Sunday, 31 July 2011

July 2011 - That Was The Month That Was

We've been forgetting to do this for a while, so here it is back again!

July was supposed to be the month we took things easy, but it proved to be anything but. Here's the list of the most-viewed articles from this month:

  1. The Glasgow Roll of Honour takes another step towards completion
  2. The video footage of Armed Forces Day keeps racking up the hits
  3. News of the colours presentation by the Queen
  4. My video footage of the colours presentation...
  5. ...and some photos.
  6. Back to the First World War with news of a scrapbook of Royal Scots photos
  7. We review "VCs of the First World War - 1914"
  8. The Argylls colours are laid up in Stirling
  9. The Childers Reforms
  10. Good and bad news for The Highlanders
Just for a bit more fun, here's the top ten list of countries which have been visiting the blog:
  1. United Kingdom
  2. United States
  3. Canada
  4. Australia
  5. Germany
  6. France
  7. Netherlands
  8. South Korea
  9. Hong Kong
  10. Russia
Want some more stats? Here's the top ten list of things people searched for which brought them to our blog in July:

  • earl of strathearn   
  • scottish military   
  • andre chissel   
  • fromelles relatives database dryburgh   
  • david niven
  • edinburgh war research
  • majuba hill
  • 1888 civil war painting by robert gibb
  • alexander wallace macdonald fort william

Image of the Day - 31st July 2011

Today's image is one that I've had stored on my hard drive for some time now, and I thought I should make use of it.

It depicts a soldier in the Gordon Highlanders- this picture is in the possession of a friend of mine and I believe it depicts a man in the 10th Battalion.

There are several things I like about this picture. First of all, it's a very good image of a man and his kit. My main reason for liking it is the other soldiers looking out from the window with a mixture of looks ranging from curiosity to outright boredom. I'd love to be able to eavesdrop on their conversation.

Click on the image for a larger version.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Viscount Haldane - Who's Who in Scottish Military History

Today is the 155th anniversary of the birth of the politician Viscount Haldane. The Edinburgh born and bred MP came from a distinguished family of Perthshire soldiers and sailors, but he himself never served in the armed forces. He was a tubby intellectual once described as a speaking penguin. A Renaissance man not cut out for military life.

He is our Who’s Who in Scottish Military History today because in 1907 he was responsible for the Acts which transformed the British Army and prepared it for the First World War. His reforms also changed the Scottish Volunteer regiments into the Territorial Force. It was his reforms which led to the creation of two of Scotland’s most famous volunteer units; the Lowland Division and the Highland Division. They would achieve undying fame in two world wars as the 51st and 52nd Divisions and the name still lives on today in the 6th and 7th battalions of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

Richard Haldane was born in 1856 in Charlotte square in Edinburgh, just round the corner from where Douglas Haig was born in 1860. Coincidentally the two would work closely together in the Edwardian War Office when Haldane was Secretary of State for War and Haig was a general and the Director of Staff Duties.

I’ll not go into detail of the life of Haldane in the years before 1905 because this is about Haldane the army reformer, not Haldane the politician.

He was appointed Secretary of State for War, the minister responsible for the army, in December 1905. He had been aware of the short-comings of the army since the 2nd Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902. The Empire had won but had been humiliated on many occasions by the mostly volunteer Boer army. Haldane knew he needed to shake up the demoralised army from top to bottom. As far back as 1901 he stated he wanted ‘a comparatively small Army - one extremely efficacious and capable for foreign service’, but not one able to ‘compete with the enormous armaments of Europe’. Four years later he was in a position to put his theory into practice.

Almost immediately he was forced to create the British Expeditionary Force. Secret negotiations between the British and French governments in January 1906 committed Britain to sending an army to France in the event of a European War. Haldane created a BEF of six infantry divisions and one cavalry division out of the regular army troops garrisoned in the UK. Each infantry battalion, artillery battery, medical corps ambulance and engineer squadron was allocated to a brigade and division; and would be ready for war within a matter of days.

He then wanted to improve training. This was when he first came into contact with General Douglas Haig who was working as Director of Staff Duties at the War Office at the time. With Haldane’s help in quashing objections from other generals, Haig produced two volumes of the Field Service Regulations. For the first time the army had one set of manuals which covered the training and organisation of all branches of the army, including front line and line of communications troops. When war came all units would now be singing from the same hymn sheet.

Haldane’s next major reform was the creation of the Territorial Force. Haldane saw that the rifle volunteers formed in the 1850s and 1860s to defend Britain against French invasion could be reorganised into brigades and divisions to defend Britain from an attack by Germany. They could also potentially be used overseas too if the men volunteered.

He used the old Yeomanry units as the cavalry for his fourteen new territorial divisions. He also changed the status of the Militia. It was now renamed the Special Reserve and would be the holding unit for the regular battalions of a regiment for reserve soldiers recalled to the colours in the event of war.

At the same time as converting Yeomanry, Militia and Volunteers into an integrated defence and training force for a modern war, he also introduced the Officer Training Corps to schools and universities to train future officers. This part of his reforms alone would guarantee a pool of trained young officers ready to fill the ranks of the rapidly expanded army in 1914.

His last major reform at the War Office was the creation of the General Staff, and shortly afterwards the Imperial General Staff. Once again he worked with Haig on this reform, and this would pay dividends in the later war years when Haig was commander-in-chief in France, and responsible for large contingents of troops from Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand and South Africa.

The one thing he didn’t do was introduce conscription. He resisted calls for it and was a great believer in his territorial force and OTC in producing hostilities-only soldiers out of keen volunteers.

In 1910 Haldane left the War Office. Haig who had worked closely with Haldane over the previous three years later called him "the greatest Secretary of State for War England has ever had". Haldane was hoping to go to the Admiralty and start his reforms there. His father had been in the Royal Navy and whilst in the cabinet Haldane had seen how unprepared the Navy was for a modern war against a European power. The job went to Churchill instead. It is now one of history’s what-ifs. What if Haldane had reformed the navy as successfully as he had the army?

Haldane had always had many German friends and spoke German fluently. Before 1914 he worked hard to keep the peace but one man could not stop the momentum building up in Europe for war. On the outbreak of war the prime minister called him back to mobilise the army. No-one knew what was needed better then Haldane. Asquith offered him his old job back at the War Office but Haldane turned it down and suggested an experienced soldier like Kitchener instead. Once again we have another what-if. Kitchener dismissed some of Haldane’s carefully prepared mobilisation plans. He reduced the BEF from six divisions to four and ignored the Territorial Force as reinforcements and instead called for his volunteer army to be raised. What if Haldane had been in charge? How would he have created an army of seventy divisions to fight a war against the most powerful army in Europe?

In August 1914 Haldane’s reforms were put to the test and they more than stood up to them. Crucially for the first time in a major war the British regular army knew exactly what to do on the outbreak of war. The divisions moved to France within days and the contemptible little army gave the Kaiser’s army a bloody nose at Mons and Le Cateau. The Territorial Force quickly moved to their war stations and almost to a man volunteered for overseas service. By 1915 many TF units were in action in France and Gallipoli and held the line before Kitchener’s New Army units were ready for action.

Ironically the man who had done so much to reform the army and prepare it for war found he was sidelined during the war because of his supposed German sympathies. His former allies failed to support him against the hostile press and he was forced to resign as Lord Chancellor just at the time his Territorial Force was going to war.

