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WW1 ~ 1914-18

Between 1905 and 1914, inflation spiralled and the population was expanding. At first the War seemed like an escape route, as men enlisted to guarantee themselves food and regular wages.   On 28th July 1914 WW1 began. Against a rising tide of Scottish Socialism and Trade Unionism a large numbers of Scottish men volunteer to fight.  By the end of hostilities over 140,000 Scots soldiers had lost their lives.  A higher ratio of the population than the rest of the UK.

There was an initial rush to enlist with the British Expeditionary Force; it had 157 battalions, 22 of which were Scottish.  The Royal Scots regiment alone fielded 35 battalions throughout World War I and lost 12,000 men. Out of 10 Scottish Regiments it was estimated that Scotland lost about 100,000 men out of a British total of 745,000 losses. The fallen were known as ‘the Lost Generation’.

The Great War was a conflict of unparalleled ferocity.

There were 2.75M battle casualties on the Western Front alone, 25% of whom were killed, died of wounds or were missing in action. The majority suffered filthy contaminated wounds from high explosive shell, bomb and mortar blast.  It was clear that the surgical experience of previous Wars was useless and existing standards of surgical care were hopelessly inadequate.  In the early months of the war, many men died from gas gangrene because there had been far too long a delay in providing treatment.  Consulting Surgeon to the  British Forces Sir Anthony Bowlby realised that the wounded had to have surgery before they were sent back to the base hospitals.  A complete revision of the way in which care would be delivered to the wounded soldier and surgical thinking and approach to the management of war wounds was required.  Prominent in this regard was Aberdeen Surgeon Sir Henry Gray (inset) Consultant to the Royal Infirmary and the Sick Children's Hospital who made major contributions to all branches of surgery, especially orthopaedic surgery, and was instrumental in revolutionising the management of gunshot fractures of the femur or thigh bone. He was widely regarded as one of the leading figure in Wartime Surgery.

 

The 'Stane Jock'

The
51st (Highland) Division Memorial at Beaumont-Hamel commemorates the soldiers of the 51st Division killed during World War I.  The memorial is located near Y Ravine in Beaumont-Hamel Memorial Park. This position had been the scene of the Division's 1st major victory on 13 November 1916 during the closing stage of the Battle of the Somme.  The ground originally donated by the commune of Beaumont-Hamel to the Veterans of the 51st (Highland) Division, for the purposes of a memorial, were found to be unstable because of the many dugouts on the site.

Y Ravine was a forked gully (hence its name) which contained a formidably-fortified warren of defensive positions that had been the scene of a stunning victory by the Highland Division on 13 November 1916.  The selected Sculptor for the 51st Division Monument was George Henry Paulin.  The base of the monument consists of rough blocks of Rubislaw Granite which were produced by Garden & Co. in Aberdeen, Scotland, and are assembled in a pyramid form.

Company Sergeant Major Bob Rowan of the Glasgow HLI was used as the model for the kilted figure atop the memorial. The figure faces east towards the village of Beaumont-Hamel.  On the front of the memorial is a plaque inscribed in Gaelic: La a'Blair s'math n Cairdean which in English translates into "Friends are good on the day of Battle".  The other plaque reads “Scotland by this monument in the land of her ancient ally and comrade-in-arms commemorates those officers and men of the 51st Highland Division who fell in the Great War 1914-1918”.  The 51st Division Memorial was unveiled on 28 September 1924 by Marshal of France Ferdinand Foch, the former Allied Supreme Commander. The Memorial was dedicated by the Reverend Sinclair, who had been a Chaplain with the Division. The pipers of the 2nd Battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders played Flowers of the Forest during the event.

The Highlanders pushed saps forward to provide a jumping off point closer to the German lines, and this can still be clearly seen today. There had also been significant changes in the overall use of artillery. Advancing behind a creeping barrage, The Highlanders rushed forward to take the German front line and after heavy fighting, captured the strongpoint of Y Ravine and the village of Beaumont -Hamel. It was for this reason that the site was selected for the memorial to The 51st Highland Division.  'From mud, through blood, to the green fields beyond 

"The casualties sustained by the Division during the month of November amounted to 123 officers killed, wounded and missing, and 2355 other ranks.  For modern warfare [this was written in 1921] these were not heavy, particularly when compared with the number of prisoners captured during the operation.  It must, however, be borne in mind that at the time of the Battle, the Battalions were extremely weak in numbers.  The casualties during the action represented 45 per cent of those who took part in the attack."  The 51st consisted of -
152nd infantry Brigade- 5th and 6th Seaforths, 6th and 8th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.
53rd Infantry Brigade – 5th and 7th
Gordon's and 6th and 7th Black Watch.
154th infantry Brigade- 1/4th Royal Lancaster Regiment,1/4th Royal North Lancashire Lancaster Regiment, 1/8th Liverpool Irish Regiment and 2/5th Lancashire Fusiliers.

