2What you need to know Exam questions will focus on the following: Scottish Recruitment in WW1The Experience of WarContribution of the Scots on the Western FrontScottish Losses.
3Introduction to the Great War There will not be an exam question on how or why Britain/Scotland became involved in the First World War but candidates should remember the roles of the following:Imperial rivalryTrade rivalryNaval rivalryThe Alliance systemSarajevo and after.
4Introduction to the Great War By 1914, Europe was divided into two armed camps.Triple Alliance: Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy.Triple Entente: France, Russia and Great Britain.Britain joined the Great War on August 4th after the German invasion of Belgium.
6Scottish Recruitment in WW1 It soon became clear that the small British Expeditionary Force (BEF) that was sent to France on August 10th 1914, roughly 100,000 men, was far too small for modern warfare. The Secretary State for War, Field Marshal Lord Kitchener put out an urgent call for volunteers to join the armed forces.
8All young men aged were asked to volunteer and it was a huge success, by 1915 almost 1¼ million men volunteered. However more Scots volunteered in proportion to the population than any other part of Britain e.g. by the end of august 1914 over 20,000 had volunteered to fight from Glasgow alone.
9Why did so many Scots volunteer? The usual reasons:Patriotism/Belgian atrocitiesPeer pressure – friends volunteered, girl friends etcGuilt, fear of white featherSense of adventure – get away from mundane lives.
10But there were some particularly Scottish reasons too: Scottish martial (fighting) tradition inspired many.Scotland suffered higher unemployment and more widespread poverty than most areas in Britain. The army was a chance for a regular job and wage.Unlike England there were no official ‘pals battalions’ but many Scots rushed to join up together to fight alongside friends.The two most famous pals battalions were the 15th battalion of the Highland Light Infantry (the HLI were Glasgow’s regiment) called the Tramway battalion as it was made up mainly of tram drivers and workers.McCrae’s battalion of the Royal Scots Regiment which included the entire first and reserve team as well as supporters of Hearts Football club.The pals battalions were soon discouraged when it became clear the disastrous effect it could have on communities.
11The Scottish Experience in WW1 Trench warfareBy Xmas 1914 due to poor weather and exhaustion the troops on both sides began to dig trenches for protection and shelter. Soon these trenches would stretch 400 miles from the English Channel to Switzerland. The trench would be the main feature of warfare between 1914 – 1918.
14Life in a trench:Conditions in the trench should be familiar from standard grade:Muddy conditions leading to trench foot.Vermin e.g. lice, corpse rats, clouds of flies in summer.Boredom e.g. cleaning weapons, filling sand bags, basic food rations etc.Constant fear of death led to nervous breakdowns e.g. snipers, shell shock.Censorship of letters, worrying about wives etc left behind.
15Video Clips – Life in the Trenches Ex-soldiers memoriesSoldiers in Battle of Somme
16Life in a trenchHowever Scottish soldiers (Jocks) faired better than many as Scots regiments employed a rotation system so Scots troops would only spend a short period of time on the frontline, roughly a week, before being sent to the rear. At the rear they could relax, be deloused, get clean clothes and some hot food.
17Trench warfareCandidates should be familiar with two battles of the First World War in which many Scots (or Canadian Scots) regiments played a leading role, the Battle of Loos 1915 and the Battle of the Somme 1916.
18The Battle of Loos September 1915 This battle is often referred to in source questions as it was often called a Scottish battle due to the high proportion of Scottish soldiers involved.Over 3 days 35,000 Scottish soldiers were involved, almost half of all battalions involved were Scots or Scots Canadian.Out of the 21,000 dead over 7,000 were Scots, a far higher proportion than any other nation involved, nearly every community in Scotland was affected by loss.
19The battle itself followed the usual pattern of trench warfare: General French was in overall command but General Haig was in command of the Scots troops who were considered to be elite ‘shock troops’ to spearhead the attack and consequently would suffer the heaviest casualties.Scots soldiers captured some German trenches but could not hold the enemies trenches as they lost so many men from a combination of barbed wire, heavy machine gun and artillery fire.In desperation their commander General Haig attempted to use Chlorine gas to break the deadlock (the wind changed direction which made it ineffective) the battle came to an end with little or nothing to show for it.
20Results of the Battle of Loos Certainly the hoped breakthrough or gaining of land was not achieved; any trenches the Scots did capture were soon lost to the reinforced Germans.The commander of the army, General French was sacked and was replaced by General Haig who was to lead the British army for the rest of the war.The Scots regiments suffered heavy losses, 1/3rd of all casualties were Scots.They had won the admiration and respect of both sides, 5 VCs were awarded to Scots at Loos.
21William Angus VCAfter leaving school William Angus was employed as a miner but was able to find himself a place as a professional footballer at Celtic FC in 1912.He joined the British Army when the war began.He was 27 years old, and a lance-corporal in the The Highland Light Infantry (though serving in the 8th Royal Scots).On 12 June 1915 Lance-Corporal Angusvoluntarily left his trench under very heavybomb and rifle fire and rescued a woundedofficer who was lying within a few yards ofthe enemy's position. Angus had no chanceof escaping the enemy's fire when undertakingthis gallant deed, and in the rescue he lost aneye, had a badly wounded foot and receivedabout 40 wounds.For his actions he was awarded the VictoriaCross, Britain’s highest award for bravery.When he came home to Scotland he was givena hero's welcome and was always a guest ofhonour in major football matches.
22The Battle of the Somme July – Nov 1916 A heavy Scots involvement, at least 3 full Scottish divisions, between 36,000 – 50,000 troops were to be involved in the British army’s greatest offensive to date, commanded by General Haig. Few lessons had been learned from Loos and a massive 8 day artillery bombardment aimed at destroying the German defences failed:The German machine gunners were safe in deep concrete lined bunkers.British artillery meant to destroy German barbed wire left it largely untouched.On the first day alone 60,000 ‘Tommys’ (British troops) were killed, missing or wounded, the greatest losses by the British army in one day.In the next 5 months General Haig tried different weapons such as poison gas and even tanks but with little improvement.
23Results of the Battle of the Somme 1916 Despite going on till November 1916 the Somme gained little:Haig was convinced that a breakthrough would not be possible he now planned for a war of attrition, inflicting heavy casualties on the German army till it could no longer fight.One new weapon had proved successful, the tank, and it would be used in all further successful battles.Altogether over 400,000 British soldiers lost their lives at the Somme.Scots suffered disproportionate losses e.g. the Highland Light Infantry lost 3,500 men in one day; McCrae’s battalion of Royal Scots had a 75% casualty rate. The Somme meant the end of ‘pals’ battalions.
24Scottish Losses in WW1Due to the nature of the war on the Western Front (e.g. so many bodies were left in no man’s land) it proved impossible to accurately calculate the number of war dead.Around 557,000 Scots served in the war. Figures on Scottish dead vary from 74,000 to 100,000.The Scots had a casualty rate of 26%, roughly 1 in 5 Scots soldiers were killed or wounded, among the highest of any nation.