Friday, 1 May 2015

Churchill and The Royal Scots Fusiliers

Chuchill and The Royal Scots Fusiliers

Since June last year I’ve been volunteering at the The Royal Highland Fusiliers Museum. The Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed Regimental Headquarters and Museum is located near Charing Cross on Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow and it’s a hidden gem stuffed to the gunnels with a sorts of historic military paraphernalia.

The Royal Highland Fusiliers were formed in 1959 by the amalgamation of two of the British Army’s most distinguished Regiments The Royal Scots Fusiliers and The Highland Light Infantry. Recently the 50th anniversary of Winston Churchill's funeral two months ago caused me to think of one of the more famous alumni of the The Royal Scots Fusiliers….  The very same Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill.

Lt-Colonel Churchill commanding the 6th Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers 1916
Winston Churchill famously said ‘it was in Scotland I found the three best things in my life: my wife, my constituency and my regiment’. The regiment he found was the Royal Scots Fusiliers, the second oldest of all the Scottish regiments.
Lt-Colonel Churchill commanding the 6th Battalion (close up)

After his resignation from the government in 1915, Churchill rejoined the British Army and after spending some time as a Major with the 2nd Battalion, Grenadier Guards, he was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel, commanding the 6th Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers on 1 January 1916.
Correspondence with his wife shows that his intent in taking up active service was to rehabilitate his reputation, which was at an all-time low after having to leave his position as First Lord of the Admiralty after the disastrous battle of Gallipoli. During his period of command the battalion did not take part in any set battle although Colonel Churchill exposed himself personally to danger by making 36 excursions made into no man’s land. Churchill apparently won his troop’s affection early on when he successfully lobbied for dry socks to be given to sentries who had been standing in the rain. I’ve personally read a lot of the First World War battalion diaries there constant references to soldiers suffering from ailments caused by Trench Foot and poor footwear, I can see how this would have endeared him to the men.

During the First World War the regiment raised 19 battalions, was awarded 58 battle honours and 4 Victoria Crosses. It lost a total of 5,600 men over the course of the war.

Anyway, one item that caught my eye recently was a beautifully framed letter and photograph of Churchill hidden away in one of the museums more jumbled store rooms, jokingly known to museum staff as simply ‘Room 13’. It seemed a shame that this is not on view to the public so I thought I’d post it here (see picture bellow).

Picture frame with photo and letter.

Churchill letter (close up)

Churchill photo (close up)

The photograph appears to be hand signed by Churchill himself.
The letter reads:

I am very glad that the Second World War history of the 6th Battalion, The Royal Scots Fuiliers, should be written. I remember with pride commanding the 6th Battalion of this famous Regiment in the First World War, and my memories and admiration for it endure.

Winston Churchill

I’m not sure what 'Second World War history' the letter is referring to but (I need to do a little more research on it) but its worth mentioning that after the First World War in 1925 to mark the 250th anniversary of the regiment, the immensely popular author of The Thirty-Nine Steps John Buchan published The History of the Royal Scots Fusiliers (1678-1918). The book was dedicated to Buchan’s brother Alastair who fell in the Great War while serving with the regiment.

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