Thursday, 30 June 2011

Remains Of First World War Soldier Identified

A news release from the Canadian Department of National Defence on the identification of a First World War casualty. Alexander Johnston was born in the town I was brought up in...

OTTAWA – The Department of National Defence (DND) has identified the remains of a First World War soldier found in Raillencourt Saint-Olle, France, in 2008, as those of Private Alexander Johnston of Hamilton, Ontario. 

“This identification will provide closure to Private Johnston’s family, as well as reassure them that the ultimate sacrifice he made in the name of his country will never be forgotten,” said the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence. “Our Canadian soldier will finally be laid to rest with the military honours that he so rightfully deserves.” 

In July 2008, human remains were discovered in Raillencourt Saint-Olle, France. Found with the remains were two collar badges of the 78th Battalion (Winnipeg Grenadiers). The Directorate of History and Heritage was notified of the discovery in February 2009, and the remains were identified through mitochondrial DNA testing, as those of Private Johnston, on March 31, 2011.

DND has since notified members of Private Johnston's family of the identification. Veterans Affairs Canada will have the responsibility of providing them with ongoing support as arrangements are made and carried out for the final interment. 

Private Alexander Johnston was born in Coatbridge, Scotland on August 20, 1885, and moved to Hamilton, Ontario, in his late twenties. He joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force on January 5, 1918, and was taken on strength of the 78th Battalion in the field on September 4, 1918. Private Johnston died during the Battle of the Canal du Nord on September 29, 1918. His remains will be interred at Le CantimprĂ© Canadian Cemetery in Sailly, France, in October 2011 with his family in attendance. 

For more information on the Department of National Defence’s casualty identification process, please visit:

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Commando Comics - For Action and Adventure

Our post yesterday about the 50th Anniversary of Commando comics stirred some nostalgia in both Adam and myself. We clearly both had the same childhood experience of spending our days endlessly reading comic after comic. We obviously lived in a world where British sergeants were all gruff, officers were usually chinless wonders or green recruits, the Japanese only said "Banzai!" or "aiieeee!" and the Germans only ever said "Gott im Himmell!"

It's great to know that Commando comics are still going strong today, and it was also great last night to discover that they have a fantastic website.

Commando Comics allows you to browse the latest issues, revisit some old classics, and offers you the opportunity to buy posters of every issue there's ever been. You can also subscribe via the website, either for the paper edition, or a 21st Century ipad edition.

My one criticism (and my wife might say it's a blessing) is that beyond posters there isn't any other merchandise. I'd love some smaller posters, a t-shirt or possibly a mug. But that's a small criticism.

Take some time to look over the site, browse the cover gallery, and download a desktop background for your PC. If you loved Commando comics as a child, be prepared to be that ten year old child all over again...

Monday, 27 June 2011

Memorial for child victims of UK's worst rail crash

A rather sad story from the BBC News website. Terrible to think that these three children were buried unknown and it's good to know they are comemmorated in some way.

A memorial is being unveiled to three children who died near Gretna Green in Britain's worst ever rail disaster.

The "lost children of Maryhill" were among 227 people killed in a multi-train crash at Quintinshill in 1915.

Most of the victims were soldiers with the Royal Scots who were on their way to fight in World War I.

A headstone has been placed at the Western Necropolis in Glasgow, where the children were buried in an unmarked grave.

They were interred in 1915 along with a fourth unidentified person, whose age is not known.

Falkirk councillor Billy Buchanan, a keen amateur historian, arranged the memorial after hearing about the children, whose bodies were never claimed by their parents.

It is believed they had stowed away on one of three trains involved in the disaster, which happened when a troop transport carrying about 500 soldiers of the Royal Scots en route to Gallipoli crashed into one train before being struck by another.

The children were thought to have come from the Maryhill area and were later buried at the Western Necropolis cemetery.

The memorial headstone reads: "The lost children of Maryhill - they were sadly never named or claimed".

Mr Buchanan said: "It is unbelievable that no-one came forward to claim the bodies of these children in 1915 and we still don't know who they are.

"My aim with this memorial is to ensure that recognition and respect is given to these children and that they are remembered for posterity."

Mr Buchanan, who 17 years ago arranged a commemorative plaque at Larbert station where the Royal Scots had begun their fateful journey, said he hoped the publicity surrounding the "lost children" memorial would provide new leads in efforts to identify them.

He added: "Perhaps someone has an auntie or granny who might know something about these children. It would be great to find out who they were."

The provosts of Glasgow and Falkirk will attend the dedication of the memorial, along with representatives from the Royal Scots.

The Royal Scots suffered the vast majority of casualties in the Quintinshill disaster on 22 May, 1915.

A total of 215 were killed and about 250 injured after fire ripped through the wooden train, fuelled by the gas lamps used for lighting.

Most of the dead soldiers were buried in Edinburgh's Rosebank Cemetery in a plot marked by a large Celtic Cross.

Two signalmen were later jailed for their part in the incident.

War comic Commando marks 50 years

An article from the BBC News website on the Commando comic. When we were young, my brother was once given a huge pile of these from someone, and the pair of us read them over and over. I can still remember some of the storylines today. Glad to see it's still going strong. In fact, I purchased one as recently as last year - Divided Aces, about a fighter squadron based outside of Edinburgh.

The UK's last surviving war comic is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Commando, published by Dundee-based DC Thomson & Co, still features the black and white artwork it has had since 1961.

The comic is famous for its classic tales of heroism and self-sacrifice from the two world wars, but also has stories from more recent conflicts.

Now on issue 4,404, four editions of the pocket-sized comic are released every fortnight.

The 50th anniversary edition of Commando, with the classic illustrated front cover, is called "Misfit Squad".

Editor Calum Laird, who took over in 2007, said: "As someone who read Commando in the 60s and 70s, worked on the title as a junior member of staff in the 80s and 90s, and became editor in the 2000s, sitting in the hot seat for the 50th birthday is a great honour."

Publishers DC Thomson said writers and artists at the comic prided themselves on historical accuracy and their "enduring link" with the armed forces.

Recent research has shown that more than half of Commando's readers are veterans, or have a veteran in the family.

Mr Laird added: "Over the years, Commando editors have had messages of support from service personnel throughout the world. It's a tribute to everybody who puts Commando together that the tradition has carried on to the present day.

"If we can keep them happy with military tales, we've got to be doing it right."

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Armed Forces Day 2010 - Edinburgh event details:

Recent updates from Edinburgh City Council gave the impression that today's events were taking place in Holyrood Park. It looks like that is tomorrow and today's events are mainly happening in West Princes Street Gardens:


13:00 Armed Forces Day Parade will depart from Edinburgh Castle Esplanade and proceed down the Royal Mile, past the City Chambers and the Saluting Dais and down to Princes Street Gardens, halting at Mound Precinct, National Galleries.

14:00 The Ross Theatre in Princes Street Gardens will host:

Tea in the Marquees. A chance for members of the armed forces, veterans and the general public to mingle over a cuppa

Information stands will display information about Veterans Associations, the Armed Forces and Armed Forces Day.

Various activities will be taking place along in Princes Street Gardens throughout the afternoon, including an inflatable assault course, face painting and a bouncy castle.

