NQ Scottish History

Scots on the Western Front

The impact of the Scots on the fighting of the First World War is sometimes hard to assess because Scottish soldiers fought as part of the British army. Also, as the war went on, even regiments that had strong Scottish ties increasingly had to recruit from anywhere in the British Isles to replace casualties. However, it is possible to see the importance of Scots at certain points in the war. They had a real impact at the beginning as regular Scots battalions were part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) who fought with particular bravery at Mons/Le Cateau.

Scots were important as attack troops and they played a significant role in the battles of Loos, the Somme, Arras and Cambrai. This was reflected in the casualty figures; in relative terms Scotland lost more of its troops from actual fighting than any other country. Scots were also highly visible; whenever the kilted regiments fought they received a great deal of attention.

At the time, there was a huge feeling that Scotland had ‘punched above its weight’ in its contribution to the fighting - one of the reasons why Scotland made its own National War Memorial. Perhaps, most distinctively, Scotland contributed the general who commanded the British forces to victory. His role has been controversial, but Haig was the commander who had the realism and tenacity needed to win such a massive industrial war. These qualities were reflected in the service and experience of his fellow Scots.