Honour

Mark Duffy, author of the book on Blairgowrie`s War Dead, is collaborating with Hugh Macrae of Coupar Angus in producing a book/cd to commemorate those who died in both wars and who had a connection with Coupar Angus. It is likely to include both Bendochy and Kettins close by.

Coupar Angus is unusual in not having a civic memorial to those who died. The book will bring together details of those commemorated on the School Memorial and the Abbey Church Memorials, as well as others who were perhaps omitted for some reason. It will also include those who are buried in Coupar Angus, or who have some connection to the burgh and its surrounds.

Mark and Hugh are looking for any personal information that anyone may have about family members who died in the wars - family background, education & employment, war service, war diaries, telegrams, medals & citations, letters home, obituaries etc.They promise to respect all materials and return them to owners once the information has been copied or photographed. Families will also receive a draft text for comment before publication.

Any other information on life or activities during the wars - both about those who served and survived and those who remained at home- will also be gratefully received and details passed on to Coupar Angus & District Heritage Association for historical record.

Anyone who has such information or materials should contact Hugh Macrae in the first instance on 01828627514/07843491803 or via the feedback page on the SMRG website

Friday, 13 May 2011

Don't believe all you read in the news

Here's another article which was originally uploaded on Wednesday 11th May.

The recent anniversary of the landing of Rudolph Hess in Scotland has prompted quite a few pieces of news coverage. We even posted our own article about it here.

The BBC published two accounts from Scotsmen with their stories of the night's events. One was a witness to the events, and one was passing on a piece of family history.

The problem is there are holes in both stories. The eye witness claims it happened on a sunny day, however it quite clearly all happened at night. There are so many official documents about the event there is no doubt in anyone's mind when Hess landed. The witness was a ten year old boy when it happened and it is now talking about it 70 years later. I'm sure no one can doubt he lived in Busby in May 1941, and he may have seen some of the events, but it was definitely not during the daytime.

The second account concerned the events on the crash site. The man's father supposedly helped Hess out of the plane. The obvious problem with this story is that Hess didn't crash land in his plane. He parachuted out of it first. He was not helped out of his plane by anyone. Again I'm not casting doubt on his father being there, I'm just pointing out that there is a problem with the story.

Here's the point of this post then. Can you ever trust memories of events that took place decades before, and can you trust old family stories handed down the generations as gospel? I really don't think you can.

The late historian Richard Holmes, who sadly passed away last week, would not rely on testimonies unless they were written either during a war, or very shortly afterwards. The two stories repeated by the BBC about the Hess landing clearly illustrates why he did it. Looking back at events from 1941 from 2011 people unintentionally weave fact and fiction together so you don't know where one ends and the other begins.

Problems with the blog

It looks like there have been a few problems with the blog servers. We have been blocked from updating it since yesterday and we have lost some of our posts.

A backout of some updates by our hosts seems to have wiped three articles away.

I have been able to resubmit one so apologies if you have read it before. We'll see if we can find the other two....

Thursday, 12 May 2011


At the end of a long day, working on whatever research project you have at hand, it's nice to settle down in your favourite chair with a nice glass of something pleasant to drink.

Now, we've mentioned tea on a number of occasions on this blog, but sometimes you need something a little bit stronger. For many men, that means beer.

"But what if I want to combine my interest in Scottish military history with my love of a nice glass of beer?" There's no way to do that." I hear you say.

Aha! That's where you would be wrong.

Stirling-based company Traditional Scottish Ales have released a series of "Famous battles" editions of beers, and these can now be bought in your local branch of Aldi for a very reasonable price.

Bannockburn is described as a "pale golden coloured beer with a thick tight head. Delightfully refreshing with complex hoppy and fruity aroma. A very drinkable session ale quickly becoming one of our best selling cask ales."

Sherrifmuir is described as a "ruby red ale" and "is the hoppiest of our beers, clean, sharp and fresh tasting heavily hopped with a dry aftertaste and hoppy aroma."