Performances from the Royal Regiment of Scotland Band

14:15 Official Speeches

14:30 Military Music set at Ross Bandstand

16:30 Ceremony of Beating Retreat

SAFHS Conference 2011 - Live Blog

To view more recent updates, click refresh on your browser.

15.59 Everyone's packing up, and so am I. It's been a long day. I'll post up a report later maybe.

15.31 Postcard sellers are the curse of my wallet...

It's getting quieter now, I think the lasttalk has either finished or nearly finished. I'm not sure how long we'll be here for now, but probsbly at least another hour or so.

No-one has claimed the free book. Still time, though...

14.32 A nice couple of queries there, where I was able to locate service records for two individuals. One in particular was chock-full of information the lady had never known before. Makes the day worthwhile to be able to help like that.

13.53 So Andrew Nichol has told me to say he HAS written his talk. I don't believe a word of it.

Finally got a chance to say hello to Chris Paton. He might just be the busiest man on the planet. He's just back from Canada, and in November he has the honerous task of being on an all-expenses paid cruis in New Zealand. Well, someone's got to do it.

And I bought another book! Don't tell my wife...

13.17 Okay, quick quiz! What does Harry Potter have to do with family history?

I have no idea, but one FHS is selling a Harry Potter novel...

13.15 apparently there's a raflle today. I'm surprised no-one's tried to sell me some tickets yet.

the talk by Andrew Nichol of the Scottish Catholic Archives might be interesting, especially considering that at half eight this morning he hadn't written it yet...

13.10 Still time to claim a free book...

12.40 I'll manage to eat sometime. Had a nice conversation with a lady who was involved in the restoration of the memorial at Penicuik. The photos we have on the War Memorails Project are from before the restoration so we'll hopefully be able to get some more infor and some better photos.

12.07 Just been shown a photograph which appeared to be Victorian, and might have been posed as a court martial. Hopefully it will be sent in to us and we can feature it on the blog. My lunch is still sitting here uneaten - I can't get a moment!

11.50 Time for a quick bite to eat before the hoped-for lunchtime rush. I've grabbed ten minutes to look over the stall. The FIBIS stall has a large selection of books, many of which I'm salivating over. I'll have to resist, my wallet couldn't take it!

11.27 Busy busy! Lots more queries, a few tales of grandfathers etc. You never know what queries you're going to get, although we always seem to get a few queries about the Militia!

It's also encouraging to meet people who say "I'm in a group doing some research, would you like a copy?" That's always great to hear, sharing information is one of the keystones of our group, and it's nice to see resources being shared.

10.57 More queries, more questions. Done a couple of lookups for folk.

Chris Paton is here, although he flew in to our room, looked around and flew out again. Hopefully I'll get a chance to catch up with him later.

10.23 It's interesting to see the variety of queries you get. I've already been asked about army doctors during the Napoleonic era, and now a query about the memorial in Basra. That particular gentleman has been researching his family and has three ancestors who served in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalion of the Black Watch. He's almost certain that one of his ancestors served directly underneath the Queen Mothers brother.

10am - Met a person who reads the blog! Always nice to meet someone who read us...

9.57 - If there's anyone in Edinburgh not decided what they're doing today, come along and see us. We're on the first floor and you're guaranteed a friendly welcome. I'll offer an incentive - the first person who visits our table and says the words "Hector Macdonalds nickname was Fighting Mac" will receive a free copy of "There Was a Soldier", worth at least £10.

9.45 - Some interesting queries. A couple with an interest in the Musselburgh area were asking about how names were compiled for memorials. Another lady had a query about her grandfather who served in the Royal Scots and I was able to find his Medal Index Card.

One gentleman had a query on a man named on a Roll of men who served for avillage in Cheshire. Apparently this man had served in an agricultural unit, and the list they have has the abbreviation HDL. Unfortunately that's not one I'm familiar with. Can anyone help?

9.20am Just thought I'd share this, which I spotted in the Grassmarket as I made my way here this morning. I'll need to check if we have this on the SWMP. If we don't then I'll add it later.

9am - I'm not sure if we're open now, or if we open at quarter past. Either way, it's getting busy with folk still setting up. Plus I've just bought the 8th Division 14-18 history for £8, so I'm reasonably happy!

Just so you know, the 2012 SAFHS conference will be in the Bonar Halls, University of Dundee on 21st April 2012. Book your place now! We'll probably be there...

8.43am Not long now till the doors open, and things are getting busy.

I'm surprised to see a number of Family History Societys not here. Dumfries and Galloway FHS are always here, but not this year. Fife FHS are another strangely absent society.

Some interesting stalls here, though. Scotlandspeople have some stands that offer you the ability to browse their online content, SCRAN are here as are Deceased Online. The Genealogical Society of Utah are also here.

Oh, and so you know what to look for when you come, here's a pic of our stall. Hopefully it'll be surrounded by interested folk in a little while!

7.59am Well, I'm here, and I'm online! Today should be an interesting day. The weather's not that great, so maybe people will come inside and see us rather than the Armed Forces Day festivities! Hopefully there's enough interest in both events.

Check back later on the blog to see how we're getting on.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

SAFHS Conference 2011

The Scottish Genealogy Society will be hosting the 22nd Annual Conference of the Scottish Association of Family History Societies on Saturday, 25th June 2011 between 9.30 and 4.30pm.

The venue is Adam House, Chambers Street, Edinburgh and we'll be there!

Come along, say hello and see what we've been up to. We'll also try and answer any queries you might have about your own research, or we'll give you a few pointers that might help you.

We'll hopefully be blogging throughout the day, so keep checking back here to see what's been going on over the course of the day.

For more information visit the Scottish Genealogy Society site.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Armed Forces Day 2011

This years Armed Forces Day in Edinburgh is actually Armed Forces Weekend, with a number of special events planned.

This year Edinburgh is hosting the nation’s biggest ever flagship celebration of Armed Forces Day, with three days of events planned across the city to show support for the men and women serving in the Armed Forces, their families, veterans and cadets.

The weekend launches on Friday 24th June with a day of Royal Navy-themed activities centred around Ocean Terminal in Leith.  Between 11am and 6pm visitors can tour the Royal Navy frigate HMS Portland, plus watch a Royal Navy Gun Display and demonstrations by the Royal Navy and Royal Marines.  Military pipe bands, several veterans’ organisations and the Flying Gunners Motorcyle Display Team will also be on hand, and the day will conclude with an aerial display by the Red Arrows over the Firth of Forth at 7pm

On Armed Forces Day – Saturday 25th June – a parade of around 1500 serving personnel, veterans and cadets will process down the Royal Mile, preceeded by 90 members of the Riders Branch of the Royal British Legion Scotland (beginning at 10:45am).  The parade concludes at Holyrood Park, where numerous activities will take place over the course of the day.

These include displays of armoured vehicles; a Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (featuring a Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane); a Royal Marine combat demo; aerial feats by the RAF Parachute Display Team; a Veterans’ Village; a Drumhead Memorial Service for fallen soldiers; flypasts by the Red Arrows, Tornados and Typhoons; plus live music, pipe bands, Highland dancing, and a bar.

If that’s not enough, you can try your hand at flight simulators, the portable climbing wall or an inflatable assault course, while the kids keep amused at the bouncy castle and crazy golf.  The day concludes with a Beating Retreat, a musical extravaganza featuring all the service bands.

