World War 1

World War One Lochbroom  Collage

Men of Lochbroom 1914-1918

The Lovat Scouts

It was on the 5th of August 1914 that Major Angus Macneil (late 78th Highlanders), commanding the West Coast Squadron of Lovat Scouts, arrived in Lochbroom to buy up horses and to give his men, who had assembled to meet him, their instructions for mobilisation.  The Lochbroom troop of Lovat Scouts was recruited from Inverbroom House by circulars and letters in 1903.  The recruits were sworn in there and for several years the troop attended the annual training in the fields in front of Inverbroom House.  Later the Scouts received their training in camp at Beaufort, Brodie, etc.

A few days after Major Macneil's visit to Lochbroom a group of ponies belonging to the Lovat Scouts (chiefly from the Dundonnell district) were taken by road across Scotland to the Lovat Scout Camp at Beaufort, some seventy miles distant.  Several of these ponies had the distinctive "Eel mark" along the back, which bespeaks the pure bred Highland pony.

The eminent zoologist, Professor Cossar Ewart (Regius Professor of Natural History in the Edinburgh University), has placed on record his opinion that the true type of this native breed existed in Dundonnell, Lochbroom, up to the beginning of the twentieth century, in an absolutely pure and unmixed form dating back from the most remote ages.  It is a matter for congratulation that the lives of these fine ponies were not sacrificed in any of the areas of war.

Lovat Scouts, E Squadron.  Officers' and Sergeants' photograph taken at Skegness in Lincolnshire on 16 April 1915. 

Front row l-r:  L/Cpl Mackenzie (Sutherland), L/Cpl A Grant, L/Cpl H Morrison (Sutherland), L/Cpl W Gunn, L/Cpl Macmillan (?)
2nd row l-r:  Piper Cpl Campbell, RSM Broadley, SSM  Ross (Camerons), 2/Lieut J Stirling, Lieut The Hon I M Campbell, Major A J Macneil, Capt. Lovett Campbell (Skye/RAMC), Lieut I Loyd, Lieut A Gilmour, Staff QMS Angus Macleod, Piper Angus Mackay
3rd row l-r:  L/Cpl Mackenzie (?), L/Cpl J Munro, L/Cpl Macrae, Cpl D Macleod, Cpl D Maclean, Sgt F Stuart, Sgt J Paterson, Sgt K Maclennan, Cpl Webb (Major Macneil's servant), Cpl Angus Macpherson (Skye), Sgt G W Mackay (Sutherland), Sgt J Maclennan
4th row l-r:  L/Cpl Mackenzie, L/Cpl K Campbell, Capt Hugh Mackay (Sutherland), L/Cpl Mackay (Sutherland), L/Cpl Mackenzie, L/Cpl A Sutherland (Sutherland), L/Cpl K Campbell, Cpl Ross (Skye), (Shoeing smith) L/Cpl W J Mackay (Sutherland), (?) RAMC, Farrier  Cpl Chisholm
5th row l-r:  Cpl D Maclennan, (?), Cpl D Sutherland, Cpl Angus Macdonald, L/Cpl Hugh Mackinnon

When the Lovat Scouts were sent to the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915 they were not accompanied by their horses;  nor did they require them later in France, when picked men from the Lovat Scouts were sent to the front lines as snipers and observers.  These specially picked men underwent a course of several weeks' training at Beaufort first, under Colonel Ewen Grant, and when he accompanied his snipers to France, Lt-Col Pelham Burn took over the training of the snipers and observers.

Writing of the special qualifications of the Lovat Scouts for observation and sniping, Major Hesketh Pritchard says, "For long distance work, and the higher art of observation, the Germans had nothing to touch our Lovat Scouts.  It was the telescope against the field-glass, and the telescope won every time.  The 'Lovats' were found to be so invaluable with the telescope that they were in many cases forbidden to use the rifle.  The man who has spent twenty years on the hill, and who has counted the points of a thousand stags, who knows the difference between every stag that he sees in a corrie (and who is never far from a telescope), when he goes to war simply carries into another sphere the normal activities of his life.  Certainly, the men who follow the red deer of Scotland proved themselves once again in this war to possess qualities which, let us hope, will never pass from the British race." 