Finally, Stirling Brig is described as a "classic rich dark ruby red ale with a creamy head" and is a "typical Scottish 80/- style ale."

So now you can enjoy a refreshing glass of beer while still enjoying your interest in our military past. Cheers!

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

From the BBC News website:

A statue to commemorate King Robert the Bruce's links with Aberdeen has been unveiled.

The original idea came from a council motion calling for the city to recognise the debt owed to King Robert the Bruce as a benefactor.

The city's Common Good Fund was developed as a direct result of a charter he issued in 1319.

The £120,000 statue, outside Marischal College, was created by sculptor Alan B Herriot.

The statue, selected after a competition for the design, was funded by the Common Good Fund.

Marischal College is due to open as the new headquarters of Aberdeen City Council later this year.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

From the Calton to Catalonia

A play telling the story of the Glaswegian volunteers who joined the Internation Brigade in Spain in 1937 will be performed at The Wynd in Paisley on the 13th and 14th May.

The play is presented by Basement Theatre Company. It is based on the experiences of James Maley and has been written by two of his sons, John and Willy.

The Wynd is located at 6 School Wynd, Paisley and tickets are priced at £8 and £5 concession. The box office number is 0141 848 7471.

Hess lands in Scotland - on this day in Scottish military history - 1941

On this day seventy years ago one of the most famous flights of the Second World War took place. Rudolph Hess flew 1000 miles to Scotland from Bavaria on 10th May 1941 trying to find the Duke of Hamilton in the hope of brokering a peace between Nazi Germany and Britain.

He flew from Augsburg Airfield in a converted Messerschmitt Bf110 with extra fuel tanks. He first crossed the British coast after 10 pm at Holy Isle just south of Berwick in Northumberland. A few minutes later he was flying over Scotland and was spotted at a Royal Observer Corps post at Ashkirk near Selkirk. Night-fighter Boulton Paul Defiants from RAF Ayr and RAF Prestwick were sent up to intercept the German intruder but failed to catch up with them before he crashed.

Flying over Southern Scotland, Hess managed to miss his target of the Duke's airfield at Dungavel House near Strathaven and flew over the Clyde near West Kilbride. He then flew down the Ayrshire coast and back inland near Ardrossan. After another 10 minutes flying he mistook Eaglesham castle for the Duke of Hamilton's Dungavel House and bailed out at ten past eleven. His plane crashed in Bonnyton Field on Floors Farm near Eaglesham.

The first man on the scene after Hess landed next to the farm, and injured his leg in the process, was farm hand Davy McLean. With a pitchfork in hand Mr McLean captured what he thought was just a Luftwaffe pilot. Hess used the assumed name of Alfred Horn at this point and after the offer of a cup of tea in a farm cottage he was escorted to Busby Home Guard Company's drill Hall at Lodge St. John, Busby.

It was there that a local Royal Observer Corps officer, Major Graham Donald identified 'Horn' as Deputy Reichsfuhrer Hess. He was taken to 3rd Renfrewshire Battalion Home Guard HQ which was in Giffnock Scout Hall.

Once they were sure he was Hess he was quickly taken out of Home Guard hands and moved to Maryhill Barracks in Glasgow under the escort of men from 11th Bn Cameronians.

After getting his injured leg seen to he was very quickly taken to the Tower of London and would never return to Scotland. His plane was soon taken away too. As a make of the Bf110 which had never flown over the UK it was wanted by the RAF for examination. From the field in Floors farm it was first taken to a rail siding in Busby and then transported south.

Today there are few mementos of the infamous night left in Scotland. There is nothing at the scene of the landing at the farm, and the crash site is next to the busy A726.

Most of what remains of his plane is now in the hands of the Imperial War Museum or the RAF Museum, however the National Museum of Flight at East Fortune in East Lothian has two large pieces of his Bf110; one of the Daimler-Benz DB601A engines and also a tail fin which had been privately held in Renfrewshire for many years before being donated to the National Museum of Flight.

Lennoxlove House, the home of the Duke of Hamilton, has Hess's map of Scotland and compass.