The weekend concludes with a day of activities organised by DecAid, a nationwide charity appeal set up by under 25s to support three separate service charities: SSAFA Forces Help, BLESMA and Talking2Minds, all of which assist service members and their families.  The appeal marks 10 years of armed forces’ involvement in Afghanistan and is particularly aimed at getting young people to show their support.  The goal is to raise at least £350,000 by the end of the year.

DecAid’s programme of events for the year kicks off in Edinburgh on Sunday 26th June with a procession of Massed Pipes and Drums, featuring pipers and drummers of all ages.  The parade begins at 11:45am and continues down the Royal Mile to Holyrood Park, where there will be a day of fun activities for all the family, including a British Military Fitness session at 11am, live musical performances (including finalists in DecAid’s Battle of the Bands), and a military-style assault course, before the closing ceremony for the weekend at 4:45pm.

For more information on Armed Forces Day, visit

To see the complete programme of events in Edinburgh, visit

For more information on DecAid’s activities and events, visit

Balmaclellan - A Featured Memorial

Usually with these "featured memorials" posts, we showcase the memorial with the use of some photos and a description, but today we decided to do something a little different.

Recently on the War Memorials Project, group member Paul "Spoons" Goodwin took a short video of the Balmaclellan memorial in Dumfries and Galloway, so today we feature his video.

Thanks to Paul for the video.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Forthcoming Events - Edinburgh's War Drop-in Surgery

Your Country and Library Need You!

This Friday, 24th June at the Central Library, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, between 12.00 - 3.30, the Centre for the Study of Two World Wars in collaboration with Edinburgh Central Library, is running a drop-in surgery. 

Members of the public are invited to bring World War 1 family diaries, photos and artefacts where they can discuss them with a team of specialists.

This event is taking place in support of this year's Armed Forces Day.

For more information, please email

Image of the Day - 20th June 2011

Today's image of the day is a departure from our recent run of images.

This image was found on the superb World War II Database, and is of Crown Prince Hirohito visiting Edinburgh in May 1921.

At a guess I would say this appears to be a visit to Edinburgh Castle. Some of the soldiers appear to be forming a guard for inspection, but others appear to be spectating.

Hirohito became Emperor of Japan in 1926, and was head of state throughout the Second World War.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Birth of Haig - On this day in Scottish Military History - 150 years ago

Eighty years after his death Earl Haig still rouses passions about his management of the War. Some see him as Scotland's greatest soldier, others consider him the butcher who killed more Scots than anyone else in history.

We've mentioned him a couple of times before on the blog, here and here.

On this day one hundred and fifty years ago the man destined to rise to the top job in the British Army was born in Edinburgh's New Town.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Royal Scots return to Leith from Russia - On this day in Scottish Military History 1919

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918 the guns stopped in France and Belgium. The Armistice with Germany signalled the end of the Great War and the end of four years of fighting.

For one Scottish unit it was a different story. On 11th November 1918 whilst the cease fire took place on the Western Front a Royal Scots battalion from Linlithgow was fighting a bitter battle against the Communist Bolsheviks in the snow of North Russia.

The reasons for British troops being in North Russia in 1918 go as far back as 1915 and the debacle at Gallipoli where so many Lothian men had died.

By 1915 Britain and France needed to help prop up their ally Russia. Russia was unprepared for war against an industrialised country like Germany and all sorts of arms and equipment were being shipped to Russian ports to support their war effort. With their victory at Gallipoli the Ottoman Turks controlled the Straits of Marmara which connected the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. That meant the Black Sea ports in Southern Russia were now out of reach to the British and French ships.

Instead the stores and supplies had to go up to the Arctic Circle to the port of Archangel and later to the British-built port at Murmansk. Throughout 1916 and 1917 the Allies landed thousands of tons of arms and equipment in the North Russian ports but poor transport links and mismanagement within Russia meant that huge stock of these stores were piling up at the docks and were not being shipped south to be used against the Germans and Austrians.

By late 1917 Russia was in turmoil. Revolutions in March and October 1917 left the Bolsheviks in nominal control of the country. They immediately sued for peace with Germany and then turned their attentions to defeating their enemies the ‘Whites’.

In Spring 1918 with the winter snow melting, the Bolsheviks started shipping the stockpiled British arms from Archangel south to fight the Whites. The British decided these arms and stores should be used by the Russian White Armies instead. With British and French backing it was thought the Whites could defeat the Bolsheviks and then start fighting the Germans again on the Eastern Front to ease the pressure on the Western Front. By late March the Royal Navy landed Royal Marines at Murmansk and the British started to put together an expeditionary force to be sent to Russia to advance on Archangel.

In late August 1918 as the war in France was reaching its climax the 2/10th Battalion Royal Scots, Territorial Force was approaching Archangel. The 2/10th Battalion had originally been raised in Linlithgow in September 1914. Its role had been to replace other first line Territorial units which had gone overseas. Up until 1918 it had only served in Scotland and Ireland. 935 of the fittest and able men had been drafted to other units on the Western Front and the men who served in the unit in 1918 were category B1, B2 and B3 – all considered unfit for active service. Every available man who could fight was already at the front fighting the Germans so when the task force being sent to Russia was being put together it was from home defence units serving on garrison duty in the UK.

The Royal Scots recruited up to their war strength of 1,000 men with drafts from other regiments and had sailed on the S.S. ‘City of Cairo’ from Newcastle on 17th August 1918. They arrived in Archangel on 25th August 1918 to a port caught up in a civil war, with troops and sailors from several nations based in and around it.

On the Allied side apart from the British were Canadians, Australians, French, French Colonials, Italians and Americans. There were also some Poles and Serbs who had been serving on the Eastern Front alongside the Imperial Russian Army. They all had their own reasons for joining the fight against the Bolsheviks and continuing the fighting on the Eastern Front against the Germans. (Elsewhere in Russia at the same time there were more British and French troops, as well as Belgian, Czech, Greek and Japanese troops; but they are not part of the 2/10th Battalion’s history).

Also fighting with the allies were local Russians recruited into an auxiliary regiment of the British Army (The North Russia Rifles) and there were also White Russian soldiers and sailors.

Against them were the Bolsheviks and just to add to the confusion the Finnish Army and their allies the Germans were also a potential threat to the Allies from the nearby Karelia Peninsula

By the time the Royal Scots arrived the Allies had been in North Russia for five months. They had captured the city of Archangel and were holding a line far south of the city along the River Dvina and across to the railway line running south out of the port of Murmansk.

On their arrival the Royal Scots marched through Archangel behind a US Marines band, over their shoulders were Mosin–Nagant rifles. The ‘City of Cairo’ had also been carrying a consignment of US made Russian rifles for the British and American forces in North Russia, and the Royal Scots were issued with them instead of the usual Lee Enfield rifle.

The next day most of the battalion sailed South up the River Dvina on barges to Bereznik where the Dvina meets the River Varga, and with some Royal Marines, Poles, Russians and some Royal Navy manned boats they formed a battle-group called ‘C’ Force.

‘D’ company of the Royal Scots moved to another part of the front and also served alongside some Royal Marines and Russian levies and they were called ‘D’ Force.

