BY THE EARL OF ROSEBERY K.G., K.T.
THERE could scarcely be a more opportune publication for Scotsmen than a record of the valour of their historical regiments. This war has revealed and developed the strong and undying soul which animates them, and maintains through generations and even centuries a corporate and jealous pride. Whether in the kilt or the trews, or on the ' beautiful grey horses ' admired by Napoleon, they appeal irresistibly even to the most pacific natures in Scotland, and that is half the secret of the unmatched recruiting returns from the ancient kingdom during the present war. United as clans, proudly conscious of the battles on their colours, holding their traditional reputation as a sacred trust, they are a brotherhood of honour on which the country confidently relies in peace and in war.
The spirit, the name, and the tradition are wholly Scottish. But it must be remembered that the men are not all of that race. Many come from all parts of England. But once in the regiments, and while in the regiments, they become Scotsmen by adoption and grace, as proud of their corps, as jealous of its honour, as any lads from the Lothians or Inverness. That is one great value of these historical regiments, they embody and assimilate recruits from all Britain, and give them the succession and the prestige of those heroes who have gone before.
These Scottish regiments began in all sorts of ways. The Scots were poor, warlike, and adventurous, with few temptations at home to a military career. One, for example, served much abroad in the seventeenth century. Returning home, they followed Dumbarton’s drums, as the old song has it, and became permanently British. Another famous regiment was much employed about the same time in harrying (under orders) the Covenanters in their mosses. The Covenanters in their turn, when that tyranny was overpast, were formed into a regiment of their own under the Scottish Parliament, and earned fame at once which they have enhanced ever since. And so on ; in a short note like this it is not necessary or possible to detail.
The details will be given in the ensuing pages. Surely it is well when we have a wolf, or rather jackal, at our throats to garner up from history the description of our ancestors conquering nobler enemies. This is not to say that the Prussian soldier is not, as regards valour, a brave combatant. But he is directed by men who have placed themselves outside the pale of humanity, and shares their responsibility. Let us hope that once more, and soon, it may be given to a Scottish regiment to storm, as in Aytoun’s spirited verses, an island on the Rhine.
I will indulge myself with only one significant extract; it regards the Scots in Belgium during the Waterloo campaign. The natives admired the English, but always returned to the Scots with, ‘But the Scots, they are good and kind as well as brave; they are the only soldiers who become members of the family in the houses in which they are billeted; they even carry about the children, and do the domestic work.’ The favourite proverbial form of compliment was, ‘Lions in the field and lambs in the house.’ That is exquisite praise. The unhappy Netherlands can now compare these Scottish soldiers with the wild beasts who have desolated their country and ravaged their homes.
I am heartily grateful for this stimulating book.
Electric Scotland Note: This is a microfiche scan of this book so not the best quality but certainly readable if you go full screen. To be able to ocr the Preface I had to save the three pages as a jpg file to deskew the pages and thus enable the ocr process. We believe this is a wee gem of a book and for those interested in our Scottish regiments well worth reading. We provide the book in pdf format for you to download.