By john buchan
THE ROYAL SCOTS FUSILIERS
WITH A PREFACE BY
H.R.H. THE PRINCE OF WALES
THOMAS NELSON AND SONS, LTD.
LONDON, EDINBURGH, and NEW YORK.
THIS history has been compiled when the 250th anniversary of the birth of the Royal Scots Fusiliers is only three years distant. It tells vividly of the great and glorious heritage handed down by a regiment, which has served thirteen sovereigns, and has enhanced its worth to the British Empire in each succeeding reign.
It is a regiment, which has ever upheld the great traditions of British courage and loyalty. Its story will appeal to all who revere the great deeds by which that Empire was won and held, and will inspire all who now endeavour to follow in the footsteps of those who served their King and Country in time past.
The whole work of compiling and publishing this book has been undertaken by John Buchan (who has old family connections with the regiment) as a memorial to his brother, who fought and died gallantly in the Great War while serving in the Royal Scots Fusiliers. The thanks of all connected with the Royal Scots Fusiliers are due to John Buchan for his great and inspiring work.
The obligations of a writer of regimental history must be innumerable, and I would confess most gratefully how heavily I have leaned on the assistance of the officers of the Royal Scots Fusiliers. One or two debts call for specific acknowledgment. The Rev. Thomas Scott, who was a chaplain in the regiment from 1889 to 1910, has for the past three years given up most of his time to helping me. He has pursued inquiries which were impossible for me in the press of other duties; he has visited English and Scottish libraries on my behalf to consult authorities; and his devoted co-operation has made this book largely his own. I cannot put it lower than that. To Major F. T. V. Dunne I am indebted for his invaluable summaries of the diaries of the various battalions in the Great War. Lieutenant-Colonel F. G. Jackson has permitted me the use of the manuscript journals of old Scots Fusiliers in his possession; and Lieutenant-Colonel A. H. Abercrombie has placed at my disposal his unrivalled knowledge of regimental history. Finally, I have to thank Air Chief-Marshal Sir Hugh Trenchard, the colonel of the regiment, for his good counsel, and Major-General Sir W. D. Smith, Major-General J. H. W. Pollard, Brigadier-General R. K. Walsh, Lieutenant-Colonels A. M. H. Forbes, A. G. Baird-Smith, D. M. Wilkie, H. C. Maitland-Mackgill-Crichton, F. E. Buchanan, J. R. Turner, J. E. Utterson-Kelso, Major Yuille, and Major W. Kerr Kelso for revising my later chapters in the light of their special knowledge.
In the matter of illustrations I am much indebted to Lieutenant-Colonel A. C. Adair. Lieutenant-Colonel A. G. Baird Smith has most kindly prepared the coloured illustrations of uniforms at different periods. I have to thank the Earl of Caithness for permission to reproduce the picture of Major-General Thomas Buchan, which hangs at Auchmacoy.
In my notes I have endeavoured to acknowledge my debts to the various printed sources of information. One I must specially name. In common with every writer of military history, I have owed much to my friend, the Hon. J. W. Fortescue, whose classic History of the British Army, is the greatest historical enterprise of our day, and I have further to thank Mr. Fortescue for his kindness in answering my private queries.
Every history of a regiment should possess a nominal roll of the officers who have served in it since its creation. I would fain have included this, but the imperfect character of the old records made anything approaching a complete roll impossible.
