The Pipes of War The Pipes in the War, 1914-1918 -
Agus bha iad am measg uam fear
treuna 'n an luchd-cuideachaidh 's a' chogadh."
To attempt to compile a complete record of the
achievements of individual pipers or of the pipe bands of units is an
impossible task; it would involve a review of the whole course of the
war. A long time must elapse before the histories of battalions are
completed, and even then we shall probably never know fully the extent
to which their pipers have contributed to the attainment of success.
Throughout the war correspondence has been carried
on with individuals who, in spite of their appalling environment, have
found time to supply information. They at least have the satisfaction of
knowing that to them is largely due the fact that brave acts have been
saved from oblivion.
a review as follows is but a fragmentary one, based on information
obtained from officers, N.C.O.'s and men of the battalions concerned
but almost never from individual pipers. Among these men there appears
to have been a conspiracy of silence, and attempts to obtain fuller
information as to the reason for the granting of awards or the names of
pipers whose identity disappeared under the blue pencil of the Censor
have proved in very many instances unavailing.
The omission from these pages of mention of
achievements of pipers of many battalions must be regarded as indicating
lack of space to record them, or of failure to obtain the desired
Expeditionary Force landed in France with seven Scottish battalions
possessing pipe bands ; when the armistice was signed the number of such
units exceeded a hundred. Although on mobilisation the number of ' full
" pipers in a battalion is only six it must be remembered that there are
always "acting pipers" serving in the companies who are availableuntil
that source of supply is exhaustedto take the place of casualties; and
it is safe to reckon that the 100 battalions have had more than 2500
pipers at various times.
The numbers that served in various units during the campaign varied
enormously; in some, which freely utilised their pipers in the front
linein the ranks, as bearers, and as pipers in actionas many as
seventy or eighty have been borne on the strength at different times; in
others, which kept these men invariably behind the front line, the
casualties were negligible and comparatively few were used up. This
difference in method of employment largely explains the variations in
the casualty lists and honours of different units ; and, in some cases,
it has been found impossible to obtain anything like complete
information. 8543 Piper JAMES MAcKENzIE, 1st Scots Guards. During
the desperate fighting about Ypres in October, 1914, Piper Mackenzie
greatly distinguished himself bringing up ammunition to the firing line.
He was killed while doing so. Awarded a mention in despatches.
8543 Piper CHARLES SCOTT MACGUIRE, and Scots
On the 27th
October, 1914, near Ypres, an advanced trench was blown to pieces by
shell fire, most of its occupants being killed or wounded. Hearing calls
for help, Piper Maguire went forward from the support trench to report.
He crawled 15 yards on hands and knees to the wrecked trench and found
.several men had been buried by the explosion. Although without any
protection from enemy fire he dug out a man and found he was dead ; lie
continued his task and got out another, placing him for safety under
cover of the dead body. He then crawled hack to his trench. The N.C.O.
in charge had been killed meantime, and no official report of his
conduct was possible. Maguire himself was wounded shortly after, his
back being broken he died of paralysis some seven months later.
11002 Piper J. McM1LLAN, 1st Royal Scots.
Was awarded the D.C.M. for conspicuous gallantry
as a battalion scout.
10123 Corp). E. COLLINS,] 10754 Piper J. CLANCY, . ]1st Royal Scots.
10639 Piper, J. SMART, ] 10032 Piper, P. MALLIN,
During the operations on
the Salonika front the battalion had to capture Karadzakot Zir. The men
had to advance over open country to the attack. These pipers played over
three successive charges to the enemy's position, and the commanding
officer considered their gallantry on this occasion was to a large
extent instrumental in bringing about the success of the attack. In
spite of their exposed position they all got through without being
11065 Piper H.
M'Leod, 2nd Royal Scots.
Was repeatedly mentioned in despatches for gallantry in attending
wounded under fire, and was recommended for the D.C.M.
1235 Piper W. SINCLAIR, 5th Royal Scots.
Shortly after the original landing on the
Gallipoli Peninsula, a critical retirement took place. Piper Sinclair,
on his own initiative, gathered together a handful of stragglers, and,
taking up a favourable position, covered successfully the withdrawal If
the battalion. He was killed, Pipe Major JoHN BUCIIAN, 4th Royal
Scots. Just before the attack on Achi Baba 00 28th June, 1915, Pipe
Major Buchan played along the line as the battalion went over ; he was
killed. 7271 Pipe Major J. M'DOUGALL, 8th Royal Scots. Was awarded
the Distinguished Conduct Medal " for gallant conduct under very trying
circumstances " as a stretcher bearer at Festubert in May, 1915.
Corpl. ALEXANDER Foasvru, 9th Royal Scots. At Arras in April, 5917,
this man, who was a highly skilled bomber, volunteered to bomb the
Germans out of a position in which they were covered by machine guns. He
crawled up and succeeded in his object, but was killed. He was given the
Distinguished Conduct Medal.
