Saturday, 5 December 2009

Scotland and the Spanish Civil War

The West of Scotland Branch of the Historical Association will be hosting a talk by Daniel Gray entitled Scotland and the Spanish Civil War next Tuesday 8th December 2009 at 5.30pm, in the Dyer Room at the Mitchell Library. The talk will be based on Gray's book “Homage to Caledonia”, in which he has collated extensive research from first hand sources on the conflict.

(Thanks to Chris Paton at the Scottish Genealogy Blog for the heads up!)

Thursday, 3 December 2009

New Headstone for Gordon Highlander

From the Press and Journal, 3rd December 2009.

THE grave of a Grantown World War I veteran that has been marked by two cockleshells for more than 50 years, is to be given a proper headstone for the first time.

Kenny “Cockles” MacKenzie, who served with the Gordon Highlanders, survived the conflict after seeing action in France, before also serving in India.

He returned to Grantown where he is said to have lived a solitary life until his death in 1955.

There was no money to pay for a headstone, but shortly after Mr MacKenzie’s death two cockleshells were placed on his grave and have remained there ever since.

Glenfeshie-born Mr MacKenzie was known locally as Kenny Cockles, possibly because of the seashells which he kept along the front of his home in Grantown.

Leonard Grassick, of South Street, Grantown, who was a Seaforth in the Queen’s Own Highlanders, and the Royal Naval Association, have now announced plans for a headstone to mark Mr MacKenzie’s grave. Mr Grassick as a lad used to deliver groceries to Mr MacKenzie, and was one of the few people allowed in his cottage. He said: “He was a character and a worthy from Grantown who deserves to be remembered properly as a brave soldier.”

Mr Grassick said it was hoped that the stone, which is expected to cost £600 and will be inscribed with two cockleshells, would be unveiled at Easter. The local branch of the Royal British Legion have already made a contribution to the stone.

As an aside, I would hope that the new headstone will incorporate the cockleshells which have marked his grave until now.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Bannockburn: A New History

I've received notification of the publication of a new book on the Battle of Bannockburn. Here's the information from the press release:

"Bannockburn 1314: A New History
by Chris Brown
To be published 11th January 2010, priced £12.99

A history of the most celebrated battle between Scotland and England in which a mere 7,000 followers of Robert The Bruce defeated over 15,000 of Edward II's troops.

The battle of Bannockburn, fought over two days by a small river crossing in Stirling, was a decisive victory for Robert the Bruce in the Scottish Wars of Independence against the English. It was the greatest defeat the English would suffer throughout the middle ages, and a huge personal humiliation for King Edward II.

  • The most comprehensive history of the battle ever undertaken.
  • The author’s conclusions rewrite the history books.
  • A new look at the terrain where the battle was fought.
  • Recreates the campaign and battle from the perspectives of both the Scots and English.
  • In-depth investigation of the contemporary narrative sources and the administrative records.
  • Major reassessment of the Scottish victory against the English.
  • 25 colour illustrations and 25 b&w illustrations.

Chris Brown is an acknowledged expert on medieval Scotland and was awarded a PhD from St Andrews University. His other books include William Wallace, The Second Scottish Wars of Independence, Robert the Bruce, The Battle for Aberdeen 1644, and Scottish Battlefields: 500 Battles that Shaped Scottish History. He lives near Fife in Scotland."

To be published by The History Press, this looks worth picking up. I hope to publish a review nearer the time of publication.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Approaching Remembrance Day

As we approach Remembrance Day, I'm sure that, like me, you start to think a little more about the sacrifice made by many men and women for the cause of freedom. But we should also remember those who came home.

We should remember those who still bear the scars of conflict, and those who perhaps should be remembered more than those who did not come home.

Please take time to visit the following sites, and please consider giving to some of these worthy causes:

Poppy Scotland

Help for Heroes


Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Re-dedication of Black Watch memorial

From The Courier:

RINCE CHARLES will be in Dundee on Sunday to attend the rededication service of The Black Watch memorial his grandmother, the late Queen Mother, unveiled on the outskirts of the city exactly 50 years ago.

The bronze of a Black Watch soldier stands at Powrie Brae against the backdrop of the Angus countryside and commemorates the sacrifice of more than 440 4th and 5th Battalion Black Watch soldiers who died in the second world war.

Over the years it has proved a site of pilgrimage, remembrance and reflection for those associated with the wartime Dundee City and County of Angus battalions.

“The landmark statue stands with his feet in Angus but overlooks the city of Dundee, commemorating the loss of lads from both the rural and urban battalions,” Black Watch Association secretary Major Ronnie Proctor said.

“Unfortunately years standing out in all weathers had taken their toll on our old soldier and urgent restoration was required to stop it deteriorating beyond repair.”

Around £12,000 was raised by grant aid and Black Watch Association fund-raising to restore the statue and on Sunday Prince Charles will follow in the Queen Mother’s footsteps as royal patron of The Black Watch Association to rededicate the memorial.

The prince will be joined by second world war veterans of the Dundee and Angus battalions, some of whom attended the original ceremony in October 1959.

Serving Black Watch soldiers of 3rd Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland, Territorial Army soldiers of the 51st Highland Volunteers, members of the Angus and Dundee Battalion of the Army Cadet Force, Black Watch veterans and their families will also join civic heads and the public to mark the occasion.

Sunday’s service will begin at 12.30pm and will be conducted jointly by the Right Rev Vincent Logan, Bishop of Dunkeld, former Black Watch national serviceman the Rev Canon Peter Allen, and the Rev Bob Wightman, Dundee Combined Forces Association chaplain.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Union Jack flown at Trafalgar for sale

From the BBC News website:

Trafalgar union jack up for sale

The only surviving union jack from the Battle of Trafalgar could fetch £15,000 at auction after it was found in a drawer, auctioneers say.

The flag was flown from one of Nelson's warships, HMS Spartiate, in the naval battle off the Spanish coast in 1805.

It was presented by the 540-strong crew to Fife-born Lieutenant James Clephan after the conflict, a high honour bestowed upon an officer by his men.

The flag is being sold by one of his descendants living in Australia.

Clephan, who later went on to command his own ship, was one of the few men to have risen through the ranks and was greatly admired by his crew.

The flag, measuring 7ft 4in x 11ft 7in, is made of 31 panels sewn together by the crew on board the ship.

It bears a number of "battle scars" - holes caused by shot and shell splinter damage sustained during the conflict.

The union jack will go under the hammer later this month after being put up for sale by one of Clephan's descendants.

“ I think it's hard to overstate the historical importance of this flag ”
Charles Miller Flag owner

It was treasured by his family, who kept it in a drawer to preserve it.

Auctioneers expect the flag to fetch £10,000 to £15,000.

Charles Miller, through his own auction house, is selling the piece in London on 21 October, Trafalgar Day.

He said the flag was the only known surviving union jack from the battle.