Elsfield Manor, Oxford,
CHAPTER 1. — THE EARL OF MAR’S REGIMENT
Scotland in the seventeenth century — The Duke of Lauderdale — The Highland host — The formation of Mar’s Regiment — Drumclog and Bothwell Brig — Claverhouse — Thomas Buchan — The Highland Watch — The Revolution of 1688
CHAPTER 11. — FIGHTING IN FLANDERS
The British soldier at the close of the seventeenth century — The regiment’s first foreign campaign —Steenkirk — Landen — The regiment returns to Scotland
CHAPTER 111. — THE WARS OF MARLBOROUGH
The War of the Spanish Succession — Marlborough and Boufflers — The campaign of Blenheim —Marlborough and Villeroy — Ramillies — The North British Fusiliers — Oudenarde — The siege of Lille — The campaign of Malplaquet — The campaign of 1711 — The Royal North British Fusiliers
CHAPTER IV. — SHERRIFMUIR, DETTINGEN, AND FONTENOY
The influence of Marlborough — The regiment in Scotland — The rebellion of 1715 —Sheriffmuir — The condition of the soldier — Sir Andrew Agnew of Lochnay — Dettingen — Fontenoy
CHAPTER V. — THE “‘FORTY-FIVE”
The meaning of Jacobitism — The rebellion of 1745 — The defence of Blair Castle — Cullodon
CHAPTER VI. — FROM LAUFFELD TO SARATOGA
Lauffeld — The Royal Warrant of 1751 — Gibraltar — Belleisle — Service in Canada — Changes in the British Army — The American revolution — General Burgoyne — The Saratoga campaign — The surrender
CHAPTER VII. — THE REVOLUTION WARS
The reconstruction of the regiment — Service in Nova Scotia — The French Revolution — Service in the West Indies — Martinique — Guadeloupe — Return to Scotland — Service in Ireland — The Dublin riots
CHAPTER VIII. — THE WAR WITH NAPOLEON
The 2nd Battalion formed — The 1st Battalion in Sicily — Sir Frederick Adam — The expedition to Egypt — The Ischia expedition — The defence of Messina — Service in the Spanish Peninsula — The entry into Genoa — The 2nd Battalion in Ireland — The attack on Bergen-op-Zoom — The 2nd Battalion disbanded — The 1st Battalion in America — Bladensburg — The capture of Washington — The failure at Baltimore — The Louisiana campaign — New Orleans
CHAPTER IX. — THE LONG PEACE
The condition of the British Army — The regiment in Paris — Service in the West Indies — John Campbell — The Scots Fusiliers in Portugal — Service in Australia — Service in India — George Deane —The out break of the Crimean War
CHAPTER X. — THE CRIMEA
Arrival at Varna — The landing in the Crimea — The Battle of the Alma — Balaclava — Inkerman —Frederick Haines — The siege of Sebastopol — The bombardment of Kinburn
CHAPTER XI. — THE FIRSTYLE="BATTALION TO THE EVE OF THE GREAT WAR
Malta — Sir John Pennefather’s tribute — Service in the West Indies — Ramsay Stuart — Service in India — The Royal Scots Fusiliers — Home service — The Tirah campaign — South Africa 1910-1914.
CHAPTER XII. — THE SECOND BATTALION: ZULULAND — THE TRANSVAAL — BURMA
The 2nd Battalion at home and in India — The Zulu War — Ulundi — The war with Sikukuni — The first Transvaal war — The defence of Potchefstroom — The defence of Pretoria — The defence of Rustenburg — The Burma war
CHAPTER XIII. — THE SECOND BATTALION — THE SOUTH AFRICAN WAR
Nature of the campaign — Colenso — Spion Kop — Vaal Kranz — The crossing of the Tugela —Pieter’s Hill — The relief of Ladysmith — The relief of Mafeking — Potchefstroom revisited —Frederikstad — The last year of the war
CHAPTER XIV. — THE GREAT WAR — 1914
Causes of the War — Recruiting in Scotland — The 1st Battalion at Mona — The retreat — Le Chateau — The First Battle of the Maine — The Mane — The race to the sea — The First Battle of Ypres — The 2nd Battalion destroyed — The attack of the Prussian Guard — The first winter in the trenches
CHAPTER XV. — THE GREAT WAR — 1915
The spring in Flanders — Neuve Chapelle — Festubert — The Second Battle of Ypres — The Battle of Loos — The Gallipoli campaign — The battle of 12th July — The summer and autumn at Relies — The evacuation of Gallipoli — The beginning of the Salonica campaign.