4th Seaforths (Territorial Battalion)

The first move of this Battalion (immediately upon mobilisation in the first week of August) was to camp on the north-eastern seaboard of Ross-shire.  Here good work was done in forming the first coast defences in Ross-shire.  Not a pick, shovel or spade in the county town or its neighbourhood but was requisitioned for the emergency.  The barbed wire previously referred to was now brought into use.  A week or ten days later came a sudden call to friends in Lochbroom to bid the Battalion, now transferred to Inverness, farewell.

Officers of the 4th Bn The Seaforth Highlanders.  Taken at Bedford 5 November 1914 just before they left for France.

Front row l-r:  Capt C Blunt, Major J W Fraser (Leckmelm), Major Robertson (killed Neuve Chapelle), Capt Sir John Fowler, Braemore (killed 22/6/18), Lt Col Macfarlane, Turin (wounded 11/3/15), Major Cuthbert, Achindruie (wounded 11/3/15), Capt James Cameron (Balnakyle), Capt D A Mackenziie (Ullapool)
2nd row l-r:  2/Lieut P B Macintyre, Findon (killed 3/8/17), 2/Lieut S Sutherland Graeme (London), Lieut Colin Cameron, Balnakyle (killed 11/4/18), Capt R Truslove, London (wounded 11/3/15), Capt R S Brodie (Conon), 2/Lieut Andrew Fraser, Leckmelm (killed Fontaine, Notre Dame), Lieut R Macdonald, Tain (wounded), Capt H Budge (killed Neuve Chapelle), 2/Lieut G W Daman, England (killed 24/5/15), Capt C G Hogg (Evanton)
3rd row l-r:  2/Lieut W S Dewar (Dingwall), Lieut Macmillan, Dingwall (killed Neuve Chapelle), 2/Lieut A J Railton, Buxton (killed Aubers Ridge), 2/Lieut G W Fraser, Dingwall (wounded), 2/Lieut C Tennant, Glasgow (killed Aubers Ridge), 2/Lieut M A Fitzroy, Rugby (killed 17/4/15), 2/Lieut I D Henderson (Caledonian Club, SW), 2/Lieut Hope (Edinburgh), Lieut Brook (Invergordon) 

No motors or motor drivers were now available, all having been requisitioned by the Government, and the sixty mile drive was accomplished in a large old-fashioned horse-driven brake.  At the same time Government vehicles carried away from Lochbroom fresh contingents of smart uniformed lads in kilts, khaki tunics and glengarries to the final muster of the Battalion at Inverness. *

[* It may here be mentioned that the mounted officers of the 4th Seaforths wore Seaforth tartan riding breeches instead of kilts.  They wore the same glengarries and khaki tunics as the men.  Their swords were returned from France as proving an encumbrance in trench warfare.  The glengarry cap was superseded later by a flat khaki-covered bonnet, and khaki riding breeches took the place of the tartan.]

The greatest secrecy in all military matters was the order of the day, and we had no intimation as to what was to be the immediate destination of the 4th Seaforths.  

It was almost in silence that we drove along under a blazing sun, clouds of dust such as had never before been seen on our Highland roads drifting past and over us.  After a drive of some forty miles we paused to rest ourselves and the horses at Coul House, where Sir Arthur Mackenzie and his sister kindly entertained us.  There, for the first time, we heard that some of our British troops had already crossed over to France.  In whispered tones we were told, "The 12th Lancers have gone!"

Then on reaching Inverness we heard that the 2nd Battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (93rd Regiment), recently stationed at Fort George, had vanished in the night!  Gone - under sealed orders - no one knew whither!  Engine drivers and guards of the train left in absolute ignorance of their destination. *

[* Alas, the first news received of the Argyll and Sutherlands, a week or two later, told of their heroic but hopeless resistance on 26th August against the overwhelming numbers of the German foe at Le Cateau, a battlefield situated near the eastern borders of France.]

These facts brought home to us the urgency and gravity of the present crisis, and it was with feelings of relief that we gathered that the destination of the 4th Seaforths was, for the time being, to be the town of Bedford.  About 3000 troops were now quartered in Inverness.  The Headquarters of the 4th Seaforths was in the College buildings, on the north side of the River Ness.

