Key Issue 1: Q1 …the reasons why so many Scots volunteered to fight in the Great War. Patriotism / Martial Tradition

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Higher History Paper II – Scotland and the Impact of the Great War Dalbeattie High School

Key Issue 1: Q1 …the reasons why so many Scots volunteered to fight in the Great War.

Patriotism / Martial Tradition

  • Patriotic appeal of slogans such as ‘Defend the Glory of the Empire’.

  • The Wars of Independence and the Jacobites - helped create a sense of Scotland’s proud martial tradition.

  • The power of the image of the tartan-clad soldier was such that in 1881 the War Office ordered even lowland regiments to wear tartan trews.


  • Scots affected by stories of spies and ‘Belgian Atrocities’ of German Army.

Local Loyalties

  • The Cameronians recruited largely from Glasgow and Lanarkshire. The Royal Scots tended to attract men from Edinburgh.

  • After 13 Hearts players signed up, 600 Hearts supporters in six days also joined the 16th Royal Scots which became known as McCrae’s Battalion.


  • Opportunity to see new places and countries and perform heroic deeds - and quite possibly to leave behind a boring or difficult job.

  • The war was not expected to last long / fear of missing out.

  • The attraction of setting out on this great adventure with your friends was possible by the formation of ‘pals’ battalions’.

  • Glasgow - the 15th Battalion of the Highland Light Infantry was called the Tramway Battalion because many belonged to the transport department.

Peer Pressure

  • Peer pressure, cranked up by newspapers also played a part.

  • Women were encouraged to press men into service - posters stated clearly that ‘Women of Britain Say Go!’

Economic Necessity

  • Fear of unemployment was probably an important factor in joining up.

  • Recruitment in high unemployment areas more successful than in low.

  • Earl of Wemyss threatened to dismiss any employee who failed to join up!

Key Issue 1 – Q2 …the experience of Scots on the Western Front.
Trench Conditions

  • Mud and rain a common difficulty creating problems such as trench foot.

  • Lice a constant nuisance, as were rats that fed on food scraps or corpses.

  • Lice caused trench fever - severe pain followed by high fever.

  • Dysentery struck the men due to poor sanitation and contaminated water.

  • Boredom of trenches - rifle cleaning, filling sandbags, repairing duckboards

  • Most letters home were censored to prevent leaks of sensitive information.

Trench Warfare

  • Artillery caused more casualties than any other weapon in the war.

  • Artillery for destroying trenches -not always successful e.g. Somme

  • The machine gun - second only to artillery in casualties it caused.

  • Gas first used by Germans 1915 - mustard gas caused choking / blistering of the skin, phosgene gas choking and chlorine gas choking and blinding.

  • Gas was not an effective weapon because of wind drifts and gas masks.

The Battle of Loos

  • Over 30 000 Scots took part. Of 20 598 dead, 1/3 from Scots regiments.

  • Two divisions of Haig’s six – the 9th and 15th Scottish - were voluntary.

  • The battle began on 25th Sept 1915 after a four day artillery bombardment.

  • KOSB, Seaforth Highlanders, the Cameron Highlanders and the Black Watch all pushed into the German trenches but casualties were enormous.

  • Loos officially continued as a battle until 18th October 1915 and scarcely any part of Scotland was unaffected by the losses.

  • Of the 950 men of 6th Cameronians in battle 700 were casualties.

  • The 9th Scottish and 15th Scottish Divisions suffered 13 000 casualties.

  • Five Victoria Crosses for Scots including Piper Laidlaw of the KOSB.

  • Keegan described the losses ‘as a stimulus to renewed aggression.’

  • Evidence that Germans referred to kilted enemy as ‘the ladies from hell’.

The Battle of the Somme

  • Started on 1st July 1916. Three full Scottish Divisions – 9th, 15th and 51st – took part as well as numerous Scottish battalions in other units.

  • Douglas Haig, an Edinburgh born Scot, was commander-in-chief.

  • Haig planned to batter enemy lines with artillery barrage lasting seven days.

  • However, artillery bombardment not effective in destroying the defences.

  • 1st day British suffered highest ever casualties – 60,000 dead or injured.

