The Royal Scots in the First Onset—Mons—Le Cateau— Cambrai—Capture
of Orly-sur-Mame and Vailly—On the Aisne—La Bass6e Canal and Croix
Barbie—Petit Bois—V.C. won at Kemmel—The Fights for Ypres— V.C. won at
The noble services of the Regular Battalions of The Royal
Scots in France and Flanders have unhappily been concealed behind a far
heavier mist of silence than those of their Territorial comrades in the
Dardanelles. For this there may be good official reasons, but it makes hard
the way of the chronicler, and if this chapter is more slender, disjointed
and vague than its successor, it is simply because the materials for a
fuller and more connected story are not available. Only dimly can we peer
through the smoke of battle and see heroic figures holding grimly to their
positions against overwhelming odds and giving up the struggle only when
death or wounds took them from the firing line.
The Second Battalion went out with the Expeditionary Force
and took part in the earliest operations. Sir John French completed the
concentration of his forces on August 21, 1914, and began to move them the
day after. The Royals were in the 8th Brigade under General Doran.
By Sunday the 23rd they had experienced the shock of battle
and played a valiant part in the battle of Mons, where they were entrenched
on the right of the brigade. Of the four Scottish regiments at Mons, three
were Lowland, The Royal Scots, Royal Scots Fusiliers and K.O.S.B.’s, and one
Highland, The Gordons. The Royals stubbornly held up the attack of the
Germans, while the First Army was retiring, until the early hours of Monday
morning (the 24th), when orders were received to fall back to a fresh
position, where they again entrenched. This was only for a few hours, and
the retirement was continued in perfect order until the Second Army had
reached Le Cateau on the night of the 25th.
The nature of the ordeal at Le Cateau shines out convincingly
in the account of Private Thomas Hunter:
“We held our ground at Le Cateau from an early hour in the
morning till half-past four in the afternoon, a terrific fire pouring in on
us all the time. The shells dropped on us like rain, many of them bursting
in the trenches around. *C ’ Company of The Royal Scots got the worst of it
there, the shrapnel causing terrible havoc among them. The transport we had
was completely destroyed. It was stationed in a farmyard—many wagons
containing ammunition and provisions—and when the Germans got the range of
it, it was absolutely wiped out, many of the horses being killed, and the
wagons being blown into the air like matchwood.”
On the 26th the battalion had a very stiff fight at Cambrai,
but every foot of ground was contested. From 7.30 in the morning they waited
anxiously, but—the story is continued in the words of a private who was
"Twelve o’clock came and no reinforcements, and five o’clock
came and still no reinforcements. Half an hour later the order to retire was
given. We got the order all right, but it did not reach all, unfortunately,
and many held on. So we began the never-to-be-forgotten retreat, with shells
and bullets flying about everywhere. We got into Audcncourt. When we got
between a church and a farmhouse we came across two women and a child.
Pipe-Major Duff said he would stay behind and look after them. This he did,
and we saw no more of them. Our Adjutant, Captain Price, who was one of the
finest and most popular of the officers, said to us,
*Keep your heads, men. There arc no marked men here. If the
bullets are going to hit you they will hit you.’ The Gordons, Royal Irish
and 2nd Royal Scots were all together on the retreat, falling back steadily.
On each side of the road lay wounded horses and men. Nothing could be done
for them, as the ambulances could not get near them for the shell fire. When
we had got back one and a half miles an artillery battery sergeant-major
came running over and said to our commanding officer, 'For God’s sake, give
us some men to take our guns out of action, all the gunners are killed.* The
Germans were reported to be coming on. Just as we were going to fire on the
troops advancing, as we thought, to take the guns, we found they were some
of our own men. Three of the guns were taken away out of the open, when we
got the order to keep on retiring. So we kept on, and that night we slept by
the side of the road. Heavy rain began to fall at four o’clock next morning,
which did not make matters any more comfortable for us. The Germans were
still shelling us from a distance of about nine miles, and we found as we
fell back that we were advancing actually into the zone of shell fire.
