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    A trooper of the Lothians

    The Lothians during World War One (I)

    Training for war

    A trooper of the LothiansThe yeomanry came out of the 1908 Territorial Army reorganisation with a new name and a new role organised about a headquarters and two squadrons in Edinburgh, a third at Hawick, and the fourth, A Squadron, at Dunbar. Each squadron had up to a dozen subsidiary drill stations, which were used for regular training. So for much of the time the regiment was dispersed. However, the entire body assembled each summer for annual exercises, often at Hedderwick, near Dunbar, where they practised their role as Mounted Infantry.

    The regiment comprised the headquarters – the colonel and his staff, and the clerical, support and transport specialists of the regiment – and four squadrons. Each squadron was nominally commanded by a major and had 3 or 4 troops commanded by a captain or lieutenant. Each troop had 30-40 men organised in 4 man sections. In total the established strength in 1908 was set at 449 officers and men and an additional 16 man machine-gun section but in practice, in peacetime, the regiment could be under or over this number at any particular time.

    The Territorial Army was organised for home defence and mounted infantry regiments were their strike force. They were tasked to respond in short order to any threat within their operational area and hold until supporting arms could arrive: in the words of the drill book, ‘to obtain information and to combine attack and surprise to the best advantage’.

     A Squadron was headquartered at Dunbar and drew its men from East Lothian, Midlothian, Roxburgh and Berwickshire. Its drill stations were at Haddington, North Berwick, Tranent, East Linton, Musselburgh, Greenlaw, Duns, Coldstream, Earlston, Lauder, Kelso, and over the border in Berwick-upon-Tweed. Thus comparatively few men of the county served in what had been its ‘traditional’ regiment.

    The Lothians at Haddington, 1914When the war broke out, the regiment mobilised at their squadron headquarters but by the autumn of 1914 they had regrouped in Haddington. During the winter they were reorganised by disbanding one squadron and deploying its men across the remainder to bring them up to strength after unfit troopers were combed out and others were deployed to raise a second line regiment. By the end of the winter the 1/1st Lothians were training as the ‘active service’ regiment and the 2/1st Lothians were gearing up as a training and reserve force for maintaining the 1/1st in the field. (In 1915 a 3/1st Lothians regiment was formed and became a feeder for both the other elements.)  The reorganisation was achieved while undertaking all the duties of coast defence and security that had become the regiment’s responsibility and was barely completed before their active service role was rethought.

    The expansion of the Territorial Army and its deployment overseas to support the British Expeditionary Force in France and in other theatres meant the adoption of new structures. Before the war the Territorial Army was organised as brigades of 3 or 4 infantry battalions or mounted infantry regiments (there was a divisional structure but it was a regional system, not an operational role). The front lines under the conditions of the war operated with larger units, the divisions: integrated forces of 3 or 4 brigades and their supporting arms. Divisions in turn were subordinate to corps and the corps to armies. It was all a vastly different scale to the days of training in a drill hall in East Linton or Earlston with a few chums.

    It also meant that there were too many yeomanry regiments in the mounted infantry role. The first clue the men of the Lothians had that they were in for change was the issue of new saddles in the cavalry pattern – and good old-fashioned cavalry sabres. They were to train as divisional cavalry – the eyes and ears of the divisional commander and his means of communicating rapidly with the elements of his division. From May 1915 they trained in their new role at Hedderwick and by the end of July 1915 the squadrons had left for England and their new divisions.

    RHQ, B Squadron and the machine gunners joined the 25th Division

    D Squadron joined the 22nd Division

    A Squadron joined the 26th Division

    The nature of the regiment’s war service makes it difficult to assess the scale of the casualties suffered during the conflict. The best account of the regiment lists 34 killed, died of wounds or disease; many more were wounded or sick and returned to arms, transfered to service duties or invalided out; the unit war diaries may hold more information. These numbers take no account of the (estimated) 224 men of the regiment commissioned from the ranks and posted out, a large proportion of whom died, or the troopers of B Squadron and the machine-gun troop who were similarly transfered to other regiments. The high number of officer promotions (equivalent to half the regimental strength) is often taken to be a mark of the quality and professionalism of the regiment.