He remained a committed parliamentarian for the rest of his life serving both Liberal and Labour parties. He didn’t forget his homeland though and he had spells as Lord Rector of Edinburgh University, Chancellor of the University of St Andrews and was made a Freeman of the City of Edinburgh.

This most unlikely of Scottish Military heroes died at his family home in Perthshire in August 1928 just a few months after his old colleague Douglas Haig. ‘The Scotsman’ reported that the local territorials including the 6th/7th Bn Black Watch T.A. lined the roads for his funeral service at Auchterarder. Local resident General Sir Ian Hamilton was in attendance and a Black Watch piper played The ‘Flowers of the Forest’ at his graveside in Gleneagles Cemetery.

Twenty years after he had shaken up the war office the army had not forgotten that Haldane was the man responsible for their ability to fight in 1914, and fourteen years later they gave him a fitting send-off.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Battle of Dunbar tour this Sunday

This Sunday Wing Commander Derek Read will lead a tour of the battlefield of the 1650 Battle of Dunbar. Dunbar was a crushing defeat for  the Scots under David Leslie by Cromwell and his New Model Army. It was another battle where a Scottish commander outnumbered the English, had a better position on the battlefield, and still managed to lose. (See Homildon Hill, Verneuil, Flodden etc.)

Anyway this article isn't about the battle, it is about this Sunday's tour.

It is being organised by the Battlefields Trust and Geoffrey Carter is the man to contact for further information if you need it.

Here are the Battlefields Trust details :

Meet at 13:00 in the ASDA car park just off the A1 near Dunbar. The address is Spott Road, Dunbar, EH42 1LE. Lifts can be arranged from Dunbar Station for anyone travelling by train. Contact Geoffrey Carter (details below) if you need collecting.

For further information:
Contact name : Geoffrey Carter
Contact email :
Contact phone : 07986 355721

Glasgow City Roll of Honour - Update

The Scottish Military Research Group have been running a project to fully transcribe the First World War Roll of Honour for the City of Glasgow. It was originally published in 1922 and listed name, rank, unit and address. At present it can only be viewed at the City Chambers in George Square, or the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. For people outside of Glasgow access to the information is difficult.

Our aim is to make the Roll more accessible, and at the same time make it easier to search and sort the data.

The first section of 4,340 names covered surnames A - D and was released on 23rd December 2011.

Today we are pleased to release the second section, which covers the surnames E - K and is for a further 3,600 names.

The purpose of the project is to take the existing information and make it more manageable, without diluting it with extraneous information. Among the goals of the project are the following:

• Split the name into surname and first name(s), thus making it easier for researchers to search for a specific name.

• Standardise the Unit text, making it easier for searching. For example, "Black Watch" and "Royal Highlanders" will be standardised into one specific unit title, as will "Cameronians" and "Scottish Rifles", This will make it easier for a researcher looking for a specific regiment or unit.

• Splitting the address into separate fields, thus making it easier for a researcher to locate the fallen for a specific street, district or even a particular house.

The Roll contains nearly 18,500 names and only a small number of people are working on the project so it is likely to be 2012 before it is fully completed.

A lot of the work in transcribing the roll was undertaken by the late Kevin O'Neill who was an enthusiastic researcher and transcriber of Great War records. The newly transcribed roll is dedicated to his memory.

The two completed sections of the Roll can be viewed by clicking the links below:

Glasgow City Roll of Honour E-K

Glasgow City Roll of Honour A-D

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Names to be added to Kirkcaldy War Memorial

From today's 'Fife Today'

Five more heroes honoured at war memorial

The names of five heroes who gave their lives in the service of their country since WW2 are to be added to a new extension of Kirkcaldy’s war memorial.

Work has been carried out over the past week building a wall to the side of the original memorial in the gardens in front of the town’s museum and art gallery on which new plaques bearing the names of service personnel who died in conflicts ranging from Palestine to Iraq will be attached.

And it is hoped that the work, which will also include cleaning of current plaques and stonework around the whole of the memorial at a total cost of around £15,000, will be completed in time for a dedication service by the Black Watch before they deploy on their next tour of duty in September.

Important work

Councillor Alice Soper, chairman of the Kirkcaldy area committee, who initiated the project after being approached by the soldiers’ families, explained that the extension to the war memorial is very important.

She said: “I’m delighted that work is now well underway on the extension to the war memorial and will be finished by the end of August.

‘‘It’s vitally important we commemorate local people who have been lost in more recent conflicts alongside those already highlighted on the memorial.

“We’ve been working closely with the Scottish National War Memorial Trust, of which I am a trustee, and the local branch of the Royal British Legion Scotland to check names to be engraved on the memorial.

“Those names will feature on new plaques and we wanted to make sure they would be in keeping with the current war memorial.

Dedication ceremony

“Once the work is completed we will be organising a dedication ceremony to unveil the extension to the war memorial.”

Reg Briars, Fife area chairman for the Royal British legion Scotland, said: “We are delighted to see this happening.

‘‘The work was started by our colleague Jim Honeyman who passed away recenntly, and we are delighted to see everything coming together after all the work.”

Jim Paterson, Fife area secretary, added: “The new right hand wall will bear the names of servicemen and women lost in conflicts from 1946 onwards.

‘‘This is vitally important that these people are recognised.”

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

The Battlefield of Culloden

I missed the 265th anniversary of the Battle of Culloden by a week, but I took some photographs whilst there, and have posted them on our facebook page. Since there are so many photographs about the battlefield I thought it would be worth putting down some of my impressions of Culloden. There is no need for me to go into details here about the battle, or the history behind the Jacobite and Government armies. This post is about the battlefield and visitor centre which is just a few miles east of Inverness.

You can easily find it just beside the B9006 from Inverness to Croy and there are plenty of brown tourist signs on the A9 and A96 directing you to the site, so I won't give directions. You can check the NTS website here to find it.

Part of the battlefield is in the care of the National Trust for Scotland. The B9006 bisects it and the northern part of the site is in private hands but there is more than enough of the site looked after by the NTS to justify a visit. It is sometimes called Drumossie Moor. Drumossie Moor extends over a lot of the high ground above the River Nairn but the battle was fought on the Culloden House Estate and this part of ground was known as Culloden Moor. It's not wrong to call it Drumossie Moor, it is just more correct to call it Culloden Moor.

I was last there about thirty years ago and it was a cold early spring morning when we turned up on a school trip. I don't remember the visit with much pleasure and it certainly didn't fire up any enthusiasm for studying the Jacobite Rebellions further. Luckily for visitors today there is a swanky new visitor centre. The field of battle itself is open 24x7 and there is no entrance fee, but for a first visit I would highly recommend paying to go into the visitor centre. I have to say it isn't cheap but we took advantage of a deal on a membership to the National Trust for Scotland to lessen the blow.

The visitor centre does a great job of covering the battle but it also goes into a lot of detail about the whole of the '45 Rebellion and also goes into the background of the Jacobites and Hanoverian succession from 1688.

There is a chronological path of Jacobite history for about 100 years from the flight of James II through to the death of Bonnie Prince Charlie. They have done it is a very interesting way. The corridor you follow is split into two. On the left hand side is the Jacobite viewpoint and on the right hand side is the government viewpoint. It is very clearly laid out and there are plenty of artefacts to look at and first-hand accounts from the time to read.