"The Germans seemed to be all round us. As a matter of fact,
we had lost our way, and did not know the road, as we had no guide. So
General Smith-Dorrien consulted with his staff as to the direction we should
take. We had had no food, and were tired. The General put one battery of
artillery on our left with each gun 100 yards apart, and some of our
battalion in front of them to meet any attack that might be made. The object
of the battery was to draw the fire of the German artillery away from the
main body, and so allow it to escape through one end of the village we were
in. We had to retire quickly until midnight, and we were ready again to
continue the retreat an hour before dawn. On the 29th the roll was called.
It was answered by about 350 Royal Scots and a corresponding number of the
other battalions in the brigade. We were not left with a machine gun in the
whole brigade, all the gunners having been killed.
“Before leaving Plymouth one of the machine-gun section said
that no German would ever take him alive. At Cambrai he was the only man
left with our machine gun, and he was severely wounded. He had three rounds
of ammunition left in his rifle. With the first round he blew the machine
gun out of action; with the second he shot a German; with the third he blew
his own brains out.”
It was on the morning of Wednesday the 26th that Colonel
McMicking, D.S.O., commanding the battalion, was wounded in the shoulder
while directing operations from a trench near the village of Audencourt. He
was taken to a temporary hospital, and when that was shelled by the Germans,
to the church. This was then fired by the enemy's shell, and as the Colonel
was moved outside he was wounded again in the leg.
At this point the brigade was ordered to retire, and the
wounded had to be left. Colonel McMicking was not picked up by the German
field hospital until the next day, and was wounded again as he lay helpless.
Until January he remained in hospital, and was then removed to the fortress
of Torgau. Shortly after he had fallen, the command devolved on Major F. J.
It is difficult to form a mental picture of the heroisms of
this long trial of endurance and high courage during the great retreat, but
they were countless. The Royals had held their position at Cambrai for
nearly two days, and were busy at the last fight of the retirement, which
took place at Saint Quentin. After it they fell back to Meaux, where the
domes of Paris could easily be seen. Then came the turning movement.
A general advance was made to Coulommiers, at which point The
Royal Scots got the first glimpse of the atrocities of the Germans. The
advance continued to Marne, where the Second battalion captured the village
of Orly-sur-Marne and over 200 prisoners, out of between 500 and 700 taken
by the brigade. From Orly The Royals moved to Braisne, where a slight
skirmish took place.
On the morning of September 13 the brigade was ordered to go
forward from Braisne, and The Royals furnished the advance guard. On arrival
at Chezamy the main body and guns were heavily shelled by the Germans. The
advance, however, was continued, and orders were given for the
reconnaissance of the river Aisne. This meant some dispersions, but the
battalion was again assembled and gallantly rushed across the two bridges,
one over the river, the other over a canal. One of these bridges was no more
than a narrow plank, and all the time the heavy German artillery poured in
fire that completely enfiladed the crossing. Once across the river The
Royals made a rush for the high ground, and a position covering the bridge
was seized. The military historian will always regard this as a notably fine
achievement. The village of Vailly and 200 prisoners were taken. On the
morning of the 14th, Lieut. Henderson, with "D” Company, got in touch with
the Germans, and at once attacked, but the enemy were too strongly posted,
so this day marked the beginning of trench warfare. On this day, also, Major
Duncan was wounded, and the command devolved on the Adjutant, Captain Price,
whose death is recorded below.
A good idea of the routine of trench fighting is given by the
diary of an officer of the second battalion, who was wounded in October.
From this I am permitted to quote. The battalion was seventeen days and
nights in the trenches at the Aisne without being relieved, and subject to
continual bombardment; and the diary covers most of this period.
"September 16.—The Royal Scots were holding a position
covering the village of Vailly and also a pontoon bridge which had been made
at this point over the Aisne. The bridge (the position of which had no doubt
been given away by spies) was under the constant shell fire of the Germans
day and night. They were also shelling Vailly with the same gun, a
90-pounder. The village was reduced to a heap of bncks and mortar, but they
never hit the bridge, luckily, as over it all rations and supplies had to be
brought by night.
“The Royal Scots’ position was a very unpleasant one, as they
were holding a salient on either side of which was rising ground held by
other regiments. We were not only under heavy shell fire from the front, but
stray bullets were coming over very thickly when the positions right and
left were attacked.