  • 14th July saw 51st Highland Division lose 3500 men at High Wood.

  • Somme called the graveyard of Kitchener’s volunteers and pals’ battalions.

  • Over 500 members of Glasgow Boys Brigade of 16th battalion of HLI killed.

  • Some positives e.g. 51st (Highland) Div. attack at Beaumont Hamel Nov.

  • McCrae’s Battalion further into German lines than any others at Contalmaison.

  • By end of Nov the British suffered over 400,000 casualties, less than Germans.

  • German officers called Somme ‘the muddy grave of the German Army’.

  • It is argued that Britain and allies could replace losses easier than Germany.

Key Issue 1: Question 3
..…the contribution of Scots to the military effort on the Western Front.
Commitment & Contribution

  • By the end of 1915, 320,000 Scots had volunteered comprising 13% of the total for the British Army.

  • There were more Scots volunteers in proportion to the size of population than any other area of the UK.

  • Over 30,000 took part at Loos. The KOSB, Seaforth Highlanders, the Cameron Highlanders and Black Watch all pushed into German trenches.

  • At the Battle of the Somme three full Scottish Divisions – 9th, 15th, 51st – took part. McCrae’s Battalion advanced further than any other on 1st day.

  • In November 1918, the 51st (Highland) Division launched a successful attack at Beaumont Hamel with relatively few casualties.

  • The Battle of Arras in 1917 saw a concentration of 44 Scottish battalions and seven Scottish-named Canadian battalions.

  • Scots units also involved in the Third Battle of Ypres and at Cambrai.

  • Five VCs were given to Scots after the battle in recognition of their bravery – including the legendary ‘Piper of Loos’ Daniel Laidlaw.


  • Over 25% of the 557,000 Scottish men who joined up were killed or injured.

  • Scottish casualty rate of 26% compares to 11% for rest of the British Army.

  • Of 20,598 dead at Loos, one-third were from Scottish regiments.

  • At Arras one third of the 159,000 British casualties were Scottish.


Haig was the Edinburgh-born General commanding the army which fought at Loos in September 1915 and devised the attacks at the Somme in 1916.

  • Some see him as ‘butcher’, causing unnecessary slaughter at the Somme.

  • He is quoted as having said ‘The nation must be taught to bear losses’.

  • However, defenders point to large number of German casualties and argue that the attrition of the Somme was the beginning of the end for Germany.

  • The Western Front was deadlocked when Haig became commander and his new troops untested, yet by 1918 he had turned an army of raw recruits into a force that gained victory. Described by Terraine as ‘the educated soldier’.

Key Issue 2: Question 4

..…the issues in the debate over conscription.
Voices Against the War

  • Led by Keir Hardie, the strongest political group to oppose the war was the Independent Labour Party (ILP).

  • Party was criticised for being unpatriotic, membership fell to 3000 by 1914.

  • However, many thousands of Scots had listened to and become convinced by its anti-war message. ILP membership had increased from 3.000 to 9,000.

  • Helen Crawfurd launched the Women’s Peace Crusade. By summer 1917 there were branches all over Scotland.

  • Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom - Chrystal Macmillan.

  • However, the number of pacifists and war resistors was tiny – calculated at less than half of one per cent of the population.

Conscription & Conscientious Objectors

  • Jan 1916 the Military Service Act brought in conscription for single men aged 19 - 40 years old, May 1916 married men and by 1918 men up to 50.

  • The Military Service Acts excused certain men from military service.

  • Exemptions included those mentally or physically unfit, those doing a job vital to war industries, those who would cause serious hardship for their families such as a single parent, or conscientious objectors.

  • In 1914 Clifford Allen and Fenner Brockway had started an organisation called the No Conscription Fellowship (NCF).

  • Public opinion had little sympathy for conchies and newspapers described the NCF and ILP as cowards, peace cranks and ‘pasty faces’.

  • Religious groups and churches were divided over the issue.

  • The Church of Scotland officially supported the war effort and the Moderator, Sir George Smith publicly attacked conchies in his speeches.

  • Some spoke out, Rev McCallum warning ‘this was neither God’s war nor a Holy war!’

  • The Quakers opposed all war as being against Christianity.

