Royal Scots WWI Mystery

| February 18, 2013 | 2 Comments
The Mystery Royal Scots Soldier

The Mystery Royal Scots Soldier

A researcher is appealing for help to identify a picture of an unknown Royal Scots soldier in time for the WWI centenary. Alistair McEwan, creator of the online archive Edinburgh’s War, found the solitary picture in a book of autographs collected by a teenager at the YMCA ‘American Hut’ site in Edinburgh’s Saint Andrew’s Square during the Great War.

The book belonged to Elizabeth Edgar, who would help her mother at the hut tending to visiting servicemen. The hut was a stop-off point for war-weary soldiers on their way home from duties in Europe and featured cinematography and billiards tables. Elizabeth collected autographs, sketches and poetry from servicemen, including Lance Corporal R W Brown, of the 9th Scottish Rifles, who wrote on March 8, 1917: “What? Write in a book, Where ladies look, and critics spy? Not I, Not I.”

The photograph, found inside the book, also included a dedication to Elizabeth. McEwan said it’s possible the two knew each other – “We would be very keen to identify him as it would be nice for the family that gave me the autograph book to find out who he was.”

He said little was known about the entertainment complex which encompassed the entirety of Saint Andrew’s Square, apart from information from a news article dated March 14, 1919. Volunteers would run the tented centre, which could house up to 250 servicemen, offering a 125-seat dining room and fun and games for up to 500. The piece told of “a spacious lounge with an information bureau, a newspaper and postcard stand” and a kitchen with “the latest appliances”. There were “conveniences such as shower baths and individual lockers” and it said meals were excellent both in quality and value, costing 1s 6d for three courses, with tea, coffee, or cocoa to follow.

The pages from the book will be uploaded to the Edinburgh’s War website in early 2013. Edinburgh’s War is a collaborative virtual history project between the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh City Libraries, local historians and community groups. The project aims to tell the story of the people and institutions of Edinburgh, Leith and the Lothians during the war years of 1914 to 1918. McEwan said the approaching centenary of WWI has reaffirmed interest in the project. “There’s the history hub at the library if anyone wants to bring any letters, archives, medals or photographs for interpretation or if they have any information on this unidentified soldier.”

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Category: Royal Scots, Wars and Conflicts, World War One

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Nadine has recently arrived in Scotland from New Zealand, and currently works at

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  1. Tom McEwan Edmond says:

    I to am looking for any information or pictures of my Great Uncle who served in “A” Coy 15th Battalion of the Royal Scots in WWI. John McEwan Private #43414
    was killed in action on the 28th of April 1917. We only have a name on a wall at Arras cemetery south of Calais in France. Is there any archived pictures of these soldiers. My plan is to go to France in 2014 to represent our family and to play or respects tom my Great Uncle who gave his life at the tender age of 23.

  2. Ran says:

    Bizarre. Looks like the sporran worn by the rank and file in the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders (or Cape Breton Highlanders of Canada?) with a Black Watch cap badge/glengarry and a commissioned officers jacket and sam browne belt.

    Two overseas service chevrons on the right arm.

    Not Royal Scots.

    Sorry, still a mystery.

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