“On the afternoon of the 16th, Captain C. Lempri£re Price,
D.S.O., was killed, and was buried that night at Vailly, to the great sorrow
of all ranks.”
Further details of this gallant officer’s death are given by
“Here we lost Captain Price, who had saved so many men at
Cambrai. He gave up his life trying to save another’s. One of our N.C.O.s
was wounded and began to yell. Captain Price was in his bomb-proof dugout
when he heard the shouting, and he called out to the man, * All right, man,
I will be with you in a few minutes.’ Just as he got out of the trench he
was hit by a bit of shell, and died a few hours afterwards. His loss was
deeply regretted, because he was beloved by everybody.”
To continue the diary:
"September 17.—Very heavy shelling all day, and warning that
the Germans intended to attack that night, but nothing came of it. We take
advantage of the night to improve the trenches and put up wire
entanglements. This is only possible at night. .
”September 18.—Another heavy day with German shells.
It is very hard to get meals cooked, and get water, as the
water has to be got from Vailly, which the Germans have made very unhealthy
with constant shelling. German gunners much impress us with the accuracy of
their fire, and the quickness they show in picking up targets.
"September 19.—Shells coming very thick all day. We lose a
"September 20.—Germans still keep their fire up. We have a
*September 21.—The continual bombardment is rather trying, as
this is the ninth day of it. We have lost thirty men altogether, but the men
are splendid, the difficulty being to make them take care of themselves.
"September 22.—Germans still shelling hard.
"September 23.—Sergeant W goes out with a patrol to try and
locate some guns. He does not succeed, but kills one German officer and two
privates, and collects some valuable information. He was afterwards wounded
and received the D.C.M.
*September 24.—We lose a few men from shell fire. If our
trenches had not been improved we should have lost a good many more. Still
raining shells, and one patrol has a warm time of it, but returns safely.
"September 25.—Same as before, but we get relieved at night
by the Lincolns, and very glad of it, as this was the twelfth day of
trenches under continuous shell fire. We lost about forty men. We go into
billets in a village about five miles behind the firing line, but after the
trying time in the Aisne, with boots, etc., on for twelve days, it was quite
far enough to march.
"September 26 to 28 are spent in route marching in order to
get men’s feet hard after the trying time in the trenches, and in getting
things thoroughly straightened up.
“September 29.—General Smith-Dorrien reviews the regiment and
compliments the men on their conduct on the Aisne.”
So September ended with well-deserved praise from the General
Commanding the First Army Corps.
The beginning of October saw the great move of the British
force from its trenches on the Aisne, where it was relieved by the French,
to the new positions in Flanders, where it has since fought with such
brilliance and stubbornness. There is no need to give the details of the
marching and entraining of The Royal Scots, which lasted until October n. We
can continue the story in the words of the diary :
"October 12-16.—March to Vieille Chapelle, but cannot get
there, as the Germans have got there before us; at least, they are holding
the canal just north of it. The Gurkhas are sent to hold the crossing at La
Fosse, the Middlesex and Royal Irish have crossed in the south. The Royal
Scots receive orders to rush a footbridge over the canal between the two,
which is strongly held by the enemy.
"The ground for several miles west of the bridge was
absolutely open, and is. cut up by a series of dykes which are very deep and
cannot be crossed except by small bridges at intervals. It was impossible to
reconnoitre the position of the bridge owing to the nature of the country,
and we were told to rush it at once. We had two companies, * A ’ and ‘ B ’
Companies, in the firing line under Captain Tanner and Captain Heathcote,
and two, ‘ C ’ and ‘ D,’ in support under Captain Morrison and Captain
Henderson. We had no sooner started the attack than we came under heavy
rifle fire. The men behaved as they always do, with the greatest coolness,
and extended as though they were on an ordinary parade. The leading
companies were led with the greatest gallantry by Captain Tanner and Captain
Heathcote, the latter being wounded, the bridge being finally taken with the
loss of about a hundred men. Lieutenant Trotter was unfortunately killed,
also Lieutenant Cowans. General Doran was very pleased with the regiment,
and sent the following message in the evening: 'Well done, The Royal
The four days’ advance involved in the crossing of the La
Bassee canal ended in the taking of the village of Croix Barbie, and showed
the tenacity and devotion to duty of The Royal Scots in a brilliant light.