The one criticism I would have is that there is very little for children in the displays. I'm sure on a school trip they are well catered for but as a family it may be interesting for the adults but there is very little to interest the kids until you get to the last room. Actually I have two criticisms, you have to pay for parking too which is a bit much considering how much you are paying to get in. (NTS members get free parking)

The last room in the visitor centre has displays of the weapons used on the day. There are muskets and pistols which you can handle and also reconstructions of the artillery pieces. They also have plenty of broadswords, muskets and bayonets. It is a very sobering experience by this stage (and rightly so)

There are two excellent audio visual displays in the centre. There is the immersion theatre where four connected films are screened onto the four walls of the room. It places you slap bang in the middle of a reconstruction of the battle. I have not seen anything like it before and it really is very effective.

The other audio visual display is a large 'wargames table' screen which follows the battle from start to finish from a birds-eye view. It is very effective in showing the dispositions of all the troops on the field throughout the battle. It really helps when you then go out to the battlefield itself.

If you have paid to go to the visitor centre you can pick up an audio guide to use when going round the battlefield. This is very useful because not surprisingly the battlefield is a pretty flat field, and for a lot of it you are seeing the same thing.

When you leave the back door of the centre you can climb onto the roof of it to get a panoramic view of the battlefield. Like I said it is a field so I don't know how much you would get out of it. Much better to get onto the field itself to see the conditions the men fought in.

Fairly recent excavations by Glasgow University saw a redrawing of the battle lines and NTS have put in paths allowing you to walk along what would have been the Jacobite and Government Front lines. They have placed small pedestals along the lines at the place each regiment started the battle and the number of men in that regiment.

They also highlight the front lines by flying red flags along the Government lines and blue flags along the Jacobite lines.

The NTS is trying to return the field over to the condition it was on the day. It is a long task made difficult by all the changes that have taken place on the field over the years. The B9006 used to run right through the battlefield and a large portion of it was forestry up until recently. They have done a very good job returning part of it as fields, and part of it as heather-clad marsh. It was so marshy in some places in April 1746 that men on both sides commented on standing up to their knees in water whilst waiting for the battle to start.

The flags mark the starting positions of the armies but the best place to stand to work out where the highland charge started is at the corner of the Leanach enclosure. This was the point where right wing of the Jacobite Army launched their attack on the left wing of the Government Army, where the heaviest fighting took place and where there was the largest number of casualties on both sides.

By standing at the enclosure and looking at the red flags you can see how near the armies were but just by walking to the Government front line you can tell just how far the Highlanders had to charge under devastating close range redcoat musket and artillery fire.

Of all the places on the field and centre, my walk along the route of the Highlanders charge brought home to me what they faced on that April day over 265 years ago.

From the scene of the costliest charge it is only a short walk to the large cairn which marks the burial ground of the Jacobites. Around it lie their graves. They were buried beside the old road by the victors and you can still see the mounds of earth which mark the mass graves. In the late Victorian period the local landowner places rustic headstones on the Jacobite graves but no-one is convinced that the Clan gravestones mark actual clan graves. There is no doubt that the Jacobite dead lie there under those mounds but any body belonging to any clan regiment would have been dumped in the nearest grave in an effort to clear the dead off the field as quickly as possible.

There is no marker for the government dead. It has been mooted recently that they should be commemorated. These are the dead who fought and died facing a full blooded highland charge, and not the men who acted so brutally in the glens after Culloden so personally I don't see why they shouldn't be granted the same dignity in death as the highlanders they fought. It is a contentious subject though so I don't know if they will ever get a grave marker.

I'll end the tour on a lighter note. The visitor centre has a well-stocked shop and a cracking selection of books on Scottish military history. There is also a good café by the looks of it. I was staying just along the road so didn't use it so can't comment on taste / quality. What I can say is that the nearby Culloden Moor Inn is very good and we had an excellent meal in its nice restaurant with very friendly staff. Don't let the run down appearance from the B9006 fool you. This is a good place to eat and was very busy with locals on a Wednesday evening.

In my opinion Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre is well worth a visit, and if you have the time to visit nearby Fort George you can get 20% off in a linked ticket offer. (The same applies if you visit Fort George first - 20% off entry to the Culloden centre).

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

We're back!

I made the mistake this afternoon of prematurely of saying on Facebook that the problems were sorted. Now, however, I think I can safely say we're now back up and running properly.

The War Memorials Project is up and I think I can safely say that posting can now resume.

That was an eventful day, I can tell you...

Monday, 25 July 2011

Technical problems

We've been having some problems with the War Memorials Project and the War Graves Project today. For a while both forums were offline.

It seems the War Graves Project is back up and running, but we still have problems with the War Memorials Project. While it looks like it's back to normal, we can't seem to make any posts to it.

Hopefully this is only a temporary setback and we should be back to business as usual in due course.

This is one of the drawbacks of having our site hosted externally - any problems like that are outwith our control. One of our hopes for the future is that we can host the site ourselves and not be dependant on others - but this is something for the future.

In the meantime, keep checking our feed on Twitter or our Facebook page for updates. We'll also post an update here once we have more news.

Good Creative to update poppy’s image

An interesting article in the Herald today. Initially I thought that the idea was to redesign the poppy, but it's actually about changing the image of the charity itself and how it is viewed by the public.

A leading Scottish design agency has been selected to help modernise the way in which the poppy, the symbol of remembrance of Britain’s war dead for almost a century, is viewed by the public.

Poppyscotland has commissioned Glasgow-based Good Creative to help change the image of the charity that supports ex-service personnel.

Poppyscotland wants to change the view the poppy is associated mainly with the two world wars and fundraising is a once-a-year activity.

Much of its present work is geared toward supporting veterans of recent and on-going conflicts, including in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The charity had intended to appoint a direct marketing agency to design a contemporary advertising campaign, but chose Good Creative as the preferred bidder, because of its original thinking and enthusiastic approach.

“We were extremely impressed with Good Creative. They quickly demonstrated they had a sound understanding of where our organisation currently sits and they presented the outline of an exciting theme for the 2011 Scottish Poppy Appeal,” said Fraser Bedwell, a spokesman for the charity.

“The new theme has the potential to be developed across a number of platforms and would fit perfectly with our year-round fundraising and charitable objectives.”

Good Creative, ranked by the Design Business Association as the UK’s third most effective design agency, said it was honoured to be asked to work on one of the world’s most distinctive brands.

“Wherever you go, people recognise the poppy and, in that sense, it is a remarkably effective symbol,” said Chris Lumsden, co-director of the agency. “Our task is not to challenge or change that but to make people think a bit more about what the poppy stands for in the modern world.”

The poppy was introduced in 1921 to commemorate British and Empire troops who died in the First World War. It inspired the poem In Flanders Fields by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian military doctor. Poppies bloomed in the Flanders battlefields and their red colour was adopted to symbolise the blood spilled.

Royal Scots scrapbook digitised

We've just come across a post on the Great War forum by John Duncan about a project he completed for the Royal Scots museum. This project involved the digitisation of a scrapbook, compiled from newspaper entries for the Great War.

The scrapbook comprises almost 3000 entries for men from the Royal Scots.

You can find a list of the men photographed on the Great War Forum, where you can request a lookup for a particular name.

Another great resource!

Finding the Fallen of Inverkeithing

While browsing the Great War Forum, I came across the following topic, where Alex Morris is attempting to research the fallen of Inverkeithing.

He has a number of names he has so far been unable to identify, so I thought it would be helpful to post them here in the hope that someone could assist.

Infromation can be submitted to the thread on the Great War Forum (registration is free) or you can contact us through the comments here or by emailing and we'll be happy to pass the information on.