We had an opportunity of seeing the Battalion on a "route march", Colonel Mason Macfarlane in command, our Lochbroom lads holding themselves bravely.

The most brilliant sunshine still prevailed, and, while everyone realised the gravity of the situation, a spirit of hope and confience pervaded the Battalion.  An advance party, under Major Charles Blunt, having now left for Bedford, and there being an immense amount of work for the officers and Adjutant to attend to, we deemed it wiser not to wait for the actual departure of the Battalion from Inverness (on the 14th August) but to return to our own homes in Locmbroom.

It was not till the first days of November 1914 that we travelled to Bedford, where many Highland troops were in training, to see the Battalion depart for France.  Previous to their departure the 4th Seaforths were drawn up for inspection in the grounds of Bedford Grammar School and, close to its ivy-clad buildings, Brigadier-General Duncan Macfarlane, CB, inspected, and then addressed the Battalion.  After the inspection was over, small pocket Testaments (the gift of Colonel Stewart-Mackenzie of Seaforth) were presented to the men, and we spoke a word of "Goodbye" to many of the lads.

One of the pocket Testaments presented in November 1914.

And the owner?  Not a 'Man of Lochbroom' but one of the 4th Seaforths who left for France in November 1914 and died in action in March 1915 age 17.  [Photos RCHS]

Warm congratulations from the Brigade Major were privately received as follows:

"The transformation of this Battalion is most remarkable.  In June last, at the camp at Kingussie, one seldom saw a more raw body of recruits.  Now they are well-disciplined men, almost up to the standard of regular troops, and a very few weeks' more training will make them entirely so."

That the above testimony of efficiency was in no way overstated is proved by the fact that the 4th Seaforths were the first Battalion of the Highland Territorial Brigade selected for active service in France, and that in consequence of this fact they became entitled to the so-called "Mons Medal", only issued to those troops which reached France before the middle of November, during the first stage of the war usually described as "the first Battle of Ypres".

Related image
The Mons Medal

Later on the Battalion formed part of the famed 51st Division composed entirely of Territorial troops, than whom the Germans were said to have stated they had no more formidable opponents.

The 51st Division

The Rev D Strang (8th Seaforth Highlanders) states in a lecture printed by the Seaforth Highlanders Regimental Association, in 1920, that:
"In June 1915 the 51st Highland Territorial Division (which comprises among other units the 5th and 6th Battalions of the Seaforth Highlanders) came into action for the first time at La Couture.  Curiously enough, these two Battalions found themselves alongside the 1st and 4th Battalions of the Regiment on their first tour of duty in the trenches."
On the occasion of the installation of M. Raymond Poincaré, President of the French Republic, as Lord Rector of Glasgow University on 13 November 1919, the President, in the course of his address, sums up the career in the Great War of the 51st Division in the following words:

"The three Divisions which were entirely formed of Scottish troops, namely the 9th, the 15th and the 51st, have performed splendid achievements."

After recording the numerous engagements of the 9th and 15th Divisions, M. Poincaré adds as follows:

"The 51st Division, that also deserved everywhere the admiration of the Allies, signalised itself in 1915 at Festubert, where it lost 1500 men;  in 1916 on the Somme, where it lost 8500 men, and on the Ancre, where it lost 2500 men;  in 1917 at Roneux, where it lost 3000 men;  in Flanders, where it lost in two battles 2500 men;  round Cambrai, where it took Havrincourt, Flesquières, Fontaine Notre Dame, and lost 2500 men;  in 1918 in the sector of Marchies Bapaume, where it lost 5000 men and was honourably mentioned in the despatches of the Commander-in-Chief, and lately, in the month of July 1918, amidst the French armies of Champagne where it bravely attacked the Huns before Rheims, and lost again 2000 men.

"How many valiant Scots are thus lying on the soil of France after fighting for the common ideal of both our nations!  To the mothers and widows of these heroes I give the assurance thet their image will ever be engraved in the memory and the heart of my country, and that the French women will take care of their graves as if they were those where their husbands and children are sleeping."

