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The Piper In Peace And War
Part II - London Scottish


With a history ranging from 1859 the London Scottish, or 14th London Regiment, is one of the best-known units of the Territorial Force in the Kingdom. The battalion, dressed in the Highland garb, with glengarry, doublet, and kilt of Elcho grey, blue-grey hose, and white spats, is a familiar sight throughout London. The pipers are as well known as are the rank and file and are invariably part of every expedition which the battalion or a part of the battalion is accustomed to make. The war service of the “Scottish” dates from the South African War, 1899-1902, when many volunteers attached themselves to the Gordon Highlanders, and among these were several pipers.

On the outbreak of the Great War the battalion was mobilised, and in very short time had countless applications from ex-Territorial members and freshmen for admission to the ranks. In this way the Scottish grew to three battalions, the first being ready for active service soon after the opening of hostilities. Indeed, the 1st Battalion, which left on 14th September 1914, was one of the earliest, if not the first, Territorial Infantry unit to reach France. Marching through the streets of Havre, the pipers saluted France by playing on their pipes “The Marseillaise.” On the 31st October the men had entered battle at Messines, where they drew considerable praise for their steadiness. The first anniversary of the War the pipers celebrated by playing “God Save the King,” a performance which immediately brought “Die Wacht am Rhein” from the band in the German trenches. The pipers who had played the battalion overseas were not content to remain as pipers. Their quick promotion to commissioned rank may strike those who are not acquainted with the personnel of the “Scottish” as phenomenal; but the pipers, like the rank and file, are capable soldiers, and the majority of them are equipped with the necessary certificate for commissioned rank from O.T.C. units. The scattering of these embryo officers to different regiments is in itself interesting. Pipers Edgar and Mackinnon were posted 2nd lieutenants in their own corps; Campbell went to the Scottish Rifles; Piper Pennington, after remaining with the Scottish until he had been twice wounded, became a lieutenant in the Royal Navy; Mackay, who was commissioned to the Black Watch, fell in action with that regiment. Pipers L. D. Henderson [Now (1927) Major, London Scottish.] and Sutherland Graeme went to the Seaforth Highlanders, 4th Battalion. The twin brothers Porteous put down their pipes and parted company on receiving commissions—one going to the R.A.S.C., the other to the R.G.A.; Piper Zambra was made a lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps, and B. R. Nicol in the Labour Corps; while five others, Greig, Hare, Grant-Crawford, Gordon Forbes, and Joss, who on one occasion rendered great service to the battalion by guiding it to its front line trenches, graced the company of officers in that highly useful corps — the Royal Army Ordnance Corps.

Of those who elected to remain as pipers eleven were killed in action, one of them being a sixteen - year old Edinburgh Academy boy, named Angus. Indeed, that list of killed included many who had made or were making their mark in various fields. Harry Latham, a lance-corporal piper, was one of the most distinguished rifle shots in the Territorial Force; his name will be found near the top of the King’s Hundred for several years until 1914. Latham’s gallantry was remarked in battle and he was mentioned in despatches. Piper James Carey, who hailed from Dundee, lost his life while trying to save the life of his company officer.

Pipers Andrew B. Paton, a Glasgow man, and Sam Campbell, from the far Hebrides, were carrying a wounded man from the battlefield, when both were struck by a shell and killed. Piper Connolly died from illness contracted at the front, whilst Piper Pratt had a distressing wound which caused blindness. Piper Pratt is now an inmate of St Dunstan’s and maintains his old cheery ways and his fondness for pipe music with which he entertains his friends. His correspondence he conducts himself by typewriter.

The 2nd Battalion had a more varied experience of war than their comrades of the 1st. Landing in France in June 1916 they left for Salonica at the close of November, where owing to their bagpipes having gone bad in the excessive heat, they were forced to fall back on dried goatskins soaked in whale oil, which made admirable bags for the pipes. In their next field of action — Egypt — the troubles of the pipers were caused by the sand which got into the reeds and prevented them from doing justice to themselves or giving satisfaction to their comrades on the long marches through the desert. The bags, moreover, became dry and no honey or treacle being available as emollients, the only means of keeping the bags moist for play was the scanty drinking-water with which each man was provided.

Matters were better when the battalion moved into their most interesting theatre of campaign, namely Palestine.

There pipers and battalion generally experienced a curious thrill in marching to the tunes of the pipes through the old Biblical lands—the Jordan, the land of Gilead, and Jerusalem. The pipers had played the battalion into the Holy City on 9th December 1917, and later, when the drums went bad, they managed to replace them with Turkish instruments captured at Nebi Musa (Moses’ Tomb) the drum-sticks being fashioned from Turkish tent pegs found in the Turkish tents.

Back once more in France in May 1918, the pipers were fortunate in escaping wounds and sickness, and also in the fact that the battalion had appreciated the music of their pipes played throughout the Eastern part of their campaign.

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