  • Military tribunals judged whether or not to accept the claims of objectors.

  • In Scotland 70% of all conchies were members of the ILP, who claimed exemption on the basis of socialist principles.

  • Around 7,000 conchies granted exemption accepted non-combat duties such as stretcher bearers in the front line or ambulance drivers.

  • There were also ‘alternatives’ who were prepared to undertake civilian work to help the war effort which was not supervised by the military – work in munitions factories. Many Scottish socialists, such as James Maxton, took this option.

  • In the UK 5970 ‘absolutists’ rejected any service and were imprisoned.

  • At least 73 died as a consequence of the harsh treatment they received.

Key Issue 2: Question 5
..…the impact of military losses on Scottish society.
The Scale of the Losses

  • Official figure was 74,000 but later estimates ranged between 100,000 and 150,000.

  • Glasgow lost 18,000 of its young men and Dundee 4,000.

  • Few families in Scotland escaped the loss of a father, son, brother, husband, boyfriend, neighbour or friend.

  • On living room walls across the country were scrolls and medals sent by the government.

Commemoration and Remembrance

  • Scots felt the need for a collective, public recognition of the nation’s loss.

  • The Duke of Atholl said the Scottish nation would put up a memorial ‘with their own hands in their own country and with their own money.’

  • Edinburgh Castle was chosen and architect Sir Robert Lorimer commissioned to work on the design.

  • Following numerous arguments concerning the cost and design, the Scottish National War Memorial was officially opened on 14th July 1927.

  • Local memorials were put up in cities, towns and villages across Scotland.

  • The Dalbeattie War Memorial was erected in 1921 and unveiled by local William Alexander who was blinded whilst serving at Vimy Ridge in France.

  • At Haymarket in Edinburgh there is a memorial to the Heart of Midlothian players of McCrae’s battalion.

  • The Imperial War Graves Commission created and cared for over 600 cemeteries in France and Belgium. Each grave had a headstone recording the soldier’s name, rank, regiment and date of death.

  • These cemeteries became places of pilgrimage for Scottish families in the 1920s and to the present day.

  • The act of observing silence at 11am on 11th November started in 1919. The British Legion was set up and in 1921 the British Legion of Scotland. The wearing of the poppy started at the same time.

  • Commemoration of the war can also be seen in the outpouring of poetry and writing e.g. the work of Charles Hamilton Sorley, Ewart Alan Mackintosh and John Buchan.

Key Issue 2: Q6 The impact of the war on Scottish women.

Position of Women During the War

  • NUWSS and WSPU suspended their suffrage campaigns.

  • Women took over jobs in heavy industries under the dilution scheme.

  • Munitions was a major employer, e.g. Gretna 9000 women and 5000 men.

  • Dangerous work due to fumes and risk of cordite explosion - ‘devil’s porridge’.

  • In total, 61 workers died from poisoning and 71 from explosions.

  • By end of war 31,500 Scottish women were working in the munitions industry.

  • Women also became drivers / conductors on the trams, buses and railways.

  • Nearly 200,000 women found work in government departments.

  • Many women used nursing skills - joined Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD)

  • Mairi Chisholm worked in front-line hospital - awarded Order of Leopold 1915.

  • Scottish Women’s Hospitals - the idea of Dr Elsie Inglis - sent over 1000 women doctors, nurses, orderlies and drivers into war zones.

  • 1916 the Glasgow Herald reported that, ‘the nation is indebted to them.’

Rent Strikes

  • 1915 Pressure on housing in Glasgow - workers arrived looking for homes.

  • Tenement housing in poor condition, overcrowded 1 or 2 roomed flats.

  • With demand rising landlords increased rents - Govan rents up by 20%.

  • The rising price of foodstuffs placed another demand on hard-earned wages.

  • Feb 1915 Helen Crawfurd, Mary Barbour, Agnes Dollan, Jessie Stephens began Glasgow Women’s Housing Association to resist rent rises / evictions.

  • The first direct action was the non-payment of rents increases in Govan.

  • Blocked sheriff’s officers carrying out evictions - crowded stairwells and ‘bombed’ sheriff officers with bags of flour - ‘Mrs Barbour’s Army’.