"I think it's hard to overstate the historical importance of this flag," he said.

"This was the greatest naval action ever fought.

"The great thing about the flag is it's one of the most emblematic items you can get from Trafalgar.

"This is a bit of naval hardware that has actually served in the action."

Clephan, from Scoonie in Fife, spent his early years as an apprentice weaver and went on to join the Merchant Navy.

He retired in 1840 with the rank of captain and lived in Edinburgh for 11 years until his death at the age of 83.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

The Fife Military History Project

Among the many interesting people I met at the Fife Family History Fair on Saturday was one gentleman who has undertaken a very ambitious but fascinating project. I got hold of a copy of one of his "flyers", and I'm sure he won't mind me reprinting the text here for anyone who might be interested:

Did your Ancestors guard prisoners of war with the Fife Militia, ride in the Fifeshire Yeomanry or join thousands of others in the Volunteers guarding the Fife coast against the French in the Napoleonic Wars?

Did they join the Volunteer movement in the Victorian era and join the Fife Rifle Volunteers, Fife Artillery Volunteers or Fife Light Horse?

Did they join up in the Great War and serve in the 7th (Fife) Royal Highlanders, Fife Royal Garrison Artillery or Fife and Forfar Yeomanry?

The Fife Military Project is an attempt to gather as much information as possible about Fifeshire's Militia, Volunteer and Territorial past and publish a website that will enable their descendants to learn more about them.

To illustrate the kind of information that I am acquiring from archives here is an extract of one of my ancestor's pension documents transcribed from the National Archives in Kew.

"His Majesty's Second Battalion. Royal Regiment Of Artillery. Whereof the Marquis of Anglesey is Colonel.

These are to certify That Sgt Andrew Gordon born in the Parish of Balmerino in or near the town of Balmerino in the County of Fife was enlisted for the aforesaid regiment at Yarmouth in the County of Norfolk on the Twenty third Day of April 1805 at the age of nineteen for unlimited service from the Fifeshire Militia. That he has served for the space ofTwenty two years and two hundred forty four Days, after the age of Eighteen"

"To prevent any improper use being made of this discharge, by its falling into other hands, the following is a Description of the said Andrew Gordon. He is about forty two Years of Age, is 6 Feet, Inches in height, Black Hair, Blue Eyes, Dark Complexion; and by Trade or Occupation a Shoemaker"

My name is Richard Dickens and I've spent the last 7 years researching into Fife's military heritage and I'm hoping you may be able to help with this project.

Please contact me at if you have any information, items, pictures or documents on relatives who served in the Fife regiments.

I will be ready to bring the Fife Military Project online in the next year starting with a complete database of every soldier who served in the Fife Militia from 1798-1855.

I wish Richard every success with his project, and I look forward to seeing the results of his research. I'll be contacting Richard myself to see what assistance the Scottish Military Research Group can provide.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Nairnshire Roll of Honour 1914-1921

Received the following information from SMRG friend Ken Nisbet:

"The Nairnshire Roll of Honour has now been published by the SGS at a cost of £12.00 plus postage. It contains details of the men and women from Nairnshire who are known who have served from 1914 - 1921 in the Navy Army and Airforce, including all those listed on the Auldearn Ardclach Cawdor Croy and Nairn war memorials and those who should be on the memorials but are not. As well as those who survived the war. Extracts of the war diaries for the 4th Battalion Cameron Highlanders for Neuve Chapelle, Festubert, Givenchy, Loos have been included."

The Scottish Genealogy Society should have it available on their website soon but in the meantime you can contact them
by sending an e-mail to - alternatively you can contact them at is 15 Victoria Terrace Edinburgh EH1 2JL

Fife Family History Fair - Glenrothes, Saturday 3rd October

Fife Family History Fair is being held this Saturday, 3rd October, between 9am and 5pm in Rothes Halls in Glenrothes.

The Scottish Military Research Group will have a table among the exhibitors - please feel free to come along and have a chat with us and see what we're getting up to!

SMRG talk - Paisley

Adam Brown will be giving a talk to Renfrewshire Family History Society on the Scottish Military Research Group in Paisley Museum, High Street, Paisely on Thursday 15th October at 7.30pm.

Please come along and provide some moral support for him!

Friday, 18 September 2009

Lost Aberdeen POW Camp found

From the BBC News website:

Remains of city's PoW camp found

The remains of what is believed to be Aberdeen's last surviving World War II prisoner of war camp have been found during work on a landfill site.

German soldiers were kept on Tullos Hill from about 1945.

There are believed to have been at least two other camps in Aberdeen, in Hayton and Peterculter, but they have both been built over.

Aberdeen City Council's keeper of archaeology, Judith Stones, said the find was "fantastic".

She explained: "Now we're taking care to ensure that no damage is done during the current works, and it's very exciting that some new discoveries are being made in the process."

She will give a talk, Archaeology, Rubbish and New Discoveries on Tullos Hill, at Aberdeen Maritime Museum from 1230 BST to 1300 BST on Wednesday 23 September.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

More on the CWGC

Over the last day or so the fuss I reported on in the last two blog postings has subsided, but hasn't entirely gone away.

There has been little to report on, but today there was some contact between David Stacey of the CWGC and a member of the Great War Forum.

June Underwood of the GWF had reported to the CWGC that there had been a tacit agreement from the CWGC that they were happy for people to link to their site. That is the agreement referred to in his reply, which is quoted below:

"Dear Mrs Underwood
Thank you for your further email about the CWGC database. It is very helpful to have a copy of the attached correspondence of which I was unaware. I will be researching to see how many other similar agreements there might be. I note that your website is freely available, but I would be interested to know whether there are others that in fact charge for the same information.

I was pleased to see that you had participated in the original survey. Afterwards, although you were not chosen, a sample of people were asked more detailed questions about the website, at which point such issues might have been raised (but were not). The survey was sent to almost 5000 customers and we received back over 1500 responses. The customers contacted were those who had most recently contacted the Commission at the time the list was extracted, and represented a complete cross section of our customers from the new user (some of whom had never used our website) to the regular visitor, many of whom used our website for "work" purposes. Of those who replied, 821 said they were happy to be contacted again and a number were then randomly chosen for a more detailed telephone conversation. There were several demands for a better search facility, and we have attempted to accommodate some of these.

Before re-introducing the new database, I will look further into the issues raised by the direct links to it. As another correspondent has suggested, it may be possible to keep the functionality of the earlier version, together with the changes to the new. I am considering inviting various individuals to a meeting to put their view to the CWGC in order to inform the debate, and I may be in contact again.

Yours sincerely

David Stacey"

It is encouraging to note that they will look into a number of the issues which have been raised by several members of both the Great War Forum and WW2 Talk.

Now, here's hoping that perhaps they might actually improve the search facility rather than saying they will and adding nothing!