CHAPTER XVI. — THE GREAT WAR — 1916
The spring training — Fighting in the Ypres and Hohenzollern sections — Mr. Winston Churchill —The opening of the Battle of the Somme — Capture of Montauban — The attack of 14th July — The attack on Guillemont — The advance of 15th September — The capture of Martinpuich — Winter on the Somme — The Scots Fusiliers in Egypt — Stand at Bir-el-Dueidar — Romani — The Palestine frontier reached —Salonika in 1916
CHAPTER XVII — THE GREAT WAR — 1917
Haig’s plans for 1917 — The plans modified — The Battle of Auras — The Third Battle of Ypres —Salonika in 1917 — First Battle of Gaza — Second Battle of Gaza — The summer in Palestine — Allenby’s plan — The fall of Beersheba — The advance on Jerusalem
CHAPTER XVIII. — THE GREAT WAR — 1918
Germany’s final strategy — Her new tactics — The position of the British front in March 1918 — The attack of 21st March — The retreat to the Avre — The fighting at Arras — The Battle of the Lys — The fight for Kemmel — The six Scots Fusilier Battalions — The capture of Meteren — The advance to Victory — The capture of the Drocourt-Quent line — The fighting at Moeuvres — The Canal du Nord — The fall ofthe HindenhurgLine — The defeat of Bulgaria — The last movements in the West — The Armistice.
CHAPTER XIX CONCLUSION
Summary of the work of the Scots Fusiliers in the Great War — Distinguished officers — A typical British regiment — The Scottish Lowland soldier — The Scots qualities in war — The Fusilier type —Regimental tradition.
1 Succession of Colonels, Lieutenant-Colonels and Officers-Commanding.
2 Regimental verse.
THE EARL OF MAR’S REGIMENT
Scotland in the seventeenth century — The Duke of Lauderdale — The Highland Host — The formation of Mar’s Regiment — Drumclog and Bothwell Brig — Claverhouse — Thomas Buchan — The Highland Watch — The Revolution of 1688.
THE second half of the seventeenth century was the crucible from which emerged in their modern form the main institutions of our country. It saw the rise of parliamentary government, the establishment of the House of Commons in its financial prerogatives, the limitation of monarchical power, and the dawn of a Cabinet system; it saw vital developments in the constitution of the Churches of England and Scotland; it saw the beginning of the effective union of the two nations of Great Britain; and, not least, it saw the formation of a regular and standing army. For this last the foundations had been laid in that work of genius, the New Model, for Cromwell gave to his country, between the years 1646 and 1658, the finest military force in the world. Much of his great work was undone at the Restoration, but not all; for the fact that it was the New Model under Monk which had brought back the King, involved in some degree its perpetuation. The two troops of Life Guards—the King’s and the Duke of York’s—formed the nucleus of the First and Second Regiments of Life Guards; the Blues were in existence in the shape of Lord Oxford’s regiment of horse; the First Regiment of Foot Guards (now the Grenadier Guards) was raised in 1661, representing the Cavaliers; while Monk’s Foot Guards (now the Coldstream Guards) represented the survivors of the New Model. Douglas’s Regiment, successor of the famous Scots Brigade of Gustavus Adolphus, returned from France in 1662, to take its place at the head of the line as the Royal Regiment, later the Royal Scots; in 1661 Lord Peterborough recruited forces of horse and foot, largely from troops then at Dunkirk, to form a garrison at Tangier, and the consequence was the First Dragoons (the Royals), and the Second or Queen’s Regiment of Foot, now the Queen’s Royal Regiment (West Surrey). In 1665, when war broke out with Holland, the English troops in the Dutch service returned home and formed the Third Regiment of the line, known from its facings as the Buffs. The regular army of Britain was now in being.
