30 Jun 2018

Scots in Great War London: A Community at Home and on the Front Line 1914-1919

Scots in Great War London: A Community at Home and on the Front Line 1914-1919

This new examination of World War One pulls together often untold stories and includes famous names such as Sir Douglas Haig, John Buchan and Lord Kinnaird, known as football’s first superstar. These three were all linked with Scottish organisations in London which had to rise to the challenge of World War One. Churches and clubs which looked after Scots who had moved south to work in the capital played an important role on the Home Front. The book, drawing on unpublished articles at the time, describes how St Columba’s Church of Scotland in Knightsbridge fed and entertained nearly 50,000 Scottish troops heading home on leave or returning to the trenches. Moving letters from grateful families are quoted. John Buchan was an elder of the church, so too Sir Douglas Haig after the war. The other Scottish Kirk in London, Crown Court numbered Lord Kinnaird among its elders – he lost both his sons during the conflict.

Rugby players from London Scottish were quick to join up. More than two thirds of the sixty who turned out for the club in the last season before the war never returned. There was a heavy toll amongst Scots in London who were members of the Caledonian Club. The Club’s substantial art collection immortalises its connection to the Great War, some of which is reproduced in the book. Many members and associates of Scottish churches and clubs were quick to join the London Scottish Regiment on the outbreak of war. They became the first territorials to see action after being rushed to the frontline close to Ypres in October 1914. The Scots Guards, too, had longstanding links with the capital. Scottish exiles in Canada joining their local regiments were pleased to remember their roots and traditions as they moved through wartime London.

Charities founded by Scottish benefactors in London, which have since evolved into Scots Care and the Royal Caledonian Educational Trust, supported the troops and families and their role is covered.

One hundred years on from the final year of conflict this book examines the close links between these organisations and their shared hopes, fears and tragic losses. Scotland’s casualties in World War One were disproportionately higher than other parts of the UK. The book reflects how that toll was reflected south of the border in London, through which so many Scottish soldiers would have passed on their way to and from the horrors of war.

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