McCrae's Battalion was the affectionate name given by the people of Edinburgh to the 16th (Service) Battalion of the Royal Scots, raised from volunteers in 1914 as part of the New Armies called to the Colours by Lord Kitchener.
Largely composed of professional and amateur sportsmen, "McCrae's" was the first of the so-called 'footballers' battalions to be raised during World War One.
Heart of Midlothian comfortably led the First Division at the time the war broke out. Sixteen players from Heart of Midlothian enlisted along with 500 Hearts supporters and ticket-holders who were encouraged to follow in their heroes' footsteps and fight alongside the men they cheered on every Saturday afternoon.
The Royal Scots is the oldest Infantry Regiment of the Line in the British Army and can trace its history back to 1633.
By the 4th August 1914 Britain and much of Europe were pulled into a war which would last 1,566 days, cost 8,528,831 lives and 28,938,073 casualties or missing on both sides.
The Regiment raised a total of 35 Battalions and received 71 Battle Honours and 6 Victoria Crosses, losing 11,162 men during the course of the War.
The unit was named after its charismatic colonel, Sir George McCrae who was a Scottish textile merchant and Liberal Party politician. Under his leadership the unit managed to penetrate the enemy line than any other regiment during the ‘big push’ of July 1916.
McCrae’s Battalion lost 12 officers and 573 men – more than three-quarters of its attacking strength. Three Hearts footballers had fallen – Harry Wattie, Duncan Currie, Ernie Ellis and Jimmy Boyd.
A memorial cairn dedicated to McCrae’s Battalion was erected in the French village of Contalmaison, a commune in the Somme département where so many of its soldiers fell in 1916.
For more information on the work being carried out by our Scottish Branch please click the link below.
The Black Watch
The origins of The Black Watch can be traced back to 1725, when George II requested a series of Independent Companies to watch and patrol areas of the Highlands. The primary purpose of the Companies was to prevent smuggling and cattle rustling following the Jacobite Rising of 1715.
On the outbreak of war there were seven Black Watch battalions - for in addition to the Regular 1st and 2nd Battalions and 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion there were a further four Territorial ones which had become part of the Regiment in 1908. They were the 4th Dundee, 5th Angus, 6th Perthshire and the 7th Battalion from Fife.
At the beginning of the First World War the 1st Battalion was based in Aldershot, and because of proximity were amongst the first troops to land in France in July 1914. This Battalion took part in early battles of Mons, Marne, Aisne and Ypres, and by November many men had been injured or killed.