Thursday 5 November1914.  Then came the day of the departure of the 4th Seaforths for France, mercifully one of bright autumnal sunshine.  Many a parent and relative had travelled 600 miles from the north of Scotland to bid their dear ones farewell.  Some of the lads were but bright faced boys still in their teens.  They marched past, fully equipped with haversacks, waterbottles, overcoat, rifle and entrenching tool.  It was easy to distinguish the Highland lads from the small percentage of Scotsmen who had joined the 4th Seaforths from London (not having been able to fulfil their wish to enrol themselves in the ranks of the London Scottish).  These recruits from London were, many of them, men of trained and cultured minds - stockbrokers, actors and clerks.  Their presence in the Battalion was a great asset and, being nearly all of one nationality, they fraternised thoroughly at all times with the rest of the Battalion.

The mounted officers were, of course, Colonel Mason-Macfarlane, Major Robertson, Major Cuthbert and Captain Sir John Fowler, the Adjutant.  

Never had departing troops (the first to leave Bedford for the battlefields of France) a more enthusiastic send-off.  Dense crowds of onlookers, friends and relatives, lined the streets.  Many people were waving last farewells, and some were uttering blessings on the passsing troops, and though the then popular marching song - It's a long, long way to Tipperary  - was sung by the lads as they marched along, the music of their voices could hardly be heard above the cheers of the crowd.  Surely this was but a fulfilment of the prophetic words written down 350 years previously by John Bunyan during his sojourn (for conscience sake) in Bedford Gaol:

"Then they set forward on their way - and their friends accompanying them so far as was convenient, they again committed each other to the protection of their King - and parted."

Alice Fowler
February 1921

These Battalion and Company Orders for 22 and 23 April were given by Captain Andrew Fraser to his Mother just before he went to France for the last time.
Battalion Orders by Lieut-Colonel J S Unthank, Commanding 1/4th Bn Seaforth Highlanders.

For 22 April 1917.
1.  Church Service.  A voluntary joint Presbyterian and Church of England Service will be held at 11 am outside Battalion Headquarters.
2.  Baths.  The Baths at Candle Factor, St Nicholas, are allotted tomorrow as follows:
No. 1 Company from 9 am to 10.30 am.  No. 2 Company, 10.30 am to 12 noon.  Headquarters, 12 noon to 1.30 pm.  No 3 Company, 1.30 pm to 3 pm.  No 4 Company 3 pm to 4.30 pm.  Details and Remainder of HQ, 4.30 pm to 5 pm.

Administrative Instructions.
1.  Kit.  All valises, packs, blankets and spare mess kits will be returned to QM Stores tomorrow.  They will be stacked in the billet next to Cookers of Nos. 1 and 2 Companies by 6 pm.  Leather jerkins, greatcoats and waterproof sheets will be kept.  Blankets will be rolled in bundles of 10, and packs will be stacked by Companies, each Company furnishing a guard.
2.  Rations for 'Z' Day.  A breakfast and chocolate ration will be issued for consumption on 'Z' morning.  A complete preserved ration for consumption on 'Z' day will be carried in addition to the emergency ration.  Steps must be taken to see that all water bottles are filled.  Solidified alcohol will be issued tomorrow according to strengths.  There are a hundred tins for the whole Battalion.
3.  SAA.  One bandolier per man will be carried in addition to the 120 rounds in the pouches.  This is primarily intended to be available for Lewis Guns and will be issued tomorrow.
4.  Tools.  The number of tools available is still very small, and as many as possible must be saved.  Picks and shovels will be drawn tomorrow from Battalion Headquarters.
5.  Sandbags.  OC Companies will report by 9 am tomorrow number required to make up three per man.
6.  Bombs.  The Bombing Officer will issue bombs necessary to complete the draft.

T H Peverell, Capt. and Adjutant.  21.4.17.

OC No. 3.  Your Company will move off at 7.35 instead of the time given you this morning.  Move straight up to assembly position in Railway Cutting.  You must not get ahead of the 9th Royal Scots.

T H Peverell, Capt. and Adjutant.  22.4.17.

OC No. 3.  Herewith copy of Map No. 2 showing Artillery Barrage ends.  The date and hour of ZERO is Monday morning, 23 April, at 4.45 am.

T H Peverell, Capt. and Adjutant, 4th Seaforth Highlanders.  22.4.17.

Continued in page 04
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