But it is with Scotland that we are concerned, and with Scotland in the year 1678. At that date the only regular forces north of the Tweed were one troop of the Scottish Life Guards, under the Marquis of Atholl (raised in 1661 and disbanded in 1746), and a regiment of Foot Guards (the ancestors of the Third, or Scots Guards) who had been engaged at Rullion Green. Bodies of horse had been raised spasmodically as the service required, and a national militia, representing the old territorial defence force of the land, had been authorized by an Act of 1668, with an establishment of 20,000 foot and 2,000 horse. The force was embodied in 1668, and its blue coats were seen at Bothwell Brig.1But the main defensive strength of the country was still to be found in the feudal levies, which could be summoned to arms at the call of a Lowland nobleman or Highland chief, and consisted largely of his kinsmen, clansmen, or vassals. In every Scottish shire there were men accustomed to the use of weapons: old soldiers who had fought on the Continent of Europe, or the “Laird’s Jock” and his kind, who had no special trade, and lived at the beck and call of the head of their house. In the Highlands forces drawn from this class were the only police, for troops of the small standing army could scarcely be spared for such remote service. George Monk, who understood mountain campaigning, had brought Cromwell’s peace north of the Highland line, but when the strife of Royalists and Parliamentarians was ended, that vexed region was still in turmoil. Ancestral feuds still lingered—between Campbell and Maclean, Clan Donald and Clan Chattan—and there was much brigandage, levying of blackmail, and cattle driving, so that in 1667 a commission under the Great Seal was issued to John, Earl of Atholl, empowering him to raise and keep an armed guard “to watch upon the braes.” Such was the origin of the Highland Watch, from which the Black Watch descends—independent companies raised and commanded by territorial magnates, and paid by the State, to perform tasks for which regular troops could not be spared, and were, indeed, but indifferently fitted.2
In 1678 the Duke of Lauderdale was the ruler of Scotland. This is not the place to write the tale of the troubled years after the Restoration, when the Government of Charles II which had no special ecclesiastical bias, drifted by a series of blunders into the morass of religious persecution. Unhappily, the extreme left of Presbyterianism was identified with certain theocratic claims inconsistent with civil government—the tyranny against which Montrose had warred—and as a barrier against these claims the Government attempted to erect a moderate Episcopacy. But almost every step in its policy was a tactical error, and presently the string of tests and oaths and indulgences stirred up among plain men in the Lowlands the same passionate assertion of freedom as had taken their ancestors to Bannockburn. Charles and Middleton and Lauderdale might have isolated the wilder anarchic elements with the approval of all honest citizens; instead, they drove honest citizens into a reluctant defiance of the law. Lauderdale, who had been a Covenanter, and had by this time no preference for any Church, set a single aim before him—to make the King’s power absolute, and to crush with a harsh hand any impulse to revolt; and he had the justification that the tenets of the extreme sectaries meant the end of all government. The character of this singular man may be read in Burnet and Clarendon, and it looks out of his eyes in the canvas of Cornelius Janssen. Gross, florid, always gobbling and spluttering, for his tongue was too big for his mouth; scandalous in his life, even judged by Caroline standards; an admirable scholar, theologian, orientalist, and bibliophile; a wit, who at last became so prolix and disgusting as to sicken even the King; a shrewd, bold intriguer, owning no scruples or loyalties; an able administrator, who prostituted every talent to one sinister purpose—he is the most formidable, and, on the whole, the basest figure in those dark years. But his policy was never in doubt. He was resolved to extirpate once and for ever the anarchy of extreme Presbyterianism, and he schemed to bring things to a head in an open rebellion. Such a result would enable him to get troops from Ireland to assist the small Scottish forces in its suppression, and would form a cogent argument for the maintenance of a larger standing army in England.3
He had still another string to his bow. He proposed to call for levies from the nobles north of the Forth, who had bodies of armed men at call in the shape of “independent companies.” The Highlanders cared nothing for the Covenanting cause, and would not be unwilling to make a jaunt to the Lowlands if there were good hopes of booty. He proposed to introduce a “bond” under which heritors and masters would be responsible for the good behaviour of all residents on their land, and this, he believed, would either ensure the observance of the law, or, as he hoped, provoke the revolt, which he desired. The gentry of the west country—Hamiltons, Cochranes, Montgomerys, Kennedys, and Dalrymples—were bitterly opposed to the step, but they were powerless to prevent it. By the end of October 1677 Lauderdale had sent word to the northern nobles: the rendezvous was Stirling, and the time of assembly the first month of the new year. The leaders were to be the Marquis of Atholl and the Earls of Perth, Caithness, 4Moray, and Mar, and in December the Earl of Linlithgow was appointed to command the whole force. There were some 6,000 Highlanders—2,000 with Atholl, 1,500 with Caithness, 500 with Perth, 200 with Moray, and 700 with Mar, besides the Angus militia; there was a body of 600 horse; and in addition the regular foot was marched to the west, and a considerable contingent of militia from Stirling and the Lothians. 5The men were armed with matchlocks and daggers, they had with them four field-pieces, and, says Wodrow, “vast numbers of spades, shovels, mattocks, as if they had been to have attacked great fortifications.” 6
The news of the coming of the Highland host inspired terror in the west. But the reality proved something of a fiasco. They marched by Glasgow into the shires of Lanark and Ayr, occupying the little burghs, and living at free quarters among the disaffected gentry and peasantry. There was a great deal of robbery, but there is no record of atrocities, and by the end of February the Highland leaders were clamouring to be permitted to go home. They had, shown themselves as humane and reasonable as their business allowed, especially Atholl and Perth.7The arms seized were sent to Dumbarton Castle, and by the end of March the clansmen were trooping north again, laden with cottage plenishing, much of which, however, they were forced by the students and apprentices of Glasgow to surrender at the bridge of Clyde.
