Berwick Barracks – King’s Own Scottish Borderers Regimental Museum

The entrance to Berwick Barracks, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland.

The barracks were designed by the eminent architect Nicholas Hawksmoor and built in the early 1700s,…

…making them among the first purpose-built barracks constructed in England, even if we are only a stone’s throw from the Scottish border here.

So it may look like your average barracks, but this must have been something of a template at the time it was built.  Once inside,…

…it’s on to the museum,…

…where we first encounter these three memorial plaques.

On the left, the Great War memorial, suffering the result of too many years of relentless polishing, methinks,…

…on the right, the Second World War memorial,…

…and in the centre, a memorial remembering men who died between 1946 & 1976.

The raising of the K.O.S.B.

South Africa (above & below).

British Army rifles selection, 1700 – 1917, which leads us nicely on to the Great War exhibits, or at least the ones that caught my eye:

The Piper of Loos.  Bagpipes belonging to Piper Daniel Laidlaw, awarded the Victoria Cross on 25th September 1915 for his heroism at Hill 70 during the Battle of Loos when, before an attack on the German trenches, and beneath a horrendous gas and high explosive bombardment, he climbed on to the parapet where he marched up and down, playing the pipes, encouraging his shaken company to leave their positions and assault the enemy trenches.  Wounded, Laidlaw continued to play until the German position had been taken.

One of only two pipers to gain a V.C. during the war, Laidlaw later became something of a celebrity, even appearing as himself in the film ‘The Guns of Loos’ in 1928.

Rotated colours with Great War battle honours: Mons, Aisne 1914, Somme 1916 ’18, Arras 1917 ’18, Gallipoli 1915 ’16, Ypres 1914 ’15 ’17 ’18, Loos, Soissonnais-Ourcq*, Hindenburg Line, Gaza.

*The Battle of Soissons, 1918.

Lewis machine gun, and in the foreground the short magazine Lee Enfield rifle (1909 pattern).

On the far right of the same display, a folding trench periscope,…

…these examples put to clever use…

…to show film extracts for your pleasure.

Vickers machine gun,…

…and a Tam o’Shanter, the usual K.O.S.B. headgear, behind it on the right.  The service cap in the foreground was, we are told, only rarely issued to K.O.S.B. units.

In the background,…

…a German Maxim machine gun,…

…painted on the side with the words, ‘Captured by 5th K.O.S.B. 34th Div. 17/10/18.’

Field Marshall Douglas Haig, painted wearing a Tam o’Shanter,…

…and Haig’s mess tin.

Signed tablecloth and extract from a letter written in Mons on 16th November 1918.

Some of the World War II exhibits:

There are quite a lot of exhibits here concerning the Arnhem disaster in September 1944,…

…hardly surprising as the regiment suffered 90% casualties, killed or taken prisoner, as they defended the Arnhem perimeter against the 2nd SS Panzer Corps.

One of the supplies containers dropped to the troops at Arnhem.

German sniper’s rifle, taken from a dead German on Sicily in 1943 (the story is worth reading).

Escape map printed on a handkerchief.

This is Russian, isn’t it?  A SG43 on a Maxim carriage?  Someone tell me please!

And this one, because I’ve no idea.  Japanese, I think (no it isn’t – all explained in the comments at the end of the post – thanks Sid!).

The war in Burma, 1945.

Before we finish, we shall briefly return to Nicholas Hawksmoor.  An unconventional architect, to say the least, when it suited him, he is well worth looking into if you have a passing interest in such things (otherwise you’ll know him already).  Six churches in present-day London were wholly designed by him, all huge, predominantly white, structures that it seems you either love or loathe (and there’s always St Paul’s Cathedral – you thought that was just Wren, be honest now).  The top inset shows his monstrous Christ Church in Spitalfields – is it really a church, or a wolf in sheep’s clothing?  Steeple or obelisk?  And I wonder what he made of the Cromwellian Church of the Holy Trinity & St. Mary (bottom inset) in Berwick, this final shot, with the barracks in the background, taken from the churchyard.

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8 Responses to Berwick Barracks – King’s Own Scottish Borderers Regimental Museum

  1. Morag Sutherland says:

    We visited Sept we have 2 KOSB casualties ftom 1WW on our memorial…we had the place to ourselves one Sunday afternoon
    I was intrigued by the Nazi memorabilia in one of 2WW cases….
    Thanks as always for detailed post. Y8u mentioned things I missed!

    • Magicfingers says:

      You probably saw things I missed too. These photos have been sitting around for a few years now, so before we embark on a new ‘tour’, as I keep saying we will, I am clearing the decks of a few long-overdue posts. I must say I enjoyed my time in Northunberland hugely.

  2. Morag Sutherland says:

    We have tended to go through on train. So decided to drive and visit castles churches etc. It us a fascinating part of the world.
    I finally saw the plaque on Berwick Railway station to King John Baliol of Scot land. Another tick in a box!
    There was an interesting temporary exhibition of post war society and the effects of war re unemployment and emigration.
    It was a good visit
    M

  3. Sid from Down Under says:

    Magifingers! Your casual comment under the machine gun photo five from bottom “And this one, because I’ve no idea. Japanese, I think” has unraveled quite a story.

    Unsurprisingly you got my curiosity working. I finally contacted the KOSB at Berwick-upon-Tweed. Courtesy Peter Walton, Association Secretary, here’s the answer – it’s Russian with a Korean War connection. Ruchnoy Pulemyot Degtyarev Pakhotnyi (DP) Soviet made Light Machine Gun of 7.62 calibre. This particular variant was captured by the KOSB during the Korean War 1950 – 1953.

    My own further research found the “DP” was primarily used by the Soviet Union, with service trials starting in 1927 followed by general deployment in 1928.

    The magazine is a top mounted horizontal rotating pan drum giving DP-27 the nickname “Record player”. This LMG was used in many guises and theaters of war. It was updated over the decades.

    For those interested in the DP’s amazing history, usage, strengths and weaknesses, it is worth reading these two (of many) websites https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Degtyaryov_machine_gun and https://www.militaryfactory.com/smallarms/detail.asp?smallarms_id=413

  4. Sid from Down Under says:

    Magicfingers #2: Answering your plea under the weapon mounted on a wheeled carriage, six up from bottom, “This is Russian, isn’t it? A SG43 on a Maxim carriage? Someone tell me please!”. With much pleasure, again courtesy KOSBA Secretary Peter Walton, I can advise that you are correct in regards the gun.

    Peter confirms the weapon is a Russian made SG-43 Goryunov heavy machine gun of 7.62 calibre. There are no visible stampings or markings on the gun which was captured during the Korean War.

    Introduced in 1943 to replace the older Maxim machine guns, he is unable to confirm whether the carriage is a Maxim but says this would appear probable given the provenance of the weapon’s history.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Hey hey. I am most impressed. Mostly with my correct shot in the dark, actually, but also for your confirmation, of course. Thanks mate. I have gone all smug again.

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