FROM the very beginning of the First World War Scottish soldiers were in the thick of the action.
By the end of 1914 all 20 battalions of Scottish infantry plus two battalions of Scots Guards and the Royal Scots Greys cavalry regiment had crossed over to France and were involved in the fighting as the German army swept into France.
Many of the battalions took part in the first battle at Mons and fought at places such as Le Cateau as the Allies attempted to stem the enemy advance. Not every action was a triumph. On the night of August 25 1st Gordon Highlanders were surrounded and forced to surrender. As a result the battalion almost ceased to exist and had to be reinforced but that did not stop other soldiers giving the Gordons a new and unkind nickname — "The Kaiser's Bodyguard".
Loading article content
It soon became clear that the army would need huge numbers of men to win the war and the Scottish regiments expanded accordingly. Part-time Territorial battalions soon crossed over to France too and the race was on the raise Service battalions made up of volunteers who would serve for the duration of the war. They had a good conceit of themselves too.
For the rest of the war Scottish soldiers were to be at the forefront of the British Army's war effort, fighting notably in huge numbers at Loos in 1915 and Arras in 1917.
Around 5.7 million British men served in the army and of their number, 320,589, or 13% of the total, were Scots. By the end of the war, the number of Scots in the armed forces amounted to 688,416, consisting of 71,707 in the Royal Navy, 584,098 in the Army and 32,611 in the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force. But that patriotism and sense of duty came at a cost: the most recent research shows that the Scottish casualty list for the war was over 148,000.