The debate over whether Scotland produces some of the finest fighting men in the World could go on for ever. What is certain is that pride in the military is woven into the Scottish psyche and that that pride has been ruthlessly exploited by the British Establishment.
In the popular imagination the Scottish soldier is a kilted infantryman. The infantry are the men who go through the meat grinder in almost every war and Scotland has provided the British Empire with more than its fair share of infantry. In the fighting after D-Day in 1944 a British study suggested that although the infantry made up only 25% of the troops involved; they suffered 71% of the casualties.
(While I can’t put my hand on my heart and say my research for Scottish Military Disasters points to the Scots having the worse military record in Europe, for most of recorded history it hasn’t been very spectacular. People remember Bannockburn because it is one of the few battles against the English that the Scots won. Even when the English were heavily outnumbered, at battles such as Flodden in 1513 and Dunbar in 1650, they still managed to win. Many English, and Irish and Welsh soldiers for that matter, regard their Scots counterparts as a bunch of blowhards who write cheques with their mouths that their battlefield performance fail to honour. The counter-argument goes that the Scots go that extra mile to back up their boasting.)
But where does this Scottish martial pride which encouraged so many young Scots into the infantry during two world wars come from?
Shortly after the Battle of Culloden in 1746 the British Government's main agent in the Highlands, Duncan Forbes, calculated the potential fighting strength commanded by the various clan chiefs.
Lochnell and other Campbell Chiefs 1000
Stewarts of Appin 300
Stewarts of Grandtully 300
Clan Gregor 700
Duke of Atholl 3000
Duke of Gordon 300
Grant of Grant 850
Grant of Glenmoriston 150
Duke of Perth 300
Cromarty, Scatwell,Gairloch & other Mackenzies 1500
Macdonald of Sleat 700
Macdonald of Clanranald 700
Macdonnell of Glengarry 500
Macdonnell of Keppoch 300
Macdonald of Glencoe 130
Duke of Montrose, Earls of Bute & Moray
Macfarlanes, Colquhouns, Lamonts, Macneils
of Barra, Macnabs, Macnaughtons, etc, etc 5,600
Some bonus material for those of you who bought the book: illustrations which were not used. Press this button - Battle Maps - to see the maps specially prepared for the book but ultimately not included.
The Norwegians and Scots get to grips with each other in this perhaps
rather fanciful portrayal of the Battle of Kringen in 1612. Chapter 6.
The Scots Army left a strong position on Doon Hill to fight and suffered a humiliating defeat at
the hands of the English under Oliver Cromwell in 1650. Chapter 7.
How did you come to write this book?
I used to be a journalist. I was doing some research for a magazine article about some battles involving Scottish troops and I noticed that the times when things went wrong were often ignored in many mainstream histories or dismissed in a sentence. I found myself wanting to know more and the more I found out the more fascinated I became.
1. Mons Graupius - 84 AD - The first recorded battle in Scottish history. Also the first recorded military disaster.
2. Falkirk - 1298 -William Wallace’s brief day in the sun is ended when he comes up against Edward, the Hammer of the Scots.