  • Landlords started to threaten court action leading to eviction, fines or prison.

  • Rent strike May ’15. 25,000 tenants in Glasgow. Also Aberdeen/Dundee.

  • Accused landlords of being anti-patriotic - ‘Fighting the Huns at Home’

  • By Nov supported by men on strike at Fairfield’s and Beardmore’s shipyards.

  • Mass demonstration in George Square to support 18 tenants due in court.

  • Government passed Rent Restriction Act, freezing rents at pre-war levels.

Position of Women After the War

  • No doubt that work of women during war was important factor in the decision to extend the vote to women, eroding the negative publicity of the Suffragettes.

  • However, Restoration of Pre War Practices Act meant returning soldiers were given back jobs.

  • By 1925 over 25% of all working women were back in domestic service – a higher total than before the war.

Key Issue 2

The Impact of War on Scottish Society
Additional Information
The Defence of the Realm Act (DORA)

The Defence of the Realm Act became law on 8th August 1914 and gave the government wide-ranging powers to take action for the safety and security of the whole of the UK during the war. A number of measures were taken.

  • Alcohol consumption was curbed to ensure an efficient workforce. Opening hours of pubs were restricted – from 13 hours a day, except on Sunday, before the war to 5½ hours by 1916. The buying of rounds was banned, the strength of beer weakened.

  • Censorship of the press was undertaken by the War Office Press Bureau to ensure the enemy did not learn military secrets and to maintain morale. Reports of the fighting were limited and in the early months of the war reporters were not allowed anywhere near the fighting.

  • The Guardian newspaper for example reported that the first day of the Battle of the Somme as a ‘slow push sparing lives’ which had been ‘very satisfactory’.

  • Under the Munitions of War Act the government also took control of the supply of materials to ensure that enough resources were available to maintain the war effort. It set up its own munitions factories and took control of the coal industry. The government also took control of the railways and dockyards.

  • Men employed in vital war industries were forbidden to leave them. At the same time, those employed in other trades could be redirected to where they could do more for the war effort.

  • The government also restricted the freedoms of foreign people and naturalised British citizens. Foreign residents or 'aliens' throughout Britain found their lives dramatically changed. Redford Barracks in Edinburgh and Stobs Camp near Hawick were both promptly utilised as internment centres for foreigners deemed a danger to the security of the country.

  • By November 1914 there were only 35 male and 309 female enemy 'aliens' in the prohibited coastal areas from Aberdeen to Berwick. In Britain, the size of the German community during the war declined from 57,500 in 1914 to just 22,254 in 1919.

Key Issue 3: Question 7
..…the impact of the war on the Scottish economy up to 1918.

  • Main shipyards on the Clyde – Beardmore’s, Fairfield’s and John Brown – were taken under control of the Admiralty under the Munitions of War Act.

  • Total of 481 warships were built on the Clyde.

  • Beardmore’s employed 20,000 workers by 1915, producing aircraft and airships as well as ships.

Other heavy industries

  • 90% of armour plate produced from Glasgow, employing 24 000 men.

  • Edinburgh North British Rubber Company did well - demand for tyres and boots.

  • Railways did well –North British Locomotive Company at Springburn.


  • 25% of male workers / 67% of females dependent on jute in Dundee.

  • Jute sandbags needed to line tops of trenches – 6 million in 1 month.

  • Dundee Advertiser said ‘jute fibres have turned into strands of gold’.


  • Some farm wages rose 150% - wages for skilled ploughmen doubled

  • Sheep farming in particular did well, prices 60% higher in 1918.

  • Many workers left to join forces or higher wages in munitions and the number of farm labourers fell from 107,000 to 89,000.

  • Replacement workers – conchies, older men, Women’s Land Army.

  • Spring 1917 food shortages became more serious as German submarines began targeting merchant ships bringing in food imports.

  • Food prices began to rise and so therefore did the risk of discontent

  • January 1918 the Ministry of Food introduced rationing. Sugar, followed by butcher meat, full-scale rationing in Scotland April 1918.


  • North Sea virtually closed to fishing.

  • During the war the Royal Navy chartered many fishing vessels to use as coastal patrols or for minesweeping.

  • Royal Navy Reserve (Trawler Section) kept the industry going when restrictions elsewhere prevented its operation.

Restrictions on how much could be fished pushed up prices and eventually white fish was rationed.

Key Issue 3: Question 8

..…the impact of the war on the Scottish economy after 1918.


  • From 1921-23 tonnage of ships built on the Clyde went from 510,000 to 170,000. Iron and steel suffered as a result.

  • Decline by two-thirds at the North British Locomotive company.

  • Coal production also declined - new fuels, foreign competition.

  • The jute factories in Dundee were in need of fresh investment and repair. At the same time jute prices fell around the world.

  • The management of Scottish industry suffered from disproportionate effect of losses on middle-class officers.


  • Agriculture continued to struggle from a lack of good arable land – only 5 out of 19 million acres were under crops.

  • Increased unemployment and reduced wages in industry led to a drop in prices for agricultural produce.

  • 1920 Agricultural Act introduced to maintain production but was abandoned in 1921 because of the poor state of the economy.

  • In the Highlands and Islands many soldiers returned believing that they had been promised ownership of land as a reward for fighting.

  • Discontent over the issue in the form of land raids. Land raids occurred in places such as Mull, Raasay, and Skye.

  • In December 1918 the government introduced Land Settlement Act which allowed for compulsory purchase of land from landowners. However, within five months funds allocated were used up.

  • In 1919 Lewis bought by Leverhulme who proposed investing in a new fishing fleet, a canning factory and a more efficient farming base made up of fewer smallholdings.

  • Land raids continued and Leverhulme responded by sacking workers in his factory and promising to employ them again if the raids stopped. Leverhulme eventually suspended all his projects.

  • After this failure other investors avoided the Highlands.


  • Fuel costs had risen and compensation for boats used in the war effort was seldom enough to repair and equip with new gear. More importantly the war had ended the glory days of the herring fleets.

Key Issue 3: Question 9

..…the reasons so many Scots left Scotland after 1918.

In the period between the two wars Scotland had the highest rate of emigration of any country in Europe. However, about a third of emigrants eventually returned home to Scotland.

Push Factors

Emigration was an escape from a country locked in unemployment and decline - as outlined in the previous section of this study guide.

  • In the Highlands the population fell by 16,000, as the government failed in its attempt to ease the land problem.

  • Collapse of Leverhulme project led to many islanders emigrating, many finding work in the car factories of Detroit and Chicago.

  • Lowland Scotland saw an outpouring of skilled labour, a result of agricultural and industrial decline, reduced wages / unemployment.

Pull Factors

A number of other factors acted to make migration abroad a more attractive solution to the difficulties Scots faced.

  • By late C19th emigration to the USA and Canada had increased, steamships cutting the journey times and fares paid by emigrants.

  • Canada was promoted as a destination for Scottish migrants. By the 1890s the Canadian government had two full-time agents working in Scotland, touring agricultural fairs, exhibitions etc.

  • By the 1920s the agents had offices in Glasgow and Inverness. One of the agents even gave presentations in Gaelic.

  • The Empire Settlement Act 1922 provided subsidies to emigrants to Canada who agreed to work land for a certain amount of time.

  • In April 1923, 600 Hebrideans embarked on two Canadian Pacific vessels, with most of them taking advantage of the Act to secure subsidised passages to Canada.

  • The Salvation Army also played a part in encouraging emigration from Scotland. It provided assisted passages and employment advice. By 1939 it had helped settle 250,000 people overseas.

  • Relatives who had emigrated wrote back describing the jobs available and the better lifestyle they enjoyed overseas.

  • Newspapers would carry adverts describing the better lives waiting for those who emigrate. They also published stories and letters about the success of Scottish emigrants.

Key Issue 4: Question 10

..…the growth of radicalism in politics in Scotland.
Decline of the Liberals

  • Issue of war and conscription led to arguments amongst Liberals.

  • Shell scandal of 1915 led to claims of incompetence.

  • Feud between Asquith and Lloyd George led to the King asking Lloyd George to form a government in 1916 with himself as PM.

  • By 1924 the Liberals were reduced to only 8 MPs in Scotland.

The Rise of the Labour Party

  • Labour’s 800,000 votes in 1914 rose to over 2 million in 1918.

  • Helped by increased number of working class voters after 1918.

  • Rent strikes had politicised some women – many voted Labour.

  • Irish Catholics, bitter over Liberals’ reaction to Home Rule, increasingly voted Labour.

The Independent Labour Party (ILP)

  • ILP resisted the Munitions Act of 1915, dilution and conscription.

  • Campaigned on issues affecting workers e.g. John Wheatley organised the rent strikes of 1915–16.

  • By mid 1920s, ILP membership in Scotland accounted for a third of all membership of the party in Britain.

  • David Kirkwood wrote in his autobiography of how ‘Glasgow was ringing with the message of Socialism’.

Red Clydeside

  • The Clyde Workers Committee 1914 set up by shop stewards elected by workers; led by Willie Gallacher and Davie Kirkwood.

  • CWC opposed Munitions Act; workers couldn’t leave jobs or strike.

  • Rent strikes were also part of the tension of ‘Red Clydeside’.

  • At end of war CWC demanded shorter working week. There was a general strike in Glasgow and 40,000 workers took part.

  • Glasgow’s George Square 31st January 1919 - 90,000 protestors. Running battles in the streets between police and workers.

  • Government sent 12,000 English troops to restore order. Six tanks were on the streets and machine-gun posts were set up in the city.

Key Issue 4: Question 11
..…the strength in support in Scotland for the Union.

Growth in Support for the Conservative and Unionist Party

  • The Conservatives benefited from the decline of the Liberals.

  • They were now the only viable alternative for those opposed to socialism and the rise of the Labour Party.

  • Seen as the only party to deal with fear of communist revolution, with fears heightened by the events in George Square in 1919.

  • After 1918 the newspapers moved decisively towards the Tories.

  • When new papers appeared they were pro Tory, such the strongly Unionist Sunday Post after 1914.

  • Conservatives worked hard to build up support in Scotland, particularly among the middle-classes and in country areas.

  • Support for Unionism was encouraged by Presbyterian churches which had supported the war and were conservative in nature.

  • Presbyterian churches also attacked the 'Irish menace' in Scotland and, since the bulk of Irish Catholics were Labour voters, the political impact was to encourage support for Unionism.

  • The Conservatives also maintained the support of Scotland’s professional classes.

  • The Scottish legal system for example had strong links with the Conservatives.

  • The support of graduates who went into teaching can be seen with the formation of the Glasgow Unionist Teachers Association in 1926.

Key Issue 4: Question 12

..…the crisis in Scottish identity which developed after 1918.

The Kilted regiments were proud to wear the tartan, but the cause they fought for was British, not Scottish. Before the war most Scots were happy to be part of, and to have benefited from, the United Kingdom. Only a few ever campaigned for Home Rule for Scotland. The vast majority were happy to be part of Great Britain.

Economic Decline & Scottish Nationalism

  • Interwar years were times of poverty and high unemployment and there were some who felt that the union was no longer helping Scotland.

  • During the interwar years large-scale unemployment increased in traditional heavy industries such as shipbuilding, textiles and coalmining.

  • Central government was blamed by many and some drew the conclusion that England and the empire was no longer able to provide the resources and the leadership to overcome the economic and social problems affecting Scotland.

  • In the post war years there were a growing number of voices calling for an independent Scotland.

  • A small group of Scottish nationalists campaigned for Scotland to be represented at the Treaty of Versailles.

  • In 1918, the Labour Party promised to fight for the ‘Self-Determination of the Scottish people’.

  • In May 1928, the Scottish National Party was founded.

  • Nevertheless, most Scots continued to support the place of Scotland within the UK. Few Scots showed any interest in the demand for Scotland to be represented at the Treaty of Versailles.

  • There was little public support for Labour’s pledge to promote the ‘Self-Determination of the Scottish people’.

  • The Scottish National party gained very few votes in the 1929 general election and fared no better in 1931, when the most successful SNP candidate gained a paltry 14% of the votes.

Politically, Scots continued to accept and support their part within the United Kingdom.

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