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World Wars I & II (1914–45)

East Lothian played an important role in both the First and Second World Wars in Britain.

East Fortune airship station was established in 1915–16 as a major element of the strategic network protecting the British coastline.  Like Drem Airfield and Penston Aerodrome, it also took on a key role during the Second World War, when East Lothian often found itself on the front line.

The remains of anti-tank traps and coastal defences are also visible reminders of the impact of the wars on East Lothian. The following military remains are readily accessible and a good introduction the World War I and II remains in the county:

  • anti-tank traps at Gosford Sands
  • observation posts on North Berwick Law
  • anti-glider defences located within the estuary at Hedderwick Sands

To find out about other sites check out the Heritage Explorer 2 leaflet.

Find out more about East Lothian’s more embattled histories in our section on War, Battles & Military history.

In 2014 the Centenary of the First World War starts. We are keen to hear from anyone who has any histories to share about the war, whether it’s your grandfather’s experiences or the part your home town played. Alastair Shepherd, local historian, has produced a very informative website about the memorial at Yester. If you have any similar projects on the go, do tell us about them!

Please leave a comment below, or come and talk to us at the John Gray Centre if you’d like to share a story.

5 thoughts on “World Wars I & II (1914–45)”

  1. Colin Macleod says:

    Hi there.

    I was wondering if anyone had any information on the ‘Lucy Walker’ whose name is on the war memorial outside Couston?

    1. Colin Macleod says:

      my mistake have made a small but important typo! It is the Cranstoun war memorial near Ormiston that I have found the name and not Couston. Apologies for any confusion.

  2. Norman Smith says:

    Many thanks for that, Bill, some interesting leads to follow up.Is there a register of births, Marriages in Dunbar. I believe in Scotland records are held by the churches.

  3. BillW says:

    Hello Norman

    We’ve found that an Alexander Robertson Smith’s death is recorded in the Courier of 16 December 1904 (are you sure of 1913?) without any mention of any awards. However, the Courier also reports that a fisherman named as ‘Alexander Smith’ rescued a boy (‘Turnbull’) from the harbour (08 August 1871) and another rescue (of an unnamed boy) by ‘Alexander Smith’ appears in the Courier of 08 August 1902. As there were several ‘Alexander Smiths’ living in Dunbar at the end of the 19th century, we can’t be certain that the rescues refer to AR Smith. But at this time the Dunbar Lifeboat Secretary was assiduous in ensuring that due recognition was made of such events. As they are outside the remit of the RNLI, awards were made through the Royal Humane Society or even the national newspapers. It may be that an approach to the Royal Humane Society Archives would be worthwhile.


  4. Norman Smith says:

    My great uncle is listed onthe WW1 memorial in Dunbar. James A Smith was a private in the East Kent Regiment, ( The Buffs) 67th Batalion. He was awarded the Military Medal in 1918 and was later killed in action. For which he recieved the DCM. He was then a newly promoted to Corporal. He was mentioned in the Courier. with 2 dates one for his MM & presumably the second for his DCM & death. His parents Jean & Alex Robertson Smith lived in 16 Custom House Sq. Dunbar. In 1913 his father a Dunbar fisherman was awarded a bravery medal of some kind.
    My research into both incidents has come to a complete en passe.

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