Scotland's War

Scotland's War

Scots had been dying in wars and conflicts for centuries but the Great War was one of the most awful, bitter and destructive conflicts for the Scottish nation. It virtually wiped out a generation of young men.

It has been said that more Scots died per head of population than any of the other parts of the United Kingdom.

When war against Germany was declared, the Scottish recruiting offices were inundated with volunteers. Working men in particular responded to the call. Within a year of the outbreak of war, 25% of Scottish coalminers had enlisted.

Once the Scottish troops arrived in France, they found themselves having to endure the horrors and privations of trench warfare, the constant threat of disease and injury, and the risk of death.

A significant number of casualties occurred amongst Scots serving in the Royal Navy, Royal Naval Reserve, the Mercantile Marine and the Royal Flying Corps.

On the home front, Scotland produced more than its fair share of munitions for the front line. By 1917, 250,000 people in Scotland were engaged in manufacturing ordnance.

Before the fighting broke out, Scottish women had been particularly vociferous in demanding the vote. But during the conflict, women raised their profile by being involved in occupations. Scottish nurses, in particular, distinguished themselves. However, women also lost their lives serving in the war.

But as well as hard work, the war effort also brought discontent. The fighting pushed prices and rents up, and many workers - particularly skilled ones - resented the fact that their own interests were being subordinated to the war effort.

The focus of the public's attention was on the fighting at the front, but back at home, Scotland's history was being redefined.

© Yvonne T McEwen