    Find out more about tracing World War One men and their units. As mounted infantry and cavalry, with their distinctive uniforms and regimental badge, Yeomanry troopers are usually easy to spot in photographs. The regiment’s postings mean it is difficult to trace an individual’s service – perhaps we can help?

    Keywords: World War One, First World War, WWI, WW1

    East Lothian during World War One

    Poppy Fields, Flanders (PW Adam) commemorating the Lyon brothers of North Berwick

    An Introduction

    2014 will mark the centenary of the outbreak of what became the Great War and is now known as World War One. It has already been announced that there will be a national programme of commemoration.

    For our part, over the next few years, the John Gray Centre team and our partners will be devoting a significant effort towards understanding how the resources and collections that we care for can throw light on East Lothian’s role in and around the events that swept the country during the war. We have already begun to investigate relevant resources within the collections and are exploring links with national and regional bodies working towards the same ends. As well as exhibitions and workshops we will develop pages within the website for specific purposes.

    Pages will be featured through the Your Stories strand but we’ll continue to blog and highlight relevant events in our accustomed way. Combatants’ stories will be posted here but detailed information about our towns and locally raised military formations will appear in the indicated strands. We’ve begun to add pages in these areas so if you are interested, keep looking in to see what has changed.

    Let us know if you’d like to be part of this, or would like to work with us on these themes, or have any suggestions or projects of your own where we might work together. Leave a comment below, share a story at Your Stories; or email us if you or your school or organisation would like to find out more.

    Keywords: World War One, First World War, WWI, WW1

    Louise Stewart, Untitled

    Untitled Louise Stewart

    From the West to East Coast landscape series, my work is in response to the natural world. I enjoy exploring the beauty of pattern and repetition found in geology, neurology and botany. Found objects such as driftwood, wool, wire and decaying surfaces of paint and rust offer textural inspiration. In combining structured elements with more transient form and movement found in water, grass and sky, I work towards distilling components parts into imagined landscapes.

    Listen to Louise talk about her work, and the piece she is exhibiting.

    Back to main exhibition page.

    East Lothian Visual Artists and Craft Makers Awards – A Retrospective Exhibition

    Since 2008, 30 locally based artists and makers have received an award to develop their practice. The awards have supported artists and makers to create new work, explore new techniques or experiment with new materials. This retrospective exhibition, at the John Gray Centre between 2nd March and 12th May, showed the work of 14 artists and makers who received awards during the period 2008–2012. The show was curated by Lucy Dunce. Listen here to Lucy introduce the exhibition.

    The 14 exhibition participants are listed below. Click on their names to read more about them and listen to them talk about the piece they chose for the exhibition.


    Georgina Bown
    Ross Combe
    Anna Davis
    Lucy Dunce
    Karen Gabbitas
    Susie Goodwin
    Richard Gregory
    Kate Henderson
    Susan Mowatt
    Jan Pottinger-Glass
    Ettie Spencer
    Leo Starrs-Cunningham
    Louise Stewart
    Amy Winstanley
    The Arts Service would like to thank Lucy Dunce for curating the exhibition and thanks also to all the artists and makers for participating in the exhibition. For further information about the awards, please contact the Arts Service on 0131 665 9900 or email [email protected]

    The East Lothian Visual Artists and Craft Makers Awards are managed by East Lothian Council’s Arts Service in partnership with Creative Scotland.

    Musket, fife and drum – marching off to war with the Haddingtonshire Militia

    O soldier, soldier, won’t you marry me
    With your musket, fife and drum? 

    Watching her big brother head off to the Remembrance Sunday Parade with Cubs led to some interesting conversations with E (who is 4 ½ ). As is often the case when small people ask thoughtful questions this made me think. How do I talk about things as complex as war or the military with a preschooler? So I asked her. 

    Me: What do you think soldiers do?
    E: Marches around the lounge pretending to shoot me … 

    Drum from the Haddingtonshire MilitiaSo what could we talk about that she might understand that goes beyond her pretending to shoot me? She gave me an answer herself (of course): marching and marching bands. This reminded me of a great little group of instruments we have in the collection that probably belonged to the Haddingtonshire Militia: a drum, four fifes and a bugle

    Rifle Volunteer Companies were formed in East Lothian during 1859 due to fears of invasion by the forces of Napoleon III of France. Companies in different towns were grouped into an administrative battalion with a headquarters in Haddington. After 1888 the companies were integrated into the Royal Scots as the 7th Volunteer Battalion of the regiment. 

    These instruments are very evocative and bring to mind the parades and comradeship which were important for the soldiers themselves, their leaders but also for their supporters at home. What I really like about these objects is that they just beg to be picked up and played and even the smallest child understands what to do with a drum and can beat out a rhythm on a saucepan! 

    Fifes from the Haddingtonshire MilitiaSo all together now … 

    O soldier, soldier, won’t you marry me
    With your musket, fife and drum?

    The Remains of War – East Lothian during World Wars I and II

    Drem Airfield 1942

    Spitfire and crew at Drem Airfield 1942

    East Lothian held an important strategic position in both the First and Second World Wars in Britain.  Its location along the Forth and next to Edinburgh meant that it played a key defensive role by both sea and air.  Many sites can still be seen and offer visible reminders of the impact of war on East Lothian.

    East Lothian’s Airfields

    During the First World War, the airfields at Drem, East Fortune and Penston Aerodrome provided protection for the coastline.  Drem Airfield, first known as West Fenton, was established in 1915 as a training airfield, but by 1918 was established as a proper airfield providing front-line aircraft.  In 1939 Drem was re-established to provide day-fighter defence for the Scottish lowlands.  Although the site of Drem Airfield is now used for farming and light industry, many of the buildings and peripheral track from the airfield still survive.

    Penston Aerodrome 1917

    BE12 Biplane at Penston Aerodrome c. 1917

    Penston Aerodrome, or Macmerry Airfield, partly lies within the area of Macmerry Industrial Estate, and many of the airfield buildings were demolished when the A1 was built.  However, a number of buildings can still be seen in the area between the A1 and the A199.

    East Fortune was established as an airship station in 1915, and went on to serve as an operational training base during the Second World War.  The history of the site can be explored on the NMS website, and the site is well worth a visit as it now houses the fantastic  Museum of Flight.

    East Fortune 1918

    SST2 Airship, East Fortune 1918

    Coastal defences

    At the beginning of the Second World War, coastal defences were created along the Forth to provide protection in case of invasion from the sea, and in particular from landing craft with tanks and artillery.  Existing sea walls were adapted to serve as anti tank obstacles and new works consisting of concrete blocks linked pill boxes, minefields and other defences.  Anti tank blocks can be seen at several places along the East Lothian coast.  The best examples are those at Longniddry Bents and at Hedderwick near Dunbar.

    Anti tank blocks, Longniddry Bents

    The concrete anti-tank blocks were usually cast on site, using local materials and often made by local builders.  The corrugated sides to some blocks shows that corrugated iron was used to form the blocks, in others planks of wood were used.  The cubes were arranged in long rows, often several rows deep, to form anti-tank barriers at beaches and inland. They were also used in smaller numbers to block roads. They frequently sported loops at the top for the attachment of barbed wire.

    Anti tank blocks along the coast at Hedderwick

    Anti-glider traps

    In the Tyne Estuary at Belhaven Bay can be seen the remains of an anti-glider trap at low tide.  Anti-glider traps were put up on beaches to prevent German paratroopers in gliders from landing on the beach. Three or more lines of wooden posts extend across the intertidal sands to the east side of the Tyne River Estuary. The posts extend for several hundred metres at regularly spaced intervals (approximately 22m). They are set into concrete bases, measure 0.2- 0.35m in diameter and stand no more than 1m high.