Here's the list of "missing" names:


Sunday, 24 July 2011

A Right Royle Faux Pas

The Herald newspaper published an interesting article by Trevor Royle on their website today about the future of some MoD properties across Scotland and the redeployment of soldiers from Germany to former airbases here.

In the middle of the article Scotland's foremost military historian makes a quite staggering error when he attributes the 1881 Childers army reforms (which we discussed in a blog article on 1st July) to the Edinburgh born politician Richard Haldane.

Haldane's reforms of 1906 -1908 were far reaching but it was Cardwell who first linked the Scottish regiments in the Depot System of 1873 and Childers who amalgamated them in 1881.

After years of writing about the Scottish regiments I would have thought Mr Royle would have known who was responsible for the reforms of 1881.

Even if he couldn't remember, only two minutes on the internet would have saved him from making this embarrassing schoolboy error for a historian.

It just shows you that even the experts don't always know it all, and so we amateurs perhaps can be forgiven our mistakes when we make them.

As luck would have it we have a 'Who's Who' about Richard Haldane scheduled for 30th July, the 155th anniversary of his birth. It will describe the reforms this Scottish politician did actually make to the army.

If you can wait a week you can find out just how important this mild-mannered man was to the defence of our country. Then there will be no excuses for mixing up the War Office reformers!

(Text by Adam Brown)

The Battle of Harlaw - On This Day in Scottish Military History, 1411

Today marks the 600th Anniversary of the Battle of Harlaw.

The battle was fought to resolve competing claims to the Earldom of Ross, and was fought between Lowland clans commanded by Alexander Stewart, Earl of Mar and Highland clans led by Donald of Islay, Lord of the Isles. Despite fierce fighting there was no clear victor.

The wikipedia page on the battle is well detailed and worth a look to discover more information. You can also download a map from the Battlefields Trust showing the approximate deployments.

The battle spawned a ballad entitle "The Ballad of Harlaw". Here is a video of it being performed, with the lyrics reproduced below.

As I cam' in by Dunideer and doon by Nether Ha'
There were fifty thoosand' heilan' men a-marchin' tae Harlaw

Chorus (after each verse):
Wi' a diddy aye o' an' a fal an' doe
And a diddy aye o' aye ay

As I gaed on an' farther on and doon an' by Balquhain
Oh it's there I saw Sir James the Rose and wi' him John the Graeme

"It's cam' ye fae the Heilan's man, cam' ye a' the wey?
Saw ye MacDonald and his men as they cam' in fae Skye?"

"It's I was near and near eneuch that I their numbers saw
There was fifty thoosan' heilan' men a-marchin' tae Harlaw"

"Gin that be true," says James the Rose, "We'll no cam' muckle speed
We'll cry upon wir merry men and turn wir horse's heid"

"Oh na, o' na," says John the Graeme, "This thing will nivver be
The gallant Graemes wis nivver beat, we'll try fit we can dae"

Well, as I gaed on an' further on an' doon an' by Harlaw
There fell fu' close on ilka side sic straiks ye nivver saw

There fell fu' close on ilka side sic straiks ye nivver saw
An' ilka sword gaed clash for clash at the Battle of Harlaw

The Heilan' men wi' their lang swords, they laid on us fu' sair
And they drave back wir merry men three acres breadth and mair

An' Forbes tae his brither did say, "Noo brither, can't ye see
They've beaten us back on ilka side and we'll be forced tae flee"

"Oh na, na, my brither bold, this thing will nivver be
Ye'll tak yer guid sword in yer haun', ye'll gang in wi' me"

Well, it's back tae back the brithers bold gaed in amangst the thrang
And they drave back the heilan' men wi' swords baith sharp and lang

An' the firstan stroke that Forbes struck, he gart MacDonald reel
An' the neistan straik that Forbes struck, the brave MacDonald fell

An siccan a ptlairchie o' the likes ye nivver saw
As wis amangst the Heilan' men fan they saw MacDonald fa'

Some rade, some ran and some did gang, they were o' sma' record
For Forbes and his merry men, they slew them on the road

O' fifty thoosan' Heilan' men, but fifty-three gaed hame
And oot o' a' the Lawlan' men, fifty marched wi' Graeme

Gin onybody spier at ye for them that marched awa'
Ye can tell them plain and very plain they're sleepin' at Harlaw

Friday, 22 July 2011

Lasting tribute to fallen Dumfries soldier

A rather moving story from the Dumfries and Galloway Standard.

They were determined their beloved son would be remembered for ever in the town he grew up in.

And Roddy and Stella Pool were “overwhelmed with pride” when Lance Corporal Joseph McFarlane Pool’s name was added to the memorial at St John’s Church in Newall Terrace on Friday, joining those of other local war heroes.

Joseph was killed while on duty in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan last September, aged only 26.

He was described as a “hero who would never be forgotten” by his colleagues.

His heartbroken family have struggled to come to terms with his death, but they have been “humbled and touched” by the tributes that have been paid to Joseph by members of the community over the last 10 months.

Hundreds of people lined the streets of Dumfries in September to pay their last respects to the fallen soldier when a hearse carrying his body drove through the town centre for one final time before his funeral in Greenock, where he lived with his fiancée and two young sons.

In April, a moving ceremony took place at his former school, Maxwelltown High, where Joseph was a pupil from 1995 until 1999.

The school’s pupil council unanimously voted to pay a lasting tribute to him by unveiling a plaque in his memory.

Joseph was serving with The Royal Scots Borderers, 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, as part of the Brigade Reconnaissance Force, when he was killed by an explosion.

Many of his colleagues from that regiment joined Roddy, Stella and other family and friends at the memorial service.

Mr Pool told the Standard afterwards: “We have fought to have our son’s name put on the St John’s War Memorial because Dumfries will always be his home and we wanted a lasting tribute to him.

“He might have been buried in Greenock, but this is where Joseph grew up and it was the Dumfries regiment of the Army he joined.”

He added: “We were delighted that his mates from the Royal Regiment of Scotland joined us on Friday.

“It was very emotional to see his name on the memorial, but we also felt overwhelmed by pride.

“Joseph’s death has destroyed us all and it doesn’t get any easier to live with, but to know his name is now inscribed on the war memorial, is a comfort.”

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Update coming soon....

We've been a little quiet on the blog this past couple of weeks. We've had holidays and decorating projects to cope with, but we've not been sitting on our hands doing nothing. Oh no, not at all.

Coming very soon, hopefully in the next week or so will be a fairly big announcement regarding one of our projects. I can't say too much at this stage, but keep checking the blog for the latest news...

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The Battle of Inverkeithing - On this day in Scottish Military History - 1651

The Battle of Dunbar in 1650 is considered one of Scotland's worst defeats and one of Oliver Cromwell's greatest victories. It didn't mean the collapse of Scottish resistance though and north of the Forth the Scots were still in a strong position.

David Leslie retreated to Stirling and dug in. Cromwell's army was not strong enough for a frontal attack so he chose a diversionary attack through Fife threatening Leslie's flank at Perth. This would draw the Scots away from Stirling which would allow Cromwell to march north into the central belt.

Flat bottomed rafts were constructed and delivered to Cromwell at Leith. On the night of 16th / 17th July the first of Cromwell's troops crossed at the narrows between South and North Queensferry and landed in Inverkeithing Bay.

They quickly dug in because news of their landing would soon reach Leslie in Stirling.

Leslie quickly despatched a large force to Inverkeithing but still held on to plenty of men at Stirling. Cromwell was thwarted and retreated to Linlithgow but his diversionary attack at Inverkeithing was more succesful than he dared hope.

