Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Craigneuk War Memorial restored and refurbished

The war memorial at Craigneuk, near Motherwell was officially unveiled on Saturday past. It has been given a makeover, and a new wall surrounding it now contains panels with the names of the fallen of the area.

The memorial as it looked prior to refurbishment
Overall the additions blend in well with the existing memorial - the stone of the surrounding wall is similar to the stone originally used, and in time it should look like a natural part of the memorial.

An interesting addition is a panel (which you can see in front of the memorial) commemorating the award of the Victoria Cross to William Clamp. Clamp's links to Craigneuk are vague to say the least - he attended school there - but if Craigneuk wish to claim him as their own I have no complaints about that. My home village of Carluke and the town of Armadale both claim William Angus VC as "theirs", so why shouldn't Craigneuk "claim" William Clamp as one of theirs?

The white circles you see are some kind of plastic items - perhaps a lighting system? It's unclear and unfortunately I didn't take the time to examine them. Whatever they are, I don't feel they fit in with the decor, which then brings me to my major gripe.

The original memorial had (and in fact still does) black letter laid into it. The new panels are as you can obviously see made of shiny black stone with gold lettering. I'm sure there was a reason behind this - cost perhaps, or this material will stand up to the elements better, but to my mind it looks wrong. Could they not perhaps have used the same style of lettering as on the original memorial? It seems a lot of effort was put into the stone of the wall blending with the original memorial, could the same effort not have been extended to the name panels as well?

Regardless of how they are displayed, it is good to see the fallen of Craigneuk being remembered. A couple of things do stick out a little, though.

The first is the First World War entry for Charles McKenna of the Scots Guards - his is the only entry not to display his rank - why? A search of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission shows only one Charles McKenna in the Scots Guards - a Private who died on the 30th March 1916. Why not include his rank?

The entry for Royal Artillery for the First World War is strange - technically these men would have been Royal Field Artillery, Royal Garrison Artillery or Royal Horse Artillery - I'm a little unsure why they are all grouped together in the singular Royal Artillery? Just because these units became one unit doesn't mean they should be grouped together - you wouldn't group the Highland Light Infantry and Royal Scots Fusiliers together just because they later became the Royal Highland Fusiliers - why not list the men under the name of the regiment they served with?

Some of these points seem like nit-picking, and I don't want them to detract from the fantastic effort that has gone into getting the names listed and properly commemorated, but there is one point I really do have to take issue with.

As you can see above, the final panel includes men who died serving in Egypt and Northern Ireland. Two of them were serving with the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders. Wait, the who?

That's right. Despite being correctly spelled as Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders on both the WW1 and WW2 panels, for some reason the regiment is given as Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders for two men killed in Northern Ireland.

Did I miss something here? I don't know of any time in their history that the regiment spelled it Argyle. I really hope I'm wrong, and please do let me know if I am. I will be prepared to eat a huge slice of humble pie and will issue a grovelling apology if I am, but until I am corrected I can't help but feel there's been a massive cock-up here. If anyone knows different to me (and its not unusual for me to be wrong) please do let me know in the comments.

As I said above, I don't want these criticisms to detract from what has been a magnificent effort from the people involved in the restoration. On the whole a fantastic job has been done and everyone should feel proud of the effort that has gone into commemorating these men.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The first Shetland Bus operation - On This Day 1941

When war broke out in September 1939 the islanders of Shetland probably thought that it would be unlikely that the actions of Hitler's Germany would impact them directly. They were a long way from Poland and the battlefields of Europe. Even the naval blockade of the North Sea would be operated from Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands further south.

The events of Spring 1940 changed all that; Norway was invaded by the Germans and a hastily assembled British and French expeditionary force was beaten back home with their tails between their legs.

By the summer of 1940 the Germans may have been in charge in Norway and had a few tame collaborators like Vidkun Quisling to help them but there were many brave Norwegians who were ready to resist.

It is often quoted that Oslo is nearer Shetland than London; and so it was to the Northern Isles where the Norwegian section of the Special Operations Executive looked to when they were wanting a base for incursions into Norway. They went to Lunna near Lerwick first, but then moved to a purpose built pier at Scalloway.

Using Norwegian fishing boats crewed by a mix of fishermen and sailors who knew the coasts of Norway like the backs of their hands the SOE ran agents and supplies into Norway. They returned with intelligence, volunteers and men and women in danger of arrest by the Nazis. In 1943 the heavy losses of fishing boats led to the US Navy lending them three fast submarine chasers, and the civilian volunteer crews joined the Royal Norwegian Navy. With their new boats there were no more losses.

Between August 1941 and May 1945 the SOE ran 198 operations across the North Sea. 44 men of the operation died in those three and a half years but through their sacrifice they landed 192 agents and 383 tons of weapon and supplies in Norway. They had retuned with 73 agents and 373 refugees.

Throughout the war years the already close relationship between Shetland and Norway was strengthened further. Today on Scalloway's Main Street a magnificent memorial to the Norwegians of the Shetland Bus shows a small fishing boat battling the sea. It is a fitting subject. At night and in winter it was a perilous journey across the North Sea, but German patrol ships and aircraft added extra perils for these brave volunteers

On this day seventy years ago the defeat of Germany would have seemed a long way off. But for the brave Norwegians of the Shetland Bus their first mission from Lunna Voe on 30th August 1941 would mean the liberation of their country would happen that little bit sooner.

Monday, 29 August 2011

The Release of "Highlander" in UK -On this day 1986

OK, I'm prepared to take a bit of abuse for this being today's 'On this day', but let's be honest how many Hollywood films can you name which start off with a 16th Century Scottish clan battle? I don't think you'd even need to have all your digits to be able to count them on one hand. It also finishes with an RAF jet tearing along a glen so I think on that basis it can be included here.

