Fighting Front

Fighting Front

The 4th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders at Dingwall Station en route to training at Bedford, 15th August 1914.
Thousands of men from the Highlands served in the armed forces during the First World War.

Thousands of men from the Highlands served in the armed forces during the First World War. Among the Army regiments were the Seaforth Highlanders, the Cameron Highlanders, and the Highland Mounted Brigade (including the Lovat Scouts). Large parts of these regiments were made up of territorial soldiers.

A high proportion of Highlanders were already members of the Territorial Forces meaning that when war was declared on 4 August 1914, they were automatically called up to fight. A great many of their fellow Highlanders, answering to Kitchener’s call to arms, also volunteered for active service immediately following the outbreak of the war.

The various Highland battalions saw extensive involvement in significant battles across France and Belgium at the Battles of Festubert, Loos, Ypres and the Somme, as well as on the Western Front, at Gallipoli and in Egypt and Macedonia throughout the course of the war.

Members of the Lovat Scouts, a regiment formed to fight in the Second Boer War in 1900, became the British Army’s first ever sniper division in 1916. Known as the Sharpshooters, the majority of these men were originally gamekeepers and ghillies on Highland estates. Due to the nature of their previous employment, they were very experienced in moving stealthily over rough ground, both on foot and on horseback, and so these skills saw them in observational and sniping roles on the Western Front until the end of the war.

A great many Highlanders also joined the Navy, as evidenced by the Naval Reserve lists which show that recruitment came particularly from the fishing communities along the Highland coastline, as well as from the Hebrides.

In addition to those who took part in active battle, thousands of other men and women from the Highlands served as doctors, nurses and volunteers behind the lines across all fronts too.

Many men who had left the Highlands to find work overseas before 1914 also joined up, and they served in the armies and navies of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

 

[Text © High Life Highland; image courtesy of Ullapool Museum]