Clackmannan Highlight

Clackmannan Highlight

Piper James Dawson, MM, (back row, right) from Clackmannan with Lieutenant Colonel H H Sutherland, DSO, and the Pipe Band of the 1/7th Battalion, Black Watch, France 1917.
The highest number of volunteers per head of the population throughout the UK came from Scotland.

It is no exaggeration to describe the Scottish fighting soldier as a legend. History bears witness to this. To add to this, more often than not, he was a willing volunteer.

In the First World War, Lord Kitchener's volunteers, drawn from all parts of the nation from 1914 until conscription had to be introduced in 1916, were seen by their contemporaries as the cream of the nation. The highest number of volunteers per head of the population throughout the UK came from Scotland and Scots from all walks of life enlisted with great enthusiasm.

However, by late 1915, the volunteer army that Kitchener had inspired  was fast running out of recruits. Hints that bordered on threats warned that unless many more unmarried men boosted the volunteer numbers, conscription was likely to be introduced.

"Shirkers and slackers" were urged to answer the King's call for a million more men, but the reality of war was beginning to seep into the marrow of the nation, and the shockwaves from the Battle of Loos in September 1915 left a litany of dead, reported as wounded or missing in every local newspaper in the land. There was no rush to join the glorious dead.

Those who knew about modern warfare as it was in 1915, understood that everything about the proposed battle was ill-fated, The troops were untested, had never been tempered in battle and were asked to tackle an impossible task. With insufficient preparation, insufficient munitions or back-up support, shockingly confused communications and a reluctant High Command that was instructed to give battle at that forsaken place, the first wave of the volunteer army was sacrificed for political expediency.

A volunteer army marries zeal with natural ability, pride and self-belief with blind faith, and it is committed to the cause. What  shines through is the awesome bravery of the volunteer soldier, and their officers. They suffered together, and survived or died together.