Maybe in a few houses in Renfrewshire there are a few other small pieces of his plane. Perhaps they had been taken by guards, visitors or souvenir hunters in the farm's field or at the Busby railway siding? Little scraps of an old plane that commemorate the incredible night seventy years ago when a top Nazi dropped into Scotland.

(On a personal note two of my cousins did stints as guards at Spandau Prison in Berlin in the where Hess was held from 1946 until his death in 1987. One whilst serving with the Royal Highland Fusiliers and the other was with the Royal Corps of Transport)

Monday, 9 May 2011

Scotland's Favourite Memorials - Part 1, Lanarkshire

Some time last year we started a new section on the Scottish War Memorials Project to try and find which was the most admired civic war memorial in the country.

We've decided to run polls on the forum, starting with this one, to determine the favourite for each area.

Once we have the favourite for each area, we'll put them all in a final poll to determine the winner.

Today we cover the memorials in Lanarkshire. Take a look at the photos here, but also view the thread for each in the Scottish War Memorials Project for more photos and information for each one. Then, use the poll below to determine your favourite.

Here are the contenders:


Poll closes in a week, so get voting!

What is your favourite Lanarkshire memorial?
pollcode.com free polls

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Image of the Day - 8th May 2011

Today's image of the day comes from reader Suzie Withy, who sent it to us hoping we might be able to provide some information for her.

Suzie says that the man in the picture is "Jack" Reid (although he was probably named John Reid) and that he came from Glasgow.  She says he died of his wounds in 1915, although she doesn't say if he was still serving at the time or if he had been discharged.

Jack is pictured with his fiancee Cissie, who is Suzie's relative. Suzie says she has tried to identify the regiment in the picture with no success.

What can our intrepid blog readers make of this picture? Can we identify a unit for Suzie? Obviously there is no cap badge, which would make identification a lot easier. He's not in a kilt, so that would seem to rule out a few regiments. What about those collar badges? They would seem to be the only means of identification. Unfortunately, I've been unable to enlarge that part of the image without losing any definition.

So..any ideas? Answers to the usual places - either in the comments below, email us, or post a reply on our Facebook page, where the photo will be in our "Images of the Day" folder.

As per usual, click on the image for a slightly larger version.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

The Tynemouth World War 1 Commemoration Project

I don't know if any Scottish town is being as pro-active as Tynemouth in preparing for the 100th anniversary of the Great War?

I know Edinburgh University is working on the Edinburgh's War project in the run up to 2014 but I don't know of any community doing something similar.

See their website here: http://www.tynemouthworldwarone.org/

The Tynemouth World War 1 Commemoration Project

Over the next three years there will be an increasing public focus on the forthcoming centenary of the outbreak of the First World War (4th August, 2014), and thereafter, until 11th November, 2018 (the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice with Germany and the Central Powers), the nation will be reminded, by a series of important anniversary dates of key events, of the sacrifice of the nation, which brought personal loss to almost every family in the land.

The former Borough of Tynemouth marked that loss with a Roll of Honour published in 1923 containing very brief details of the 1700 local residents known to have lost their lives due to causes associated with the war and their service.

The project has been formed with the aim of reminding the population today of that loss and also to explore the social and economic consequences for the town and its inhabitants.

A large-scale research effort is planned in order to expand greatly the biographical information about as many as possible of the names on the Roll of Honour. When as much information as can be traced has been entered into an electronic database the public will have available to them an accessible resource when seeking details of family members who were lost in the War.

A copy of the Roll, sorted by reference to the date of death of the 1700 on the database, will be exhibited widely so that the population today can gain an understanding of the impact of this tragic period in the town’s history.

Sons of Galloway - Recommended website

Today's recommended website is the result of one man's passion in researching the sacrifice of his local area and the local territorial infantry unit. The Sons of Galloway is Dr Stuart Wilson's tribute to the men and women of South-west Scotland who served and died in the Great War.