Shean Connery'sh Shpanish accshent leaves a lot to be desired, as does Christopher Lambert's Scottish accent. But forget the ridiculous plot and the appalling sequels and enjoy some of this 1980's movie thanks to YouTube...

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Image of the Day - 28th August 2011

Today's Image of the Day was bought from a postcard seller at a Family History Fair recently. There are no marks or comments on the back of the image - all we have to go on is the image itself.

For once we have a lovely clear image of the shoulder title, so there's no doubt whatsoever that this is a Highland Light Infantry man.

Unfortunately, that's about all we do have to go on. This unfortunately will have to remain one of those mystery photos, and the identity of this man will sadly remain unknown.

(Click on the image for a larger version)

Can you identify this man? Does this image look familiar? Can you add any information at all? We'd love to hear from you. Email us at or contact us via the "feedback" page on the SMRG website.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Sir Hector Munro - Who's Who in Scottish Military History

We’ve mentioned Sir Hector Munro before in the Who’s Who about Lord Macleod. They were contemporaries of each other but while Macleod was a Jacobite, Munro was a staunch supporter of the Hanoverians. When MacLeod was an exile in Europe, Munro was rising through the ranks in the British Army.

In his long career Munro served in many parts of the world but it was in India he had his biggest success, and biggest failure.

It’s not clear exactly when he was born but his father moved from Novar to Clayside at Dunrobin Mains, near Golspie when he was a baby, so he was probably born in 1725-1726.

He was first commissioned into Loudon’s 64th Highlanders in 1747 but biographies mention previous service against the Jacobites. He may well have served in one of the Independent Companies raised by the Northern clans in 1745-46 and under Loudon’s command which were beaten at Inverness and Dornoch. If he was captured, as has been rumoured, then he was unlikely to have taken part in Cromartie’s defeat at Golspie.

After being commissioned in the 64th Highlanders he went with them to the Low Countries, where they were serving in the War of Austrian Succession. His regiment was in action at Bergen-op-Zoom near Antwerp but saw little service apart from that. It was disbanded in June 1748 at the end of hostilities.

Munro was after an army life so transferred into the 48th Foot as an ensign, and then in the days of purchasing commissions he bought himself a lieutenancy in the 31st Foot in Ireland, and a few years later he was a Captain and company commander of the 2nd battalion 31st Foot (which became the 70th Foot in 1758).

Another regiment soon followed in 1759 when Munro got his majority in the newly raised 89th Highlanders. This was during the Seven Years War and Imperial commitments saw the 89th being sent to India.

With Munro in charge the 89th arrived outside French held Pondicherry in Madras in September 1760. They were there until early 1761 when they were sent to Bombay after the French capitulated.

When the 89th sailed for home in 1763 Munro elected to stay in India. In 1764 he was sent to his third East Indian Company Presidency in India, Bengal, with some other European troops to help quell a mutiny amongst EIC sepoys.

No believer in taking a soft line Munro decided that the only way to deal with the sepoys, whether their grievances were justified or not, was to execute the ringleaders in typical EIC fashion - by tying them to the wheels of a cannon and blowing them apart. He also disbanded the most rebellious native regiment.
With the mutiny suppressed Munro was given charge of the Bengal Presidency Army and took it north from Calcutta to head off an invasion force of Mughals on the Bihar – Oudh border.

On 22nd September 1764 Munro’s army met the Mughals at Buxar, under the command of Nawab Wazir Shuja ud-Daula.

On paper it looked like there would be no contest. The Indians had a force of 40,000 and Munro had only 7,000 men. However since taking command Munro had drilled his men hard to prepare for battle and it would be no walkover.

In a shocking display of underestimating your opponent Shuja ud-Daula left his prepared defences and advanced over open ground to meet Munro’s force.
Wave after wave of Mughal cavalry attacked the Bengal Presidency Army but Munro’s training had paid off and the disciplined firepower of the redcoats held off the horsemen.

Munro then showed his tactical prowess by throwing forward his sepoys at the point of the bayonet onto his opponent’s left flank. The Indians were unprepared for this assault and fell back. Retreat soon turned to rout as the whole Indian front line collapsed.

Whilst Plassey in 1757 may have been the decisive battle to decide which European power influenced Indian affairs, it was the overwhelming victory at Buxar which led to the East India Company becoming the de facto rulers of India’s richest provinces and it tuned British traders into rulers.

It was the high point of Munro’s career and with a very large haul of prize money he resigned his commission and returned to Scotland in early 1765. His uncle had left him the Munro estate at Novar in Cromarty near Evanton, and his money bought him a seat in Westminster as MP for Inverness Burghs. For the next few years he led the life of a country laird spending his Indian fortune on improving his house and estate.

Investment mistakes and loss of money in the 1770s probably led to his decision to rejoin the army. India was where he had made his name and his fortune over ten years before; so with his EIC and parliamentary connections, and his reputation preceding him, he was appointed in 1777 as commander-in-chief at Madras. Now he also had a local royal commission as an EIC major-general and a seat on the Madras council.

Things were complicated in India when Munro arrived. Struggles for control of the East India Company were taking place in London and in Madras the local rulers were not as compliant as the ones in Bengal. It was a recipe for future disaster.

Munro had to deal with weak allies, a strong and antagonistic neighbour, and the involvement of the French and Dutch. Both had enclaves in India and the American War of Independence saw them become allies of the Unites States and enemies of Britain. When the news of the French taking the American’s side reached Munro in 1778 he immediately marched south to take their base at Pondicherry. He had last been there nearly twenty years before with the 89th Highlanders and once again the French capitulated.