During September 1918 the Royal Scots of patrolled in forest and marshland on both sides of the Dvina around Bereznik and fought several engagements with Bolshevik troops. In mid September ‘C’ Force was bolstered by the American 339th Infantry Regiment.

By October 1918 the Bolshevik forces were attacking more frequently and in strength using gunboats and artillery. At the same time winter was starting to grip around the White Sea. The port of Archangel was frozen by the end of October and the Royal Navy’s ships were trapped in the ice. This allowed the Bolshevik river boats to sail up the Dvina and it forced the Allies to retreat back towards Archangel. By this time the Royal Scots had 100 wounded men in the hospital in Borok and they had to be evacuated in the retreat.

On November 11th 1918, Armistice Day on the Western Front, the Royal Scots of ‘C’ Force were attacked by 1,000 Bolsheviks at Toulgas. Their target was the Canadian Artillery of the Force and bitter hand to hand fighting developed as the Royal Scots struggled to repulse the attacks. On the day the people of the Lothians celebrated the end of the Great War for Civilisation the 2/10th Royal Scots suffered casualties of 19 men killed and 34 more men wounded. They were also awarded three Military Crosses, two Distinguished Conduct Medals and three Military Medals

For the troops in North Russia the conditions were now very harsh. In some places they had to patrol through snow over 10 feet deep. To deal with the conditions the Royal Scots adapted to patrolling on skis, snowshoes and on sleighs.

The skis especially were a hit. The ordinary soldiers of the Royal Scots could take some comfort from their miserable posting with the thought that it allowed them to indulge in a rich-mans sport which before the war had been the preserve of those who could afford to travel to the Alps.

The skiing was a small respite from the extreme cold and the constant attacks from the Bolsheviks. All this time the Bolsheviks were gaining in strength whilst the White Russian forces were suffering from poor morale, desertion and mutiny. In January 1919 without the support of the ice-bound Royal Navy the Allies were forced further back towards Archangel.

The British realised that they needed to send more troops to defend Archangel and prop up the Whites so volunteers from the troops returning from France who wished to stay in the Army and serve in Russia were formed into a new Brigade which would be sent to Archangel when the winter ice broke up.

In May 1919 as the Bolshevik 6th Red Army prepared for a new offensive the fresh British troops arrived. The Royal Scots got the welcome news that they were to be relieved of their front line duty and would return home.

On 6th June 1919 the 2/10th Bn Royal Scots were replaced by 2nd Bn The Hampshire Regiment and the Royal Scots moved to Murmansk to wait for a troopship.

A few days later the battalion embarked at Murmansk for home. By happy coincidence they were to land in Leith. The ‘Czartisa’ sailed into the Imperial Dock on 18th June 1919.

Along with the 277 Canadian Artillerymen, and 51 other soldiers who had sailed with them, the 987 men of the battalion marched through cheering crowds from the docks to Leith Central Station. They then travelled the short distance to Gorgie Station and marched up to Redford Barracks where they were to be demobilized.

Two days later they were entertained along with men from the recently retuned 1/9th Battalion Royal Scots by the Provost and City at Forrest Hill drill hall and then marched along Princes Street.

The 1/9th Bn had a long and distinguished war service on the Western Front but the service of the 2/10th Bn in Russia had been well reported in local papers. The men of the 2/10th Bn who had left the UK ‘unfit for active service’ returned as battle hardened soldiers and were treated as the equals of the veterans of the 1/9th Bn that day.

Over the next few days the battalion was wound up and on 25th June 1919 the 2/10th Battalion Royal Scots officially ceased to exist.

It wasn’t quite the end though. Not all the men had been demobilized and were sent to the 3rd Reserve battalion of the regiment. A few days later a party of 50 former 2/10th Bn men returned to the headquarters of the battalion at Linlithgow for another reception where they were warmly received.

The 2/10th Bn had missed the celebrations on Armistice Day but they were included in the Peace celebrations when the war officially ended in 1919. A grand peace march was organised in Glasgow on 4th August 1919 with 10,000 men and women from all branches of the armed services and those involved in war work taking part. Contingents from every Scottish regiment marched through George Square and one of the biggest cheers of the day were for the men who had served in the 2/10th Royal Scots. Coming from the city of ‘Red Clydeside’ for an Edinburgh regiment which had been fighting the Communist Bolsheviks it shows how much of an impact the actions of the Royal Scots had made at home.

The battalion had been in existence for nearly five years but had only served overseas for just less than ten months. In that time it suffered 132 fatalities. That was only a fraction of the number of casualties suffered by the Royal Scots battalions which served at Gallipoli, the Somme and at Arras; but they had served on a distant and almost forgotten battlefield on the edge of the Arctic Circle. They suffered from swarms of mosquitoes and horseflies in malarial marshland in the summer, and the bitter cold of the deep forests in the Russian Winter. They had to fight an enemy who never gave up and had to rely on White Russians who frequently did give up. In the ten months in Russia the battalion had been turned from unfit boys fit only for guard duty into soldiers praised by their commanding generals, and fĂȘted in their homeland.

There was one more act in the history of the 2/10th Bn Royal Scots. On 18th July 1920 former officers and men of the battalion assembled at Linlithgow and were presented with a King’s Colour. No other 2nd Line Territorial battalion of the Royal Scots was issued one. With the battalion disbanded it was handed over to the safe keeping of St Michael’s Parish Church next to the Palace. On it was proudly displayed the Battalion’s only, and hard earned, battle honour - Archangel 1918-1919

*Many thanks to Alistair McEwen for the images

Friday, 17 June 2011

George Penny Chissel - The Great War and Beyond

I was recently given a link to a "special edition" of the newsletter of the Glasgow Highlanders Association.

This special edition is devoted to a highly detailed article by Dr Andre Chissel about his grandfathers service in the Great War.

It deserves a larger audience than the members of the GH Association, so I hope they won't mind if I point you in the direction of a link to the newsletter.

We have another article by Andre, covering another ancestor which came to us from Andre via Anne Anderson. We hope to feature that in a future blog post.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Scotland's Favourite Memorials - Part 4, Ayrshire

On to part four of our poll to find Scotland's favourite memorial. This part is for Ayrshire, and if you don't know how it works by now...well, where have you been hiding?

Vote for your favourite, poll closes on the 29th June.

Any comments to add? Let us know in the comments!

We've had a slight rethink on the number of entries for each area, and we thought that ten was too many. So from now on we're reducing the number of memorials you can vote for. So, without any further rambling, here are your Ayrshire candidates:

Vote now!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The story so far - Scotland's Favourite Memorials

The most recent poll has now closed, and the winner of our Renfrewshire vote is....Paisley.

Paisley now joins Barry and Cambuslang in the final pot to find Scotland's favourite memorial.

Tomorrow sees part four of our poll. Will your favourite memorial be up for the vote?

Muskets at Fort George

From today's BBC News.

Word that OTC students are to be armed with replica Brown Bess muskets for live firing experiments at the rifle ranges at Fort George.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Comparing Crossford and Mains memorials

The recent news of the renovation of Mains War Memorial in Dundee sounds like good news. It makes me cast my mind back to the renovation of Crossford War Memorial in South Lanarkshire last year.

