The Military System In East Lothian 1846–1914
In the second half of the nineteenth century military activity in East Lothian followed three separate routes: Yeomanry, Militia, and Volunteers. Terms of service, training and deployments differed for all three but, in essence, all relied on the enthusiasm and motivation of their volunteer troops. Each arm was augmented by a cadre of professional soldiers, mostly senior NCOs, for training purposes and for whom accomodation had to be found.
The Yeomanry was re-embodied in 1846 and trained annually. Army reforms of 1888 altered its name, organisation, equipment and uniform, but otherwise passed it by. The regiment deployed on ceremonial state occasions, becoming known for its mounted musical ride, but the races held at Hedderwick in association with the regiment’s annual camp became a county fixture.
During the Boer War 1900-1902 volunteers served overseas as the 19th company of the 6th Battalion, Imperial Yeomanry (prompting another name change for the parent unit). Eleven fatalities from this campaign are recorded on a memorial outside the precincts of Dunbar Parish Church.
In March 1855, Lieutenant Colonel William Hay took command of a newly embodied force, the Haddington, Berwickshire, Linlithgow and Peebles Militia Artillery. In contrast to previous militias, this force was provided with a bounty of £6 for an agreed five year service and other inducements. Lauderdale House, the New Inn and Castle Park in Dunbar were purchased as accommodation. So began a new chapter in the county’s military history.
Militia Artillery units (from all over Scotland) deployed to Dunbar every summer for annual training on guns mounted in Castle Park and soon became a fixture in the town, a feature, if not an attraction, for the burgh’s holiday visitors.
Under the Territorial Army Reforms the Militia were subsumed into the Royal Garrison Artillery.
A surge of martial enthusiasm in 1859 swept the country. In East Lothian companies and sections of Rifle Volunteers were embodied in most towns. For training purposes these were soon grouped into a battalion structure; under the 1888 army reforms this administrative unit became part of the Royal Scots, as the 7th Volunteer Battalion. Finally, in 1908 the 8th (Territorial) Battalion Royal Scots was formed from the 6th and 7th Volunteer Battalions; they trained in coast defence. As the battalion trained as companies and even smaller detachments, drill halls and rifle ranges of this period are to be found all over the county.
The increasing professionalism of the county’s volunteers forces, their social activities, triumphs and activities can be followed in the pages of the local press throughout this period; in addition, the museum collections hold a number of artefacts and images from this period.