The inexperienced Scots made tactical errors in their advance and were totally outclassed by Cromwell's experienced New Model Army when the two armies met.

Nearly 800 Scots died on this day three hundred and sixty years ago and their defeat allowed the English to outflank Leslie.

The defeat of the Scots on 20th July 1651 meant Cromwell could cross the Forth with all his army. Their victory had finally ended the strategic deadlock. His New Model Army now commanded the Forth and Fife.

With Cromwell now in the North-east of Scotland King Charles II decided to make a thrust south. Charles was playing into Cromwell's trap. A small Royalist / Scottish army would be no match for his consolidated New Model Army in the flat open landscape of England.

Inverkeithing is almost forgotten today but it had far reaching consequences for Scotland and England.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Images of the Day - 19th July 2011

Yesterday I posted some formal group photos that featured my dad during his World War Two service with the Royal Engineers.

We know some detail of where he was, and when - He was in France from some time shortly after D-Day, and at some point later in the War he was in Greece.

We know he returned home around 1946/7 as his father passed away at that time. He was demobbed around the same time.

None of the following photos are dated, although there are some clues as to when they might have been taken.

This first image has no date, but does name everyone in it.

Back row: Lance-Corporal Hill, Driver Wadhams Driver Worley, Sapper Lowe, Driver Charles, Sapper Hughes, Corporal Gasking

Front row: Sapper McNay (my dad), Sapper Clark, Corporal Trenam, Sapper Hobson

In the background - 'Rosie' the Jeep.

Do you recognise any names? Does a face seem familiar? If it does, please leave a comment.

This next photo is obviously later than the first - my father is now a sergeant, and he's wearing a medal ribbon. I would therefore surmise that this is post-war, possibly in Greece.

Going by the sign, this next photo was taken in the same location as the last one, although given my father is in a different set of uniform it must be a different day. The other two individuals are not named.

Finally we have three photos which show roughly the same location. Where that location is we have no idea. Again, any information would be gratefully received.

Plea for help over fallen Gateshead soldier

An article from the Chronicle Live website. If anyone can add any information to this story, please get in touch using the email address provided.

His grave lies lovingly tended, but how the young British Tommy ended up there is a mystery.

Now an amateur historian is appealing for information on a Tyneside soldier who died in action during World War Two.

Private John James Edwards was 20 in 1940, when he died in France fighting with the British forces.

His body was buried in a war cemetery in Cherbourg, but few other details of his life are known.

Now, inspired by his father’s involvement in the war, Roderick Barron is trying to trace any relatives of the Private for a book about the expedition he was part of.

Private Edwards was born in the Gateshead area in 1919 or 1920, the son of Hannah Edwards and stepson of Thomas Faulkner of Heworth, who married in 1928.

At the time of his death he was serving with the 5th Battalion, the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, with the service number of 3192288.

Mr Barron, 49, said: “I have a long-held interest in history and I visited the war graves in Cherbourg with my father, who served with the KOSB, but in a different battalion to Private Edwards.

“Inspired by this I started to research his battalion, who were deployed to France after the D-Day landing in June 1944.

“They were deployed as the covering rearguard during the hasty evacuation via the port of Cherbourg of remaining British forces still in Northern France and Normandy on June 17 and 18, 1940.

“In the course of the Battalion’s own withdrawal to Cherbourg on June 18, 1940, two platoons of the Battalion’s A Company were caught up in heavy fighting against advancing German forces, suffering several casualties, including Private Edwards and with many dozen men also taken prisoner.”

Mr Barron, from Kent, said he suspects that at the time of Private Edwards’ death he would be a fresh recruit to the army, probably with only three or four months’ training behind him.

His research has found that there were several new recruits who joined the 5th Battalion KOSB from Lancashire, Yorkshire and the North East in the first few months of 1940, areas well outside the Battalion’s traditional recruitment grounds in Dumfries and Galloway.

Mr Barron said: “I have tracked down some of the surviving veterans from the expedition and spoken to them about it.

“For many people the war is something they never want to speak of so it has been difficult and of course there are very few men still alive.

“I’ve also spoken to some families of those who died but Private Edwards remains a mystery. I haven’t been able to find out any more than basic details about him. It was would be nice to find some surviving relatives in the North East.

“My plan is to write a book about what was a little-known chapter of World War Two.”

Anyone who thinks they can help Mr Barron with his research can email him on

Monday, 18 July 2011

Burma veteran's medals given to Stirling Castle museum

An interesting BBC News article around a donation to the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Museum. The museum, located in Stirling Castle, is well worth a visit and these items will be a great addition to their collection, particularly since there's an interesting story behind the artefacts.

The family of a soldier who survived three years of forced labour on the Burma Railway have donated his medals to his regimental museum.

Kenneth McLeod, from Bridge of Weir, died in March this year, aged 92.

He was captured by the Japanese during World War II and endured injury, severe conditions and the threat of execution.

Mr McLeod's family are donating his war medals, Glengarry bonnet and sporran to the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Museum at Stirling Castle.

The former soldier was based at Stirling Castle more than 70 years ago.

He was sent with the Argylls for training in jungle warfare in Malaya and was there when Imperial Japanese forces landed unexpectedly.

He fought with the 2nd Battalion at the Battle of Slim River but was cut off and stranded behind enemy lines and eventually captured.

After recovering from paralysis brought on by poisoning he joined forced labour groups used for the construction of the Burma Railway and the bridge over the River Kwai.

Mr McLeod had volunteered to go to Siam rather than return to Singapore with wounded prisoners, but sabotaged his own work by farming termite eggs which he placed on joints and uprights.

His hand had also been badly injured but he continued laying rails and using a sledgehammer to chisel rock for blasting cuttings through the hillsides.

After the railway was completed the Japanese segregated Mr McLeod and the other Allied officers from the enlisted men. 

He later discovered they were all to be executed but the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, forcing the Japanese surrender and the end of the war, is believed to have saved his life by 48 hours.

His daughter, Moira Johnston, said: "The army was a huge part of his life and I think it's appropriate that his medals, Glengarry and sporran are going to the regimental museum at Stirling Castle.

"As children we would hear the funny stories from the army but not much about anything else. He kept those experiences to himself."

Images of the Day - 18th July 2011

Over the next two days I'll be posting a series of images. They all relate to my father's wartime service. Some of them we know some detail, others are a bit of a mystery to us. I've discussed his wartime service before in an earlier post.

It's a big regret of mine that he's no longer here to ask him about them - it's 20 years this week since he passed away, so these images are posted as a kind of tribute to him.

The two images I post today are obviously formal portraits of the units he was with. The first is named to the unit and has names for everyone in it. My dad is sitting first on the left in the front row. (Click the image for a larger version)

The second image I believe to be later than the first - at least two men are wearing medal ribbons, and my dad just looks slightly older in it. He's standing in the middle row, second from the right.

Tomorrow I'll show you some more informal images, together with some mystery images.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Beating Retreat at Edinburgh Castle

While today there is still a military presence in Edinburgh Castle, the garrison there is largely for administrative and ceremonial purposes. Beating the Retreat is no longer required to mark the end of a soldier's day at the castle, but the event still place at certain times.

On the 3rd June this year Dennis and Morag White were presnt for the Beating the retreat ceremony which was performed by the Edinburgh Postal Pipe Band and Dancers.