53283 Pipe Major A. COLGAN, 12th Royal Scots.
In the Loos attack the pipe major played the
battalion over the top and was wounded. Subsequently, in the great
German offensive in 1918, when pipers had to serve in the ranks, he got
the Military Medal "for good leadership and courage."
Pipe Major JOHN MOUAT, 13th Royal Scots.
During the final advance in 1918 the pipers were
employed as bearers, and suffered heavy casualties. Pipe Major Mouat
received a mention in despatches.
Pipe Major MURDOCH MACDONALD, 13th Royal Scots.
A heavy shell burst among a company and buried a
number of men. Pipe Major Macdonald went out alone, tinder very heavy
shell fire and brought in six wounded men unaided.
Pipe Major DAVID ANDERSON, 15th Royal Scots.
In the opening attack on the Somme front on 1st
July, 1916 the battalion was played forward by the pipe major, to the
old regimental tune "Dumbarton's drums." He was hit shortly after going
over the top, but continued playing; he was again wounded after crossing
the third line of trenches and fell to the ground. lie tried to go on
playing while sitting on the ground, but his pipes were shattered by a
shell bursting near him. He managed to get up and was at once attacked
by a German, but succeeded in knocking him out with his fists, and then
continued fighting with a rifle until overcome by his wounds.
Pipe Major Anderson was given the one Croix de
Guerre allotted to his Division for the most conspicuous act of bravery.
The pipes he was playing on this occasion were of historical interest as
they had been taken to the Antarctic by a member of Scott's expedition,
and had been played also in the Arctic expedition of 1907.
Another interesting feature of Anderson's
achievement was that several Germans surendered to him as he played on
the parapet of one of their trenches.
Pipe Major DAVID CAMPBELL, 1st Royal Scots
Although he had
been wounded in the arm on the previous day Pipe Major Campbell played
his battalion to the attack on the German position at Hooge on June 16,
1915. He played on right up to the German wire entanglements when,
throwing his pipes aside, he caught up the bayonet of a comrade who had
just been shot by a German officer and at once attacked the latter. He
captured the officer.
Piper HIGGINSON, 1st K.O.S.B.
The initial engagement of the battalion was the
lauding on Gallipoli. During the first few days the pipers were fighting
in the ranks, and the gallant exploit of Piper Higginson is eloquent
indication of the fact that they played the part of the fighting man
right well. All the officers and N.C.O. 's of his Company having been
killed or wounded during the heavy fighting of 26th April, 1915, Piper
Higginson rallied the remainder, and organised and led a bayonet charge
with such dash and bravery that the Turks were swept back from a line
they had captured earlier in the day. Just as success was attained Piper
Higginson was mortally wounded, and died some hours later. Had he
survived he was to have been recommended for the D.C.M.
1315 Piper MAITLANG,1st K.O.S.B. 8248 Pipe
Major W. MACKENZIE, 1st K.O.S.B.
uring most of their stay on the Gallipoli
peninsula the pipers had to bring up ammunition, rations, stores, etc.,
a job which was at all times most trying and often extremely hazardous.
For conspicuous bravery in charge of these carrying parties the Pipe
Major and Piper Maitland were awarded the Military Medal.
556 Piper A. ERSKINE, 5th K.O.S.B.
Was mentioned in despatches for gallantry as a
stretcher bearer in Gallipoli.
14851 Pipe Major ROBERT MACKENZIE, 6th K.O.S.B.
At the battle of Loos 25th September, 1915, when
the battalion went forward to the attack in which it was decimated, the
first over the top was the Pipe Major, who started playing at once. He
was wounded and fell after a comparatively short distance, but managed
to crawl back. His leg had to be amputated, and he died of shock shortly
afterwards. Mackenzie was a man of nearly sixty years of age, and had
forty- two years' Army service. He was awarded a mention in despatches.
Before the action he had been detailed, on account of his age, to be
postman, but insisted on going into action.
15851 Piper DANIEL LAIDLAW, V.C., 7th K.O.S.B.
Just before the attack on Hill 70 and Loos on 25th
September, 1915, the battalion, which was under heavy shell fire, was
exposed to a cloud of poison gas. Many of the men succumbed to this gas,
and the remainder were shaken by what they were going through. The
commanding officer, seeing Laidlaw standing waiting with his pipes for
the order to advance, called to him, "Pipe them together, Laidlaw, for
God's sake, pipe them together," and he immediately climbed out on to
the parapet, and marched up and down, regardless of danger, playing
"Blue Bonnets over the Border." The effect on the men was magical; at
the same moment the order came to advance, and the officer shouted "Come
on, the Borderers, who'll be the first to reach the German trenches?"
The survivors of the company swarmed up and over to the assault
following the piper. The men were falling all round him, but Laidlaw
continued to advance until he got near the German line, when he was
wounded and the officer, who was alongside of him, was killed. As he lay
on the ground he tried to go on playing, and then managed to get up and
hobble after the battalion.
He was awarded the Victoria Cross "for most
conspicuous gallantry," and the French Croix de Guerre.