The operations were directed by Major Croker, who was wounded. Under
conditions which were anything but cheerful, the men maintained the name of
the old regiment as usual by the very dogged manner in which the attack was
maintained until the village was finally captured. The casualties of the
second battalion amongst the officers, killed and wounded, were so heavy
that a captain from the Divisional Staff was sent to take over temporary
command. It was during these operations that the brilliant General of
Division, Sir H. I. M. Hamilton, was killed by shrapnel at Battalion
Headquarters whilst in conversation with the Commanding Officer of the
About this time the 7th Division and 3rd Cavalry Division,
which had been operating near Ghent and Antwerp, joined up with Sir John
French and were posted to the east of Ypres, and the long battle of Ypres-Armenteres
It raged until the latter part of November, and the
operations are described in Sir John French's dispatch of November 20, 1914.
The beginning of December saw The Royal Scots still engaged
in the defence of Ypres. On the night of the 13th an operation was begun of
which the outline cannot be better told than in the words of Sir John
French’s dispatch dated February 2, 1915 :
"During the early days of December certain indications along
the whole front of the Allied Line induced the French Commanders and myself
to believe that the enemy had withdrawn considerable forces from the Western
"Arrangements were made with the Commander of the 8th French
Army for an attack to be commenced on the morning of December 14.
"Operations began at 7 a.m. by a combined heavy artillery
bombardment by the two French and the 2nd British Corps.
The British objectives were the Petit Bois and the
Macdcl-stced Spur, lying respectively to the west and south-west of the
village of Wytschaetc.
"At 7.45 a.m. The Royal Scots, with great dash, rushed
forward and attacked the former, while the Gordon Highlanders attacked the
M The Royal Scots, commanded by Major F. T. Duncan, D.S.O.,
in face of a terrible machine-gun and rifle fire, carried the German trench
on the west edge of the Petit Bois, capturing two machine puns and 53
prisoners, including one officer.
"The Gordon Highlanders, with great gallantry, advanced up
the Maedelsteed Spur, forcing the enemy to evacuate their front trench. They
were, however, losing heavily, and found themselves unable to get any
further. At nightfall they were obliged to fall back to their original
A reference such as this shows how finely the Royal Scots
carry on their traditions of dash and stubbornness.
I think I am not going beyond the simple fact in saying that
The Royal Scots in France and Flanders have never given up a trench, and
their terrible losses in officers and men show what that record means.
When the action of Petit Bois was begun, The Royals had been
continuously under fire for more than a month. The charge was over ground
which had been so sodden with rain that the mud was knee-deep. Eight
officers and about 120 men were lost by The Royal Scots alone, and Captain
the Hon. Henry Lyndhurst Bruce was shot dead when only thirty yards from the
trenches from which the Germans were afterwards driven. He was buried by his
men when the charge was over, and has since been mentioned for the D.S.O.
for his great bravery. After his death a letter was received in London, in
which Captain Bruce wrote :
”We had been heavily sniped for three days. I had one man
killed, so I went for the sniper with a grenade. The first found the range,
but was wide. The second landed just behind the trench, and within five
yards of the sniper. The sniping ceased entirely from that place, and as the
grenades have a radius of about twenty yards, I think my friend was, to say
the least, uncomfortable. In the afternoon we spotted smoke rising from
behind a trench. My first grenade failed to burst, but my second landed
about two yards behind a party.
“We ourselves are none too happy, as 80 yards of my trench is
3 ft. deep under water and 100 yards 1 ft. deep. The rest is mostly mud. It
is impossible to keep dry except by standing up. Curiously enough, in the
last month my company has been on the extreme right of the English lines,
and afterwards on the extreme left. The former was too hot a place, as we
were in a sort of a redoubt on the point of a salient, and the latter was
*This poor old regiment is absolutely unknown to the public,
but we don’t wear kilts, and we do not advertise. The more I see of the men
the better I like them. My own boys are splendid. They are never
downhearted, and even 2 ft. of water cannot depress them. I believe they
would like it to be deeper than that in order to see the disgusted faces of
the regiment that relieves them. My grievance is that they will not pay
attention to bullets, and if they want to make tea they make it, even if
they have to risk their lives.”