My thanks to Morag and Dennis for the following images and video. For more information, I've also scanned the programme of events, which you can see after the video.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Ruthven Barracks, Kingussie

As you head along the A9 through Badenoch you see some pretty spectacular scenery. If you look east just as it sweeps past Kingussie there is a prominent feature which stands out in the flat flood plain of the River Spey.

Sitting on top of a motte partly formed by glaciers in the ice age and improved over the years by human hands, are two roofless stone buildings. This is all that remains of Ruthven Barracks.

In 1719 the government planned four barracks across the Highlands to help them police the straths and glens. The steep hill outside Kingussie was an obvious choice for one of the barracks. Nature had already provided a strong defensive position overlooking a ford across the River Spey, and local chieftains across the centuries had built their castles on it. The Wolf of Badenoch, Alexander Stewart, was occupying it in 1370s but a castle had been recorded there as early as 1229. In 1459 another castle replaced one destroyed in 1451. This in turn was destroyed in the seventeenth century as the civil wars and the first Jacobite rebellion passed this strategic position.

Thirty years later British Army engineers improved what nature and the Badenoch lairds had given them. They cleared the old castles away, flattened the top, and built Ruthven Barracks on top of steep escarpments.
This wasn't a fort with ramparts and ditches; it was a barracks with thick walls. It was built to house the soldiers used to patrol the Highlands. It was there to keep the peace after the Jacobite risings of 1715 and 1719. The barracks weren't designed to hold out against a regular army in the field with artillery and siege weapons; this was a building designed to hold off armed gangs of well armed highlanders. It did it rather well too. In September 1745 Sergeant Malloy and eleven men of Guise's 6th Foot held off 200 Jacobites. Sergeant Malloy was so successful he only lost one man who was stupid enough to raise his head above the parapet before the Jacobites gave up and marched south.

The Barracks were not so lucky five months later. This time the Jacobites returned with artillery. The defenders of Ruthven Barracks now led by the newly promoted Lieutenant Malloy were no fools and surrendered their now undefendable position.

The Jacobites replaced the redcoats as a garrison and patrolled the glens south of Kingussie to stop Government troops at Perth marching north. In the two days after the Battle of Culloden a large number of the Highland Army which had retreated south through Daviot and Moy assembled at Ruthven with the men defending it. On 18th April 1746 the Highland Army disbanded and in a final act of defiance they burnt the barracks.

After the Jacobite defeat and pacification there was no need to rebuild Ruthven Barracks. There was no need to demolish them either so the ruins still stand overlooking Strathspey

The Barracks are now in the hands of Historic Scotland. They are open for free, and on a sunny Sunday afternoon in July it's a very nice place to visit. I don't think the men who garrisoned in winter may have enjoyed it as much though!

There are two buildings; the barracks built in 1719 - 1721 to house up to 120 men, and the stables built in 1734. The stables were built for the mounted dragoons who patrolled along three military roads built by General Wade  in the 1720s and 1730s which converged at Ruthven. Even the stables were fortified and there are loop holes all around the walls.

When leaving the barracks from the postern gate to look at the stables, it is worth going to the edge to see just how steep the escarpments are.

When I visited recently there was renovation work being done on one of the barrack blocks. The whole site is in very good condition for a 260 year old shell, and there are two useful information boards. One in the barracks and one at the car park.

There are more photographs on our facebook page. If you can't visit it in person you'll hopefully be able to get a feel for the place from the album.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Cairn commemorates Legion anniversary

An article from the Hawick News which was published on Friday.

embers of the Royal British Legion Scotland Hawick branch committee and guests at the new cairn
 A cairn has been placed before the Boer War Memorial to mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Royal British Legion Scotland by Field Marshal the Earl Haig.

The Hawick branch of the organisation felt it was important to mark the occasion and, with help from Scottish Borders Council and the community council, unveiled the cairn at a special ceremony on Monday night.

A short service, conducted by the Reverend Neil Combe, was held to dedicate the cairn and to hand it over to the safe keeping of the people of Hawick.

The cairn was built by David Bunyan, of Selkirk, who previously worked on Melrose Abbey, Stilring Castle and Aikwood Tower.

It was accepted from Hawick branch president Jim Anderson by Honorary Provost Ron Smith in front of a gathering of invited guests and members of the public. Branch chairman, Jim Coltman told the Hawick News: “It is hoped this gift will enhance the views in the park and will remind people of the ongoing and necessary work of the Royal British Legion Scotland.”

Friday, 8 July 2011

Images of the Day - 8th July 2011

Today's image is another from the collection of my wife's grandfather. As with all the others in his album there are no names and no information on the back of it.

The only thought I had for this photo was that, as he was a Prisoner of War in 1918, and this photo shows a number of different cap badges, that this might be a POW group?

There is a lot to see on this photo. The man seated at the front appears to have done 12 years service (going by the stripes on his cuff) and might be in a Fusiliers regiment? He also has a medal ribbon which might shed more light on his service.

The man seated at the left appears to be King's Royal Rifles - the shoulder title I think has KRR, and the badge has the look of the KRR, although I initially thought the crown at the top would be larger - perhaps someone more knowledgeable than me can shed some light?

There appears to be another Fusilier in this picture, but I'm not sure about the stars on his collar - can anyone explain that?

The man standing fourth from the left- does his badge say RAC? Royal Automobile Club? If it is, I'd be very interested to know the circumstances by which he came to be in this photo.

As for the other badges, I'm afraid that's not my specialty. If anyone can have a go at identifying them, I'd be very interested to know.

As with our previous images, click on the photo for a larger version. If anyone would like me to send them higher resolution scans of any part of the photo, please do get in touch either in the comments box below or via our website.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

VCs of the First World War: 1914 - a book review

The Victoria Cross has something about it that's difficult to describe. Seeing one "in the flesh" can be an awe-inspiring feeling, and to meet a living recipient could well be an ambition that many share. The hold that the VC has over many means that it has countless books written about it (and has even spawned a book about the books written about it).

VCs of the First World War: 1914 is one of many books on the Victoria Cross, but I enjoyed this one more than others. Where some I have read in the past restrict themselves to the bare facts, this goes beyond the citation detail, and attempts to put each VC action into context. Small maps show the area each action happened in, and the VC action is explained as part of the main action. These were not isolated incidents - they took place within a larger battle or action, and this book shows that.

The biographies of the 46 men who won the VC in the opening months of the war are fairly detailed. Again, the action in which they won a VC was but one part of their life, and Gliddon paints a picture of what came before and (for those that survived) what came after.

There are a variety of tales here. There is hardship as one VC holder is found unemployed selling matches in the street, but there is also happy endings as many of the men lived full and happy lives. I enjoyed this aspect of the book - the First World War was four years out of a life that perhaps lasted for many decades and it's pleasing to get a sense of the full picture of someones life.

This book is one of a series of books looking at the VCs of the First World War which the History Press are reprinting. On the strength of this one I will certainly look out for the others.

VCs of the First World War: 1914 by Gerald Gliddon is published by The History Press, priced £9.99

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders colours laid up in Stirling Castle

The Daily Record has an article on the location of one of the "retired" sets of colours from Saturdays ceremony.

The brave men of 5 Scots, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, were out in force at Stirling Castle for a major ceremony to mark the “laying to rest” of regimental colours.

It marked a change in role - from combat to ceremonial - for the men who recently completed a six month tour in Helmand Province.

The sweltering heat in Stirling yesterday was made all the more difficult to bear as the men wore the Argylls No 1 ceremonial dress for the occasion.