Like Mains, Crossford was a water feature which had been neglected and fallen into disrepair. Like Mains the names were fading and it was turning into little short of a disgrace.

In the 21st Century a water trough may not have had the community benefit it did when Crossford was at the heart of the Clyde Valley farms, and draught horses were a common sight; but when it came to renovating Crossford War Memorial the locals wanted the spring water to flow again. It had last flowed in the 1990s.

The same local authority who had neglected it for 15 years was not going to do anything about renovating it, so in 2008 the Crossford War Memorial Restoration Group was set up amongst locals in Crossford and Hazelbank. After two years and a lot of hard work the war memorial was restored to its former glory.

The stonework was repaired, the water flow was reinstated and more importantly the names of the fallen were inscribed on granite slabs. Too often new memorials are built of sandstone and stainless steel which may be cheaper in the short term, but will degenerate in the long run. It's a sensible decision by Crossford which should benefit the community for many years to come.

The memorial was returned to the 'care' of South Lanarkshire Council and it should now be included in its annual maintenance programme. Hopefully it will not be allowed to fall into such a poor state of repairs again.

Back to Mains. There has been no community involvement in the renovation, in fact, the council has now started work on it without informing any of the local parties who had been petitioning for its renovation.

Whilst on the face of it this may seem like good news there are perhaps some worrying aspects which may rain on the parade.

1. The council have moved the memorial. Whilst this may make it easier to maintain and reduce the chance of vandalism it means that it is unlikely the water fountain will be reinstated. I hope I am wrong. Since this memorial has been moved into a sports facility I think a golden opportunity has been missed to make a practical war memorial fit for purpose again. If it had been completely refurbished then dehydrated Dundonians could once again refresh themselves at its taps, and at the same time stand back and pause for thought about why it was there. It is a symbol of the sacrifice of the men of Mains nearly 100 years ago; but a war memorial also allows us to think of those who have lost their lives in wars since the First World War.
2. The damage done to the memorial is quite substantial. Years of neglect has allowed the effects of wind and rain on the sandstone to be aggravated by bored youths so that much of the surface stonework has been removed. This was especially serious on the name panels. With a quick lift and shift of the memorial (with at least a deep clean to remove graffiti I hope), then it is unlikely that any stonework has been replaced.

Sandstone was never a good choice of stone for inscribing names, and many across Scotland have been replaced by a tougher granite slab. It looks like at Mains this is not going to happen. This was a chance for the names to be re-inscribed in a more durable material. It was also perhaps a chance to add the names from the Second World War and any names from post-1945 conflicts.

I'm sure many people in Mains will know of local boys in the Black Watch, and other units, who have served in Afghanistan . As far as I know no local has died in Iraq or Afghanistan in recent years and hopefully none ever will; but there are war memorials across Scotland which have had names inscribed for men lost on active service in the last ten years. War memorials are not just pieces of architectural sculpture in the middle of parks; they sill serve a purpose within our communities today, as a focus for remembrance for those who have lost loved ones, and as an anti-war message of lives cut tragically short.

It won't be long until we know what the council has done at Mains and what it still intends to do. It looks to me like a quick fix has been applied, and an opportunity has been missed. 

Crossford was a successful renovation but it was privately funded and run. Should Mains have gone the same route? I don't know if was there the ambition within the community to do as much as Crossford without council support. The locals liaising with Dundee City Council seem to have been bypassed at this late stage, and the council has decided to press ahead with some work unannounced. This is a worrying sign and suggest what has been done will just be a sticking plaster over a gaping wound . More should have been done to investigate a long term solution before work started.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Summer Holidays

Sharp-eyed viewers of the blog may have noticed that the number of posts has gone down a little in the past few days.

We wanted to reassure you that we haven't gone anywhere, nor has our interest dipped. We're merely taking a little break to recharge our batteries.

Both Adam and myself juggle this blog and all our other projects along with our full time jobs. Add to that we both have young families and sometimes it all becomes quite a lot to handle. We've had the blog going at a fair pace, and that's come at a cost.

While we've had the odd "guest author" on the blog, the majority of the work has come from us, and while I can't speak for Adam, I've found that a couple of articles I've written here recently have seemed rushed and I wasn't overly happy with them.

With that in mind we decided to take our foot off the gas rather than keep at our current pace and watch the quality suffer.

So...don't worry,  we're not going anywhere. We just need a little breathing space for a short while and we'll back to what we consider our best before too long.

Of course, you could always try writing something for us to help the workload. You know how to get in touch...

Sunday, 12 June 2011

William Angus wins the Victoria Cross - On This Day in Scottish Military History, 1915

Today's event is of particular interest to me. William Angus lived in Carluke, the village I currently reside in, and there are many references to him throughout the town: I'll come to them later on.

The events of the 12th June 1915 are fairly well know, but it's worthwhile mentioning the citation for his Victoria Cross again:

"For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty at Givenchy on 12 June 1915, in voluntarily leaving his trench under very heavy bomb and rifle fire and rescuing a wounded officer who was lying within a few yards of the enemy's position. Lance-Corporal Angus had no chance whatsoever in escaping the enemy's fire when undertaking this very gallant action, and in effecting the rescue he sustained about 40 wounds from bombs, some of them being very serious"

There are many aspects of the Angus VC story that make it particularly interesting. Some of them are true, some of them have become a little "twisted" after time, and some of them seem so unlikely that you are left wondering if they could be true or not.

I thought that rather than go over old ground, describing in detail the actions of that day, I would instead look at a couple of aspects of the story that have perhaps become muddled over time or are thought of a part of the "myths" of the tale.

One of the main things you are often told is that Angus is the "Celtic VC". The Celtic aspect is a little unclear. It's often described that he struggled to break into the team, and that his appearances were restricted to a mere handful. Other reports state that it was only one game played for them. Contemporary reports, however, state that although he was employed by Celtic Football Club at one time, he never played a game for them.

There is certainly some evidence to back this up. In the Mitchell Library is a book published a few years ago, which lists all the players who appeared for Celtic. It seems fairly comprehensive, even mentioning Allan Lynch, who only ever appeared for Celtic as a trialist - William Angus is not listed in this book. That would seem to suggest he did not play for them.

However, I do not blame Celtic or their fans from "claiming" him as one of their own. He was employed by them - if it was my club I would claim him too.

We are on firmer ground when we discuss the "40 wounds" aspect of the story. Forty wounds seems ridiculous. Surely it was made up?

Well...perhaps not. Take a look at this:

that is a section from the service record of William Angus, available to download on Ancestry. As you can see, that's a fairly serious list of wounds. From what I can read (and deciphering some of the jargon) here's what he received:

  • Gun shot wounds to his right leg
  • Bomb wounds to his head, shoulders and foot
  • Grenade wounds to his left eye socket, leg and arm
  • Bomb wounds to his right eye socket and eye, left side of his body, right thigh and foot
and as you can clearly see, they removed his eye the following month. Notice how all of these entries are plural: "wounds", not wound. Forty wounds? Seems like it's not such a myth.

It was pleasing to me to read that entry from his service record. I've always had an interest in the Angus story. It's a story of one incredible action by a man who by all rights shouldn't have survived.

