The BBC reported yesterday that Scotland very nearly voted for independence once before, just before the outbreak of World War One. Having felt relatively autonomous up until before, the introduction of the 1872 Education Act angered many Scots, as it stipulated that Scottish school boards would be subject to legislation by London. Ireland, meanwhile, was becoming more and more politically separate from the rest of the British Isles. In 1894 a Scottish Home Rule Association began to lobby for a devolved parliament, and in 1900 the Young Scots sprang up, and organisation that passionately believed in Scotland’s right to independence. By 1914 they had 10,000 members, and their influence in Westminster was growing. In 1913, William Cowan MP presented a Scottish home rule bill to Parliament. He argued that a separate nation, with a separate identity, needed to be able to direct its own affairs, and that English MPs took little real interest in the running of Scotland; the bill actually passed its second reading in Parliament in May 1914, but when the shooting of Archduke Franz Ferdinand unleashed political chaos the following month, and war was declared in August 1914, all thoughts of independence were cast aside. Britain entered World War One as a United Kingdom. However the vote goes, Forces War Records would like to salute just some of the brave Scotsmen awarded the Victoria Cross, who helped to win victory for us all:
Second Lieutenant Stanley Henry Parry Boughey, late Royal Scots Fusiliers, from Edinburgh: On 1st December 1917 at El Burf, Palestine, when the enemy in large numbers had managed to crawl up to within 30 yards of our firing line, and with bombs and automatic rifles were keeping down the fire of our machine-guns, he rushed forward alone with bombs right up to the enemy, doing great execution and causing the surrender of a party of 30. As he turned to go back for more bombs he was mortally wounded at the moment when the enemy were surrendering.
Second Lieutenant John Manson Craig, Royal Scots Fusiliers, from Comrie: For most conspicuous bravery, on 5th June 1917 in Egypt, on the occasion of an advanced post being rushed by a large party of the enemy. This officer immediately organised a rescue party, and the enemy was tracked over broken country back to his trenches. Second Lieutenant Craig then set his party to work removing the dead and wounded. During the course of this operation his men came under heavy rifle and machine-gun fire. A non-commissioned officer was wounded, and the Medical Officer who went out to his aid was also severely wounded. Second Lieutenant Craig at once went to their assistance and succeeded in taking the non-commissioned officer under cover. He then returned for the Medical Officer, and whilst taking him to shelter was himself wounded. Nevertheless, by great perseverance, he succeeded in rescuing him also. As the enemy continued a heavy fire and in addition turned on shrapnel and high explosives, Second Lieutenant Craig scooped cover for the wounded and thus was the means of saving their lives. These latter acts of bravery occurred in broad daylight, under full observation of the enemy and within close range. On three previous occasions this officer has behaved in a conspicuously brave manner, and has shown an exceptional example of courage and resource.
Lance-Corporal Samuel Frickleton, New Zealand Infantry, born Slamannan and resident in Scotland/New Zealand: For most conspicuous bravery and determination when, on 7th June 1917 at Messines, Belgium, with attacking troops, which came under heavy fire and were checked. Although slightly wounded Corporal Frickleton dashed forward at the head of his section, pushed into our barrage and personally destroyed with bombs an enemy machine-gun and crew which was causing heavy casualties. He then attacked a second gun, killing the whole of the crew of twelve. By the destruction of these two guns, he undoubtedly saved his own and other units from very severe casualties, and his magnificent courage and gallantry ensured the capture of the objective. During the consolidation of the position he received a second severe wound. He set, throughout, a great example of heroism.
Captain Harry Sherwood Ranken, Royal Army Medical Corps, from Glasgow: For tending wounded in the trenches under rifle and shrapnel fire at Haute-Avesnes, France, on 19th September, and on 20th September, even after his thigh and leg were shattered. He arrested the bleeding from this and bound it up, then continued to dress the wounds of his men, sacrificing his own chance of survival to their needs. When he finally permitted himself to be carried to the rear his case had become almost desperate and he died within a short period.
Private (Piper) James Cleland Richardson, late Manitoba Regiment, born Bellshill and resident in Scotland/Canada: For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty when, on 8th October 1916 at Regina Trench, Somme, France, prior to attack, he obtained permission from his Commanding Officer to play his company “over the top.” As the company approached the objective, it was held up by very strong wire and came under intense fire, which caused heavy casualties and demoralised the formation for the moment. Realising the situation, Piper Richardson strode up and down outside the wire, playing his pipes with the greatest coolness. The effect was instantaneous. Inspired by his splendid example, the company rushed the wire with such fury and determination that the obstacle was overcome and the position captured. Later, after participating in bombing operations, he was detailed to take back a wounded comrade and prisoners. After proceeding about 200 yards Piper Richardson remembered that he had left his pipes behind. Although strongly urged not to do so, he insisted on returning to recover his pipes. He has never been seen since, and death has been presumed accordingly owing to lapse of time.
Drummer Walter Potter Ritchie, Seaforth Highlanders, from Glasgow: For most conspicuous bravery and resource, when on 1st July 1916 at Beaumont-Hamel, France, on his own initiative he stood on the parapet of an enemy trench, and, under heavy machine-gun fire and bomb attacks repeatedly sounded the “Charge,” thereby rallying many men of various units who, having lost their leaders, were wavering and beginning to retire. This action showed the highest type of courage and personal initiative. Throughout the day Drummer Ritchie carried messages over fire-swept ground, showing the greatest devotion to duty.