Captain Bruce was right: the old regiment does not advertise,
but the light of its deeds cannot be hid.
From another source I take the information that Captain
Crackenthorpe and Lieutenants Hedderwick and Wallace were with “D” Company
when it made the first move against the Petit Bois on the night of the 13th,
which was spent in the ruined village of Kemmel. At 7 a.m. on the 14th the
artillery paved the way by a bombardment of the wood, and at 7.45 “D” and
“C” companies leapt over the trench parapets and advanced through a hail of
shrapnel and rifle fire. Captain Bruce fell first just as the outer edge of
the wood had been gained. Captain Crackenthorpe took his place, but was soon
wounded, and the command fell to Lieutenant Hedderwick. The second line was
too strong to be pierced, and The Royals consolidated their success, which
For his part in this brilliant little action Private Robson
of the second battalion was awarded the Victoria Cross and Sergeant Hough
the D.C.M., and the battalion was highly commended by Sir John French and
Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien.
The discomforts of the winter campaign were borne by all
ranks with a cheery spirit in very trying conditions, and a joke was made of
floating about in the trench on roughly constructed rafts made from tubs,
The second battle for Ypres found the Second Battalion
holding the line south of the town. It was later moved up to relieve units
which had taken part in the severe fighting. Once more The Royals proved
steady and reliable in the face of heavy fire and the resultant
trench-to-trench fighting. They were especially congratulated by their
Brigadier, General Hoskins, for the excellent way in which they moved
forward by digging and so prepared the way for the advance of those behind.
We must now turn to the adventures of the First Battalion,
which was serving in India on the outbreak of war and sailed from Bombay in
October 1914. It took five weeks for the convoy to reach Plymouth, and for
nearly a month the battalion was under canvas near Winchester and suffering
acute discomforts, which, however, prepared the men for the mud of Flanders.
The battalion, commanded by Lieut.-Col. Callender, sailed for France on
December 19. By the 22nd it arrived at Aire-sur-la-Lys, and by the night of
January 9 had taken over trenches near Dicksbusch, and there remained until
March 20. All this time the men suffered very heavily from frostbitten feet,
and in the course of one month over three hundred were non-effective from
this cause. On April 8 the battalion marched through Ypres to occupy
trenches near Hooge. From April 16 it remained unrelieved in the trenches
for eighteen days, subject to heavy shell fire and projectiles from mittnenwereen. The
losses were serious during this period. After a short rest, trench service
was begun again early in May at a spot very mendaciously called Sanctuary
Wood, and as this period included what is now known as the second battle of
Ypres the casualties were considerable.
At 7 a.m. on the morning of May 8 a violent bombardment of
nearly the whole of the 5th Corps front broke out, and gradually
concentrated on the front of the division between north and south of
Frezenberg. The trenches were obliterated and the losses severe. A heavy
infantry attack followed, before which the British line had for a time to
give way. Brigade after brigade broke before the hideous fury of the attack,
but by defence and counter-attack the British destroyed the Germans by whole
companies. Fighting proceeded all night, and the enemy began the bombardment
again on the morning of the 9th.
On the following day the trenches on either side of the Menin-Ypres
Road were shelled very severely all the morning, and the First Royals were
amongst the units which repulsed, with heavy loss, a German attack made
under cover of gas.
After a comparatively quiet night and morning (ioth-nth) the
hostile artillery fire was concentrated on the trenches of two of the
Highland Regiments at a slightly more northern point than on the previous
day. The Germans attacked in force and gained a footing in part of the
trenches, but were promptly ejected by a supporting company of the First
Unhappily Captain L. F. Farquharson, on whose initiative this
gallant counter-attack was undertaken, was killed the following day, but The
Royals held the recovered trench until they were relieved. During the two
months covered by the second battle of Ypres the number of casualties in the
first battalion was exceeded by only one other unit of the brigade. By the
end of May a move was made to trenches southeast of Armentieres, and since
then the time has been occupied with the normal routine of trench warfare.
