The Landscape in War
All across East Lothian, in both World Wars, buildings and land were requisitioned for the war effort.
Airfields, gunsites, coastal defenses, billets, hospitals, training ground and prisoner of war camps were amongst the installations that appeared almost overnight. This set of photographs shows the ‘miltary occupation’ of Amisfield Park, Haddington, during the First World War. The land is now Haddington Golf Course, and the house itself is long demolished. In 1914 it was a major military facility.
The Lothians were first billeted in Haddington’s disused distillery and the horse lines were in Neilson Park but they were quickly remustered to Amisfield, where the regiment remained at war strength throughout the winter – under canvas (with the exception of A Squadron, who had secured the stables as their billet)! The park was soon a sea of mud, but training was pressed ahead regardless. A regimental history states:
(The) first winter of war will always be a recollection of vigorous training carried on in spite of a constant struggle against adverse conditions, and varied by a succession of alarms of enemy landings; a memory of mud and troop-training, musketry and roadside control-posts, a midnight stampede of horses, and constant issues and recall of ammunition, coupled with ominous announcements that “all men are confined to camp to-night” “because there’s a scare on”.
Huts replaced the tents before the end of winter, but the Lothians didn’t benefit – they were moved to Hadderwick and then, in July 1915, overseas. Their replacements at Amisfield were the Royal Scots – the regiment used Amisfield as a depot and training area for their third line training battalions that supplied troops to the line and service battalions serving overseas.
Much of the military history of East Lothian in the First (and Second) World War is still unexplored and uncatalogued. Resources at the John Gray Centre can open a window on this period. Photographs, documents, memorabilia and official records such as valuation rolls can help track the footprint of the many units that passed through the county in these times of national mobilisation.
If you are researching a relative who served in the Great War or who lived in East Lothian during that period, please contact us to share their story with us or feel free to post it on the website yourself.
Amisfield’s history is remembered today as a new trust labours to restore the estate’s walled kitchen garden.
Keywords: World War One, First World War, WWI, WW1, World War Two, Second World War, WWII, WW2