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

CWGC Search changes - update

The situation with the CWGC I reported on yesterday has taken a few new twists and turns today.

The CWGC reported on their Twitter feed that they were experiencing "technical difficulties" - they later reported that these had been resolved. It also seemed that the search facility had been restored to the way it was. Perhaps they'd been listening to us! Actually, no they hadn't.

It turned out that their new search engine was full of bugs anbd flaws, and had so many errors they had to remove it.

It also became clear that they were going to change the search engine, whether we like it or not.
The following was posted on the CWGC website today:

"Following extensive consultation with users of the popular CWGC website, we have made several changes to the “Search Our Records” section , which will make it easier for people to search our database of 1.7m Commonwealth casualties. However, a technical problem has affected these changes, which has required the temporary reinstatement of the previous search tool.

It is our intention to adopt the improved system, once the technical problem has been resolved. As well as providing a more intuitive system, the changes to the records search facility allow for greater security of our database but regular users may wish to note that one of the likely results of the security upgrade is that external websites will be unable to take advantage of the links to individual casualty details which are currently available

We are confident that these changes to the search facility represent a significant improvement on the previous system and that users will find the changes useful."

I'll come back to that statement later.

The threads on both the Great War Forum and WW2 Talk had some interesting discussion, and I recommend taking the time to have a read of them. Many people had emailed the CWGC to express their dissatisfaction, and lo and behold, someone got a reply from them! Sadly, it doesn't make for encouraging reading, and only highlights that iut appears that the CWGC haven't a cluewhat kind of people actually use their search facility. You can find the reply on both threads linked above, but here it is in all it's glory:

Dear Ms Underwood
Thank you for your email concerning recent changes to the Search Facility on the CWGC website. You may have already noticed that we have temporarily reverted to the older version due to some of the technical problems you and others have noted. However, when the technical issues have been sorted, we do intend to change the Search Facility, which I note has caused problems to people who are running linked databases.

This is the first time that I have been made aware that links have been made directly to the Commission's website. If there are any formal agreements in place, then perhaps you could let me know. If not, then it would seem to me perfectly reasonable for the organisation to make changes it believes enhances the system. I can assure you that there was a wide consultation earlier in the year, which was included on the website. I do not know whether any of the members of your group participated in that consultation. The enhancements of the new system respond to some of the points raised during that consultation.

Your comments about the new system have been noted and will be looked into. In the meantime, I am afraid I can give no assurance that the referencing of casualties on the database will remain the same and you may wish to consider other ways in which to retain your information.

Yours sincerely

David Stacey
Director Information Services
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
2 Marlow Road

Tel: 01628 507147 (Direct)
Fax: 01628 507186

Let's take a look at some of these comments shall we?

"extensive consultation" - from what anyone can gather this took the form of a survey which was available on the CWGC website. I know enough about surveys and statistics to know that you can take whatever information you want from them. I wouldn't class this as "extensive" - there was no communication with any dedicated users, and certainly no discussion with Geoff, who runs an excellent and far superior search engine to that of the CWGC. I'm sure he'd have been happy to consult with the CWGC to try and improve on their frankly disappointing search facility, but sadly he wasn't given that opportunity.

"easier for people to search" - there has been no change to the search facility. How does that make it easier? Making it weasier would make it possible to narrow your search down to a specific month, or even day.

Want to see who else may have been killed the same day as your grandfather? After all, they may have been mates of his. No chance of doing that with the search as it currently stands, or as it will be in future.

This is not making it any easier to search.

"Greater security of our database" - this statement concerns me somewhat. I don't really understand what they mean and until someone from the CWGC can explain it I think we have a right to be concerned by it.

"We are confident that these changes to the search facility represent a significant improvement on the previous system and that users will find the changes useful." - well, this is just nonsense, isn't it? I can point them in the direction of dozens of users of their site who don't consider it an improvement and find it somewhat less than useful!

As for the email from David Stacey, there are a number of points that merit further discussion.

"This is the first time that I have been made aware that links have been made directly to the Commission's website." - Seriously?!?! I find that very hard to believe. Do they live in a bubble? I expect not, but okay, let's give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they don't know anything about the people using their database. As my friend John Duncan has stated on the GWF "If this gentlemen is unaware of external websites linking into the CWGC site then he is not the man for the job".

"formal agreements" - This confuses me. I'm sure many people were unaware that there should be any kind of formal agreement. Does this conflict with this part of their Terms and Conditions? I quote:

This material may be reproduced free of charge in any format or medium for personal use or for internal circulation at an educational establishment, provided it is not altered or used in a misleading context and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is acknowledged as the source of the material.

I don't have an issue with his statement that they are free to change things if they wish. We can't stop them, obviously. However, I don't accept that there was "extensive consultation" and I certaily don't believe that anyones comments will be looked into.

Still, we can always voice our opinions, so if you'd like to do so, then feel free to email David Stacey. Or write him a letter. Here's his details again:

David Stacey
Director Information Services
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
2 Marlow Road

Tel: 01628 507147 (Direct)
Fax: 01628 507186

Oh look. A direct telephone number. Why not give him a call? Tell him what a bad idea their "revamp" is. I'm sure he'd love to hear from you. But please, keep it polite.

Alternatively, why not email some of the other people involved with the CWGC? Here's some ore details:

Mr Peter Francis
Head of Communication
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
2 Marlow Road
Berkshire SL6 7DX
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 1628 634221
Tel: +44 (0) 1628 507163
Fax: +44 (0) 1628 771208

Mr Andrew Bishop
Director of Information Technology
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
2 Marlow Road
Berkshire SL6 7DX
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 1628 634221
Fax: +44 (0) 1628 771208

Apparently Peter Francis is on holiday at the moment, but I'm sure someone is monitoring his inbox. And if they aren't, I'm sure it'll be full on his return...

One thing is clear - the CWGC have done themselves no favours with this. There are many members of both the Great War Forum and WW2 Talk involved in projects to try and have men missing from the CWGC Register brought "in from the cold" - they must be feeling incredibly let down right now, since this will make their work a lot harder. It also shows that the organisation they are working incredibly hard to help clearly doesn't give two hoots about them.

As I've typed this, a member of the GWF has stated:

I'm just going out but I've found a letter from Andrew Stillman, Records & Enquiries manager in Aug 2005 where he gives permission for us to use the links to CWGC. "The Commission is always pleased to support such causes which go hand in hand with our aim to reach as big an audience as possible"

Are they still pleased to support such causes? Doesn't seem like it...

Monday, 7 September 2009

Changes to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission search engine

Have you ever used the CWGC search engine? If so, have you ever posted the URL of your search result onto a website, email or any kind of document?

Well, that link is now utterly useless, thus leaving many people having to start from scratch with painstaking research, due to the CWGC "revamping" their search engine. I use that term carefully since there appears to be no improvement made whatsoever - no additional search facility, no new way of organising the search results.

