Watt, Patrick (2019) Manpower, myth and memory: analysing Scotland's military contribution to the Great War. Journal of Scottish Historical Studies, 39 (1). pp. 75-100. ISSN 1748-538x

[img]
Preview
PDF (Published version of article)
2327 Manpower, Myth and Memory Analysing Scotland's Military Contribution to the Great War.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (282kB) | Preview

Abstract

The aim of this article is to determine what conclusions the available sources allow us to make about the nature of Scottish service and sacrifice in the Great War. The article finds that contemporary sources do not lend themselves well to statistical analysis of Scotland's manpower contribution in the Great War. The lack of an agreed definition of who counted as a Scot makes establishing an exact number of Scottish war dead impossible. It establishes that in trying to quantify the Scottish manpower contribution historians have relied too heavily on statistics produced in the 1970s by Jay Winter, which, while broadly accurate, mask the nuances of armed forces recruitment in Scotland In July 1927, the Scottish National War Memorial at Edinburgh Castle opened to the public in a ceremony of ‘quite exceptional dignity and impressiveness’.1 Created to commemorate Scotland's sons who had died in the Great War, the memorial became a focal point for national mourning, and added an imposing physical dimension to a long-established Scottish military tradition. For one journalist present at the unveiling ceremony, the memorial was ‘an emblem and a testimony of the nation's grief and the nation's achievement’, which itself was ‘of a magnitude [and] a kind unsurpassed and unexampled in the story of any country, even in the bloodstained and glorious annals of Scotland’.2 The central focus of the memorial was the shrine – a stone of remembrance on which stands a casket containing the names of all Scots who died in the conflict.3 By commemorating those who died while serving in Scottish regiments, those born in Scotland, and others who had a claim to Scottish ancestry, the memorial adopted – and continues to adopt – an inclusive definition of Scottishness, and highlighted the importance of war to notions of Scottish national identity in the early twentieth century.4
The Scottish National War Memorial was distinct among the plethora of local and national monuments built across Britain in the aftermath of the Great War. As Jenny MacLeod noted, there are no English national memorials on a comparative scale, with those memorials situated in London – the Cenotaph and Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, in particular – representing the British, rather than English, contribution to the war.5 The driving force behind the creation of a specifically Scottish memorial was John Stewart-Murray, the 8th Duke of Atholl. A distinguished former soldier, Atholl believed that ‘the people of Scotland have taken no mean part in this war’ and, in terms of commemoration, Scotland should be treated ‘as a nation and not as a conglomerate of provincial towns’.6 The creation of a separate national memorial in Edinburgh supported the idea that Scotland made a distinctive contribution to the war effort, albeit one set firmly within a wider British and Imperial context. That contribution involved two main linked themes: first, that Scotland suffered a disproportionate number of casualties compared to the rest of the United Kingdom; and, second, that the Scottish manpower contribution was, in some way, unique.7
The aim of this article is to determine what conclusions the available sources allow us to make about the nature of Scottish service and sacrifice in the Great War. It has three main findings. First, it finds that contemporary sources do not lend themselves well to statistical analysis of Scotland's manpower contribution in the Great War. Second, the lack of an agreed definition of who counted as a Scot makes establishing an exact number of Scottish war dead impossible. Third, it finds that in trying to quantify the Scottish manpower contribution historians have relied too heavily on statistics produced in the 1970s by Jay Winter, which, while broadly accurate, mask the nuances of armed forces recruitment in Scotland.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Scotland, Great War, military, losses, statistics, British Army, Royal Navy, Royal Flying Corps, myth, memory
Subjects: A General Works > AM Museums (General). Collectors and collecting (General)
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D501 World War I
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GR Folklore
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
T Technology > TL Motor vehicles. Aeronautics. Astronautics
U Military Science > U Military Science (General)
V Naval Science > V Naval Science (General)
Theme: Identities and cultural contacts
Department: Scottish History and Archaeology (from 2012)
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Ross Anderson
Date Deposited: 29 May 2019 10:35
Last Modified: 29 May 2019 10:35
URI: http://repository.nms.ac.uk/id/eprint/2327

Actions (login required)

Modify Record Modify Record