Like I said above, I live in Carluke, and there are references to Angus all over. Carluke is a very small village (albeit larger now than in Angus's time) so it's incredible that it can lay claim to being the home of not one or even two, but three winners of the Victoria Cross. All three are fondly remembered - they all have streets named after them, and there is a stone in the market place where they are all listed.

In addition to this I remember seeing one of the local football teams (it may have been a school team, or a junior side. I'm afraid I didn't make a note at the time) who use an image of the Victoria Cross as their badge, and the recently opened community centre has a focal display of stained glass with images of local landmarks and items of note. One of the panes of glass features three VCs.

Travel slightly farther afield and you can view his medals in the National War Museum at Edinburgh Castle. fittingly they are displayed next to those of Lieutenant James Martin, the man from the same village whose life he saved 96 years ago today.

All this fuss may have embarrassed Angus had he known of it. By all reports he was a modest man and would only tell his story if prompted. Whatever his feelings about it, he was a remarkably brave man, and he deserves to be remembered as an inspiration and example to all.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Care and Maintenance of War Memorials in the Current Financial Climate

Word has reached us that Dundee City Council has removed the dilapidated Mains War Memorial from its original location and are currently relocating it, and hopefully renovating it.

Mains War Memorial has been the subject of several news articles after a member of the Scottish War Memorials Project highlighted its disgraceful condition in April 2009.

It had been allowed to lie neglected and forgotten in a corner of Caird Park. At the time the news broke the youths of the area were called all the names under the sun, and were used as a convenient scapegoat by the Council to hide the fact that no care or maintenance had been done on this memorial for months, if not years. Now, finally, over two years later the work is being done and Mains War Memorial is going to be saved as a focus for remembrance for the community.

The good news in Dundee may be a thin silver lining on a looming black cloud.

You just have to catch any national news bulletin and there is bound to be something reported about council budgets being cut, reduced, frozen etc and the knock on effects this has on services they provide. There is no doubt that this will affect our local war memorials.

Heath and education will always take priority, and then after that the rest of the departments have to fight for the remaining scraps. We are also constantly faced with councils taking a short term view on things. They are looking at this year and next year's budget, and the years after that are probably not being considered. The problem is that the memorials in their care were handed over for care in perpetuity and a long term view is needed. If the Mains War memorial farrago shows us anything it surely shows that a little bit of regular care and maintenance would probably have avoided the costly solution, and sometimes acrimonious discussions of the past two years.

I suspect the only reason so much is being done on Mains is because it attracted such a wide amount of interest in the media. If Dundee council had got its own way the memorial would have been demolished and replaced with a small plaque nearby. You can just imagine them saying "Oh dear. How sad. Never mind." as the stones were carted away to the landfill.

So what can be done? More vigilance is needed by members of the public for a start.

Local papers are probably reporting thefts of metal more frequently now. Theft of lead off a church roof, or cables from a railway signals box are common occurrences these days, but how long is it before these inconsiderate thieves start targeting the bronze panels, decoration and even statues on our war memorials? Walkerburn in the Scottish Borderers famously lost its greatcoated mourning bronze soldier a few years ago. Luckily it was recovered but what are the chances of that happening again?

If you happen to see workmen at a local war memorial, especially if they are removing metal parts, can you be sure they are council workers? I'm not suggesting you turn vigilante but a quick phone call to the council would clarify whether they should be there or not. In the summer of 2010 war memorial gates were removed from Tayport and no-one noticed until October because everyone thought that the council had removed them for renovation.

Another thing to look out for is if the war memorial becomes the focal point for youths to gather at in an evening. War memorials are often in prominent places for a reason; but it often makes that spot a prime place for people to meet up. It's easy to labels youths as yobs because of their graffiti and vandalism but these are mostly the results of boredom and a lack of appreciation of what the memorial represents.

The 'Make it Happen' project in Edinburgh has shown that if you focus the attentions of young people in an activity they enjoy then they are a lot less likely to get into trouble. Funding youth clubs and activities to keep teenagers away from spray cans and vandalism has got to be a worthwhile way of spending council money; but if the small amount of cash goes to youth projects who else has to lose out?

Educating young people on the purpose of the war memorial might also help protect it from unwanted attention. Many people today will know of someone who has served, or is serving in Afghanistan. Over the past ten years dozens of Scots have been killed on active service and many of them have had their name added to a local war memorial. These monuments erected after the 'war to end war' still have an important part to play in our communities almost one hundred years later.

Even if the memorials themselves aren't neglected, the parks and gardens they usually sit in are also likely to suffer cuts. We recently highlighted the changes made to the flower beds around Kelso War Memorial. These flower beds and parks have often been part of the original design of the war memorial and are an integral part of the the commemoration and remembrance for that community. The site and surroundings of the memorial were as important to the people who commissioned it as the stone and bronze memorial itself.

It's not all doom and gloom. North Lanarkshire Council instigated a programme of renovations and cleaning last year. Hopefully that programme will not be subject to cuts (but that may just be wishful thinking on my part).

Recently two other renovations were highlighted by us. At Alexandria the Vale of Leven cenotaph is being renovated and at Helensburgh, West Dunbartonshire Council secured some funding from the marine engineering firm Babcock International for much needed repairs.

Perhaps that will need to be the way to go in the next few years. The original memorials were paid for by public donations; it was only after they were erected and unveiled that the council took responsibility for them. Up and down the country it is mainly volunteers in the RBL, local organisations, or just public spirited individuals who are already keeping an eye on their local memorials; maybe we need to take that a bit further and have more private investment in war memorials from individuals and local firms. 

It's not an ideal solution but with local authorities are making cuts, and the spectre of no money for the care and maintenance of war memorials, then what is the alternative?

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Captain Thomas Patrick Milne-Home, Highland Light Infantry

Today's story is by Stuart Graham, and comes to us via Sandy Leishman at the Royal Highland Fusiliers Museum. The original intention was to feature the uniform as an "object of the month", but I decided it deserved to be featured sooner. My thanks to Stuart and Sandy for the article.

I have been a collector of Scottish military items for many years with a keen interest in the Highland Light Infantry. A few months ago I purchased some items of HLI uniform which when researched have revealed a fascinating story surrounding the officer who they originally belonged to.

The uniform items consisted of an HLI officers doublet with Captain's insignia, a pair of Mackenzie tartan trews, a shoulder belt and sword slings complete with HLI shoulder belt plate and a dirk belt with HLI clasp. The doublet has the name T.P. Milne-Home on an old cloth name tag attached inside the collar.

Milne-Home's uniform. Picture courtesy of Stuart Graham
A check in Army lists revealed Thomas Patrick Milne-Home joined the HLI as a 2nd Lieutenant in 1895, promoted to Lieutenant in 1898 and then to Captain in 1901.

On contacting Sandy Leishman at the RHF museum he came up with some interesting information on this officer. He was born in 1875 and died at Darlington N/Yorks in 1956 aged 81. He was wounded at Dewetsdorp during the Boer War in 1900, but then in early 1901 was dismissed the service and then reinstated some months later, but Sandy had no more information as to why.

On looking through Proud Heritage (Story of the HLI) it revealed that only one HLI officer was wounded at Dewetsdorp (no name is mentioned) so this confirmed Sandy's information but the interesting thing was that the officer concerned had surrendered his post to the Boers and had been court-martialled and dismissed the service.