There's more discussion on both the Great War Forum and WW2 Talk, but it's clear that many military and genealogical researchers are unhappy - particularly in the way there was no advance warning or announcement of the changes.

I've posted a message on the CWGC Twitter feed - I'll be interested any response that is received from them. I expect a standard response that it is not their job to assist researchers - that might be the case, but I feel this might be a bit of a public relations blunder from the Commission. Many of the researchers affected have assisted the CWGC in the past, adding missing names to the Debt of Honour register and they've been badly let down here through a lack of communication.

It also means that we have lost the excellent Geoff's Search Engine - many people used this since the serarch facility was far, FAR better than the CWGC. Geoff has posted the following on the page where the search was, and I think it deserves to be repeated here:

"If this has caused some inconvenience to your WW1 and WW2 research and you view it as a retrograde step, please contact the following, giving your views.

Mr Peter Francis
Head of Communication
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
2 Marlow Road
Berkshire SL6 7DX
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 1628 634221
Tel: +44 (0) 1628 507163
Fax: +44 (0) 1628 771208

Mr Andrew Bishop
Director of Information Technology
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
2 Marlow Road
Berkshire SL6 7DX
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 1628 634221
Fax: +44 (0) 1628 771208

I suppose this is a message that perhaps the old ways are sometimes still better - I printed all my search results of my research on to hard copy ages ago.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Lewis Roll of Honour

On the Scottish War Graves Project site yesterday, user "adb41" posted that he now had a Roll of Honour for the Isle of Lewis online.

It's well worth checking out - click to visit his site.


One of the big things on the internet these days is "social networking". This takes many shapes, this blog being one of them. Sites such as Facebook and MySpace have been around for a while, and they have been joined fairly recently by one called Twitter.

In case you've never heard of it, Twitter is a site where you can post updates of around 170 characters - it makes you keep things short and to the point. Some may think that rather frivolous, but many people have got on board and are now "tweeting" regularly.

Some of them may be of interest to those of you with an interest in Scotland and military history.

Yours truly can be found here, although I wouldn't expect much in the way of updates from me, since I never seem to have the time.

Genealogist and Friend of the SMRG Chris Paton can be found here, posting regularly on events and happenings in the Scottish Genealogical world. His blog, incidentally is also worth a look and can be found here.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission have been social networking for a while (they can be found on Facebook) and have got in on the Twitter act here. They post fairly regularly with some interesting items of news and updates.

Others "Twitterers" include:

The Western Front Association

The National Archives

The Imperial War Museum

The Australian War Memorial

That's just a few of the "bigger" names - there are plenty of familiar names out there if you have a browse.

Friday, 14 August 2009

The Scots Who Fought Franco

An excellent programme shown last night on STV - a documentary on Scotlands contribution during the Spanish Civil War. It featured numerous interviews with International Brigaders whih have never been seen before.

Part two is on next week - I recommend tuning in if you can.

Part one is available to view here:

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

The People's Army: Home Guard in Scotland 1940-1944

Mention the Home Guard to anyone and the answer you receive will invariably involve Dad's Army. A few years ago it might have been the answer I gave. But behind the comedy show there lies a true story that was almost as fascinating and at time amusing as the exploits of Pike, Fraser, Jones and co.

I've been particularly fascinated by the Home Guard for quite a while, and have a number of books on the subject. What has been lacking has been a book describing how the Home Guard was organised and operated in Scotland.

Brian Osborne's book The People's Army: Home Guard in Scotland 1940-1944 more than adequately fills this gap. From the earliest beginnings of the days following Anthony Eden's call for volunteers, to the closing days and "stand down" in 1944, this book covers almost every aspect of the Home Guard story.

Each chapter covers either a separate period in the short life of the Home Guard, or a particular facet of the organisation, such as weaponry and equipment, or the little-known effort the Home Guard made in the field of anti-aircraft batteries. These chapters cover all the information I knew a little about, while at the same time bringing to light new information and stories. One in particular stands out - that of a High Court judge in Edinburgh finding himself on patrol with the man who had been facing him in the dock the previous week! Stories like this stop this book from being just a dry history of the Home Guard; they add meat to the bare bones of the story and make this book the better for it.

Scotland it seems is particularly lucky, and this story could perhaps not have been told about any other part of Britain: we are lucky in that an officer in Scottish Command instructed each area to compile a "regimental history" of its service. These were then collated and are now held by the National Library of Scotland. (A set of documents I might make a point of requesting on my next visit!)

If you have an interest in Scotland's military history, or just in the Home Guard, I would recommend this book.

Click here to buy direct from the publisher.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Oddfellows Roll of Honour

Paul "spoons" Goodwin has just posted an interesting Roll of Honour to the Scottish War Memorials Project.

This Roll of Honour, to the Oddfellows Hall at New Abbey, is currently in private hands and only survived through a stroke of luck when the hall originally closed.

Well worth a look: Oddfellows Roll of Honour, New Abbey.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Earl Haig dies

From the BBC News Website:

Earl Haig dies at the age of 91

Earl Haig, the son of British World War I commander Field Marshal Douglas Haig, has died at the age of 91.

George Alexander Eugene Douglas Haig was born in March 1918 at the time of a major German offensive.

The death of his father - who is buried at Dryburgh Abbey in the Borders - saw him become the 2nd Earl Haig of Bemersyde at the age of nine.

Haig, who was known as Dawyck, was imprisoned at Colditz after being captured during World War II.

He once said that this time as a prisoner had a profound effect on his life.

"I was thus able to prepare myself for the post-war world in which I would play a part quite different from the one which I would have played had the war not happened," he said.

"Ironically, out of the evil that Hitler wrought upon my life there came some good."

That included becoming a long-serving office bearer in numerous ex-service charities.

Among them were the Royal British Legion Scotland, the Earl Haig Fund Scotland, the Lady Haig's Poppy Factory and the Scottish National Institution for War Blinded.

He later became an acclaimed artist and was a president of the Scottish Craft Centre and a trustee of the National Gallery of Scotland.

However, his name was forever linked with his famous parent as was seen in the title of his autobiography, My Father's Son.

In 2006, on the eve of the 90th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, he spoke out to defend his father's record in World War I.

Earl Haig said he wanted to "set the record straight".

"I believe it has now turned full circle and people appreciate his contribution," he said at the time.

"But it saddens me my three sisters have not survived to see it.

"They died suffering from the beastly attitudes of the public towards our father."

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Robert Burns and the Royal Dumfries Volunteers

We have a "guest author" on the blog for this post. The following article was written by group member Paul Goodwin for our attendance at the Family History Fair at Dumfries last week. I thought it worth posting here to bring it to a wider audience.

Robert Burns was not only a poet and national icon but he was also a Private in the Royal Dumfries Volunteers for the last year and a half of his life. Although brief, his service was dedicated and conscientious but strangely seems to have been ignored by many of his biographers.

