Royal Scots Wed, 09 Apr 2014 15:53:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Excavation of Edinburgh’s WWI Trenches Begins Mon, 18 Feb 2013 15:20:06 +0000 Officer William Ewart Gladstone-Millar of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders trained in the “Dreghorn sludge”.

Officer William Ewart Gladstone-Millar of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders trained in the “Dreghorn sludge”.

At almost 100 years old, excavation and examination work has begun on Dreghorn Barrack’s WWI trench training system by world renowned archeologists. Originally dug by the 16th Battalion The Royal Scots before they served in France, the trenches provided the only experience Scots soldiers had of trench warfare before arriving on the Western Front.

Experts are hoping the study will lay bare the secrets of trench design and any methods used to keep up with the initially superior trench-building German forces.

Local historian Lynne Gladstone-Millar, who has been campaigning to save the trenches for ten years, said she was extremely pleased the trenches have been recognised as a place of national significance. Her father, William Ewart Gladstone-Millar was a young officer in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and trained in the ‘Dreghorn Sludge’ before winning the Military Cross during the Great War.

Lynne remembers her father saying: “There was a very specialised kind of mud there. We called it “Dreghorn Sludge’. It caked on to your kilt so that the peats lacerated your chapped knees like knives. It always seemed to be raining , and day in day out, we had to plunge in and out of these trenches, getting soggier and soggier. And then there was the march back to Mortonhall [Edinburgh]. It was not done to complain – among the officers anyway.” Officer Gladstone-Millar was shot in both legs after going over the top at the Battle of the Somme, and crawled his way back to his own lines. He was later awarded the Military Cross after capturing an enemy machine gun nest at the Second Battle of the Marne.

The excavation team – made up of archaeologists from the MoD’s Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), the council and specialists from the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Battlefield Archaeology – will chart the route and condition of the trenches before making recommendations for future management of the site.

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Royal Scots WWI Mystery Mon, 18 Feb 2013 14:35:09 +0000 The Mystery Royal Scots Soldier

The Mystery Royal Scots Soldier

A researcher is appealing for help to identify a picture of an unknown Royal Scots soldier in time for the WWI centenary. Alistair McEwan, creator of the online archive Edinburgh’s War, found the solitary picture in a book of autographs collected by a teenager at the YMCA ‘American Hut’ site in Edinburgh’s Saint Andrew’s Square during the Great War.

The book belonged to Elizabeth Edgar, who would help her mother at the hut tending to visiting servicemen. The hut was a stop-off point for war-weary soldiers on their way home from duties in Europe and featured cinematography and billiards tables. Elizabeth collected autographs, sketches and poetry from servicemen, including Lance Corporal R W Brown, of the 9th Scottish Rifles, who wrote on March 8, 1917: “What? Write in a book, Where ladies look, and critics spy? Not I, Not I.”

The photograph, found inside the book, also included a dedication to Elizabeth. McEwan said it’s possible the two knew each other – “We would be very keen to identify him as it would be nice for the family that gave me the autograph book to find out who he was.”

He said little was known about the entertainment complex which encompassed the entirety of Saint Andrew’s Square, apart from information from a news article dated March 14, 1919. Volunteers would run the tented centre, which could house up to 250 servicemen, offering a 125-seat dining room and fun and games for up to 500. The piece told of “a spacious lounge with an information bureau, a newspaper and postcard stand” and a kitchen with “the latest appliances”. There were “conveniences such as shower baths and individual lockers” and it said meals were excellent both in quality and value, costing 1s 6d for three courses, with tea, coffee, or cocoa to follow.

The pages from the book will be uploaded to the Edinburgh’s War website in early 2013. Edinburgh’s War is a collaborative virtual history project between the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh City Libraries, local historians and community groups. The project aims to tell the story of the people and institutions of Edinburgh, Leith and the Lothians during the war years of 1914 to 1918. McEwan said the approaching centenary of WWI has reaffirmed interest in the project. “There’s the history hub at the library if anyone wants to bring any letters, archives, medals or photographs for interpretation or if they have any information on this unidentified soldier.”

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