The Highland host passed like a sudden flood in a stream, changing in no wise the tangled politics of Scotland, but leaving to the people of the west another angry memory, and to the world a futile and fantastic tale. But it had one consequence of importance, since it led directly to the birth of the Scots Fusiliers—a paradox, indeed, that the regiment specially identified with the western Lowlands should have had its origin an incursion of Highland marauders.
Charles Erskine, fifth Earl of Mar, had, ten years before, succeeded his father.8He was a young man in the late twenties, a member of the Scottish Privy Council, but holding for the most part aloof from politics, though staunch for the King. His interests seem to have lain chiefly in soldiering, and at the time he was colonel of the Stirling and Clackmannan militia, and claimed as a hereditary office the Keepership of Stirling Castle.9Of all the northern lords he was best fitted to raise a regiment, for he had his foot both in Highlands and Lowlands, and could recruit in the Carse of Stirling and along the shores of Forth, as well as on the Braes of Mar. In July the Convention of Estates voted a sum of 1,800,000 pounds Scots, to be raised within five years, for the suppression of lawlessness, and on 23rd September the first step was taken under the grant to increase the forces of the Crown—in addition to the raising of various troops of horse and dragoons—by the issue of a commission to Lord Mar as colonel of a new foot regiment. History has little to tell us of the first colonel, or what part he played in the recruiting other than that of lending his name. He stood by the Stuarts, and died in 1689, and, judging by his bequests to his son, must have been poor even when judged by the modest standard of the Scots nobility. That son was to fill a more conspicuous position in the public eye, for he was the John, Earl of Mar, who married a sister of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, and led the futile Jacobite rising of 1715. His younger brother, James, was a judge on the Scots Bench, the Lord Grange whose incarceration of his shrewish wife on the remote isle of St. Kilda was for long the scandal of two capitals.
Lord Mar’s commission is dated 23rd September, and on 26th November an order was issued to the keeper of His Majesty’s magazine in Edinburgh Castle to deliver over to the colonel “548 English musketts, also many stand of bandeliers, with 272 picks.” The earliest extant list of the Scots establishment is of that year, and gives “the Foot Regiment commanded by the Earle of Marre” as follows
£ s d
Colonell as Colonell, per diem 0 12 12
Lieutenant-Colonell, as such 0 7 0
Major as Major 0 5 0
Quarter Master10 0 4 0
Chyurgeon and Mate 0 5 0
Eight Companies of Foote belonging
To that Regiment and to each company
Captaine, as such 0 8 0
Lieutenant 0 4 0
Ensigne 0 3 0
Two sergeants, each 1s 6d 0 3 0
Three Corporalls, each 1s 0 3 0
Two Drummers, each 1s 0 2 0
One hundred souldiers, each 5s (Scots) 2 1 8
The new regiment was thus equipped with officers, weapons, and some reasonable expectation of pay.11
To describe in detail the organization of a military unit in the seventeenth century would be out of place in this story. But certain questions arise about the misty beginnings of our regiment. Whence were the men recruited? There were Highlanders among them from the Braes of Mar, and men from the Aberdeenshire lowlands, and, judging by the names, recruits from the northern shores of Forth, where the Erskines were powerful. The bulk were probably Lowlanders, those bannock-fed peasants who were inured to toil and hard living, the same breed as supplied the Covenant levies, of whom Sir James Turner said that “he never saw lustier fellows or better marchers.” The majority of the Scottish people was committed to neither extreme in politics, and there was enough of bitter poverty to force young men into the King’s uniform. The officers were cadets from the local gentry, the senior men being selected from those who had seen service in other regiments like the Royal Scots, or in one of the Scots brigades abroad. Among the commissioned names on the rolls for the first dozen years there are comparatively few Highland patronymics—only an occasional Mackenzie, Fraser, and Menzies. But the regiment cast a wide net among the Lowland families, both north and south of the Forth. There are Bruces, Balfours, Stirlings, Ogilvies, Buchans, and Erskines; there are Dalyells, Douglasses, Straitons, a Murray of Philiphaugh; and from Tweedside a Burnet of Barns and a Veitch of Dawyck. 12
How were they clad? To begin with, I have no doubt, in coats and breeches of “hodden grey,” the coarse country cloth, cheap, easy to obtain, and inconspicuous on a hillside where it might be necessary to move with caution. The captain was responsible for the supply of uniforms, and Scotland at the time offered no facilities for fancy dress. Scarlet for long had been the King’s colour, but it had not yet extended to the whole line, and Cromwell’s troops in Ireland stuck to the grey breeches, though their coats were of “Venice-red 13The new regiment was soon known popularly as the “Earl of Mar’s Grey-breeks,” and up to 1683 at any rate, and probably till after the Revolution, grey was the ordinary dress of the private and non-commissioned officer, though drummers were given purple coats.14Their headdress would be the hat of felt or some imitation, which had superseded the old morion and buff cap.