In an atmosphere of fear of invasion from France, the Dumfries Volunteers were formed on 31st January 1795 when the inaugural meeting was held in the Dumfries Court House and attended by Robert Burns. At a meeting on 20th February Colonel de Peyster was elected Major Commandant of the Corps by the members. Mrs De Peyster then provided the corps with a flag and Colonel de Peyster commissioned 100 ‘Brown Bess’ muskets from Birmingham. On 21st March, Wellwood Maxwell (probably of Munches near Buittle) was made lieutenant to the second company, in which Burns served. Members agreed to provide their own uniform, serve without pay during the war with France and to have an area of operations not more than 5 miles outside of Dumfries. Burns hated war and would fight if his country were invaded, but for no other reason.

Burns was among 59 members who took the Oath of Allegiance and signed the Rules, Regulations and Bye-Laws on 28th March. The governing body of the corps was a committee consisting of all officers and eight members. The members served a three month term on the committee. Burns served on this committee for a term starting on 22nd August 1795.

His song "Does Haughty Gaul Invasion Threat" (also known as ‘The Dumfries Volunteers’), appeared in the Dumfries Weekly Journal in April 1795.

Burns attended the meetings, the drill sessions, served on the committee and was never fined for absenteeism, drunkenness or insolence as many members, both officers and privates, were. Drills were held for two hours, twice a week and committee service involved supplying the corps with arms and other material. All this work was on top of his excise duties and, of course, his writing. This contrasts markedly with his ‘traditional’ image as a hard-drinking womanizer.

On Monday 25th July 1796, Burns's funeral was conducted with military ceremony. In addition to his own Dumfries Volunteers it included the Cinque Port Cavalry and the Angusshire Fencibles. He was buried in the northeast corner of St. Michael's churchyard, a quarter of a mile from his home. His volunteer unifom hat and sword crowned the coffin. The Dumfries Volunteers acted as the pall bearers, the Cinque Port Cavalry band played the Dead March from Saul by Handel and the Angusshire Fencibles ended the procession with a guard that fired three volleys over the grave.

Strangely, while his writing was often not given the recognition it deserved during his lifetime, his much less known military service was honoured at his funeral.

Once the threat of invasion was past, the Royal Dumfries Volunteers were disbanded in 1802 after only seven years. Thankfully their minute book has survived.

Does Haughty Gaul Invasion Threat?

(The Dumfries Volunteers)

By Robert Burns

Does haughty Gaul invasion threat?
Then let the louns beware, Sir!
There's wooden walls upon our seas,
And volunteers on shore, Sir!
The Nith shall run to Corsincon,
And Criffel sink in Solway,
Ere we permit a Foreign Foe
On British ground to rally!
We'll ne'er permit a Foreign Foe
On British ground to rally!

O let us not, like snarling curs,
In wrangling be divided,

Till, slap! come in an inco loun,
And wi' a rung decide it!
Be Britain still to Britain true,

Amang oursels united!
For never but by British hands
Maun British wrangs be righted!
No! never but by British hands
Shall British wrangs be righted!

The Kettle o' the Kirk and State,
Perhaps a clout may fail in't;
But deil a foreign tinkler loun
Shall ever ca'a nail in't.
Our father's blude the Kettle bought,
And wha wad dare to spoil it;
By Heav'ns! the sacrilegious dog
Shall fuel be to boil it!
By Heav'ns! the sacrilegious dog
Shall fuel be to boil it!

The wretch that would a tyrant own,
And the wretch, his true-born brother,
Who would set the Mob aboon the Throne,
May they be damn'd together!
Who will not sing "God save the King,"
Shall hang as high's the steeple;
But while we sing "God save the King,"
We'll ne'er forget The People!
But while we sing "God save the King,"
We'll ne'er forget The People!

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Ancestry to re-index Soldiers Service Returns

While browsing through Chris Paton's Scottish Genealogy Blog, I noticed a post which might be of interest:

Ancestry to re-index Service Returns

This is welcome news, as one of the most frustrating things about searching for a soldiers papers is the time it takes to track down "your" man - now if only they would make it searchable by service number as well - that would make searching 100 times easier!

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Commercial Bank of Scotland 14-18 Roll of Honour

One of the aims of the Scottish Military Research Group was to make information more available to those who required. To that end we have been carrying out transcribing and digitising of various records, and we will release these at various times.

Some of these records we will release on CD, mainly due to the size of the data and in order to recoup some of the costs involved, but other items we will release as free downloads.

This is the first in our series of free downloads: the Roll of Honour for the Commercial Bank of Scotland. This lists all members of the bank who served in the First World War, as well as those who died in service.

The Roll of Honour lists 578 makes, 99 of which made the supreme sacrifice. The Roll has been fully transcribed, together with all the explanatory and introductory text. It is fully searchable so it is easy to find a particular name.

Original copies of this Roll are hard to find, so we are pleased to make this new version available. It can be downloaded by using one of the following links:

Download via Rapidshare

Download via Sendspace

Please let us know if you experience any problems with these download links via our email address -

Friday, 15 May 2009


You may have noticed that the photos on the blog appear to be cut off at the right hand side.

I've been looking into it, and I'll admit I have no idea how to fix it.

Anyone got any ideas?

Featured memorials #1

This is a new feature I'll be introducing to the blog, where I highlight a memorial that's of interest, or that I think deserves to be highlighted.

I thought I'd start with what must officially be the highest war memorial in the country, as it's situated at the top of Ben Nevis.

More details on the Scottish War Memorials Project.

SAFHS Conference 2009

The SMRG had a fairly successful day at the SAFHS Conference in Aberdeen - I hope that everyone who visited our stall came away with something of use to them!

There's a slideshow of photos of the day available here. Those of you who know me might wish to play "Where's David?", spotting me lingering amongst several photos!

Friday, 24 April 2009

MoD names WWI mass grave troops

An interesting article on the BBC News website:

MoD names WWI mass grave troops

The Ministry of Defence has released the names of dozens of World War I soldiers they believe may be buried in a mass grave found in France last year.

Burial pits, which date from the Battle of Fromelles on 19 July, 1916, could also contain the remains of at least 20 Scottish soldiers.

Among those named are members of the Cameron Highlanders and the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.

More than 7,000 British and Australian servicemen died in the two-day battle.

