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The Royal Scots – The Dandy Ninth by Neill Gilhooley

The Royal Scots – The Dandy Ninth by Neill Gilhooley

Neill Gilhooley
ARRSE Rating
4 Mushroom Heads
This is the history of a Battalion of a Lowland Regiment, The Royal Scots (The Royal Regiment) but which wore kilts rather than trews. From this form of dress came their nickname “The Dandy Ninth”. The story concentrates on this one Battalion from its beginnings through to the current day, although as a single Battalion they lasted from 1900 to when they were amalgamated with another Royal Scot battalion in 1922 to become the 7/9th Battalion The Royal Scots and went on to serve as such in WW2.

The Battalion were formed in 1900 in response to the war in South Africa, which was not going too well for the British army. Andrew Gordon, an Edinburgh solicitor, felt that in Edinburgh there was a large number of highland men who would like to join up but as Highlanders. Edinburgh was the regimental area for The Royal Scots so this eventually became a Royal Scots battalion but with the kilt. The author gives us a good description of what it took to raise a militia battalion in those times. The HQ, or Drill Hall, was sourced and funded by the officers along with much of the uniforms, then the War Office was sent an invoice once the unit was established which they paid, only in part. The men may have received the Queen’s shilling but when signing on had to find a deposit of ten shillings (now 50p) quite a fair sum in those days, about the equivalent of two weeks labourers’ pay. This was to go towards the cost of their uniform and returned after five years service! If nothing else this meant that men quickly became proud of their uniform.

Members of the Battalion went to serve in South Africa and the author brings this out very well. However the main bulk of the book concerns the First World War, which the Dandy 9th spent on the Western Front, from 1915-1918 and then some time as the occupying army in Germany before returning to UK. The Battalion had a very busy war and their casualties reflect this, between 1914-1921 as the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission recorded and where the grave is known it is given. In February 1915 when the Bn moved to the Western Front its strength was 1,017. The Roll of Honour for the Battalion runs to 1072 men killed, many, many more wounded or ill which illustrates the turnover of the men in the Battalion, very quickly coming from outwith the normal recruiting area. The author has calculated that reinforcement drafts etc saw 6,299 all ranks serve in the Battalion in WW1.

The main part of the book then covers the First World War and the Dandy Ninth’s role in it, following them from battlefront to battlefront describing the battles in which they took part. This book is somewhat different from others in that this is a more personal; feel to it and seems actually ‘inside’ the Battalion. By this I mean that as a battle or time in the trenches is described we could be following the move forward when suddenly we are told that xxxxx was killed; puts a bit of a stop in and a reminder that this really was a bloody affair. It does break up the ‘flow’ of a battle though!

November 1918 arrives and the Battalion moves forward as part of the occupying powers, but this is a Battalion, like others, which is a citizen Battalion manned by citizen soldiers who wanted to return to their peacetime lives as quickly as possible. The Battalion gradually dropped in size as groups of men returned home to demobilise with the final officers and NCOs returning to Edinburgh with the Bn Colours in June 1919.

1919 saw the disbandment of all Territorial battalions but this was reversed in February when the Territorials were reinstated and recruiting began. As ever, following any war, the government of the day will reduce the size of their army claiming it is no longer required. In 1922 the TA Battalions were reduced and the Dandy Ninth amalgamated with the 7th Leith Bn The Royal Scots to become the 7th/9th Battalion. The move saw 7th Bn moving into the 9th’s Drill Hall, adopting the kilt and other 9th traditions so felt that they were not merging but being subsumed. Initially very few 7th Battalion men or officers transferred over to the 7th/9th but after a few years they were coming forward again.

The Battalion carried on and saw excellent service in WW2 fighting in North Western Europe, especially the Walcheren landings. During these a Company under Major Johnson took the German HQ but their Commander, General Daser, refused to surrender to a lowly major so Johnson took a subaltern’s rank slide, promoted himself temporarily to Colonel and General Daser duly surrendered!

While not as ‘busy’ as in WW1, the Battalion did very well in WW2. However, with the ever tightening of the government purse, the post WW2 years saw the Battalion disbanded and reformed into 52 Lowland Volunteers until finally as A Company 6th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland.

This is a very informative book, full of detail of a Territorial battalion in WW1, very intimate and takes one right in to the battalion so you feel you know the guys. There are many photographs, maps and cartoons in this well written, finely researched book. Well worth a read, even if you are not a Royal Scot, as many battalions went through similar lives.

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I picked this book up, read it one the last few days. A very good book