Eager to capitalise on his success he captured the other French settlements on the Coromandel Coast / Malabar Coast. Unfortunately this eagerness to defeat the French antagonised Hyder Ali, the powerful ruler of Mysore at Seringapatam.

Ali had no love for the British and had beaten them in a war in 1768. He also considered the French possessions to have been under his protection. Munro’s attacks on Pondicherry was too much for Hyder Ali and he made preparations to march across the Eastern Ghats and onto the Carnatic Plain.

Time and again we’ve seen in our who’s who and on this day articles that pride comes before a fall; and once again a Scot in a position of power chose to ignore the advice of others and carry on regardless.

Hyder Ali and his son Tipoo Sultan amassed 90,000 men. It took time to assemble an army of that size and throughout 1779 and early 1780 it was obvious to everyone except Munro that he would be marching East in strength. Munro chose to ignore the signs. Even when reinforcements were sent to him, including the newly raised Lord Macleod’s Highlanders, they were sent to outlying posts.

In June 1780 Ali moved. Munro finally responded. Instead of ordering his outnumbered troops back to the protection of Madras to regroup he decided to push his force forward and consolidate his army in the field.

The man who lead the Bengal Army to victory against impossible odds at Buxar must have thought he could outfight Ali’s native host. Munro was sadly misjudging his opponent. Ali’s army was well trained by French advisors, and equipped with the latest guns. As Munro advanced on Arcot he expected his other troops to meet him at Conjeeveram.

Unfortunately for Munro his supply train was not as good as he had hoped and his advance bogged down. Ali advanced to meet him before he could congregate all his forces, and Colonel Baillie’s column containing Macleod’s Highlanders was attacked and soundly beaten at the Battle of Pollilur by Tipoo Sultan’s force. 2,800 men, including the future general, David Baird, were killed or captured.
Munro knew his position was untenable and finally retreated to Madras leaving Hyder Ali in control of most of the Carnatic Plain.

Munro’s handling of the affair nearly wrecked his career. He was criticised by Macleod on his tactics and his failure to support Baillie’s men once battle commenced. Certainly no other East India Company in the Carnatic had been beaten so badly. Rather than being sacked Munro was effectively demoted when Eyre Coote was sent to take command of the Madras Army. Munro continued to serve under Coote and attempted to rebuild his reputation as Coote took the fight back to Ali.

Eventually after a spell in his sick bed in Madras he was given independent command again. This time it was to capture the Dutch port of Negapatam in November 1791. Munro’s old skill returned and this attack was a success.

Munro’s second spell in India was now coming to an end. With the campaigning over he resigned his appointment and returned to London. Mixed fortunes awaited him at home. He was granted a knighthood for capturing Pondicherry and then sacked by the East India Company for losing Baillie’s column. He must have cried all the way to the bank because he was awarded yet more prize money and was made a major general in the British army.

He remained a soldier on paper an eventually becoming a full general on 1st January 1798 and he was also Colonel of the 42nd Highlanders (the Black Watch).

His main activity between his return to the UK in 1782 and his death in 1805 seems to have been interesting himself on improving his estate in the then current fashion of replacing tenants with sheep. The man who restored order in Bengal by blowing mutineers from his cannon had no problems bringing the army in to restore order when his improvements provoked protests in the summer of 1792.

However he also showed a slightly more benevolent side when he built a folly on his land to provide jobs during a period of unemployment. Fyrish Monument is said to represent the gates of Negapatam, the city he had captured in 1781 and which had saved his reputation. It doesn’t, but it certainly has an Asian feel to it, and given he renamed many of the parks on his estate after places in India then it’s likely Fyrish was built to remind him of his many years in the sub-continent.

Finally was it civic duty as the local MP, or right-wing tendencies, which led him to provide a substantial sum of money to the building of the new court house and jail in Inverness? The building is gone but Munro’s steeple and clock still survive to mark his contribution to his constituency’s policing.

It was at Novar where Munro died. Uncertainty over his date of birth was matched by the uncertainty of his date of death. Sources quote late December 1805 or early January 1806. His headstone says 27th December 1805.

Munro is a little known figure in his own land. I come from East Sutherland and had never heard of him until recently, but he was an important figure in the history of the British in India. His reforms in the Bengal and Madras EIC armies and his victory at Buxar had laid solid foundations for British supremacy in India and the establishment of the Raj.

The Siege of Dundee 1645

On 1st September we will be publishing an 'On this day' about the 1651 siege of Dundee.

Before we do that we'd like to set the scene by publishing an article on the 1645 siege. Karen Nichols has written about Montrose's attack on the city for us.

Montrose attacks Dundee

At the time of his attack on Dundee the Marquis of Montrose had achieved victories on behalf of King Charles I and his army was no longer considered an inconsequential pack of mercenaries. The Covenanters were waging full-scale war and Oliver Cromwell was steadily rising through the ranks with another nine years to wait until becoming Protector of England.

The royal burgh of Dundee had been on alert since 1643-44 with militia appointed to guard its four quarters. The Council had reclaimed strategic land and buildings from individuals and were in the process of repairing the boundary walls. Originally an open seaport the burgh was not walled until it had been attacked twice during the Wars of Independence, then again by Richard II and Edward VI. In its need for funds the Council had made several requests to have loans repaid that had been given for government forces to be equipped, such as 4000 merks granted to the Marquis of Argyle who was in pursuit of James Graham, the 1st Marquis of Montrose.

