Tens of thousands of men and women from the Lothians served in the armed forces during the First World War.
The Royal Navy called up its reserve and men from the Forth ended up in battleships, on auxiliary cruisers and even serving on their own fishing boats which had been requisitioned by the Navy. The Navy would fight a long battle against the German Navy, first against its battleships and then against its U-Boats.
Before the British Expeditionary Force had even left for France reservists had rejoined their regiments, Territorials had taken up their war stations and Lord Kitchener’s appeal for volunteers had seen men queuing round the block at recruiting offices.
Most Lothian soldiers served in France and Belgium. Others served in Gallipoli, Egypt and Palestine against the Ottoman Turks. Other men fought against the Turks in Mesopotamia (Iraq) and the Bulgarians in Salonika (Greece). A unit raised in West Lothian served in Russia against the Bolsheviks.
Lothian men served in the British Army Divisions in Italy helping the fight against the Austro-Hungarians. Italians who had been living in and around Edinburgh before the war would have returned home to fight in the Italian Army. The Scottish Women’s Hospital raised by Dr. Elsie Inglis was in the Balkans helping Serbia in its own fight against Austria-Hungary. Thousands of other women from the Lothians served as nurses and volunteers behind the lines on other fronts too.
Many men who had left home to find work overseas before 1914 joined up. They served in the armies and navies of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Many of those serving in South African forces took part in campaigns against the German Colonies in Africa as well as fighting on the Western Front.
Many units published histories after the war. The history of the Royal Scots alone between 1914 and 1919 runs to two volumes and 825 pages so it would be impossible to cover every unit in which local men and women served on this website but the following pages will hopefully give an overview of the war service of the people of the Lothians.