And after completing the march and “handing over” ceremony, they took the opportunity to relax with an ice cream on the castle terrace.

The Record last met the men, who serve with A Company, 5 Scots, at Patrol Base Chilli in Helmand during their Afghan tour.

Yesterday, they spoke of re-adjusting to life back home in Scotland.

L/Cpl Eddie Buntine, 24, of Port Glasgow, Renfrewshire, said: “It was a good tour in Helmand but we are all glad to be back safe and sound.

“Everyone made it back - albeit with a few cuts and bruises and other injuries.

“The boys did a great job and worked very hard out there - but obviously it was a great moment to finally make it back home.”

Company Sergeant Major Allan Cunningham said: “Today marks the final laying up of the old Argyll colours.

“It’s the last time they will be escorted by troops although they will be on display to the public at the castle.

“The boys had a hard but rewarding tour in Helmand but we have now moved on from Afghanistan for re-training for their next role as part of 16 Air Assault Brigade.”

Major Neil Brown, commanding officer of A Company, said: “Thank you to A Company for all the hard work they have done over the last fortnight, in which they have retrained from ground-holding infantry soldiers who operated in Afghanistan to a those carrying out a period of ceremonial duties.

“I applaud their self-discipline, patience and style on parade - the Scottish soldier continues to inspire.”

Around 100 A Company men attended a service yesterday morning at the church of Holy Rude in Stirling a short distance from the castle.

The colours were then ceremoniously handed over by the battalion’s commanding officer, Lt Col Adam Griffiths MBE, to Col Bruce Russell, representing the former colonels of the Argylls.

The colours will be displayed at the Argylls’ regimental museum at Stirling Castle, alongside exhibits including uniforms, weapons, paintings, medals and regimental silver.

Yesterday’s ceremony followed the presentation by the Queen of new Colours to The Royal Regiment of Scotland in Edinburgh on Saturday.

The flags, which are of huge symbolic importance, were presented to the Argylls by the Queen in 1996.

They have accompanied the Argylls, now 5th Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland, on tours to Iraq, Bosnia and Northern Ireland - and returned from Afghanistan in April, where they were kept at the army base in Lashkar Gah in Helmand Province.

Colours are normally presented only every 20 to 25 years, and carry mention of battle honours - a decisive battle in which the regiment played a crucial role.

Yesterday’s “laying up” event at Stirling Castle marked the end of an era as the Argylls became 5th Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland on its formation five years ago.

It means the colours retired yesterday were the last to be presented to the Argylls as a regiment.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Mixed news for 4 SCOTS

Some good news and some sad news for 4 SCOTS this morning.

The good news is that it has been announced that the presentation of the new colours to 4 SCOTS will take place on the 3rd December at RAF Kinloss. More details of the ceremony will be announced later.

The sad news is that a soldier from the batalion who had been listed missing has been tragically found dead. The next of kin have been informed, and the BBC News website has more details:

A British soldier who went missing in Afghanistan has been found dead, the Ministry of Defence has said.

The soldier, from the Highlanders, 4th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, was found with bullet wounds by a patrol.

An "extensive search" had been launched after he left the base in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan alone in the early hours of Monday morning.

The soldier's next of kin have been informed of his death. 

Taskforce spokesman, Lieut Col Tim Purbrick, said: "He had suffered gunshot wounds. His exact cause of death is still to be established and the circumstances surrounding his disappearance and death are currently under investigation.

"It would not be appropriate to comment further at this time. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends."

The BBC's Quentin Sommerville, in Kabul, said a local Taliban fighter told the BBC that insurgents had captured a foreign soldier in the Babaji area and, after a firefight, the soldier was killed.

But our correspondent said the Taliban often made exaggerated claims for propaganda reasons. 

The international mission in Afghanistan, Isaf, denied that any gun battle took place.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who is visiting Afghanistan, said he was "deeply saddened" by the death of the soldier.

His schedule had to be revised as the helicopters which were due to take him on a tour were being used to search for the soldier.

The number of British military deaths in operations in Afghanistan since 2001 now stands at 375.

2nd July Colours presentation - more photos and video

Today we have some of the photos I took of Saturday's presentation, plus some news footage of the ceremony.

The Royal Company of Archers

2nd Battalion colour party with Assaye Colour, which remained on parade and was not replaced with a new Colour

Lieutenant General Graham inspects the parade
Old Colours are marched off parade
Old Colours are marched off parade
New Colours marched on to parade
New Colours uncased and placed on the drm stacks ready for the service of consecration

The bright sunshine of the day meant that I was effectively taking these pictures "blind", so I can only apologise for the quality of them.

And here we have some new coverage of the day, which includes part of the speech given by the Queen.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Colours presentation - 2nd July 2011

Yesterday I attended the presentation of new colours to six battalions of the Royal Regiment of Scotland by Her Majesty the Queen.

It was a fantastic day, with glorious sunshine (resulting in a sunburned face for yours truly!) and an amazing spectacle. This is a once in a lifetime event, and I was delighted that I was able to attend.

My thanks go to Sandy Leishman for swinging an invite for me, and thanks for a great day out to Sandy, Barrie and Euan. You guys were great company.

Unfortunately the batteries on my camera didn't last the day, so I was unable to get shots of every aspect of the ceremony. I'll supplement my photos with some taken by the others in due course, and I'll feature them in a future blog post.

In the meantime, here is a video I took of the old colours being paraded for the final time. I started filming after the first couple of sets of colours had been marched off, so this may start with either the second or third battalions.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Queen to present Colours to regiment

From the BBC News website. I will be at the presentation today, and hope to bring you some pictures from the event later.

The Queen is due to present new colours to The Royal Regiment of Scotland, later.

Her Majesty will present the colours to the six battalions of The Royal Regiment of Scotland for the first time since the regiment's formation five years ago. 

The regiment will then march through Edinburgh.

The occasion marks the first time six battalions from any regiment have been on parade at the same time.
The parade, which will include marching contingents from six of the seven battalions of The Royal Regiment of Scotland, will take place in Holyrood Park.

The 4th Battalion is currently deployed on operations in Afghanistan. 

The parade will also include several hundred veterans from the regiment's antecedent units.

The Queen has been Colonel-in-Chief of The Royal Regiment of Scotland since its formation in 2006.

Regimental occasions
Colours are important to any army unit. 

They consist of two large brocade and embroidery flags and were originally carried into battle so that soldiers of a particular unit could see where the rest of their unit was located at all times. 

The infantry units of the British army each have two colours; the Queen's Colour, which is a union flag, and a Regimental Colour, which has all the unit's battle honours inscribed on it. 

Colours are no longer carried on the battlefield but are held in the greatest esteem by the soldiers and officers.
They are brought out on important parades and regimental occasions and are escorted by a 'colour party'. 

When new colours are presented, the old ones are not destroyed but are laid up in a regimental museum, church or other military building with significance to its particular unit. 

Colours are normally presented only every 20 to 25 years.

The Royal Regiment of Scotland consists of seven battalions, five regular and two territorial army.

One of these was formed by the amalgamation of the Royal Scots and King's Own Scottish Borderers, while the others are each formed from one of the remaining single-battalion regiments of the Scottish division. 

Along with The Rifles, it is currently the largest infantry regiment in the British army.

Object of the Month - July 2011

This months Object of the Month comes from the Cameronians display at Low Parks Museum in Hamilton.

 It's the Royal Warrant for the raising of the 90th Regiment of Foot.