Montrose first approached the burgh with a view to attack within days of his victory over the Covenanters at Tippermuir. Finding it strong and prepared to fight he kept this hotbed of sedition until after the battle of Aberdeen. Most accounts agree that Dundee was a solution to a prestige dilemma. Montrose had to find a reason for being north of the Tay so attacking covenanting Dundee would offer supplies and keep the men busy. Given advance warning by the Earl of Crawford, Dundee called out its men and stood ready. Unfortunately, they weren’t ready enough when the attack came.

Leaving a base at Dunkeld, Montrose headed for that ‘most seditious place, which was a faithful receptacle to the rebels in these parts…’ and arrived to the north by 10am, April 4th 1645. His approach at three angles took advantage of defences still in need of rebuilding and took the burgh’s volunteer garrison by surprise. His men took control of the town’s ordnance that had been placed on Corbie Hill (now quarried out) and turned Dundee’s guns on itself. His targets included the parish church, the hospital and Bonnet Row (now Hilltown) where he ‘wilfullie and treasonablie raised wilful fire in the suburbs thereof called the Bonnet Raw’.

A servant to the Laird of Rothiemay, trumpeter John Gordon, was sent to order magistrates to surrender. It is accepted that the town fathers followed usual practice and secured the messenger in the Tolbooth. Any reply to the surrender request was understandably slow in arriving so Montrose started the assault by ordering Lord Gordon and Macdonald to storm the town. Soon they received news that the experienced Covenanter Generals Baillie and Hurry were riding from Perth and barely one mile away with 3000 foot and 800 cavalry. As his own raiding party comprised barely 700 men with 150-200 horse Montrose was advised in two ways; retreat and leave his forces to their fate or charge and die gloriously on the battlefield. Montrose decided to take a third option. Most commentators regard his next move as an example of his leadership skills and command over his troops. He rode into the market place rounding up the inebriated and pillaging soldiers before dividing the force onto two diverging roads and closed the rear himself before ‘the sun had set’. Assuming entry soon after 10am the invading army were present in the burgh for no more than six to seven hours.

Hurry and Baillie had divided their troops in half before entering the west of the burgh expecting that their prey was an assured capture. Whilst Montrose was exiting the east walls a reward of 20,000 gold pieces was offered as an incentive to the pursuing troops.

Montrose then continued to march a section of his troops through the night until they reached Arbroath. In thirty hours the army had marched sixty miles, plundered a town, got drunk, made a hurried retreat and marched over open countryside in darkness. One biographer, Williams, noted that the Covenanters claimed the salvation of the town as a victory - although the Scots knew different! Buchan offers open admiration for a leader who could gather together drunken men laden with plunder claiming that ‘he who could execute such a flight was a consummate strategist’. With light skirmishes the chase continued until Montrose and his men were safe in the hills of Glenesk. His biographer, Wishart, writes

‘Whether such an account will be believed abroad or in after ages I cannot pretend to say; but it rests on the most certain information and the best of evidence. In fact, I have often heard officers of experience and distinction, not in Britain only, but also in Germany and France, prefer this march of Montrose to his most famous victories.’

This fleeting visit left a legacy of damage, calculated at £162,299 15s, for the burgh and its residents. The boundary walls alone cost £162 to repair. An Act of Parliament, 13 January 1646, reported that the burgh had suffered

‘not onlie the slaughter of manie of the inhabitantis bot also a great pairt of the biggingis of the toun, whiche was ane of the chiefe of this kingdome, is fearfullie defaced and maist pairt of the inhabitantis rwined, the toun disabled to undergoe the publict service and burdingis and without supplie is likelie to decay.’

This attack may sound vicious but my attention has been captured by recent accounts and a novel that equate it as equal, if not exceeding, in verocity to the later siege of the opposing side in the same argument by General George Monck. How this opinion came about is not quite clear. For instance, the 1645 attack claimed the loss ‘of manie..’. The 1651 attack by Monck’s forces reduced the population ‘be estimation … about ten or ellevin hundredth, beside four or five hundredth prissoneris.’ Other calculations rate the deaths at approximately 800 men, women and children.

Another point of disagreement, in my mind, is the separation of the main parish church, St. Mary’s, from its tower, known locally as the Steeple. This ‘fact’ is clearly stated by 20th century historians yet I find no contemporary evidence to support it. It is not mentioned in town records or by any biographer. An 1893 account quoting Wishart claims the invaders took control of the market–place and the church whilst others fired the houses. This same account states that ‘the South church was made useless’ but was this by a fire bad enough to reduce a church to rubble whilst leaving its bell tower standing? Possibly. A gas explosion in 1841 did exactly that. The parish church of St. Mary’s has a complicated history with six reincarnations. Due to attacks as part of the Rough Wooings (1547-50) there was a gap in the church grounds. This section was rebuilt as the South church in 1558. A collegiate system was established by the end of the 16th century with one building divided into separate charges to accommodate different congregations. In later periods the South Church was contained within the transept of St. Mary’s not the nave which is the part connected, then disconnected from, the tower. Although modern usage may reflect past tradition it is not enough on which to base a conclusion. Had it been St. Mary’s nave which was destroyed so completely why would records refer to the South church? There was no northern church to differentiate from and the site is at the western edge of town.

An artist in the 19th century image portrayed Civil War combatants in front of the derelict tower suggesting that the tower was destroyed in the conflict. By dating their clothes I conclude that the artist has dated the separation of tower and church to the 1640s. Is this belief based on fact or an urban myth?

If Dundee thought it was hard pressed in 1645 it was to suffer even more six years later. Unknown to the inhabitants they would be besieged six years later by General George Monck on behalf of Cromwell.