The sculptor chosen for the memorial was George Harry Paulin, a man who experienced an enormously long and successful career as a sculptor and also saw a surprisingly varied range of experience at war. Born in 1888, the son of a Church of Scotland Minister, Paulin attended Edinburgh College of Art and L’Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. He established a studio in Florence and on the outbreak of war in 1914 joined the Army as a Trooper in The Lothian and Borders Horse Regiment. He was invalided out of the army following an accident, but then joined The Royal Flying Corps. He transferred to The Royal Naval Air Service and eventually ended the War as a Flight Lieutenant in The RAF, having served in all 3 branches of the Armed Forces.  On the outbreak of war in 1939 he was rejected for Military service, but supported the war effort by working in a Glasgow munitions factory.  Paulin’s artistic career took off following the end of war in 1918. He received numerous commissions for Town war memorials, as well as commissions for Regimental memorials, including the Machine Gun Corps and Royal Tank Regiment Memorials at Whitehall. His work also includes numerous private memorials and busts and after the coronation of Queen Elizabeth 11 in 1952, Paulin received a number of Royal commissions. He spent the final years of his life living in Berkshire and died in 1962. 

The memorial was re-dedicated on 13 July 1958, the front panel now also commemorating those of the Division who died during the 2nd World War.

The Heilan' Division 
When war was declarit; the chief of the Huns 
Thocht he'd march across France wi' his men and his guns; 
But he made in his plans an unlucky omission, 
He didna' tak coont o' the Hielan' Division. 

Men frae the Tweed up to Johnnie o' Groats, 
Trained upon parritch an' haggis an' oats; 
Ah Willie, wee man, 'twas a mournful omission, 
Ye didna' tak coont o' the Hielan' Division. 

Beaumont Hamel, Festubert, Wipers an' Roeux, 
When they're owre the bags, they're a cert to get through; 
And they mop the Blue Line wi' unco precision - 
The bonny bold lads o' the Hielan' Division. 

Laddies frae Johnnie o' Groats to the Tweed, 
Broucht up on whisky, an' a' hairy-kneed; 
They mop up the trenches wi' awfu' precision. 
The bonneted lads o' the Hielan' Division. 

If the Jocks are wa' back for a bit o' a rest, 
Then the Army wi'oot them is waefully pressed; 
An' wee Duggie Haig mak's a sudden decision 
To send up the lads o' the Hielan' Division. 

Frae the braes o' the Somme to the banks o' auld Wipers, 
The Army is cheered by the sound o' their pipers; 
They're glad Duggie Haig made the sudden decision 
To send up the lads o' the Hielan' Division. 

You can cut doon our bully, and dock us oor jam, 
Gie the cheese to the corbies - we don't care a damn; 
But there's ane thing to mind when ye're makin' provision - 
A ration o' rum for the Hielan' Division. 

If you're a gunner, or sapper, or follow the drum, 
Ye're a' o ye better o' a guid tot o' rum; 
So look to it, mon, ye'll be makin' provision 
For a bon tot o' rum for the Hielan' Division. 

When the fechtin' is done, an' we gang awa hame, 
Even Mr. Beech Thomas will hear o' oor fame; 
And then, if the Army should need some revision, 
They'll tak for their model the Hielan' Division. 

Men from the Tweed up to auld John o' Groats, 
Brocht up on whisky, an' parritch, an' oats, 
Ye ken ye were wise when ye made ye're decision, 
To throw in ye'r lot wi' the Hielan' Division.


War Bonds & Julian the Tank Bank

In 1916, the Government began to issue War Bonds as a way of raising money. Since the 1st World War, National Savings campaigns have invited the public to invest in War Bonds and related products. The result has been a range of attractive posters, often by the best commercial artists.

 

Julian the Tank Bank (Tank No.113) - he was given to Aberdeen at the end of the 1st World War - sited at the Broadhill and remained there until 1940 when it was taken taken for WW2 Scrap.  An area of town around the Castlegate where Julian was stood in 1918 is still known as "the tank" site,  £2 million was raised in a week in Aberdeen by Julian over 16 Guineas per head from the ever canny and frugal Aberdonian Population The incentive was that the City that invested in the most War Bonds got to keep Julian the Tank Bank.