The sobriquet "Piper of Loos" was commonly applied
to Piper Laidlaw; though, in fairness to two other men, it must be
admitted that he only shared that distinction with them.
Pipe Major DOUGLAS TAYLOR, 7th K.O.S.B.
During the attack on Loos when Piper Laidlaw got
the V.C., the other pipers were chiefly employed in bringing in the
casualties. There were large numbers of men lying about who had been
gassed. Pipe Major Taylor, though himself wounded in the hand, continued
bringing in these men for thirty-six hours, until he was himself shot
down with a bullet in the heart. He recovered ultimately of the surgical
miracles of the war.
Major W. ROBERTSON, 2nd Scottish Rifles.
Was awarded the Military Medal for gallantry in
Pipe Major NEIL
MACLEOD, 8th Scottish Rifles.
Greatly distinguished himself in the Dardanelles
fighting in attending on the wounded. He was killed in the attack on
12th July, 1915.
daylight raid at Arras in February, 1917, these two men played their
companies over, standing on the parapet, and then followed them up to
the German position. Pipe Major J. M'CoLL, 10th Scottish Rifles was
awarded the Military Medal for gallantry during the Somme fighting.
14631 Piper ALEXANDER STEVENSON,
11th Scottish Rifles.
20th April, 1917, Piper Stevenson observed a comrade, who had been out
on a night patrol, lying wounded in No Man's Land, and calling for help,
lie at once went over the parapet in broad daylight and brought him in,
although the Germans brought a machine gun to bear on him as soon as he
exposed himself. While assisting the medical officer to dress the
wounded man he was killed. his name was mentioned in despatches for
gallantry. lie had previously done excellent work carrying messages in
WI5ISART 1st Black Watch. 9430 Piper W. STUART, 1st Black Watch.
After the failure of the first
attack on Richebonrg, 9th May, 1915the attacking battalions simply
melting away under a sheet of leada second attack on the position was
ordered for midday; the leading battalions on this occasion being the
1st Black Watch and 1st Casnerons. The men went over the top with a
tremendous dash, and each company was led by its pipers. Two at least
actually reached the German trenches and continued playiflg-9430 W.
Stuart, and Andrew W'ishart of the Black Watch. They were under very
heavy fire, and both got wounded. \Vishart fell into a shell hole and
lay there for four days before he succeeded in crawling back to our
trenches. \Vhen he fell there were loud shoots " The piper's down," and
the men made frantic efforts to get into the enemy's trenches but the
machine gun fire was- too heavy, and they had to withdraw. Piper Stuart
was awarded the D.C.M.
Piper GEORGE GALLOWAY, 7th Black Watch.
On one occasion Piper Galloway rescued five men
who had been buried by a shell explosion. Subsequently, when employed as
a runner, he was called on to deliver an important message under very
heavy fire. This he accomplished in almost impossible conditions, and
was given the Military Medal.
L.Corpl. G. SWAN, 7th Black Watch.
Served in the ranks during the Somme fighting. He
was killed in action, and was awarded the Military Medal.
1919 Piper ALEXANDER PRATT, 2nd Black Watch.
Pipers throughout the war have been employed in a
great variety of ways besides piping. Piper Pratt was reported in
Mesopotamian Force Despatches as "one of the bravest and most
intelligent bomb sergeants in the regiment on three occasions he has
proved his high capacity for leadership in the attack. He has been twice
wounded. His power of training grenadiers and his influence over his men
are quite exceptional." He was promoted in the field to Sergeant and
awarded a D.C.M.
PETER MACNEE, 2nd Black Watch.
Also distinguished himself greatly as a bomber.
lie won the D.C.M. at Neuve Chapelle. In France he was twice wounded,
but scent to Mesopotamia with the battalion. In the fighting at Sheikh
Saad in January, 1916, he was mortally wounded.
1839 Piper ALEXANDER MACDONALD, 2nd Black Watch.
736 Piper DAVID SIMPSON, 2nd Black Watch. 365 Piper R. JOIIN5TONE,
2nd Black Watch. 699 Piper DAVID ARMIT, 2nd Black Watch. 187 Piper
J. GALLOWAY, 2nd Black Watch.
In the attack- by the 2nd Black Watch at
Mauquissart, 25th September, 1915, the pipers took a prominent part,
playing their companies up to and through the German first and second
lines. After three lines had been captured the order to attack the
fourth was given. 736 Piper David Simpson at once dashed forward
playing, followed by his company he was killed just as they reached the
objective. His bravery earned him the title, for long after, of "The
Piper of Loos." He was recommended for the Victoria Cross. Further on,
1839 Piper Alexander Macdonald alternately played from one trench to the
next and assisted in bombing the enemy out of their dugouts. In the
third trench he marched, playing "Macgregor's Gathering," down the
trench at the head of the bombers, and then climbed on to the parapet
and continued playing. lie was ultimately wounded and lost his leg. For
his gallantry he was given the D.C.M., but did not long survive to enjoy
the honour as he died soon after his discharge. At the same time 365
Piper R. Johnstone went on playing until he
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