Despite their adherence to the reformed faith and the Solemn League and Covenant the people of Dundee showed kindness and sympathy when the defeated Montrose was en route to his execution in Edinburgh.

Act of Parliament, Dundee, 13 Jan 1649,
Cavalier in Mourning, Ronald Williams, 1975
Dundee & the Civil Wars 1639-1660, Friends of Dundee City Archives, 2007
Dundee in the Civil Wars, Whatley, Swinfen & Smith (eds), in Life and Times of Dundee, 1993
George Wishart, Rev., in Deeds of Montrose 1639-50, Murdoch & Simpson, 1893
Life and Times of Montrose, Mark Napier, 1840
Montrose for Covenant & King, Edward Cowan, 1977
Montrose, John Buchan, 1928,

Friday, 26 August 2011

When is a Group not a Group?

...When it is a society.

Recent issues with the availability of the war memorials and war graves forums on a 24 x 7 basis, plus the realisation that we are not as well known as we thought, have convinced a few of us that we finally have to take the bull by the horns and form a committee to run things. We've always taken a bit of pride in our independence and the fact everything is done by volunteers and on free hosting sites. However we have reached a stage where we need to take a more mature view on how we operate.

For one thing the data we have on the forums need to be stored on a secure database. The only way we can see that happening is by getting some sort of funding, and a large amount of it at that. To get funding we need to be a charity, and to be a charity we need a society with a properly elected and constitutionally bound committee. We also need to raise our profile too. Being a proper society should help with that.

Since we have come to that decision we feel there is no point hanging around so a meeting a.s.a.p. to kick things off would be a good thing.

We have decided to meet at 2pm at the Camperdown Bar in Queen Street Station in Glasgow, on Saturday 3rd September. We felt that was a good central location in Glasgow and should be easy to get to from a lot of places.

We'd like to invite anyone interested along to the meeting, hopefully the first meeting of a new society interested in all aspects of Scottish military history.

If you'd like to come along please let us know by contacting us on the SMRG website feedback page. Let us know your e-mail address and mobile phone number. That way we can make sure that everyone knows if there is a sudden last minute change of plan.

For those not able to attend we would still like you to be involved so please feel free to contact us with thoughts on the future of any society formed; plus any items you'd like discussed so I can add them to an agenda I am preparing for the day.

The meeting place of a bar has been chosen so that once the formalities of the day have been finished with we can have an infomal get together. It's a Wetherspoons pub so they are quite happy to serve tea and coffee during the day too for those driving. I'm hoping the actual meeting will take about 60-90 mins and then we have the rest of the afternoon to chat.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Motivated by family's sacrifice

We've covered the story of the Cranston family on the blog before.

Here is an update from the East Lothian Courier

Motivated by family's sacrifice

Bryan Copland • Published 25 Aug 2011

A DESCENDANT of a Haddington family which was decimated during the First World War will next month travel to the town from Australia in his quest to have the family's loss commemorated.

Stuart Pearson, from Sydney, Australia, is a distant relative of the Cranston family - which lost four of its nine sons at war and another two were horrifically injured. Only one of the seven who went to war returned unscathed.

It is widely believed that this may rank among the most significant sacrifices made by a Scottish family in the Great War.

Mr Pearson has never been to Scotland before but has been in regular contact with local author and historian Bob Mitchell - with whom he is co-writing a book about the Cranstons - as well as the town's community council and East Lothian councillors.

A reunion of all the Scottish descendants of the Cranstons will take place on Saturday, September 17, while another Australian descendant will also attend.

While here, Mr Pearson also wants to discuss the possibility of an appropriate memorial to the family.

Mr Pearson has previously suggested that a stone cairn, or naming a street or local park after the family, would be a suitable tribute - though Haddington Community Council has been reluctant to provide a dedicated memorial without putting the loss into context, as it is concerned it may overshadow other families' losses during the war.

Mr Pearson said: "A previous request [for a memorial] was declined but this Antipodean descendant would like another opportunity to present his case, this time in person.

"It is my opinion that this remarkable Haddington family who made such an extraordinary (perhaps unprecedented) sacrifice, suffered such devastation yet ultimately survived should have their story told. They should be commemorated in writing and in stone.

"As we near the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, I hope that a memorial to the Cranston family could become a metaphor for every Scottish family's loss during that terrible event."

Fort George to mark links to Liverpool

We've mentioned the Fort George museum refurbishment before. More news now from the BBC News website.

Liverpool's military links to the Highlands are to be remembered in a new museum display.

The museum at Fort George, near Inverness, is being upgraded a cost of £3.2m. So far £2.5m has been raised.

A donation of £1,500 covers the cost of a display dedicated to the Liverpool Scottish, which was raised to fight in the Second Boer War in 1900.

In 1937, it became a territorial battalion of the Cameron Highlanders, based in Inverness.

The Highlands Museum is dedicated to the Cameron Highlanders, Seaforth Highlanders, Queen's Own Highlanders and their affiliated regiments.

The Liverpool Scottish, whose soldiers wore the Forbes tartan and saw action during World War I, later became part of the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment.

Money for the display was donated by the Liverpool Scottish Regimental Trustees.

When first raised, the regiment recruited mainly from Scots living in the city.

The revamped museum at Fort George, a 1700s artillery fort which remains a working barracks, is scheduled to open in 2012.

Actor Hugh Grant launched the public appeal to help raise funds for the project in November 2010.

His grandfather Col James Murray Grant, from Inverness, received the Distinguished Service Order for bravery during World War II.

The Seaforth Highlander was depot commander at Fort George after the war.

Grant's father Capt James Murray Grant also served with a Highlands regiment.

'Safe keeping'

Museum chairman, Maj Gen Seymour Monro, said he was thrilled by the Liverpool Scottish support.

Col Ian Paterson, president of the Liverpool Scottish Regimental Association, added: "The Liverpool Scottish was an important and valued member of the regimental family in the Highlands for the major part of the 20th Century.

"As such it is appropriate that we support this splendid museum at Fort George and that we place here notable items reflecting that great history for display and safe keeping."

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Can't our museums stay open a wee bit longer?

I don't think any of us feel we've had a summer, and here is autumn approaching already. When the leaves start to fall it seems it is time for certain museums and attractions around Scotland to start dusting off the shutters and canvas as the closed season is nearly upon them.

In an earlier post we bemoaned the fact that certain Scottish military museums have reduced opening hours that are almost farcical. They are open when no-one can visit them and are closed at weekends and evenings when people could actually visit them. Then they wonder why their visitor numbers are so low.

Now it's time for us to scratch our heads at attractions which don't even stay open until then end of the October holidays! The poor old KOSB museum at Berwick-upon-Tweed has been in the news a few times this year. As a show of support a few SMRG members were planning a trip down to visit them later in the year. A quick check on their website shows they close for the season on 30th September.

Another planned trip to Cumbria's Military Museum in November will have to bypass the Devil's Porridge Museum at Gretna as they will have been shut for two weeks. (to their credit the Carlisle museum only closes on four days of the year, 24th, 25th 26th December and the 1st January).

I've recently returned from France and the museums and attractions there stay open until 7pm in the summer, even on a Sunday. Would that happen over here? Fat chance

How many times in Scottish museums have staff made it clear you are unwelcome once it nears closing time? If it says it it closed at 18:00 then it's lights off and doors locked by six p.m. sharp, and hard cheese if you were enjoying your visit.

We understand times are tight and many museums rely heavily on volunteers but can things be so bad in Scotland's military museums that they have to be shut for so much of the year?

Monday, 22 August 2011

When Gaddafi's Barracks Housed Highlanders

The barracks which have been at the centre of Gaddafi's rule for 40 years, Bab al-Azizia Barracks, are in the news again today as fighting rages across the Libyan city.

These were the barracks bombed by the US Air Force 25 years ago, but 65 years ago they were home to a battalion of Scotsmen.

In the immediate post-war period the former Italian colony of Libya was under British control, and amongst the British troops stationed there was the 2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders. One of the officers of the battalion was a man who had been commissioned into the Gordons and sent to Tripoli from Burma. He would later become a famous author, screenwriter and journalist.

George MacDonald Fraser fictionalised his time with the Gordons in his "General Danced at Dawn" trilogy but he admits in the epilogue of the final book that his made-up highland regiment was the old 92nd Highlanders. He even mentions the 1986 bombing of the barracks and a feeling of sadness of what had become of his former home from 1945 - 1948.

We are witnessing momentous events in the Libyan capital today, a very 21st Century civil war. But for a piece of history, and a humorous one at that, I'd recommend MacDonald Fraser's books. They bring back a time when the most dangerous thing that happened at Bab al-Azizia, if the author would have you believe, was a drunken punch-up between squaddies when the bars emptied.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

The Lanark Festival of History is this weekend

Lets hope the rain holds off in Lanarkshire this weekend for the Lanark Festival of History.

From their website:

Lanark: Scotland's Festival of History

20th and 21st AUGUST 2011

~ Fun for all ages exploring the ages ~

Roman • Viking • Medieval • 17thC • Jacobites • Napoleonic • American Civil War • WW1 and WW2, and more…

Experience History as it happened

They seem to have lost their list of participants from their website but when I looked at it the other day I recognised a good few names from the list of Scottish re-enactors we published earlier this year.

It's on for two days and looks like a good event to go to. Somebody from the Blog should hopefully make it along to one of the days so we'll hopefully have an update after the event.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

World Pipe Band Championships 2011

Yesterday I was in Glasgow Green to attend the 2011 World Pipe Band Championships.

230 pipe bands attended, taking part in competition across several grades, with the Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band being crowned World Champions.

The weather managed to stay reasonably dry, and there was plenty to see - it was certainly a busy day!

There's a fine military tradition where pipe bands are concerned, and while there didn't seem to be any bands from the Scottish regiments, there were several others with names that had a hint of the military tradition, starting obviously with the World Champions, named after the famous Field Marshal, "Monty" himself.

Not that there were no regiments present - the 1st Royal Tank Regiment were present in the 4B grade, and the 3B Grade saw the presence of the 101st Northumbrian Regiment, Royal Artillery - or the Tyneside Scottish as they might be better known.

We stayed to watch the Grade 4A final, and here was found a band which clearly honours the fallen of the Great War - Thiepval Memorial Pipe Band. You probably can't see it in this video, but their bagpipe covers have an image of the famous memorial on them.

The Grade 4A was won by Scottish Borders Pipe Band with a fine performance it's worth highlighting here:

All in all, it was a fantastic day out with plenty to see and do. I would highly recommend checking the dedicated page on the BBC website to watch the Grade One performances, and make sure you book your tickets for next years contest - I'll see you there!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Historic find goes on show at museum

A fascinating article from the Lochaber News. It just goes to show, you never know what you might turn up!

A Lochaber woman's chance discovery in the attic has gone on permanent display this week at Fort William's West Highland Museum.

Kate Cameron was clearing out boxes from the loft of her former Fort William town centre home when she came across a framed photograph of her father. But when she removed the picture from its frame, there was a surprise in store.

Tucked behind the portrait was a magnificent military memento: a roll of honour document from the First World War which was been presented to her grandfather Kenneth Kennedy Cameron, known as KK, who served as a lieutenant with the Cameron Highlanders and was posted to India.

There was also a poem, written by H Cartwell of Southend on Sea as a tribute to KK following his death in 1944. The touching, five-verse piece comments on KK's life as a soldier and well-known and respected businessman.

After liaising with Jimmy Smith, of the Fort William branch of the Royal British Legion, Kate, who lives at Banavie, has now presented both documents to the world famous museum in Cameron Square where they are being displayed alongside other military-related exhibits.

Kate (64), a Link Housing officer, had originally intended to donate the roll of honour to the Cameron Highlanders Association in Inverness, but is glad the scroll will remain locally and be accessible to the wider Lochaber public.

She told the Lochaber News: "It was really by chance that I found the roll of honour in the loft, but I was really delighted by its discovery.

"It is headlined 'Roll of Honour, Inverness and District B' and is for the period 1914-19 and features all the different regiments. It's a beautiful document.

"I found it in my old house at 143 High Street, in the west end, which was located above the family business. It was tucked behind the picture of my father. I liked the frame, but not the picture so much, so I took it out and got the nice surprise.

"I had made enquiries about putting the roll of honour up to Inverness and spoke to a British Legion representative about this. Then recently, Jimmy Smith got in touch, suggesting it would be fitting to put it to the West Highland Museum.

"I'm really pleased it's staying in Fort William. My grandfather was a well known and popular character in the town and I'm sure there will be a fair bit of interest from locals.

"I never knew my grandfather, but I'm very proud of him. I know that as well as his exploits in India he also had a great escape in France when he was shot at Ypres. Miraculously he survived because the bullet struck his cigarette tin tucked in his chest pocket."

West Highland Museum curator manager Mairi Mooney said: "We're delighted Kate has chosen to present the roll of honour to the museum. We're sure it will generate a lot of local interest as KK was a highly-regarded man in Fort William."

l Kenneth Kennedy Cameron was born on December 8, 1885, and died on February 16, 1944. He met his future wife Mary Margaret Evans, known as Meg, before his posting to India.

KK and Meg married in 1920 and started married life at 103 High Street. In the early 1920s they moved to Lochaber House, 1 Reform Place - now 141

143 High Street - having purchased from his father, Walter, the family business which was a bakery/tearoom and hotel upstairs.

The business, established by Walter in 1874, then became known as KK's.

KK became a very respected business man and although he suffered poor health with malaria and angina he devoted much of his time to the MacIntosh Memorial Church and British Legion.

KK died in 1944 aged 58. His son Kenny was serving with the RAF in the Second World War but was given compassionate leave to carry on the business with his mother.

While the premises at 141-143 High Street no longer remains part of KK's business, fourth-generation Kim Cameron, Kate's brother, carries on the family tradition in Caol Shopping Centre.

Monday, 8 August 2011

The Inventory of Historic Scottish Battlefields Consultation

From Historic Scotland's website:

The Inventory of Historic Battlefields Consultation

Through the Scottish Historic Environment Policy (SHEP) 2009, Scottish Ministers announced that Historic Scotland would prepare an Inventory of Historic Battlefields to identify and provide information on Scotland’s nationally important fields of conflict to aid in their future management, preservation and enjoyment. SHEP 2009 can be viewed at

In March 2011, the Inventory of historic battlefields was launched, containing records for the first 17 battlefields identified as nationally important. Historic Scotland has now opened consultation for the second tranche of Inventory records, comprising a further 11 battlefields identified as being of national importance: you can view these reports at

Research is currently taking place on a third tranche of sites, which will be subject to separate consultation in due course.

What is the Inventory of Historic Battlefields?

The Inventory identifies battlefields considered to be of national importance for the contribution they make to the archaeology and history of our nation. It includes our most significant and iconic battlefields, and provides information to aid their protection, management, interpretation and promotion. Selection criteria are set out in SHEP 2009 (Annex 5).

For each site there is a concise report describing the battlefield, the reasons for its inclusion and a map of its boundary. The Inventory map indicates the extent of the battlefield, defining the overall area considered to be of interest on the basis of research undertaken. At the end of each report, there is a list of key source material and references to aid further research and for educational use. An extended report is also available, which adds more detailed information to that in the concise report, where possible.

Further information about the Inventory can be found at

Sunday, 7 August 2011

British Army recruiting takes a new and bizzare turn....

Spotted in a shop today, one of the pipers from the new Meerkat Division.

And yes, that is a Cameronians badge on his glengarry. Perhaps the anorak in me should point out that a piper would have a different badge to that one...

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Scots Army Invades England - On this day in Scottish Military History - 1651

Three hundred and sixty years ago today during the War of Three Kingdoms General George Monck laid siege to Stirling Castle.

Since breaking the deadlock at Inverkeithing he had moved his New Model Army forces across the Central belt towards one of the most strategic positions in Scotland.

At the same time the Scots Army was not approaching Stirling; it was heading South.

In alliance with Charles II the Scots were heading for London. They intended to steal a march on Cromwell's forces who were now behind them, and rally Royalist Englishmen on the march south.

On this day in 1651 the Scots crossed the border into England. Little did they know they were playing into Cromwell's hands.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Liverpool Scottish double V.C. gets a new memorial

Captain Noel Chavasse V.C. and bar, a doctor who served in the Liverpool Scottish during the First World War has had a new memorial unveiled in his memory in Liverpool.
The BBC and Liverpool Echo have both reported on the unveiling.

Chavasse was one of only three men to have been awarded a bar to the Victoria Cross. His second award was posthumous.

Captain Chavasse died on 4 August 1917 and is buried at Brandhoek New Military Cemetery in Belgium.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

New Craigneuk war memorial to be unveiled

From today's Wishaw Press

New Craigneuk war memorial to be unveiled

Aug 3 2011 by Robert Mitchell, Wishaw Press

CRAIGNEUK’S war memorial has sat proudly in the village for decades but the names of the fallen have been missing from it for all that time – until now.

Almost 300 people from Craigneuk died during the two World Wars and the community’s efforts to erect a new monument that pays respect to all of them are about to be realised.

Campaigners spent over three years raising around £65,000 to pay for the specialist work to add the names of the fallen to the cenotaph and the new-look memorial will be unveiled later this month on Saturday, August 27.

Joe O’Raw of Craigneuk War Memorial Group said: “The new addition of walls with the names of the fallen of Craigneuk and Berryhill district who died in the two World Wars and other conflicts is nearing completion.

“The new memorial will be officially dedicated on Saturday, August 27, at 11am but anyone wishing to attend should be at the memorial for 10.30am as a large attendance is expected.”

The memorial group tracked down the records of every person from the area who died during the two World Wars and later conflicts so their names could be added. The 1914-18 war claimed 159 lives from the area, the 1939-45 conflict saw another 84 men make the ultimate sacrifice and two lives were lost in Northern Ireland.

A special panel will be reserved for Victoria Cross holder William Clamp who, although born in Motherwell, was educated at Craigneuk Public School. He was killed when he rushed a machine-gun post in October 1917 at Poelcapelle in Belgium, capturing 20 prisoners before being cut down by a sniper.

Members raised tens of thousands of pounds for the memorial, which sits outside Craigneuk Library, with help from the community. The Environmental Key Fund handed over £30,000, while Orange Lodge members from Wishaw raised around £5000.

Patsy Tait is one of the locals behind the ambitious plan and she told the Wishaw Press: “We want the memorial to become a new focal point for the community, as we feel there’s something missing. For such a small village there’s a lot of war dead and we’d like the fallen to be honoured.

“The memorial is a real focal point for the local community and allows people to pay their respects. We’ve had lots of great feedback on our plans. Lots of children have been saying to us that they will be able to find their great-granddad’s name inscribed on the cenotaph.”

Details of the dedication programme and parking arrangements will be published in the Wishaw Press nearer the day. In the meantime, relatives of the fallen are asked to send their names to the war memorial group, even if they have done so previously.

The group have decided that family of the fallen should carry out the dedication part of the ceremony. While everyone is welcome to attend the event, it was felt the most solemn part should be carried out by relatives.

As there will be so many people there, 18 names will be drawn by the children of Craigneuk Nursery to represent all the relatives of the fallen, which is why the group are asking people to get in touch with their names as soon as possible. There will be six new panels on the memorial. Anyone wishing to lay a wreath after the dedication service will be welcome to do so.

Those wishing to take part in the draw to represent the families are asked to phone either Jean Ewart at Craigneuk Library on (01698) 376689 or Joe O’Raw on (01698) 350945.

Special honour for Victoria Cross winner

ONE of the fallen whose name will appear on the memorial is Victoria Cross winner William Clamp, who was killed when he rushed a machine-gun post in October 1917 at Poelcapelle in Belgium, and captured 20 prisoners before being cut down by a sniper.

For that act of bravery, he was awarded the highest award that can be given to British forces.

Patsy Tait of Craigneuk War Memorial Group said: “He’s not been truly recognised for what he did. There is a road named after him in Craigneuk, but I’m not sure how many people realise that.”

The VC winner was born to Charles and Christina Clamp of Motherwell’s Bridge Street in October 1892, and was educated at Craigneuk School.

He had eight brothers and nine sisters. Clamp also attended the local Salvation Army’s Sabbath School and played the bugle in the Motherwell Corps of the Salvation Army. He later became a member of the Good Templar Lodge.

In January 1914 he joined the 6th Scottish Rifles (Cameronians), the local territorial army unit. On the outbreak of the Great War, he was immediately called up and saw fighting with the 6th Cameronians at Festubert in 1915. He was twice seriously wounded and when he came out of hospital the second time, he was transferred to the 6th Yorkshires in January 1917.

Corporal Clamp won the VC for his bravery at Poelcappelle on October 9, 1917. When an advance was checked by intense machine-gun fire from concrete blockhouses and by snipers, Corporal Clamp attempted to rush the enemy. His first attempt failed and the two men with him became casualties, but he collected some bombs and two more men and, dashing forward, was the first to reach the blockhouse where he hurled his bombs, killing many of the occupants. He then entered, capturing a machine-gun and about 20 prisoners whom he brought back under heavy fire.

He went forward again encouraging his men and displaying the greatest heroism until killed by a sniper.

The memorial will be for all of the village’s war dead however, and the people behind the project hope that it will help transform Craigneuk

Monday, 1 August 2011

Object of the Month - August 2011

Given that August is a month where a lot of people might be on holiday, we thought you might need a passport!

And what better passport to give you than that belonging to the Commander in Chief!

Yes, this is Field Marshal Douglas Earl Haig of Bemersyde's passport, issued to him in 1921 for a visit to South Africa. Seems even a Field Marshal needed a passport.

This rather unusual item is on display in the Museum of Edinburgh, located in Huntly House on the Canongate. The museum has a large collection of artefacts relating to Douglas Haig, and is well worth a visit.