Although the brilliant doings of the 4th, 5th and 7th
Territorial battalions in the Dardanelles have covered the regiment with new
and fadeless laurels, it must not be forgotten that the 8th and 9th have
also played their part in France and Flanders.
The 8th battalion was the first Territorial battalion of a
Scottish Regiment to go to the front, and crossed to France early in
November, under the command of Lieut -Colonel Alexander Brook. By the 15th
of the month they were in the firing line, near Flembaix. Included in its
ranks were 3 officers and 100 men taken from the 6th battalion, and a
similar draft from the 8th Highland Light Infantry was also attached to it.
The first casualty was on December 2, when Lance-Sergeant David Grieve was
killed by a stray bullet as the battalion was marching into the trenches. On
December 15 Captain Thomas Todrick was killed in front of the trenches, and
was afterwards mentioned in dispatches. At this time great hardships had to
be endured from frost and rain. On December 18 the battalion took part in an
attack on the German lines and suffered a good many casualties, Lieutenant
Burt, who was attached to the Royal Engineers, being killed. One man greatly
distinguished himself in this onset. Private Cordery, “A” Company, went out
and brought in four wounded men in succession. Cordery was warned that it
was very dangerous to go out a fifth time, as it was getting light and the
wounded were now nearer the German lines; but he again volunteered, and
unfortunately he was this time himself wounded. He is now a prisoner at
The battalion alternated with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers in
the trenches until March 1, 1915, when the Division handed over the lines to
the Canadians and went south to join in the attack on Neuve Chapelle. It
suffered severely here, while it held trenches on the left of the attack for
seventeen days without relief. Early in May a move was made to the
neighbourhood of Bethune, and during the battle of Festubert, May 16-18, the
battalion was heavily engaged. To the great grief of all, Lieut.-Colonel
Brook was killed, after having served in The Royals for nearly thirty years.
At his funeral the General of Brigade said of him : “I think Brook was the
bravest man I ever knew.” Lieut.-Colonel Gemmill succeeded him in the
command. On May 21 the General of Division addressed the battalion and
thanked all ranks for their splendid behaviour. Festubert brought
distinctions to the Eighth, including the D.S.O. to Lieut.-Colonel Gemmill,
four D.C.M.’s and several mentions in dispatches.
After a short rest the battalion again went into action at
Givenchy. It was here that Lance-Corporal Angus performed the heroic action
that gained for him the Victoria Cross.
Some deeds that have won the V.C. have been more written
about than this, but those who saw Angus—in cold blood and broad
daylight—crawl the fifty yards that separated the British and German
trenches know that no nobler deed adorns the annals of any regiment. “My
boy, you are going to almost certain death,” said an officer of a Canadian
Regiment, who, hearing what was being attempted, had come along the trench.
“Well, sir,” said Angus, “it doesn’t matter very much whether sooner or
later,” and crawled away on his perilous journey.
From this time onward to August I the battalion had the usual
routine of trench and rest. On August I the battalion was formed into a
Pioneer Battalion for the 7th Division, but three weeks later it was ordered
away to be pioneer to a division of the 3rd Army.
Up to the end of June the battalion had lost 17 officers and
350 men, killed and wounded. It should be added that the above notes refer
to the i/8th; the 2/8th and 3/8th are still, at the time of writing, in
The 9th battalion, under the command of Lieut.-Colonel Blair,
was with the First, and followed the Eighth towards the end of
February 1915* Month after month the fight for Ypres went on raging,
embittered by the fury of the British troops at the German use of poisonous
gas. The latter part of April was a critical period, for the break of the
French line on April 22 was followed by so violent a bombardment of the
British positions that it proved difficult to dig efficient trenches or
reorganize the line properly after the confusion caused by the first great
gas surprise and the subsequent almost daily gas attacks.
On April 23 the Ninth was sent to St. Julien to help the
Canadians, and suffered severely. It is impossible yet to disentangle the
doings of those terrible days, but the Ninth, like the First, with whom they
were brigaded, brought fresh laurels to the regiment.