    Remains from the First and Second World Wars can be seen at many other sites in East Lothian, for example military camps, radar stations, pill boxes, and much more.  To find out more go to the East Lothian at War website.

    East Lothian and World War One

    Well, it’s official now.

    David Cameron has announced that there will be a programme to mark the beginning (and duration) of the First World War. He has indicated that £50 million will be set aside for “three vital elements” of the commemoration: at the Imperial War Museum, events nationwide, and an educational programme. He said that Heritage Lottery Fund would announce an additional £6m to enable young people working in their communities to conserve and share local heritage of WWI. The HLF has already given £9m to projects marking the centenary, including community heritage projects. The Prime Minister said the fund is also calling for more applications for WWI-themed ideas.

    Poppy Fields, Flanders (PW Adam) commemorating the Lyon brothers of North Berwick

    Here at the John Gray Centre we’ve had the impending anniversary on our minds for some time now. We’re working to compile information on all our local war memorials – civic, school, church and workplace, and any others that survive. We’re looking through the collections to identify images and resources that relate to the war years and East Lothian’s place within the wider conflict – torpedoes in Belhaven Bay, airship patrols off the Bass, training grounds, developments at Longniddry and other places for resettling the demobbed troops and, of course, the local regiments. We’re building links with schools to see how we can fit in with any projects that they may start and helping out with other projects that are underway.  And we’re working with other bodies, such as Edinburgh’s War.

    We’ve already uploaded some pages about East Lothian in what was then “the Great War” and are planning an exhibition around the time of the anniversary. But I’m sure there is a lot more information out there in our communities and schools that we don’t know about.  We do know some others out there are already doing sterling work: I recommend this website on Gifford’s memorial for its clarity and detail and we’re looking forward to seeing a similar analysis applied to Haddington’s memorial.

    If you have an idea for a First World War related project in your school or community and think that we could help, please get in touch. If you have a family story that you’d care to share please contact us. And if you think that we may have pictures or stories that would fit in with your own projects, please come along and find out.

    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

    Warrant Officer II Alan Goodwin

    Alan Lawrie Goodwin, Warrant Officer, Second Class; D Squadron, Lothians and Border Horse 1914-19

    Alan Goodwin was an Edinburgh based architect. He served with D Squadron of the Lothians and Border Horse during the First World War.  (more…)

    War, battles & military

    Back Them Up! poster from WW2Like the rest of Scotland, East Lothian’s seen its share of battles and warfare. Situated so close to the English border and to the capital, Edinburgh, and with easy access both from the sea and the land, it’s been a regular target for invaders.

    Here you will soon be able to find out about the Siege of Haddington and the part our ancestors played in the Rough Wooing; the two battles of Dunbar, and our role in the English Civil War; the battle of Prestonpans, and our part in the drama and political furore of the Jacobites, among many other tales. In the meantime, explore the Times section of the website to discover some of our historic battlefields.

    We have also sent soldiers to war in more recent times, and our collections hold medals, photographs and uniforms from the 19th and 20th centuries. Browse our site to find out more, and visit the exhibition at the John Gray Centre to see some of these objects.

    2014 will be the centenary anniversary of the beginning of World War One. We are developing projects, exhibitions and web pages about the consequences of these momentous events on the people and fabric of East Lothian. Let us know if you’d like to be part of this, or would like to work with us on this theme: leave a comment below, or share a story about this topic at Your Stories; or email us if you’d like to find out more.

    Alastair Shepherd, local historian, has been working on researching local war memorials, and has produced a very informative website about the memorial at Yester. He’s now starting work on Haddington war memorials – would anyone like to share any information with him about them? He’s particularly interested in the story of Cyril Crozier, the first Haddingtonshire casualty of the war, so do get in touch if you know about this, or would like to.

    In the meantime, there are some great resources and helpful tips on researching World War history on the Imperial War Museum’s website.