  • Private John Adam - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Grangemouth
  • Sergeant Andrew Allan - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Bannockburn
  • Private John Bowie - Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry - from Aberdeen
  • Private Mitchell Collins - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Kennoway
  • Private John Cumming - Cameron Highlanders - from Inverness
  • Private Alexander Dryburgh - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Werness
  • Private George Galloway - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Buckhaven
  • Private Alex Gray - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - Wormit, Fife
  • Private Alexander Loudon - Cameron Highlanders - from Lanarkshire
  • Lance Corporal David Marshall - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Perth
  • Private Joseph McGuire - Cameron Highlanders - from Glasgow
  • Lance Corporal John Melville - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Perth
  • Private James Melvin - Cameron Highlanders - from Abington
  • Private James Mitchell - Cameron Highlanders - from Coldstream
  • Private Maxwell Mitchell - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Falkirk
  • Private Ernest Paton - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Forfar
  • Lance Corporal William Richardson - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Perth
  • Private William Robertson - Cameron Highlanders - from Edinburgh
  • Corporal David Simpson - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Kirkcaldy
  • Private John Smith - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Forfar
  • Private David Thom - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Forfar
  • As part of the identification process, experts will take DNA samples from the bodies and try to find a family link with the help of the soldiers' relatives.

    The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) will begin the process of exhuming and identifying about 400 of the bodies next month.

    The soldiers were buried by their German counterparts in the aftermath of the battle and most of their identifying tags removed.

    A careful cross-referencing of casualty records has already enabled the MoD to produce a pool of possible identities for the soldiers.

    The commission aims to identify the bodies and give them a military burial at a new site near Fromelles, which will be the first war cemetery constructed in 50 years.

    The soldiers will be buried with full military honours, initially as unknown soldiers, then a panel of experts from the Australia and the UK will meet in 2010 to consider the evidence gathered about the soldiers' identities.

    A spokesman for the CWGC said: "The list of names has been released because we need the families to come forward and register their details with the project.

    "It's a slow, forensic process, we have to first check whether the DNA is viable at the burial site and then test it against the families.

    "The graves will then be marked when positive identifications are made.

    "We will ask the families what they want on the headstones and we will take care of that."

    The commission said the new cemetery would be "worthy of the sacrifices made by these men and a place of dignified pilgrimage and remembrance for generations to come."

    Details of all the men believed to have been discovered can be found on the website

    Tuesday, 21 April 2009

    Memorials in Danger - update

    Quite a bit has happened since I posted yesterday about the condition of the Mains war memorial in Caird Park, Dundee.

    There has been an article in The Courier which can be viewed here. The comments of the Provost John Letford are interesting when he says that "I wasn’t aware of this previously" since this article from 2005 indicates that the condition of this park and the war memorial were made clear to him - quite obviously nothing has been done since some of the graffitti currently on the memorial is dated from 2005!

    The BBC News website have also picked up the story and feature some comments from yours truly, as well as some very pessimistic comments from Councillor Bob Duncan. If it is the case that the memorial can't be saved, then frankly it's up to the council to provide a fitting replacement - they were given custody of the memorial in 1922 and they have failed in their duty to maintain it!

    It remains to be seen what will happen but I think it is clear that this issue will not go away, although I suspect that is what Dundee council would like to happen.

    SAFHS Conference 2009

    A reminder that the annual conference of the Scottish Association of Family History Societies, along with the Scottish Family History Fair, takes place this Saturday 25th April at King's College Conference Centre in Aberdeen. Attendance to the fair is free to the public.

    For more information, visit the SAFHS website at

    The Scottish Military Research Group wil be there, so feel free to find our table and say hello. You can hear about some of our projects and perhaps browse some of the records we'll have on display.

    We hope to see you there!

    Monday, 20 April 2009

    Memorials in Danger #1

    One of the reasons for this blog was to highlight stories and areas of interest that arise from the discussions on the Research Groups forums. One area I wanted to highlight which occasionally arises from the War Memorials Project forum is the number of memorials which perhaps need a bit of care and attention.

    I had been planning to start a regular series of postings to the blog on this very subject, and a recent new addition to the Memorials Project had spurred me on to do it sooner rather than later.

    I had hoped to start with a memorial that perhaps needed a clean, or perhaps required some attention to some names which had become faded. I never thought I would have to highlight a memorial which has suffered so much neglect, damage and vandalism as that of the Mains memorial.

    This memorial is located in Caird Park, Dundee and commemorates the men from Mains who fell in the First World War. At the unveiling, a Baillie Gillies accepted custody of the memorial on behalf of the corporation. I can only think that the corporation, and whichever body succeeded it, has failed in their duty to maintain safe custody of this memorial.

    This is the condition of this memorial now:

    There are further photographs on the Scottish War Memorials Project site which show in greater detail how badly damaged this memorial is.

    It is covered in grafitti, and several of the names will be lost due to damage of the name panel if something is not done soon.

    Fortunately, it seems that the posting of these photographs on the forum has made a few of our members sit up and notice. The thread concerning this memorial contains a great deal of support, and it seems that the relevant council bodies have been notified. Unfortunately it seems that, as in many things nowadays, it may be a question of money which decides if this memorial can be restored or not.

    The full thread can be accessed here.

    There is also a thread concerning this memorial started by myself on the Great War Forum.

    Friday, 13 March 2009

    Happy Red Nose Day!

    Today is Red Nose Day. For those of you who aren't aware of what it's all about, please visit the following link and have a think about donating.

    Comic Relief website

    And for those of you who are wondering what this has to do with Scottish Military history, I present the following picture which is the best photo I've seen all day:

    Members of the The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland, wearing Comic Relief Red Noses at their base in Fort George Invernesshire before they deploy for a tour of Afghanistan.

    Could unknown soldiers be identified?

    A rather interesting news article on the BBC site today. Could this result in many unknown soldiers being identified?

    Piecing together the past

    By Robert Hall
    BBC News

    Detective work by a British historian has unearthed information that could enable thousands to piece together their family histories.

    Peter Barton was commissioned to carry out research into the identities of World War I casualties discovered in a mass grave at Fromelles in France.

    He was given access to the basement of the Red Cross headquarters in Geneva.

    There, he was allowed to examine records that have lain virtually untouched since 1918.

    He estimates that there could be 20 million sets of details, carefully entered on card indexes, or written into ledgers.

    'Tutankhamen's tomb'

    They deal with the capture, death, or burial of servicemen from over 30 nations drawn into the conflict; personal effects, home addresses and grave sites cover page after page.

    All were passed to the Red Cross by the combatants; volunteers logging the information by hand before sending it on to the soldiers' home countries.

    I still can't understand why no-one has ever realised the significance of this archive
    Peter Barton
    According to Peter Barton, the UK's copies no longer exist, but the originals are still here and are immensely important.

    "To a military historian, this was like finding Tutankhamen's tomb and the terracotta warriors on the same day," he told me.

    "I still can't understand why no-one has ever realised the significance of this archive - but the Red Cross tell me I'm the first researcher who has asked to see it."

    The records could potentially reveal the whereabouts of individuals whose remains were never found, or never identified. Grave after grave in the World War I cemeteries mark the last resting place of an unknown soldier.

    Unprecedented challenge

    But that presents the Red Cross with an unprecedented challenge; the paper records must now be conserved, and digitised. More than £2m has already been set aside for a project that will begin this autumn, and which is likely to involve experts from all over Europe.

