CHAPTER 7

 

Peebles in Two World Wars

 

BRITAIN'S DECLARATION OF war came on 4 August 1914, the Peebles holiday weekend. The Peebles Company of the 8th Battalion The Royal Scots, numbering 122 men from the burgh, left for Haddington to join the remainder of their battalion on 5 August. With them went 'F' Company of the same unit from Innerleithenl Walkerburn, a further number of Peebles men who, as ex-members of the Territorial Army, were able to enlist and join the battalion at Haddington.1

The 8th Royal Scots was the first Scottish Territorial unit to cross to France in 1914. The battalion arrived in Le Havre on 5 November 1914 one month after its mobilisation. It was sent initially to 22 Brigade of the 7th Division and was very quickly on active service in the trenches. During 1915, the battalion took part in a number of the battles which took place in the British efforts to breach the German line, notably at Aubers Ridge where it suffered its first casualties. It also suffered severely at Neuve Chapelle and at Festubert where their first Commanding Officer Lieutenant-Colonel Brook was killed. By the end of 1915 the original battalion had suffered the following losses in killed and wounded: thirteen officers and 390 other ranks.2

As a unit which had a number of miners within its ranks, recruited as it was from the Lothians as well as Peeblesshire, the 8th Royal Scots became the Pioneer Battalion for the 51st (Highland) Division. This was somewhat of an unenviable task since they remained front­line infantry who were also required to spend much of their time on trench maintenance for other units of the division. The fact, also, that they were part of the famous 51st Highland was to guarantee that the '8th' would invariably be in the hottest part of the line. The battalion saw much service in France during the four years of the war. It is fitting perhaps that the last commanding officer should have

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