There is also doubt about the exact equipment. Britain has always been noted for her conservatism in the matter of weapons: the arquebus struggled for generations with the longbow, the pike with the bill, the flintlock with the matchlock, the bayonet with the pike. By 1678 the fusil, or flintlock, had largely replaced the old matchlock, being a lighter, surer, and handier weapon. The Covenanters at Drumclog had fusils,15and as early as 1668 we find Lord Atholl complaining of his instructions to arm the Perthshire militia with matchlocks, on the ground that his men were “altogether unacquainted with the use of any other gunnes but fyrelocks and wherewith they are weill provydid.” 16A French regiment was armed entirely with the fusil in 1671, and by 1678 it had become the custom of the British army to arm certain special troops in a regiment thus, their principal duty being the protection of the field-pieces. It is not clear at what date Mar’s became exclusively fusilier—probably at the great re-arming of 1685—but I have little doubt that in 1678 the common weapon was the matchlock, those “English musketts” which we have seen issued from Edinburgh Castle. Nor can I find any evidence for the claim that they possessed a grenadier company from the start. According to John Evelyn each British regiment had a grenadier company added to it in 1678, and it has been alleged that the Scots Guards and Mar’s (then in embryo) had theirs a year before. But the only evidence is the royal instruction to the Scots Treasury on March 21, 1677, empowering one John Slezer to choose twenty men out of the Scots Guards and the garrisons of Edinburgh, Stirling, and Dumbarton to instruct troops in the use of grenades. The training may have begun, and in December of that year the Treasury certainly provided large stocks of grenades, but the grenadier companies were not instituted till 1682. We are to conceive, I think, of Mar’s Regiment at the start as carrying the old matchlock, though a certain proportion—probably the regulation one-third—still had the pike. The colonel, lieutenant-colonel, and the captains carried pikes eleven feet long, the lieutenant’s partisans, and the ensigns half-pikes. 17Cartridges had been introduced by Gustavus Adolphus, but the device was apparently not yet adopted in the north. The men carried their bullets in a leather bag, and their powder was in the wooden tubes, called bandeliers, attached to their shoulder belts—an improvement upon the ancient practice of the British army, which, in the sixteenth century, carried it loose in its pockets.18
The first lieutenant-colonel, according to the Warrant Books, was William, third Earl of Dalhousie.19The major was Andrew White of Markle, an old officer of the Douglas Regiment. The first order for quartering is dated November 22, 1678, when Lord Linlithgow directed that five companies should be stationed at Musselburgh, Fisherrow, and Newbigging, and three at Dalkeith. At this time the infantry was little used in the struggles with the Covenanters, that task being left to dragoons, but was employed to provide garrisons for the larger towns, and, judging from the Treasury accounts, to supply detachments for the preservation of order in the Highlands, when lawlessness in those parts increased beyond permissible limits. Both of these duties fell upon the Mar Regiment, and its officers were also occasionally detailed for special service. For example, we find Major Andrew White sent from Lanark in March of the following year in command of a party of dragoons to disperse an armed conventicle near Lesmahagow. 20
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