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.

Amisfield House and grounds Military Camp at Amisfield

Mealtime in Amisfield Park  Entreching practice, Amisfield park

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

3 thoughts on “The Landscape in War”

  1. Lorna Muir says:

    Sorry, have just re read your message and realise that your friends mum obviously met her dad in England after he left Amisfield. He may well have known my grandfather but we’ll never know now! Lorna

  2. Lorna Muir says:

    Hello Joanne,
    My mothers father was also a POW . We think at Amisfield, although this is an educated guess. My grandmother worked in the Land Army at Eaglescairnie. I wonder if your friends mother also worked in the land army? We have been trying to find out about my grandfather, however it is very difficult as there are not many records if any about the POW’s. We stay in Edinburgh. If your friend ever wanted to meet up we could possibly swap stories. They seem very similar.
    Best wishes

    Lorna Muir

  3. Joanne Clifford says:

    I’m looking for some further information on ‘The Landscape In War’. I have a friend who lives in England whose father was a German POW at Amisfield, who after the war married and lived in England. His daughter, along with her sister are planning to visit Amisfield/Haddington early Sept. I would like to give them more information about their dad’s life in Amisfield/Haddington. Do you have any photos, artifacts that would be able to help? I live in Fife, and would be able to visit.
    I look forward to hearing your reply
    Joanne Clifford

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