The website covers the 5th Battalion, King's Own Scottish Borderers, which recruited throughout the three old counties which now make up Dumfries and Galloway*. It also is the home of the Stewartry Roll of Honour which is "a nominal roll of all men and women native to Kirkcudbrightshire, or resident in the county on enlistment, who served their country in the First World War".

The amount of data collected is staggering, and there is a wealth of information and photographs contained on the website. The work is ongoing and all contributions of information related to the projects will be gratefully received by Dr Wilson.

He now lives in England but is from Auchencairn in Kirkcudbrightshire, and apart from the website he has also written a book, "Answering the Call", about the men from Auchencairn who fought and died in the First World War. There is a bit about that on the website too where you can order a copy

Please take the time to visit the website even if you have no connection to the area. The story of the 5th KOSB's at Gallipoli is a tragic one; and the sacrifice of the whole of the Scottish Borders in early 1915 is often overshadowed by Scotland's greater losses first at Loos and the other battles of the Western Front. It is a tale that deserves a wider audience and Stuart Wilson's website does a magnificent job of telling it.

* During the First World War, Stranraer and the Rhinns of Galloway had territorial units of the Royal Scots Fusiliers rather than the King's Own Scottish Borderers.

Friday, 6 May 2011

The 1/6th Bn Royal Scots Fusiliers get a new Commanding Officer - On this day in Scottish Military History - 1916

It's not the man who took over the 1/6th Bn Royal Scots Fusiliers ninety five years ago today which this post is about. It's the man who handed over command on this day we are interested in.

6th May 1916 saw Lieutenant Colonel Winston Spencer Churchill being recalled to London and bidding farewell to his territorial battalion.

When the battalion had been told that the architect of the Dardanelles debacle was to be their commanding officer in January 1916 they were not overjoyed. Churchill was a bit deflated too. He had hoped for a battlion of a Guards regiment, not a Scottish Territorial unit.

Churchill wasn't going to let it bother him for long and he threw himself into his new appointment with all the energy and enthusiasm he could muster. The Scots soon found that their new C.O. was not the lame-duck politician they expected but a serious and experienced soldier who knew exactly how he wanted his new battalion to perform.

Churchill had seen action in several Victorian wars and had been a war correspondent in the Boer War. In an army of civilians in uniform he was a man with experience of war. This was unlike anything he had seen before and he spent some unpleasant and uncomfortable weeks in trenches at 'Plugstreet' but he turned the battlion round into an efficient front line unit. He also got the chance to lead his men into battle; something he had always dreamed of.

By all accounts the five and a half months Churchill spent as the commanding officer of the 1/6th RSF T.F. were good for both Churchill and the battalion, and it was with genuine sadness that they parted company, on this day in 1916.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Proposal for an Edinburgh War Memorial Garden

Michael Blackley in today's Edinburgh Evening News reports on plans from the Council to re-launch their proposal for a war memorial garden for Edinburgh. It would commemorate the servicemen from the City who have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years...

City leaders are preparing to launch an attempt to revive stalled proposals to create a new memorial to Edinburgh's fallen war heroes.

The city council is to start a fundraising drive to take forward its plans for a garden of remembrance in Princes Street Gardens dedicated to members of the armed forces from Edinburgh.

It is to seek donations from members of the public and private benefactors to revive the scheme, expected to cost at least £500,000.

You can read more here

Last serviceman to witness Scapa Flow scuttle passes away

The last serviceman to witness the surrender of the German Grand Fleet in the Firth of Forth in 1918 and then its scuttling at Scapa Flow in Orkney in 1919, passed away in Australia yesterday at the age of 110.

British-born Claude Choules had joined the Royal Navy at the age of 15, lying about his age, and saw action in the North Sea on the Rosyth based HMS ‘Revenge’. Now nearly 93 years after the guns fell silent, the final combat veteran of the First World War has passed away.

As historians we should perhaps be used to events slipping from living memory, but the First World War carries such a large footprint, not only in the subject we devote time to, but in our everyday lives, that the passing of the final veteran should feel somehow different and deserves to be marked in some way.

As the oft-repeated words say: We Will Remember Them