Here’s a postcard I haven’t shown you before, with plenty of tam o’ shanters on view – or are they Balmoral bonnets – I believe there is a difference, but being a Sassenach, what would I know?
The soldiers pictured in this post all fought with Scottish, Irish & Welsh regiments during the Great War. All the regiments mentioned in this post were established during the Childers Reforms of 1881, which saw the total reorganisation of the infantry regiments of the British Army as the old Regiments of Foot were amalgamated into new, multi-battalion, regiments, and all would raise more – many more, in some cases – battalions once war broke out in 1914.
The man on the left had served for eight years with the Scots Guards and seen service in South Africa before returning to the colours in early 1915 with the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, serving a further four years before being discharged in February 1919 with the rank of Company Sergeant Major. The Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders recruited from Argyllshire, Buteshire, Clackmananshire, Dumbartonshire, Kinross-shire, Renfrewshire & Stirlingshire, and battalions served on the Western Front, at Gallipoli and in Salonika during the Great War. The two other men were both Gordon Highlanders, the man in the centre a colour sergeant, although with which battalion I know not, the man on the right a 1st Bn. private with thirteen years service on his discharge in March 1919. The Gordon Highlanders recruited in Aberdeenshire, Banffshire, Kincardineshire and Shetland, 1st Bn. crossing to France in 1914 and spending the whole war on the Western Front, 2nd Bn. also serving in France and later Italy, with other battalions serving on the Western Front and in India.
Flanked by two men of the Seaforth Highlanders, the man in the centre, a company sergeant major with the Scottish Rifles, served throughout the war and was twice wounded, once through the wrist at Neuve Chappelle in March 1915, and again in May 1917, this time through the chest, abdomen & buttocks, while in Salonika. He clearly recovered from the first injury and appears to have recovered from the second, as his papers state that he was discharged from the Army in February 1919. The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) was designated as a rifle unit, rather than a regular infantry unit, recruiting from Lanarkshire, Dumfriesshire and Galloway. The first two battalions crossed to France in 1914 and spent the whole war on the Western Front, other battalions serving on Gallipoli, at Salonika and in Egypt. The Seaforth Highlanders recruited from the seven most northern Scottish counties and the Orkneys, and battalions would serve primarily on the Western Front, Mesopotamia and Palestine. The man on the left was a sergeant and ex-Grenadier Guardsman, the man on the right a lance corporal formerly with the Sportsman’s Battalion – either 23rd or 24th (Service) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment). The Sportsmen’s battalions were created early in the war and were made up of physically fit, middle & upper-class men up to the age of 45, who could shoot and ride, and who had made their name in higher echelons of their sport, be it cricket, golf, football, rugby, boxing or whatever.
These men fought with, from left, the Royal Irish Rifles, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, Connaught Rangers & the Leinsters, and their stories, at least those I know, are not happy ones. The rifleman on the far left received a gunshot wound at Ypres in August 1917 that resulted in the loss of a leg; next to him, the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers private was shot in the spine in mid-September 1918 resulting in complete limb paraplegia (he would die in 1947), and the Leinster corporal on the far right would also be a paraplegic for life after being wounded in the Dardanelles in August 1915. The Royal Irish Rifles were formed with the merging of the 83rd (County of Dublin) Regiment and the 86th (Royal County Down) Regiment, although neither had been rifle regiments previously. Both 1st & 2nd Bns were in France before the end of 1914, and both would remain on the Western Front throughout the war; other battalions also fought in France, Gallipoli, Salonika and Palestine. The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers recruited from the counties of Donegal, Londonderry, Tyrone & Fermanagh, 2nd Bn. crossing to France in August 1914 and remaining there for the duration, while 1st Bn., in India at the start of the war, would fight in the Dardanelles before arriving in France in March 1916. Other battalions would see action in Salonika, Palestine and France, and a composite battalion would fight against their compatriots during the Easter Rising in 1916. Recruiting from the province of Connaught in the west of Ireland, the two battalions of the Connaught Rangers served on the Western Front in the early months of the war, 2nd Bn. suffering such heavy casualties that the two battalions would be amalgamated and redeployed to Mesopotamia in early 1916 before ending the war in Palestine. The regiment raised four other battalions during the war, one of which was slaughtered during the German spring offensive in 1918, another fought at Gallipoli, Salonika and later Palestine, and two Reserve battalions, both of whom would fight against the Irish rebels during the Easter Rising. The Leinsters were the local regiment for a number of counties within Leinster province, 2nd Bn arriving in France in September 1914, and remaining on the Western Front for the rest of the war, 1st Bn. spending most of 1915 in France before deploying to Macedonia in 1916, and Palestine in 1917. Two other battalions would serve on Gallipoli, and later in Salonika and Palestine.
Two men of the Welsh Regiment in later years; the man on the right, a lance serjeant and holder of the D.C.M., received a gunshot wound to the left thigh which resulted in the amputation of his left leg below the knee; later he would suffer paralysis caused by disseminated sclerosis, a chronic progressive disease of the nervous system, before dying in 1944 aged 52. What a life! The Welsh Regiment was actually formed by the merging of 41st (Welch) Regiment of Foot and the 69th (South Lincolnshire) Regiment of Foot, which is curious, I suppose, as last time I looked the country of Wales was to the west of England, and the county of Lincolnshire had a fifty-mile coastline with the North Sea which is England’s east coast, but there you go. During the war, the regiment raised a staggering thirty four regular, territorial, reserve & service battalions who served on the Western Front, Gallipoli, Salonika, Egypt, Palestine and in Mesopotamia. Incidentally, the name of 21the regiment reverted to the archaic ‘Welch’ after the war, in 1921, so Great War headstones should really all say ‘The Welsh Regiment’. Of course, they don’t.
Remember the soldiers who came home.