On May 10 (as we learn from Sir Herbert Plumer's report,
incorporated in Sir John French's dispatch of June 15, 1915), the Germans
made a violent attack on the trenches on either side of the Menin-Ypres
road, under cover of gas. The Ninth Royal Scots were among the units which
repulsed this onset with heavy loss, but they were compelled to fall back to
the trenches west of Bellewaarde Wood, not because they were driven out of
their advanced position, but because their trenches had been practically
destroyed by shell fire and would not have been tenable in case of further
The Tenth Battalion under the command of Lieut.-Colonel A. P.
Simpson is, at the time of writing, still in Scotland.
Eleventh, Twelfth, and Thirteenth Battalions
Of the battalions of the new armies serving in Flanders only
slight particulars are yet forthcoming.
The Eleventh and Twelfth were the first two service
battalions of the regiment to be created, both during August 1914, and they
thus formed part of the first increase of the Regular Army by 100,000men. It
is impossible to exaggerate the difficulty of the task which faced officers,
N.C.O.’s, and men of these and the later new battalions. The officers were
in most cases strangers to each other, the seniors in some cases rusty from
being long in the reserve, the subalterns fresh from the O.T.C. It took hard
work and good humour to create the sense of unity and the regimental
atmosphere which are of the essence of successful soldiering, but it was
done in an incredibly short time. The N.C.O.’s had to be appointed either on
their record of former service or on the promise of future capacity. The men
were full of patriotism and a determination to make light of difficulties,
but they could not at once shed the civilian outlook or grasp the necessity
for a system so radically divorced from their experience. The slow arrival
of equipment in the early days was a discouraging factor, and the conditions
of hutting and weather did not sweeten the inevitable drudgery of early
training. Despite all difficulties, the new battalions faced the situation
with good humour and pertinacity, and when the full story of the war comes
to be written, the historian will have nothing more notable to tell than the
conversion of a rabble of recruits into finely tempered units, fit to take
their place by the side of the regular battalions which were upheld by long
tradition and careful training. Both the Eleventh and Twelfth embarked for
France on May n, 1915. The Eleventh, under the command of Lieut.-Colonel
Dundas, has been in the trenches since July. Although it has not taken part
in any dramatic engagement, it has not gone unscathed, for three officers
and twenty-five rank and file had been killed and five officers and forty
rank and file wounded up to August. Licut.-Coloncl Loch is in command of the
Twelfth. Training was continued in France by work at supporting points
behind the trenches during May and June, and trench duty proper began on
July i in the reserve line, near Le Plantin, now familiarly known as “The
Ditch," and for some time the Eleventh and Twelfth alternated in this
service. On July 22 the Twelfth moved to the neighbourhood of the notorious
orchard, near Festu-bert, and were there subject to heavy enfilade fire
until August 6, when they were relieved. Later in the month the battalion
was employed in sapping, and for gallantry during this period 2nd Lieut. R.
B. Stewart was recommended for the Military Cross and Private G. Broom for
the D.C.M. From June to September 21 the losses of the Twelfth were seven
men killed and four officers and 100 men wounded. Lieut.-Colonel MacLean is
in command of the Thirteenth, but no details of its service are available.
The reprint from the Army List in Appendix C gives all particulars as to
officers serving in all battalions.
A Royal Scot at Tsingtau
In the minor theatres of war no battalion of The Royals has
been engaged. The Dardanelles campaign is not “ minor," and the next chapter
is devoted to the noble achievements of the three Territorial battalions in
the Gallipoli Peninsula.
A word must be given, however, to the siege of Tsingtau,
because Lieutenant H. J. Simson, of The Royal Scots, played a notable part
there. He was attached to the 2nd South Wales Borderers, who left South
Africa soon after the war broke out and landed at Laoshan Bay on September
22. The main engagement in which they took part was on November 5, when they
crept very close to the German position. A diary of the siege yields the
“Everybody was enthusiastic about the work of Lieutenant
Simson, Royal Scots, who went out scouting every night to find a position
for advanced trenches. These he indicated with small pieces of cloth fixed
on sticks. He spoke Japanese, and on these expeditions carried a Japanese
sword, and was generally accompanied by one or two Japanese engineers.”
On November 7 the enemy surrendered, and the Japanese and
British troops marched into the conquered fortress. Lieutenant Simson has
been awarded the Military Cross.