    The Red Cross hope to have the archive online by 2014, 100 years after the start of World War I. They believe that the care and patience of their volunteers during the conflict coupled with today's technology will provide a key to unlock the past.

    The Red Cross headquarters high above Lake Geneva is one of the best known buildings in the city, at the centre of a web of humanitarian aid stretching around the globe.

    But this site is also home to one of the word's most remarkable historic archives; personal details which have lain virtually untouched for decades.

    Their significance only came to light after Peter Barton had been commissioned by the Australian government to carry out research, following the discovery of a mass grave on World War I battlefield at Fromelles in France.

    That trail led him to the Red Cross Museum in Geneva, and to the card indexes and registers compiled between 1914 and 1918; during that period the Red Cross had acted as a go-between, logging, and passing on information to 30 countries drawn into the conflict.

    Those details included whereabouts of prisoners, their condition or injuries at the time of capture, and the location of field burials.

    Details which no longer exist in the UK, but here, in dusty cardboard boxes Peter Barton found the original indexes; thousands upon thousands of cards; dozens of registers.

    Some of the records refer to other mass graves, with exact directions as to where they were dug, and the identities of the soldiers who were buried. Where possible, the registers include home addresses and next of kin.

    Completing jigsaws

    In the World War I cemeteries, headstone after headstone marks the last resting place of an unknown soldier.

    The names of the missing line the walls of memorials across France and Belgium, and until now, the trails followed by new generations ended with family histories still incomplete.

    The fragile documents now being examined could provide the missing pieces of a jigsaw, and the Red Cross are already working to bring the archive into the computer age.

    The organisation's head of press, Florian Westphal, admitted they had never faced a challenge quite like this: "First we have to make sure that we preserve the original records," he told me.

    "Then, this autumn, we will begin the process of digitising the World War I section of the archive - we expect that phase of the project to cost around four million Swiss Francs."

    The Red Cross say they'll need expert help from other countries, and will almost certainly ask for volunteers to join their own archivists. They aim to have the archive available on the web by 2014, a century after World War I began.

    But that's only the start; the careful record-keeping extended through World War II, and on to more recent conflicts.

    I was shown the rows of metal shelves which contain millions more personal stories; more index cards neatly packed into boxes. Public access here would require significantly more effort, and more cash which is simply not available at this stage.

    Back in the World War I archive, Peter Barton was leafing through page after page of handwritten names - all men who had died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme - lives ended far from home, but, thanks to the patience and care of Red Cross staff all those years ago, their stories may soon be told.

    Story from BBC NEWS:

    Sunday, 8 March 2009

    Newbattle at War

    I recently received an update from John Duncan regarding his excellent "Newbattle at War" website, which I thought might be of interest:

    "work has been rather limited on the website recently due to other commitments, however a few nice photographs have been added and a feature on Jimmy Smith, the Great Uncle of Charles Sandbach who was shot at dawn. Charles has campaigned long and hard to have his uncle Jimmy added to the Bolton Roll of Honour and has now been successful.

    I have added the text of the Parliamentary debate on Jimmy and ask you read it, it is a tale of human tragedy and very moving. "

    The whole website is well worth a look, I urge you to check it out:

    Saturday, 14 February 2009

    Thistle & Poppy Society, Battle of Ayette talk

    A quick heads-up for anyone who might not have seen the following post on the Great War Forum.

    "A talk will be given on the Battle for Ayette and the involvement in the said attack by the 15th (Glasgow Tramways) Battalion of the Highland Light Infantry, The meeting will be held in the Carwood Centre in Bridgeton Public Library in Landressy Street, Glasgow on Saturday 28th March at 1.00 pm all who are interested please register as soon as possible - the talk is free and there will be ample car parking for those who attend. Refreshments and snacks will be available throughout the day...which means a well stocked bar in anyone's language!"

    Tuesday, 10 February 2009


    An interesting article appeared in the Scottish Sun today. Text "borrowed" below for anyone who doesn't buy the paper.

    I did a little bit of homework into Berenger Bradford, as I was curious about the medal ribbon in the photograph published. The National Archives has three results for him inb their lists of recommendations for honours and awards. Two DSO and a Military Cross, although on looking at one of them it states he had previously been awarded an MBE and a Mention in Despatches. Apparently he was wounded in Normandy but recovered sufficiently from his wounds to take command of the battle and lead his troops by sitting on the front of a tank and directing it to the front line. A brave fellow, all told.

    THE son of a World War II hero has cracked a secret code in his dad’s letters home — nearly 70 years on.

    Captain Berenger Bradford escaped from a PoW camp in Germany and went on the run to France and Algeria before getting back to Britain to lead an assault in the Normandy Landings.

    Fan mail ... proud son Andrew

    Fan mail ... proud son Andrew

    He travelled nearly 5,000 miles in a year while fleeing the Nazis and sent a string of encoded letters to the War Office and his parents in Aberdeenshire.


    When Bradford died in 1996, his son Andrew, 54, discovered the cache of letters and has spent years unravelling their secrets.

    Andrew, the Laird of Kincardine Castle and Estate, said: “In his writing he secreted the message by weighting some of the letters slightly lighter than the normal text.

    “When you glance at the letter you cannot see this so you then have to produce a trigger to alert the reader.

    “I looked at one letter for days then suddenly something twigged — it was very exciting when you saw the words coming out.

    “In some of his later letters he had concealed messages within the lining of the envelope. He was just trying to feed what information he could and tell his father where he was.”

    After navigating 700 miles back to Britain in a 17ft boat from Algeria, Bradford became a colonel and led soldiers from the 51st Highland Division into battle in Normandy in 1944.

    Thursday, 29 January 2009

    Eleanor Teresa Armstrong

    One of the aims of this blog was to highlight names on a memorial, and to show some of their story, so that they could live on as more than just that name on a plaque.

    The memorial at Canonbie is a particularly attractive memorial, and on the memorial is the name Eleanor Teresa Armstrong. She is rather intriguingly listed as serving with the British Diplomatic Staff.

    Searching for her on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission would not provide you with very much information:

    Rank: Civilian
    Regiment/Service: Civilian War Dead
    Age: 30
    Date of Death: 12/03/1941
    Additional information: Daughter of Margaret Armstrong, of 24 Scotland Road, Carlisle, Cumberland, and of the late John Armstrong. Died at Pera Palace Hotel, Istanbul.
    Casualty Type: Civilian War Dead
    Reporting Authority: TURKEY

    Another woman met her death the same day:

    Rank: Civilian
    Regiment/Service: Civilian War Dead
    Age: 45
    Date of Death: 12/03/1941
    Additional information: of 47 Abbey Road Mansions, Maida Vale, London. Died at Pera Palace Hotel, Istanbul.
    Casualty Type: Civilian War Dead
    Reporting Authority: TURKEY

    An article in the New York Times from 1997, however, gives us a little more information on how the two met their deaths:

    During World War II, the Pera Palace attracted a variety of diplomats, journalists, spies and others of uncertain reputations. It was favored by those sympathetic to the Allied side, and British agents often used it for clandestine gatherings. Among the guests was Joel Brand, a leader of the Jewish underground in Budapest, who was sent to Istanbul late in the war by Adolf Eichmann with a bizarre offer to free one million Jews if the Allies would supply Nazi Germany with stores of coffee, tea, cocoa, soap and 10,000 military trucks to be used on the Russian front. The Allies refused.

