Playing the pipes in the Golden
East is a far greater effort than it is at home, and every piper who has
soldiered there knows how the heat and the dryness of the atmosphere
affect his bag and reeds. But the cult of Piob Mhor thrives east of
Suez, and at least as much enthusiasm is shown by regiments stationed in
India as in a home station.
And when Scottish troops were called upon to take
their part in the Mesopotamia operations, we find the pipes as prominent
a feature in the fighting as they were on the Western front. At Sheikh
Saad on 7th January, 1916, the 1st Seaforths—the "Reismeid Caber Feidh"—were
played to the attack across absolutely open ground by their Pipe Major
Neil M'Kechnie and other pipers. An officer who was present describes
the incident as follows:
"As we advanced over the dead flat open desert the Turks suddenly opened
a very heavy fire from well concealed trenches at a range of from 600 to
800 yards. The battalion immediately advanced by rushes towards the
enemy's position in spite of very heavy initial losses. Foremost among
the men was our acting Pipe Major, M'Kechnie, who immediately struck up
the regimental charge or 'onset,' 'Cabar Feidh.'
"His fine example as well as his music had a
remarkable effect on the men at such a critical moment. He was shortly
afterwards wounded, and had to drop behind as the lines vent on."
In the same action the 2nd Black Watch were played
in by their pipers just as they had been on many previous occasions in
France. In the act of playing Corpl. Piper MacNee was mortally wounded.
This brave man had been wounded before at Mauquissart and awarded the
Distinguished Conduct Medal. The Pipe Major, John Keith, was awarded the
D.C.M. for "gallant and distinguished service throughout the