Scottish Military Research Using Family Photographs


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Scottish military research using family photographs
Most Scottish families had an ancestor who fought in the World Wars; hundreds of thousands of them served in Scottish infantry regiments and many of them had photographs taken of themselves in uniform. In many cases a photograph of a man in khaki is one of the few items which a family will still have to record that service.
Luckily for us the Scottish regiments had many “tribal” peculiarities, especially the Highland regiments, and if you know what to look for in an old family photograph it is often possible to identify a regiment and sometimes even a battalion even if you can’t see a cap badge.
To provide a detailed guide to every combination of uniform worn by Scottish soldiers over the years would fill a large book. Apart from the service dress the men wore, the caps and badges were very similar in both World Wars, so most of the photographs in this guide are First World War portraits from 1914-1919. Many soldiers chose to get their photographs taken in a studio in their regimental finery and it is those photographs this guide will focus on as these are the sort of photographs most likely to be the ones a family will possess.
There are also photographs covering other periods – The Second World War, pre-1914, Imperial Service, post-1945 but they will not be covered in detail to allow this to remain a brief guide. There are a couple of photographs of pipers, but since so few men served as pipers and because of the extra uniform differences, they will also not be covered in detail.
Most Scots who served in the army during the World Wars served in the ten famous Scottish infantry regiments – five Lowland and five Highland

Lowland Royal Scots Royal Scots Fusiliers King's Own Scottish Borderers Cameronians, Scottish Rifles Highland Light Infantry

Highland Black Watch Seaforth Highlanders Gordon Highlanders Cameron Highlanders Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders

Scotland also had a regiment of Foot Guards – The Scots Guards; and a cavalry regiment – The Royal Scots Greys, 2nd Dragoons. This guide will cover all these regiments plus the seven Scottish volunteer cavalry regiments – The Ayrshire Yeomanry, Queen’s Own Glasgow Yeomanry, Lanarkshire Yeomanry, Fife and Forfar Hose, Lothian and Border Horse, Scottish Horse and Lovat Scouts. There were also three Scottish regiments raised in England before and during the First World War which are included – the London Scottish, The Liverpool Scottish and the Tyneside Scottish. We will also briefly touch on the army’s corps – artillery, engineers, medical, transport and flying and the war-raised Machine Gun Corps.

There will also be a short look at Canadian and South African Scottish units. This is another area of study which would take a book in itself to cover in full. During the First World War many Scots served in overseas forces, and in the Canadian Expeditionary Force several units wore Highland uniform - in some case modelled directly on regiments in the British Army. There are some items which help distinguish the Canadian uniforms even if at first glance on a photograph they look identical to the British regiment.

The guide will cover the cap badges of the Scottish Regiments and other insignia will be referenced where visible on a photograph but they will be covered in more detail, along with rank badges, in another Scottish Military Research Group guide which will be published separately – “Ranks and Badges”

We hope this very brief guide – made using our own collection of photographs and out of copyright photographs from Wikimedia and the Imperial War Museum Faces of the First World War collection - will help you identify a soldier’s unit from his photograph.

Please contact us with your own photograph if you would like someone from the Scottish Military Research Group to have a second look.

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Cap Badges If you have a clear view of a cap badge on a photograph then it is relatively easy to identify the regiment, so we will start this guide with some images of the cap badges of the Scottish regiments. These are the badges commonly used in the late Victorian period and through the two World Wars and are most likely to be seen on an old photograph. There have been variations of these badges over the years and in some regiments officers and pipers wore slightly different badges but for the most part these are the most common examples for each regiment. They are not listed in order of precedence, rather they are grouped by their similarity to each other for ease of distinguishing them for the layman. Scottish badges, especially those of the Highland regiments, tend to be slightly larger than other regimental badges of the British Army.
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Territorial Units London Scottish / Liverpool Scottish WW1 / 5th Bn Seaforth Highlanders WW2 / Liverpool Scottish WW2
Tyneside Scottish WW1 / Glasgow Highlanders / Lowland Regiment WW2 / Highland Regiment WW2
Other Corps Thousands of Scots served in supporting corps during the World Wars and there were Territorial artillery, engineer, medical and transport units based across Scotland. For reasons of space we are only showing six of the most commonly seen ones. The same Royal Artillery badge was used by the Royal Horse Artillery, Royal Field Artillery and Royal Garrison Artillery during the First World War. Men who wore this badge in their caps wore shoulder badges with RHA, RFA and RGA on them. Hopefully the shoulder badge can be seen in any photograph to identify which branch they served in. The Royal Flying Corps merged with the Royal Naval Air Service in 1918 to form the Royal Air Force so anyone photograph of someone wearing that badge predates the formation of the RAF. The Machine Gun Corps was only formed in 1915 and was disbanded in 1920.
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First World War Photographs

It is worth noting at the start of this section that most photographs taken before and during the First World War were developed using emulsions which were not sensitive enough to capture the colour yellow. This means that yellow showed as black. Because of that the Gordon Tartan used by the Gordon Highlanders looks just like the Government Tartan kilt, which is what it was based on. Kilts of the Black Watch, Gordon Highlanders and Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders all look exactly the same in photographs of this period.

To help differentiate between the regiments, different uniform items can be used alone, or with other items, to piece together the clues for an answer. However there are exceptions to these uniform rules. In 1908 the Volunteer Regiments became the Territorial Force and became part-time battalions of the regular regiments. Several Territorial battalions still retained their pre-1908 uniform distinctions into the First World War which meant:

4th and 5th (Queen’s Edinburgh Rifles) Battalions, Royal Scots –wore the uniform of a Scottish rifles regiment 9th (Highland) Battalion, Royal Scots – wore a kilt of Hunting Stewart tartan, not trews. 6th (Glasgow) Battalion, Highland Light Infantry – wore a Mackenzie kilt not trews (the same sett as the Seaforth Mackenzie kilt but with the red stripes over the
legs - not in the centre of the kilt like the Seaforths wore. Unfortunately red shows as black on old photos so both regiments’ kilts look the same) 9th (Glasgow Highlanders) Battalion, Highland Light Infantry – wore a Highland uniform based on the Black Watch 5th (Sutherland and Caithness) Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders – wore a uniform roughly based on the 93rd Sutherland Highlanders

As can be seen the two battalions of the Highland Light Infantry have similarities in uniform to other regiments and it may not always be possible to distinguish them as HLI from a photograph.

In the table below where a regiment is identified as Lowland (L) the men wore tartan trews in full dress and in barracks but did not wear it on front-line service. Please use this table in conjunction with the photographs on the following pages. The patterned hose were replaced in the front line by plain woollen hose by 1916. The sporrans were replaced by khaki kilt covers at the front but early WW1 photographs taken in the UK often show them. Later ones taken in Europe do not, as a rule, show them.

For decoration sporrans had a number of short tassels (e.g. Black Watch) or longer tails (e.g. Seaforth Highlanders) in contrasting hair colour. For convenience this guide uses the term tassels for all lengths of sporran decoration.

Regiment

Tartan

Sporran
colour of sporran / colour and number of tassels / pouch badge

Hose (socks)

Garter flashes

Glengarry
Body/ Dicing

Royal Scots (L)

Hunting Stewart No.8

N/A

N/A

9th (Highland) Bn Royal Scots
Royal Scots Fusiliers (L) King’s Own Scottish Borderers (L) Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)(L) