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Grandpa Served in World War One – or, How to Trace a WWI Ancestor
Tracing an ancestor or relative who served in World War One can be quite difficult. Because of the all-encompassing nature of the war a great amount is known, but equally a great amount of the individual experience and service of any soldier is unknown.
Records are spread all over the place and it would be impossible for the John Gray Centre to be able to flesh in the details of the careers of even the East Lothian folk that served on an individual basis. So where to start?
We have begun to outline the units that originated in our county. These are elements of the:
• 1st/8th Royal Scots and its clone battalions the 2nd/8th and 3rd/8th
• 1/7th Royal Scots and its clones the 2/7th and 3/7th
• 1/1st Lothians and Border Horse Yeomanry and its clones the 2/1st and 3/1st
That’s already nine battalion-sized (around 500–1000 men each) formations! The first line of each served overseas, the second at home and often Ireland by 1918, and the third was usually a training cadre (which often disappeared or was amalgamated during the war). There are no lists or muster rolls of the units but there are regimental histories: e.g. Ewing (copy in JGC) for the Royal Scots.
Individual JGC webpages will give an account of each of these formations and their service – and our sources. We’ve made a start on these.
Tracing an individual
The single most useful fact about an individual is the service number. It went with them everywhere and can be used to track a person from unit to unit – most served in several formations. Service number is the key to finding a medal card (Ancestry or National Archives) which will begin to provide information on awards, unit and rank. If you have service medals, the name and number can sometimes be found engraved round the rim. They’re always on identity tags, and we’ve seen a few of those recently.
Surviving documents if you have them are a wonderful source; letters and documents often reveal the service number as well but can take you deeper into rank, unit and experience. Don’t neglect envelopes – franking marks can reveal where an item was posted by decoding the official sorting centres behind the lines.
In the absence of either of the above, a good photograph comes next. Uniform, rank, regimental badges, service stripes and wound stripes, and awards can all be decoded.
If you have nothing to go on apart from family stories, write them down and extract the details. Unfortunately, most tales are very general. ‘Grandpa was in the Royal Scots’ may be all you have – but there were dozens of battalions! Any places or events can help filter the possibilities. Don’t neglect the 1911 census – what was your relative doing just before the war, where were they staying. That might give you an inkling of which local paper to check for notices or events.
So what’s next? Check http://www.1914-1918.net/. There is a handy guide to unit histories (caution on detail and dates), formations and terminology. If your relative was an officer or was decorated for gallantry check the Gazette (https://www.thegazette.co.uk/).
Other useful links
Supporting the Troops during World War One
War with Germany began on the 4th of August 1914. Within days East Lothian’s reservists and Territorial Army volunteers were called up and mobilised. Camps and depots appeared all over the county: Dunbar’s story is typical.
In parallel with the military events and the dispatch of the British Expeditionary Force to France, a second mobilisation was taking place. Within three months of the outbreak of war, the Dunbar Parish Magazine was able to report that
- afternoon and evening work parties were meeting weekly,
- that a fund had been initiated by Mrs Kirk, the minister‘s wife, and
- that over 8 dozen pairs of socks had been knitted and dispatched, amongst other garments.
The Church Magazine published detailed knitting instructions and passed along instructions from the committees or information about work completed.
In the early days of the support effort, delivery was ad-hoc: some comforts went by parcel, some to a Southhampton depot, and some with soldiers heading for the Front; later, it became highly organised.
Another committee, organised amongst the combined churches of Dunbar, ensured that every soldier that left the burgh by train was provided with food, fruit, chocolate, reading material and cigarettes for the journey. The drafts were presented with their package at the station and waved goodbye by members of the committee and their volunteers. All the funds needed were raised by donation.
Other committees were organised to collect for the newly opened National Relief Fund, the Belgium Relief Fund, and others. Concerts and door-to-door collections provided most of the cash raised – the relief funds benefitted from a total just shy of £700 (then a considerable sum) by the end of September 1914.
The churches of Dunbar themselves had been involved from the day war was declared. They controlled many of the available halls within the town. For example, upwards of 85 men had been billeted on the Parish Church Hall and volunteers from the congregation paid for and cooked their first few meals. Once the first surge of mobilisation was over, the Church Hall became the base for a permanent guard supplied to the Post Office (just across the road) from the Cavalry Depot. The first guard group were reservists from the 5th Dragoons Guards: they slept in the Ladies Cloakroom and took meals at nearby houses. The 5th Dragoon Guards were one of the regiments whose headquarters were the Cavalry Depot that had opened in Dunbar just a few years before. The other church halls became reading and recreation rooms or canteens but whatever their use during the day, most were used every night for concerts, sing-songs and other fund and morale raising activities.
As the months turned into years the intensity of the local effort may have eased but the need for funds and support for the troops was continual and was kept going throughout the war – and beyond. Much of the story of this efforts remains to be uncovered, but it was detailed in the local press and church magazines: publicity was the means whereby the funds were kept flowing. Copies of these local papers can be consulted at the John Gray Centre, so visit us to find out more.
Keywords: World War One, First World War, WWI, WW1
Warring kingdoms: objects
Despite the apparently turbulent times recorded in the history of this period, daily life went on much as usual. These more personal objects show how people dressed and activities such as cloth making and going to market.
Many of the finds in this case are from Eldbotle and are on display for the first time. Picture well-dressed villagers in hand made clothes, fastened with belts and pins heading to markets in Dunbar, Haddington or North Berwick – maybe by horse!
From fleece to cloth
Stone spindle whorls
Wool was still spun at home using drop spindles until the 1400s. Wool, fleeces and hides were exported to England and Europe from Dunbar harbour. (label text) Spindle whorls from Eldbotle, 13th–14th century.
Bone pin beater
Used in weaving to push up the threads and untangle knots. Eldbotle, 10th–14th century.
The pin beater is made from a leg bone of a cow or horse. It is used in weaving to push up the weft (horizontal threads) and untangle knots on a vertical loom.
Copper alloy thimble
This thimble was found during excavations at John Muir’s Birthplace in Dunbar and dates to the 13th–15th centuries. Objects made from copper alloy usually belonged to more wealthy people. The copper alloy spur was found at the same place – perhaps this was the home of a well dressed knight?
Copper alloy spur and rowel
The spur was found during excavations at John Muir’s Birthplace in Dunbar by Headland Archaeology in 2002 and dates to the 14th–15th century.
Viking style antler comb
This distinctive Viking-style decoration dates the comb to the 10th–11th centuries. Similar combs were found in Viking York.
“People often ask me what the most exciting thing I have found is, and I always say this comb. It is all the more exciting because it was millimetres away from being destroyed by the digger. I like the fact that it is a very personal object that someone would have used every day, and it looks almost as beautiful now as it did then.” Jenni Morrison, Site Director, Eldbotle excavations
“I think this is a beautifully made and wonderfully decorated object. The effect of modern mass production means that the average machine-made comb that any one person owns will be identical to all the rest. Not so in the medieval world, where such items were lovingly hand crafted with time, effort and skill.” Thomas Small, Freelance illustrator. Tom illustrated the comb and many of the other finds from the Eldbotle excavations.
The Northumbrian settlement at Castle Park, Dunbar was a craft production centre and many finely-made items were found there. These are some of the personal items. Buckles were used to fasten belts or girdles worn by both men and women.
Copper alloy buckles
The buckles were found at Eldbotle and Castle Park, Dunbar and date to the 12th–15th centuries.
Copper alloy and bone pins
These were found at Castle Park in Dunbar during excavations between 1989 and 1991. As well as the site of the medieval castle, it was also the site of an earlier Northumbrian fort, built on top of an Iron Age hillfort! They date to the 7th – 8th centuries.
The Northumbrian fort was a centre for crafts such as lead and copper making and producing cloth. There were large stone-lined pits that were used for preparing flax for weaving or for tanning animal hides, and many objects used in weaving such as needles, loom weights and spindle whorls. Personal items such as these pins were also found along with buckles, combs and rings.
Very fine pottery called Scottish White Gritty Ware was made at Colstoun near Haddington in the 12th and 13th centuries.
This is a 6-pound medieval weight. It would be hung on a balance scale to weigh sacks of grain at market. The underside is worn, to make the weight exact.
‘This weight confused us at first as with its underside worn smooth it looks a lot like a small curling stone, missing its handle. But it was its weight that brought inspiration. It weighs 2.616kg. The definition of ounces and pounds has changed over the centuries and medieval measures were a little different from their imperial equivalents. A 14th-century Scottish ounce was the equivalent of 29.14g, with 15 ounces to the pound and 15 pound to a stone. By this definition the stone weighs 89.77 ounces or 5.98 pounds. This makes for a pretty convincing 6 pound weight, and is about as accurate as medieval weights get. The hook would allow it to be hung from a balance scale, probably one of a set of such weights, to weigh agricultural produce such as sacks of grain. The worn underside I think might have been due to “fine tuning” the weight. After the rough size and shape of the weight had been pecked out of stone and the iron hook set into the top with lead, the base of the stone would then have had to be ground down to reach the desired weight. I remember this stone because of the excitement I felt when I first did the maths and it instantly changed from a bit of a mystery object to an obvious practical tool.’ Julie Franklin, Finds Manager, Headland Archaeology
This ‘Hot Cross Bun’ stone was found in the Museum Stores, but we don’t know where it is from.
At first we thought it might be a grave marker because of the cross. Research has shown it is probably a weight. The cross is where the rope would have held it.
It was probably used on a medieval market Tron for weighing large items as it is very heavy!
The Lothians – Training for war
The Lothians trained throughout the Lothians and Borders. Summer camp was a mixture of military exercises and a social round.
In 1909 the regiment divided into Blue Force and Red Force and took to the field. The Blue Force attacked the Red: they “landed” at Berwick moved on towards Duns where the Red Force was falling back. The commanding officer of the Red rearguard was given strict orders to hold at Johnscleuch until 5 o’clock the next morning. This was where the first “battle” took place. Before this, the Blue Force led by Major Lord George Scott had moved on towards a field near Stenton from where patrols were sent out in search of the Red Force. By 1 o’clock in the morning Blue Force horsemen silently and cautiously took up their positions waiting for the assault on Johnscleuch while heavy rain poured down on them. Blue Force snipers had also flanked around undiscovered to try and distract the Red Force. After the battle, the Blue Force intended to move on towards North Berwick while more of the Red Force was moving in from Edinburgh. Cease firing was sounded at 3 o’clock and when it was light enough to see the positions of each Force and the situation was reviewed by the umpire.
On Friday the regiment was inspected by General Sir Edward Leach, V.C., the CiC Scotland, and Colonel Cavage. After 8 o’clock the squadrons marched out towards Belhaven sands for review and salute. This was followed by field firing. Afterwards the signallers, transport, books and camp went through a strict inspection; the General was very pleased!
It wasn’t all just militaristic but also sociable: there were horse races at WestBarns course. In 1909 it drew the largest crowd seen for many years with members, friends of the regiment and the general public. The officers, including Lord Binning and Lord George Scott, had brought not only their chargers but also race horses (as part of the local elite). Other entrants included M.P.s, high military ranks and even local tradesmen. Each race had its own reward, a purse of sovereigns or plate. There were also hurdle races – jump races. Results were published in the local press.
At the end of two weeks the regiment packed to leave. Within a day the luggage had been packed and was being sent by road to Dunbar station and then on to Edinburgh and the West. B squadron, under the command of Major Cadell, was the first to leave for Edinburgh. The other squadrons left before mid-day. By early afternoon, only the fatigue party was left to get things cleaned up. These men worked so well that the ground looked almost untouched except for the woodwork, which was to be sold later.
Compiled by Michael Statham
The 8th (Territorial) Battalion the Royal Scots in World War One
Administrative changes mean that East Lothian, once home to the 8th Royal Scots, now includes Musselburgh, which was then in the catchment for the 7th Royal Scots.
The part-time 8th Battalion could trace its history back to Napoleonic Volunteers raised in the burghs of the county but it faced the onset of war in 1914 with a structure created in the Territorial Force reforms of 1908. The reforms gave it a change of title and a firm place in the Army’s regimental structure as the 8th battalion, The Royal Scots (The Lothian Regiment).
East Lothian provided 4 of the 8 companies of the battalion, the remainder coming from Midlothian and Peebleshire. Its headquarters were at Haddington. The companies were based in the larger towns and the component parts of each company trained in community drill halls under professional drill NCOs, usually seconded from the regular army. The battalion met each summer for two weeks of intensive training. The territorials were only expected to serve within the UK but in 1914 many volunteered for overseas service. This prompted a neccessary period of reorganisation.
After the battalion mobilised it began to gear up onto a war footing – combing out the unfit and elderly from the volunteers. The eight peacetime companies were reorganised to the four required by the table of organisation of service infantry battalions. The battalion spent the first days of the war at Haddington while necessary changes were instituted. As this was going on, it had to keep up coast defence duties and a host of other tasks generated by the needs of the military authorities. Spare hands identified during this period went to the newly formed second line battalion (below) or other units; men of the 6th Battalion Royal Scots and the 8th Highland Light Infantry arrived to fill out the wartime table of organisation.
The 1/8th became the first Scottish Territorial battalion to make it overseas, crossing to France early in November 1914. They were in the firing line on the 15th and spent the winter on duty near Flembaix. They were withdrawn in March 1915 to prepare for a major set-piece battle and were committed at Neuve-Chapelle, losing many men. In a battle at Festubert in May they lost more, including commanding officer Lieutenant-colonel Alexander Brook. This pattern of repeated deployment, action and rest took a severe toll on the battalion and on 27th July it was designated a pioneer battalion, first to the 7th Division and then to the 51st Highland Division of the 3rd Army. In less than a year the battalion lost 17 officers and 350 men killed or wounded.
Pioneer battalions dug roads, trenches and shelters – but were also infantrymen, working at the Front, often under appalling conditions. The battalion’s strong connection with East Lothian’s mining communities was presented as the main reason for their outstanding reputation in the new role. But their reputation was hard-won. In the Somme battle of July 1916 the 1/8th incurred over 100 casualties in one 24 hour period from shellfire as they dug trenches and consolidated other forces’ gains. Of necessity this had to be done in the open and in full view of the Germans. The battalion faced these most dangerous tasks time and time again. So proficient was the battalion in the pioneer role that it often had under command detachments of other new designated pioneers for training.
The 1/8th spent 1916 in support of their division. Often they could see the work of a week destroyed in just a few minutes of shelling. Despite the setbacks, they honed their efficiency such that a team of 9 could erect 50 yards of barbed wire barrier in just 9 minutes and the 1/8th trained their division to match this standard. In 1917 it had spells with the 12th and 4th divisions and then had a particularly trying spell at Ypres: roads, railways, trenches, and dug-outs were built under shelling and the new peril of gas attacks.
In March of 1918 the battalion was in line standing off the advancing Germans. Their ability to entrench and wire as well as fight was all that saved them several times: over 200 casualties were recorded in the space of five days. In April they lost another 174 in similar fluid fighting. A month later they recorded 12000 yards of 8×6 foot trenching and 23000 yards of wire constructed – on top of their normal duties. The last months of the war were spent on the offensive, often in open countryside, celebrating the Armistice in quarters near Cambrai. Early in 1919 they were in Belgium with demobilisation underway and the cadre of the battalion was welcomed home to Haddington on 30th April 1919.
During its service the 1/8th battalion recorded 1669 casualties, including 309 fatalities or missing.
The 2/8th (Territorial) Battalion was raised in the autumn of 1914 to serve as a draft and training battalion for the 1/8th overseas. It mustered at Haddington in the autumn of 1914, where its role included the old Territorial duty of coast defence. It moved several times before in February 1916 coming under the command of the 65th Division in Essex. In January 1917 it went to Dublin where it was disbanded later that summer. Its men were redeployed to battalions in France.
The 3/8th was the third battalion to be raised from the peacetime 8th. It was embodied in December 1914 at Peebles, was at Prestonpans in late 1915, but returned to Peebles and then Stobs where its independent existence ceased in July 1916. A reorganisation brought all the 3rd line Royal Scots Territorial battalions into a new formation, the 4th (Reserve) Battalion, which for the rest of the war provided training and drafts to the active service Territorial battalions.
Other battalions of the Royal Scots spent periods based in East Lothian during the First World War. After training, some went overseas, others performed Home Service duties and yet others managed the logistics of providing drafts, or replacements, for the fighting battalions in the same manner as the expanded 8th, outlined above. Recuperating men could then find themselves serving in a sequence of battalions. Some idea of the complexity of the situation is outlined here.
If your relatives served in the Royal Scots during World War One it’s possible to attempt to reconstruct their experiences from surviving photographs or newspaper accounts. Many of the resources at the John Gray Centre can help.
Keywords: World War One, First World War, WWI, WW1, World War Two, Second World War, WWII, WW2
East Lothian’s military in World War One – finding units
During the First World War individual soldiers were slotted in to an incredibly complex table of organisation. The basic infantry unit was the section of just a handful of riflemen; but as units increased in size more and more specialists were added: medics and signallers, pioneers, provosts, clerks, paymasters, padres … the list seems endless. Formally, specialists belonged to different military bodies and were ‘attached’ to their front-line unit so their uniform, badges and insignia could differ from that of the formation they served in. To complicate things further, as the war wore on depleted units were sometimes ‘filled’ out by deploying coherent groups – platoons or companies – from other formations. This was the fate of the Yeomanry from the first: the regiment was split between three divisions and each part had their ‘own’ war. At the higher level, battalions, brigades, divisions and corps were switched between formations it seems almost at a whim – but in fact as operational needs demanded.
Within this vast system, East Lothian’s soldiers are found at every level from private to general. The volunteers of the Royal Scots (infantry), Yeomanry (mounted infantry/cavalry) and Royal Garrison Artillery absorbed most of the servicemen from East Lothian but by war’s end they were found in every branch and trade within the army.
The volunteer riflemen and yeomanry troopers brought to the army skills and maturity seldom found in the ordinary squaddie and as the army expanded they were in high demand: a disproportionate number were promoted or otherwise changed units. This means that service histories of East Lothian’s soldiers can be complicated. Newspaper reports or other third party accounts seldom spell out the unit of a serving soldier but there is often an acronym or string of letters to unravel. The details of photographs provide strong clues to the specialist investigator – badges, insignia, medal ribbons and even the cut of a coat or trousers all contain valuable information. If a photograph is available it is worth scanning at high resolution areas of detail, but even the shape of a blurred cap badge can help to limit possible lines of inquiry. Some links that help navigate through the complexities are given below.
Section: a small group of riflemen, led by a corporal
Platoon: several sections, led by a junior officer
Company: four platoons and a company headquarters, led by a captain or major
Battalion: four rifle companies and a headquarters company, led by a lieutenant colonel
Brigade: four (three) battalions (and a headquarters) commanded by a brigadier (one star) general
Division: four (three) brigades commanded by a major (two star) general
Corps: two or more divisions commanded by a lieutenant (three star) general
Army: several corps commanded by a (four star) general
Section: a small group of troopers, led by a corporal
Troop: several sections, led by a junior officer
Squadron: four troops and a squadron headquarters, led by a captain or major
Regiment: three squadrons and a regimental headquarters, led by a lieutenant colonel
Higher formations as infantry
A good list of military acronyms can be found here. Rank insignia are complicated, particularly at the level of senior NCO: the Warrant Officers. There is a helpful guide here. There are many websites where information on military badges and medals can be found, but it’s probably best to refer to official sites in the first instance: medals (or here); badges are a complex area: even the National Archives suggests a reference book is essential.
Key pieces of information to find are dates, rank, locations, and service numbers. A dated photograph or newspaper account can lead to identifying specific events, as can a known location. Service numbers are the best means of tracking down War Medal cards, the best surviving resource at the National Archives.
World War One Centenary
A year before the outbreak of the war, few had any idea of what it would be like, although the storm clouds were clearly gathering. We, at least, know it happened and that it was one of the defining periods of the 20th century.
Now that there is no-one left who served during that war, it becomes our challenge to mark the centenary appropriately. So what should we do?
As we have a museum, our first impulse is to stage an exhibition. So we will. It will be open from June to Nov 2014. Our focus should be on East Lothian (and that’s the guidance that we’re getting from the First World War Centenary Partnership) and that’s certainly where we can be most confident. But how can we balance the home front with the stories of the local units and individuals who actively served? Further, there is surely a lasting contribution that we could make, given the resources within the collections of the museums, archives and local history. But given how much we don’t know, what aspects should we prioritise apart from the exhibition?
Returning to the East Lothian of a century ago, Britain’s own first impulse after the war was to commemorate the dead. Memorials were subscribed for and erected in communities, schools, workplaces, churches, and clubs and most are still in place today, a familiar part of community landscape. Can we even list all the memorials that are in East Lothian? Can we now explore below the ranks of inscribed names to reveal some of their stories? One good example is here.
But 88% of the serving forces came back home and are not recorded on any memorial. Their priorities then were perhaps different. They wanted to meet with old comrades and support those that needed help – hence the creation of the Royal British Legion and the Poppy Appeal. How do we investigate the veterans’ ambitions for Britain and East Lothian after the war? And what was achieved? Can we even attempt to count those from East Lothian who served? And where do we stop, given the auxiliary services, war workers and volunteers on the home front?
So there are many things to think about over the coming year. I hope that those reading this can help out!
If you, or your family, or your school, or your organisation have any plans to mark the anniversary, or if you care to suggest ideas on how the John Gray Centre should approach our exhibition, or if you have objects or records that we could include next year or in subsequent years, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. There are many ways to talk to us:
If you need to research the First World War and your family, your community or your organisation we may be able to help. If you contact us in advance we can ensure that you make the most effective use of time spent at the John Gray Centre. There are many ways to keep up with goings-on at the Centre; just go here to see.
Warring Kingdoms – Angles, Vikings and Scots
In the 7th century people from Northumbria, known as Angles, settled in East Lothian: we became the northern province of their kingdom. Place names such as Whittingehame, Tyninghame and Innerwick are of Northumbrian origin. As Christianity spread to the area monastic estates were founded. The most important of these was at Tyninghame, which, along with the surrounding area, was attacked in AD941 by the Viking Óláfr Guthfrithsson, King of York. Nearby Auldhame may also have been a small monastic site.
There, recent excavations have uncovered a chapel and a cemetery with at least one Viking burial.
By the 11th century East Lothian was in Scottish hands. During the 12th century many of our towns became royal burghs, bustling marketplaces with growing populations. In the countryside people lived in wooden or turf-walled long houses, farming the land and rearing animals. This was the beginning of a landscape recognisable to us today.
The village of Eldbotle (‘Old Dwelling place’ in Old English) is marked near Dirleton on historic maps. The exact location of the medieval village was found in 1999 during archaeological investigations on the Archerfield Estate, where pottery and buildings dating to the medieval period were also uncovered.
Excavations in 2002–2003 found evidence of an even older settlement from the 5th century and this may be what gives the village its name. This early settlement included a stone-built house surrounded by a ditch. People lived at Eldbotle for nearly a thousand years but it was abandoned in the 15th century when sand dunes covered the site.
The Lothians during World War One (II)
The Regiment Overseas: ‘A’ Squadron’s War
A Squadron’s war was marked by long periods of routine work, much of it on a front far away from the headline-grabbing battlefields of France. Their challenges were as much the effects of disease as war or maintaining their efficiency and skills with limited resources. Their postings were enlivened with periodic special duties and attachments. They were much sought after in a theatre where able mounted troops were thin on the ground but ideal for the conditions.
Tommy once worked in a baker’s van,
And I on a stool in town;
I was a sort of city man,
Tommy a hackney brown.
Tommy and I, Tommy and I, little thought thus to meet
As we passed each morning when I walked up and he rattled down the street.
Tommy is free from the morning rolls
That weighted his busy cart,
And I am one of five hundred souls Who ride with a single heart:
Tommy and I, Tommy and I, who could ever have guessed
We’d find each other good company – good company? – the best.
Tommy no longer must move ahead
At the bang of a door behind;
And I can’t snuggle till nine in bed, And I’m learning not to mind.
Tommy and I, Tommy and I, funny are fortune’s tricks,
To kick me out of a crowded tent to saddle him up at six!
W Kersley Holmes, 1915
A Squadron embarked for France from Southhampton on 21 September 1915 and under the 26th Division they were posted immediately into the line south of the Somme as XII Corps Reserve. They remained in this relatively low-key role until the end of October when the division headed for Marseilles and embarkation for, as it turned out, the Salonika area of northern Greece. There, a composite allied army was assembling to stiffen the resistance of the local friendly states against invading Austrian and Bulgarian forces allied to Germany.
The 26th headed for Langaza and A Squadron spent the next 6 months perfecting their skills in patrolling and reconnaissance in the swathe of unmapped territory between the Allied and Bulgarian forces. In August 1916 A Squadron was reunited with D Squadron when, with elements of the Derbyshire Yeomanry (who had been depleted by the effects of malaria), a composite regiment was formed under the direction of the 7th Mounted Brigade in the Struma sector. By October they were back with 26th Division but this time on the Doiran Front, a static position until the final advance in September 1918. Although the division was static, the Lothians’ mounted role was exploited in a number of special operations. In December 1916 they were detached to escort 1700 men and 2000 mules and animals (barely 100 men to guard a 6 mile long column) on a seven day march from Salonika to positions near Mount Olympus.
In March 1917 they were engaged in attacks on the Bulgarian forces opposing the 26th Division and there was much ‘raiding’ in the period November 1917 – July 1918. As the Bulgarian Army collapsed during the autumn of 1918 the squadron participated in the general chase. After an armistice was signed on 20 September they were in Serbia acting as link troops between British, Serbian, and Greek occupation forces. In October they transfered to Bulgaria prior to storming Turkey, but this action was forestalled when another armistice was signed at the end of the month. By Christmas 1918 they had joined the Army of Occupation in Trans-Caucasia and were based on Batum. Their duties were policing and bringing order in a highly volatile region. Over the next six months a gradual demobilisation was insituted. The final cadre of the squadron returned home on 2 July 1919, marching through the streets of Edinburgh the following day prior to dispersal to their homes.
Keywords: World War One, First World War, WWI, WW1
Exploring the wartime remains of the Gosford House estate
Preston Lodge High School has been exploring the grand house and estate of Gosford House in Longniddry as part of their English lessons. Inspired (!) by a walk given by the Archaeology Service last summer and her experience on the Prestongrange Community Archaeology Project, teacher Louise Marr asked us to give an archaeology walk around Gosford House. The classes were studying ‘The Machine Gunners’ and wanted to explore a similar wartime landscape to bring the book to life!
We entered the grounds though the fabulous West Gateway, which became the main entrance after the arrival of the railway so visitors to the house could be driven up in style. We followed the main road to the main house up to the ha-ha. In the 1800s this area would have been woodland with wild pigs, although we didn’t spot any of the wild boar which have recently been introduced! Nissen huts were located in the fields to the right of the path during the second world war – these can be seen on aerial photographs taken of the area. Polish units were housed here and helped to construct many of the defences along the coast. After World War II the huts were used for seaside holiday accommodation and one of the people on the original archaeology walk remembered staying there for a Scout camp in the 1950’s!
There was a Prisoner of War camp located around the main house, which can also be seen on the photo above. Gosford became a hotel between the two World Wars and was requisitioned by the government for military use in 1939. A large military camp was built in the park, which was used the Highland Light Infantry and the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. The house was used as an Officer’s mess and one part was accidently burnt down in 1940 during a party! Along the coast are more military remains – including the anti-tank blocks along the coast and the remains of a spigot mortar mounting, which was so hidden among the vegetation we couldn’t find it! The aerial photographs also show the remains of some wartime buildings where the car park is today.
The landscaped estate follows the late English Landscape style – informal with incidental natural and artificial features. The designed landscape is shown on a plan from 1799. The grounds include an Icehouse, Curling House, Boat House, Game Larders, Mausoleum, Stables and Walled Garden. As one of the pupils pointed out it has many similarities to the Newhailes Estate and was designed along similar lines. The Icehouse was designed as a grotto to blend in with rest of the ‘natural’, but designed landscape. The walls are decorated with pebbles – compare this with the Shell Grotto at Newhailes.
The school are continuing their work on the estate with a Media Project on wartime memories, which has involved them talking to local people and they will be filming on the estate. Andy Robertson of the Archaeology Service will be meeting the pupils at Gosford again this week to show them where the camps were and help with the filming. We look forward to the finished result!