The Queens South Africa medal casualty roll only mentions one HLI officer as being wounded at Dewetsdorp and names him as Lieutenant T.P. Milne-Home.

Col. Kelham's Boer War Diary contains information on the action at Dewetsdorp and states:

"The fighting had been incessant for several days but about 3pm on Friday 23 November came the climax. Several men, some of them gunners, others infantry driven out of their own trenches by the enemy's fire and more or less demoralised, rushed headlong into one held by a young subaltern and some men of the HLI. The officer had already been wounded and was worn out, body and mind, by the strain of the continuous fighting and want of sleep. The trench was outflanked and under close fire so apparently pressed by his companions he raised a white handkerchief and all was over."

Col. Kelham goes on to say that this action cost the officer his commission but by order of H.M. King Edward the case was re-opened and the officer reinstated, he also says that in his opinion the young officer was made a scapegoat for the outcome of the action at  Dewetsdorp.

Further research at the National Archives shows that Lt Milne-Home's court martial was held at Bloemfontein on 29 Jan 1901 the charge being "Shamefully delivering up a post. Knowing doing an act (showing white flag) calculated to --------."   The remainder unreadable. The sentence "Dismissed the Service".  It also says "Laid before the King 9 March 1901".  A hearing was then held which exonerated him and he was reinstated. He was promoted to Captain in April 1901.

The QSA medal roll for the 1st Battalion HLI initially in 1901 shows against his name "On Black List" but in 1903 it was altered to read "Medal to be given as all record of conviction should be removed".   He was entitled to 4 clasps on the QSA medal,  Paardeberg, Wittebergen, Cape Colony and South Africa 1901.

In the 1904 Army List he was shown as Captain 2nd Battalion HLI, in the 1909 list still shown as Captain 2 Btn but also shown as on the strength of the 4th HLI Special Reserve (Militia).  He went on to half pay in August 1909.  There is no record of him serving in WW1.

After the Boer War and no doubt after his court-martial it states in Proud Heritage "the principle was somewhat forcefully laid down in "INFANTRY TRAINING" that, failing orders to withdraw, a position would be held "to the last man and last round" and that "a final effort will be made with the bayonet, rather than surrender".

Attached is a photo of Captain Milne-Home taken in full dress uniform sometime after the Boer War also a photo of a display dummy with his items of uniform included.  The other items I have added from my collection. 

Many thanks to Sandy Leishman, Tom MacGruer and Barry Thacker for their help with research.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

KOSB Colours to be paraded through Borders for last time

From today's Border Telegraph

The Colours of the Kings Own Scottish Borderers will be paraded in The Borders for the last time when the Royal Scots Borderers, 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (1 SCOTS) march through Melrose this weekend.

This is due to The Royal Regiment of Scotland being presented with new Colours from Her Majesty The Queen on Saturday, July 2.

In keeping with tradition dating back hundreds of years, the Battalion will parade through the town to show their thanks for the support that members of the public have shown the Battalion.

The parade, on Saturday, June 11, will also give the local population a chance to come out to show their appreciation to the Battalion for the hard work that they have carried out during their recent tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Many friends and families are also expected to turn out for the parade to show their appreciation and support for the troops.

The Parade takes place two-weeks before Armed Forces Day (AFD) 2011 which is to be held on Saturday, June 25, with events set to take place up and down the country over the two-week period from June 18 to July 3.

Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir David Richards, said: "I am delighted that I will be in Edinburgh again this year, now as Chief of the Defence Staff, to take part in the national event celebrations.

"Armed Forces Day is in its third year, and, from the start, has inspired the Nation to show its support for the servicemen and women of the Royal Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force at events across the country."

Traditionally The Borders along with Edinburgh and the Lothians have been recruiting grounds for 1 SCOTS.

The Parade, which will include a total of 96 officers and men, will form up at 11am in Gibson Park before marching through Melrose town centre and back to the park.

Image of the Day - 8th June 2011

Today's image is another from my wife's family album. Like many of the photos, we know nothing of the identity of the subject.

It has some interesting features - the overseas service stripes are very clear on his sleeve, denoting he has served three years overseas.

It also appears that there is some kind of insignia on his shoulder - it appears to be a triangular cloth badge. Possibly a divisional insignia?

We can't see his cap badge, but I'm inclined to believe this man is in the Highland Light Infantry. My wife's grandfather served in the 10/11th Battalion of the HLI, and many of the subjects in the photo album are HLI men.

As per usual, if anyone has any information they could add, please get in touch with us, either by comment here, on our Facebook page, or by emailing us.

Click on the image for a larger version.

New Hornshole Memorial planned for Hawick

Just a few days ago we posted Derek Robertson's article about 'The Horse' monument in Hawick.

BBC Scotland reports that a new memorial is planned for Hawick to commemorate the same battle, The Battle of Hornshole in 1514.

Quite why they would spend £100,000 to build a new memorial to the same battle when they already have such and iconic one is beyond me. Perhaps someone from Hawick can enlighten us!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

The One O'Clock Gun is fired at Edinburgh Castle for the first time - On this day in Scottish Military History 1861

At one o'clock eack weekday and Saturdays on Princes Street in Edinburgh a strange thing happens. Locals look at their watches and visitors look up and around them to see where the loud bang came from.

The reason is of course because at the Mills Mount Battery of Ediburgh castle a blank round from a L118 105mm gun has been fired.

The piece of artillery may have changed, and up until fairly recently it was a 25 pdr, but the same ritual has been going on now for 150 years.

On 7th June 1861 the idea of firing a cannon from Edinburgh Castle at exactly the same time a ball dropped from Nelson's Tower on Calton Hill, as a time signal for ships in the Firth of Forth, was first put into practice.

Even though the original purpose may have been overtaken by technological advances the firing is still going strong all these years later. The current District Gunner, who is responsible for firing the gun, is Sergeant Jamie Shannon

Sunday, 5 June 2011

The loss of the Hampshire - On this day in Scottish Military History - 1916

Ninety five years ago today the most famous soldier in the British Empire drowned when the ship carrying him on a mission to Russia sunk off Marwick Head, Orkney.

HMS 'Hampshire' was struggling in a gale not unlike the ones we've seen recently in Scotland when she hit a mine and foundered within a matter of minutes. The party for Russia and 643 sailors perished. Hampshire's destroyer escorts had turned for home in the force nine gale earlier so there was no-one nearby to help. The local lifeboat crew who knew the ship had gone down were ordered by the Royal Navy not to help. Civilians on shore were ordered by soldiers not to go near the wreck of the ship to help either.

The Hampshire, her crew and her guests were left to their fate. The fact she was heading to Russia and had Field Marshal Earl Kitchener of Khartoum on board has led to wild speculation and conspiracy theories.

The man who encouraged young men to join up in 1914 had been enoying the hospitality of Jellicoe, the recent victor of Jutland, at Scapa Flow, just hours before his death. His sudden loss stunned the nation. On 13th June 1916 a memorial service was held in St Paul's in London for Kitchener and all the others who went down with the 'Hampshire'

The people of Orkney erected a memorial to the great man near to the spot he died on duty. You can see photographs of the memorial tower on Marwick Head on the Scottish War Memorials Project

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Sculptor who carved his name in history

Today sees the anniversary of the unveiling of a monument famous throughout the Borders. Hawick man Derek Robertson has kindly provided today's article about the man who sculpted it.