This document, which is dated the 10th February 1794, authorised Thomas Graham of Balgowan, Perthshire to organise a regiment made up of ten companies.

By June 1794 the 90th Regiment of Foot (Perthshire Volunteers) was at full strength with 1000 men.

The warrant was signed by King George III in the top left hand corner, and is on display at Low Parks Museum in Hamilton.

Friday, 1 July 2011

The Childers Reforms - On this day on Scottish military history - 1881

1st July 1881 was the date when the Childers Reforms of the British Army were implemented. On that date the old numbered regiments of the army officially disappeared, and many new paired regiments first appeared on the Army List.

The first twenty five regiments of foot already had two battalions so there was very little change for them. For the 26th Foot and the regiments numbered above that then a new name was needed and old traditions and uniform distinctions had to be agreed on. For Highland regiments there was an added twist to this amalgamation because the uniform for each regiment was so distinctive and in many ways so different.

In some cases the pairing led to one battalion completely taking over the identity of the other. The 92nd Highlanders were the junior partner in the amalgamation with the 75th Stirlingshire Regiment but it was the 75th who took on the uniform and name of the Gordon Highlanders. In fact in all cases where kilted regiment amalgamated with a trewed regiment, the new regiment ended up wearing the kilt.

In 1881 there were ten Highland regiments on the army establishment but only five wore kilts. The rest wore trews. The 71st, 72nd, 73rd, 74th and 91st Highlanders had originally been raised as highland regiments in kilts, but in 1809 they had been clothed as line infantry. They had only been allowed to assume a highland identity after hard battles with Horse Guards in London but it was in kilts not trews in which they were clothed.

The 1st Royal Scots, 21st Royal Scots Fusiliers, 26th Cameronians, and 90th Perthshire Light Infantry were all Scottish regiments too, but until 1881 wore the standard line infantry uniform used by English, Welsh and Irish regiments. In 1881 that all changed. Scottish regiments from Lowland to Highland adopted diced bands, tartan and doublets.

Over the years stories have surfaced of the unhappy unions, and the fights over traditions and uniforms. In the Highland Light Infantry the 1st Battalion continued to call itself the 71st, and the 2nd Bn continued to call itself the 74th and each continued to use traditions and uniform distinctions peculiar to their old regiments.

This is understandable given the forced union between many regiments. However that shouldn't have been the case. Since 1873 the infantry regiments of Scotland had been operating a linked depot scheme introduced by the Cardwell Reforms. Each pair of regiments shared a depot in one location which had counties assigned to it for recruiting. Then while one regiment was abroad on overseas imperial duties its linked regiment at home in the UK (including Ireland) would train the new recruits and send drafts of reinforcements when needed. The system worked well and the pairings seemed to suit both parties.

Here are the links and the depots used Between 1873 and 1881 by the Scottish regiments

1st Royal Scots - (2 battalion regiment) at Glencorse
21st Royal Scots Fusiliers - (2 battalion regiment) at Ayr
26th Cameronians and 74th Highlanders at Hamilton
42nd Black Watch and 79th Cameron Highlanders at Perth
71st Highland Light Infantry and 78th Ross-shire Buffs at Inverness
72nd and 91st Argyllshire Highlanders at Stirling
73rd Highlanders and 90th Perthshire Light Infantry at Hamilton
92nd Gordon Highlanders and 93rd Sutherland Highlanders at Aberdeen

The 25th Foot and 75th Foot were not considered Scottish regiments at this point. The 25th was a two battalion regiment at York, and the 75th was linked with the 39th Foot at Dorchester in Dorset.

When Hugh Childers came to reform the regiments it should just have been a case of forming these already linked and similar regiments together into new regiments. That was a sound plan until the proposals were laid before Queen Victoria for her royal assent.

The problem was the proposed amalgamation between the 42nd Black Watch and the 79th Highlanders. The 79th were actually the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders. They were her own highland regiment and she was certainly not amused at the prospect of them becoming 2nd Battalion Black Watch.

At the eleventh hour the proposed amalgamations were thrown into disarray and hurriedly redrawn to accommodate the wishes of the Queen-Empress.

The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders were not to be amalgamated, and for the next sixteen years were to be the only one battalion regiment in the British Army. That meant a new second battalion was needed for the Black Watch, and a reshuffle akin to musical chairs took place to find suitable pairings.

The first change was that the 73rd Highlanders would now move from Hamilton to Perth to become the 2nd Bn Black Watch. This was a sensible move since the 73rd had originally been formed as a second battalion of the Black Watch way back in 1780, before becoming a regiment in its own right in 1786.

The 90th Perthshire Light Infantry had missed the chance to go back home to Perth and stayed in Hamilton. It would now merge with another Hamilton based regiment, the 26th Foot Cameronians, to form Scotland's only green-jacketed rifle regiment as the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles). The 1st Battalion as the Cameronians and the 2nd Battalion as the Scottish Rifles.

The 26th's old partner, the 74th Highlanders was to stay at Hamilton too; and it would now be paired with another trews wearing highland regiment, the 71st Highland Light Infantry. This was probably the most controversial of all the moves. The HLI had been very happy being paired with the 78th at Inverness. They had always considered themselves as a proper highland regiment and had petitioned for the return of the kilt on several occasions over the previous seventy years. The Childers reforms had finally promised that chance as they would have adopted the Mackenzie kilt of the 78th instead of their Mackenzie trews. Their amalgamation at Hamilton with another Lowland regiment robbed them of that chance. As a sop to the senior partner the new regiment adopted the 71st's name and tartan but it was not a happy union on either side.

With the 78th now needing a new pairing the 72nd Highlanders at Stirling was chosen. This suited both parties as both had been raised by Mackenzies, and in this case the 72nd were happy to ditch their garish Royal Stewart tartan trews and adopted the Mackenzie kilt of their junior partner. They happily merged as the Seaforth Highlanders using the 72nd's Stag's head badge.

This left another gap at Stirling, and the 91st now paired with the 93rd Highlanders. In this case too the junior partner was given 'top billing' and it was originally called the Sutherland and Argyll Highlanders. It was another few months before it took on the more familiar name of Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

Finally the 92nd at Aberdeen needed another regiment. There were no more regiments available in Scottish depots so an old Scottish regiment now depoted outside Scotland was needed. The 94th Scotch Brigade at Armagh, or the 99th Lanarkshire regiment at Devizes could have been chosen; but it was the 75th Foot, the old Stirlingshire regiment which was poached from Dorset and sent north to Aberdeen. The West Countrymen were to become Highlanders overnight. The 75th's place in Dorchester was taken by the 54th regiment, which had been paired with the 95th at Derby, and in turn was replaced by the 45th which had been at Leicester with the 17th Foot. Luckily the 17th Foot was a two battalion regiment so no more reshuffling was needed.

Well not quite. The 25th Foot was at York in 1881, but in 1887 the King's Own Borderers became the King's Own Scottish Borderers. The old Edinburgh Regiment was given the whole of the Scottish Borders from Berwick to Galloway as a recruiting area from the Royal Scots, and Royal Scots Fusiliers; and a depot at Berwick-upon-Tweed from the Northumberland Fusiliers.

By then the process of adapting new names, uniforms and badges had been adopted by the other Scottish Regiments. The KOSB finally came into the fold six years after the others but it was on this day one hundred and thirty years ago that the paired regiments (Cameronians, Black Watch, Highland Light Infantry, Seaforths, Gordons and Argylls) which became famed throughout the world for their service in two world wars, came into being.