There is a record of the `Tank Bank' tour through Scotland designed to raise money for the 1st World War through the issuing of War Bonds. Charged with raising money for the war, the Scottish War Savings Committee initiated a ‘Tank Bank’ campaign which, though carried out at home, would become one of the most successful tank operations of the entire war.  A Scottish Regiment followed on Parade, a Tank No. 113 and referred to as `Julian' is active in the background demonstrating its capabilities by crossing barbed wire fence, a mound, a ditch and a wall Tank Bank Week in Aberdeen was a great success. Crowds in Rosemount Viaduct and Union Terrace clamoured to attend Julian while dominated by the large statue of William Wallace.  The Tank also gave a  demonstration in the Castlegate.

A Tank would arrive for a week with great fanfare, Civic Dignitaries and Local Celebrities would greet the Tank and speeches would often be made atop it.  The tank would be accompanied by soldiers and artillery guns, sometimes an aeroplane would drop pamphlets over the Town or City prior to the Tank's appearance exhorting the people to invest. The Tank would usually put on a show for the crowds in order to demonstrate its capabilities.  The visited town or city would have a fund raising target it tried to meet, the amount raised by each location would be reported in the National Press thus ensuring a strong competitive element, especially between the larger Industrial Cities

Julian 'The Tank Bank' Aberdeen/Dundee Footage

The mechanical patriot does doughty deeds under the statue of Wallace giving shots of crowds around "Julian", the "Tank Bank"; The Chairman of the Scottish War Savings Committee, Lord Strathclyde, (Alexander Ure) opened the campaign alongside another dignitary Lord Provost James Taggart (Granite Merchant) who invested £50,000 on behalf of the Aberdeen Corporation.  Two ladies inside the tank itself busied themselves proffering War Bonds to Provost Taggart in uniform; .

The Tank Bank brought home to the community the necessity of saving all we can and lending all we can for the War effort.  Lord Provost Taggart (Inset) said "We want your money not to continue but to end the war". while the War Savings Committee personnel stood atop the tank.  Miss Findlay, Secretary of the War Savings Committee on her podium stated "Bonds and Certificates are really weapons with which you can strike dismay into the heart of the Germans".  She was filmed walking in Union Terrace Gardens; Aberdeen Tank Bank Week realised £2,501,000 at £16.6s.2d. per person. "Tank You!"  

The lesson the Tank teaches us is the spirit of overcoming difficulties.

Sir William Robertson, Lord Lieutenant of Fifeshire said "If anyone doubts the security of the Tank Bank - Well! Aberdeen was satisfied with it and many queued for Bonds."  It is not surprising that Aberdeen invested so heavily as a near Garrison Town with 3 active Barracks many families would have had men in the Army and or at the front.

In 1918 the people had lost faith in their Politicians and their Propaganda as a result of a mismanaged War. Soldiers returning from the front found unemployment and poverty; the ‘land fit for heroes’ never happened. Although 200,000 new homes had been completed, plans for 1M did not materialise.  The Wartime boom was followed by a sharp downturn in Trade from 1919 onwards. Britain lost its leading position as a world Economic power. Unemployment was severe as heavy industry collapsed. Revolution was in the air as the Red Flag was raised in George Square, Glasgow, demonstrating that politics were changing  - radically.  The Government fearing a Russian style revolt used Tanks against workless men while Glasgow's soldiers were confined to Barracks.  By 1924 Britain had its 1st-ever Labour Government.


Trench Foot
Trench Foot was a serious disorder during World War 1, especially during the winter of 1914-1915, when over 20,000 Allied men were affected. Whale oil played a vital role in minimizing the condition but even so some 74,000 Allied troops had been afflicted by the end of the war.  In Flanders and France trenches were dug in land that was often at or near to sea level and where the water table was just beneath the soil surface.

After a couple of feet of digging the soldiers inevitably hit water and the trenches became flooded. To make matters worse, the heavy artillery barrages destroyed the agricultural land-drains and the whole landscape became a sea of mud in which men could literally drown. Conditions were arguably at their worst at the Battle of Passchendale in the Ypres salient. After hours and days of standing in soaking socks and boots, Trench Foot would begin to set in. The men's feet would swell and go numb and then the skin would start to turn red or blue. Untreated feet rapidly became gangrenous and would need to be amputated.

To minimize the chances of contacting Trench Foot, the men were ordered to change into dry socks as often as possible. Around 1916, John Logie Baird started to sell under-socks prepared with borax to help alleviate the problems of wet feet. These were widely used by soldiers at the front. The soldiers were also instructed to 'anoint' each others' feet with whale oil at least once a day. It is estimated that a Battalion (1007 men and 30 officers) at the front would use up to 10 gallons of whale oil every day.


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Last modified: 01/09/2013