Sculptor who carved his name in history

Just prior to the start of the Great War, the young Hawick sculptor William Beattie received a commission from his home town to produce a monument to commemorate the four-hundredth anniversary of the skirmish at Hornshole, during which a band of young Hawick Callants routed a troop of English horsemen and stole their flag.

On June 4, 1914, William's 1514 Memorial (or 'The 'Horse' as it is more commonly known) was unveiled and Mr Peter Scott, the managing director of 'Pescos', said to the gathered crowd of thousands that: "Mr Beattie had placed them under the deepest obligation by the wonderfully appropriate design of the statue, it was the inspiration of a true born Teri. In their young sculptor they had one who was a credit to his father and his native town, a Teri in spirit as well as in name."

He went on to predict that William Beattie "was a young man with a great future before him and at no distant time would no doubt be one of Hawick's most distinguished sons."

Two months after the unveiling, the Great War broke out in Europe. William joined the artillery and was awarded the Military Cross for bravery in carrying wounded soldiers despite being under heavy shellfire. In 1918, he was badly gassed and spent more than five months convalescing back in Britain. He made a slow but steady recovery and rejoined his unit in September 1918. But, just two weeks later, William was fatally wounded in action and died at a casualty clearing station in France on October 3, 1918. It was only five weeks until the end of the war.

Fate had decreed that William Beattie was never destined to become one of Hawick's most distinguished sons as Mr Peter Scott had predicted. Instead, William joined the ranks of the fallen in that doomed generation – nearly 1,000 men perishing from the local area alone.

In 1921, fully seven years after its unveiling, Thomas Beattie returned to complete the final details on his son's '1514' memorial, work which had been interrupted by the outbreak of war. With the skill of a master craftsman and the love of a bereaved father, he carved the words: 'Sculptor Major William F. Beattie MC RFA, a native of Hawick, born 1886, killed in France 1918'.

In death, William's 'Horse' monument became both a commemoration of Hawick's old victory and a symbol of our more recent loss. It is a contradiction, a celebration of the perceived pre-1914 view of war as being honourable and glorious set against the realisation that there is no greater folly known to man than war.

In France, William's parents had a simple, but wholly appropriate and moving inscription carved into his headstone: 'Teribus'.

In 2004, on a battlefields tour run by Ian Landles, it was very appropriate that Hawick's oldest living ex-cornet and champion of her Common-Riding, Chuck Whillans, was asked to lay a wreath at William Beattie's grave in France. The golden thread, which links our present to our past, was continued. Lest we forget.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Erskine Week

We are a wee bit late in posting this message, but 1st - 8th June is Erskine Week

Purple is the colour that Erskine are using to promote the fundraising week this year, to help provide support to 1,370 ex-Service men and women.

For ninety five years, since The Princess Louise Scottish Hospital for Limbless Sailors and Soldiers was opened in Erskine, they have been caring for those injured in battle. At the end of the First World War little did they know that servicemen and women would still be serving in dangerous war zones and would still be requiring their care well into the 21st Century.

Here is their appeal in their own words:

Be Proud to be Purple and help us raise vital funds for Scottish veterans.

We are asking you to help us by doing any fundraising you can throughout 2011 but ideally up until 8th June.

There are hundreds of exciting ways to take part; plan a purple party, paint your face purple, run a marathon wearing Erskine’s purple t-shirt or simply wear a purple tie or dress to work for the day. In doing this, every pound you raise helps Erskine make more of a difference to the lives of the 1,370 ex-Service men and women who rely on us.

Your contribution will help us give them the special care they deserve.

For more information or to request a fundraising pack please call our fundraising team on 0141 814 4555

Thursday, 2 June 2011

SMRG Presentation at Lanarkshire Family History Society

Myself and Anne Anderson gave a presentation last night to some member of Lanarkshire Family History Society at their research centre in Motherwell.

Pictured left to right: David McNay, Joe McKague of Lanarkshire FHS, Anne Anderson, Gerry Farrell of Lanarkshire FHS
The purpose of our presentation was to highlight the project that we as a Research Group are working on and how they can benefit others in their own personal research.

I was a member of Lanarkshire FHS for several years, and I would always recommend joining a Family History Society, especially if you are new to genealogy. They can be a fantastic place to obtain advice and information.

Our thanks go to Gerry and Joe of the Lanarkshire FHS military group for their hospitality.

If you'd like to know more about Lanarkshire Family History Society, you can visit their website or take a look at their page on Facebook.

Object of the Month - June 2011

This month's Object of the Month comes from my own meagre collection of artefacts. It is fairly common, but has some interesting features worth mentioning.

During the Boer War, Queen Victoria decided to send a gift of chocolate to her troops serving in South Africa, as a way of raising their morale after what had so far been a disappointing campaign.

The tins of chocolate were made by Fry's, Rowntree's and Cadbury's - all three manufacturers were Quakers and therefore pacifists - they opposed the war but did not want to be seen to refuse a request from the Queen so in order to complete the order they formed a temporary partnership.

If you own one of these tins, it is possible to work out which company produced yours - this page has a useful comparison of the different subtle variations. From that site I can easily work out that my tin was produced by Rowntree's.

Many of the tins were sent home as souvenirs - this is perhaps the reason why you can still find them today.

Some men sent the complete tin home, although many other ates the chocolate first. To find an example with the chocolate still inside it today is rare.

My tin has long since had its chocolate eaten - and not by me! Even my sweet tooth would have been reluctant to bite down on 100 year old chocolate.

So while our object this month isn't particularly rare (you can find them for auction on Ebay regularly) or unusual, it's an interesting insight into a bygone age.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

The Victors of Jutland return to base - On this day in Scottish Military History - 1916

It may not have been clear to them at the time but the Royal Navy ships which limped back to their home ports in Scotland on this day ninety five years ago had just won the greatest naval battle of the First World War. The Germans may have inflicted more damage at Jutland but they were the ones who ran away. The Royal Navy ruled the waves once again.

It had been a terrible day for the Royal Navy. They had lost fourteen ships and thousands of men were killed and wounded. When they returned to port the injured men were taken to naval hospitals and the dead were buried.

The Battlecruiser squadrons from Rosyth shipped their casualties to the pier at Port Edgar in South Queensferry and then were taken the short distance to Butlaw Naval Hospital (The Queen Mary and Princess Christian Emergency Naval Hospital). The dead were buried in South Queensferry's Dalmeny and South Queensferry Cemetery.

Others lost in the battle were buried at Cromarty Cemetery on the Black Isle and Lyness Naval Cemetery at Hoy in Orkney.

Two of the ships erected crosses over the mass graves of the sailors who had died. HMS Barham and HMS Malaya at Hoy.

Scotland's Favourite Memorials - Part 3, Renfrewshire

Time for part three of our poll to find the most-loved civic memorial in Scotland, which for this part comes to you from Renfrewshire.

You know the drill by now. Take a look at our pictures here, visit the links for more pictures and information, and then use the poll at the bottom of this post to select the civic memorial you think best represents Renfrewshire.

Polling closes at the end of the day on the 15th June. So...don't delay. Make your vote count!

Here are your contenders: