Friday, 4 November 2011

Remembering Captain Samuel McKnight - Bank Messenger

Anti-capitalist protesters are currently targeting financial districts in cities around the world. In Edinburgh they are camped across from 36 St Andrew Square, the former head office of the Royal Bank of Scotland. Whilst bankers are easy targets for media and protesters it's worth considering that most people employed by the bank are ordinary folk like you and me; and that was the same almost 100 years ago.

In the run up to Remembrance Day as we start wearing our red poppies, it is maybe worth remembering that in August 1914 many bank staff were already keen volunteers in the Territorial Force in Scotland. Many more left their branches and head office departments to answer Kitchener's call to arms, and joined the ranks of the New Army when war was declared.

The Royal Bank of Scotland Archives have an item from 1918 from one of the bank's volunteers which at first glance seems nondescript; it is a simple postcard with just a few words. The significance is that it is a postcard sent from the front by a former bank messenger to his old colleagues just four weeks before he was killed in action.

One of his colleagues wanted to make sure he wasn't forgotten and saved his postcard. It was put in an envelope around the time of the official end of the war in 1919, when peace and victory parades were being organised, and filed away in a room at 36 St Andrew Square. Luckily it was found years later and passed to the bank archives.

Twenty five year old Captain Samuel McKnight of the 17th Battalion, Royal Scots was one of eighty four Royal Bank of Scotland staff killed in the Great War; and one of fifteen hundred bank workers who lost their lives between 1914 and 1918 from all the banks which now makes up the British part of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group. He is listed on the bronze and marble war memorial in the entrance hall of the Royal Bank of Scotland branch at 36 St Andrew Square. You can see the memorial, Captain McKnight's postcard, and the moving story behind it on the RBS Archives website:

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