Scotlands History

The Great War (1914-18)

Between 1905 and 1914, inflation spiralled and the population was expanding. At first the War seemed like an escape route, as men enlisted to guarantee themselves food and regular wages. There was an initial rush to enlist with the British Expeditionary Force; it had 157 battalions, 22 of which were Scottish.

The Royal Scots regiment alone fielded 35 battalions throughout World War I and lost 12,000 men. Out of 10 Scottish regiments it was estimated that Scotland lost about 100,000 men out of a British total of 745,000 losses. The fallen were known as ‘the Lost Generation’.

In 1918 people had lost faith in their politicians and their propaganda as a result of a mismanaged war. Soldiers returning from the front found unemployment and poverty; the ‘land fit for heroes’ never happened. Although 200,000 new homes had been completed, plans for one million did not materialise.

The wartime boom was followed by a sharp downturn in trade from 1919 onwards. Britain lost its leading position as a world economic power. Unemployment was severe as heavy industry collapsed. Revolution was in the air as the Red Flag was raised in George Square, Glasgow, demonstrating that politics were changing - radically. By 1924 Britain had its first-ever Labour government.

  • Detail from black and white photo of Chateau Wood, near Hooge, Ypres
  • Photo of World War I biplane, the Sopwith Camel, with RAF target symbol on the side
  • Children standing outside a school during World War I
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