    One morning in March 1941, the hotel lived though its most shattering moments when a tremendous explosion shook the hotel lobby, evidently from a bomb planted in a suitcase by pro-Nazi saboteurs.

    ''People ran from their rooms shouting that the Germans had come,'' one historian later wrote. ''The whole neighborhood shook and windows were broken in all directions. The first floor of the hotel was in shambles, with furniture blown across the lobby. The elevator collapsed, its cable cut. Six people were dead and another 25 had been injured. The Pera Palace never fully recovered from the damage to its lobby or reputation.''

    An article in Time Magazine from 1941 gives us even more detail:

    On the brink of Europe, facing Asia across the shimmering Bosporus, the Hill of Pera is crowned by one of the swankest old hotels in the world. It is Istanbul's famed Hotel Pera Palace, chuck-full of faded tapestries and the queerest collection of Victorian rocking chairs, settees and oversize bathroom fixtures this side of Bombay. Last week a rattletybang little streetcar jammed with Turks was just careening around a curve in front of the Pera Palace when a great belch of flame and smoke pushed out the whole first floor of the hotel with a crunching, grunting roar. Against the streetcar hurtled jagged slabs of plate-glass windows, splintered tables and chairs, and an avalanche of burst-open trunks and suitcases. Several Turks on the car were badly injured. Inside the now fiercely burning Pera Palace screaming chaos reigned. Cables flashed all over the world that a bomb attack had been made upon His Britannic Majesty's Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Bulgaria, George William Rendel.

    The slight, dry and extremely shy British Minister was not killed, because at the moment of the explosion he was upstairs, probably worrying about something. An English friend has said of him: "Nobody could really be so worried about his work as George always looks." When he entered the Pera Palace with an entourage of some 50 persons, whom he had brought from Sofia because Britain broke off relations with Bulgaria after the Nazi influx (TIME, March 10), it was typical of George William Rendel that he went straight upstairs to his room and began to check over personally his Legation's more important papers. Other members of the British group were signing the hotel register or chatting in the lobby when the blast went off. Said British Vice Consul C. H. Page:

    "I was standing near the porters' desk, close to the luggage room, when there was a blinding flash. Long tongues of flame shot out from the luggage room. I was thrown to the ground and got up to find myself in a crater, out of which I was only able to look up. Several others were in the crater with me.

    "Flames were consuming the porters' desk and the partition between the luggage room and the hall. Lying in the midst of the flames was a woman screaming terribly. I rushed to carry her away and asked the Reverend Mr. Oakley (Chaplain of the British Embassy in Turkey) to take her by the legs and help me. He shouted something at me which I could not at first understand. He repeated it and I was horrified to understand him to say: 'Her legs are gone.' Somehow we got her out and carried her across the road where the ambulance picked her up. Later I found she was
    Miss Armstrong

    Terese Armstrong, 23-year-old British Legation stenographer, had also lost an arm, but death did not come to her for more than 30 hours. Instantly killed were four Turks, two of them hotel porters. The toll of wounded was 30. British First Secretary James Lambert was badly burned, slightly cut. When Minister Rendel came bounding down the Pera Palace stairs to see what all the noise and smoke was about he found his private secretary, Miss Gertrude Ellis, bleeding from serious wounds. His daughter and Legation Hostess, Ann Rendel, 21, had been knocked down by the force of the concussion, lay dazed but uninjured on the floor. Her father sent her upstairs to get his personal documents.

    In any crisis the motto of the Turkish police is "arrest everybody," and in nabbing every living soul in the Pera Palace they did not omit to place under arrest the British Minister, whom they promptly released. In the confusion, however, instructions to take wounded Miss Ellis to the famed American Hospital of Istanbul were misunderstood and the dying British girl was taken to the German Hospital.

    Out of the flaming Pera Palace, which burned for an hour before Istanbul firemen doused the blaze, darted Legation Clerk John Embury. He had suddenly remembered an extremely heavy and mysterious suitcase left with part of the Legation luggage at another hotel. This was one of two suitcases noticed on the tram from Sofia to Istanbul, opened and found to contain soiled clothing, some old Turkish newspapers and what looked like a big radio battery. The clerks could not find any Briton on the train to whom all these belonged, but they did not like to throw them away. Now Clerk Embury, with a hunch that the mysterious suitcase in his room contained an infernal machine, heaved it out the window onto an adjoining vacant lot. Turkish detectives cautiously opened the suitcase, found the "radio battery" to be a bomb.

    The bombs had been carried into the British Legation train in Sofia—the private train of Bulgaria's Tsar Boris, loaned especially for the occasion—under the noses of Bulgarian detectives and Gestapo operatives who had been on duty for the previous twelve hours.

    The British Legation staffers and Minister Rendel, moving on to the British Embassy and thence to Ankara, aired no theory about the explosion. Asked if they thought Nazi agents were to blame, they said, off the record, that this seemed to them "too fantastic to be probable."

    "There is no doubt that the bombs were brought in the baggage of the British Legation from Sofia," said an official German spokesman in Berlin. "Most probably these were bombs which already had been set with time fuses to blow up bridges or cause other sabotage in Bulgaria. In the haste of packing, the British Legation officials forgot to remove the time fuses when they packed the bombs with their other baggage. . . . That just goes to show what happens when legations play around with explosives."

    Finally, an excerpt from The Scotsman newspaper of 14 March 1941:

    The death-roll resulting from the bomb explosion is now four. Miss Teresa Armstrong (23), of Carlisle, a stenographer at the British Legation in Sofia, who was injured in the explosion, died early yesterday morning, Both her legs had been amputated.

    Miss Armstrong was a native of Canonbie, Dumfries-shire, and resided at Scotland Road, Stanwix, Carlisle.

    She lived for some time at that address with her family after crossing the Border. She was trained at the Greig School and was afterwards engaged for some time in the City Treasurer's Department.

    She later held an appointment at the International Labour Office of the League of Nations at Geneva.

    Following the outbreak of war she was engaged as one of the secretaries of the British Minister at Sofia.- Her family have so far had no official information concerning her. She will probably be buried in the British cemetery at Istanbul.

    A fascinating story, and a horrific way for a young woman to meet her death.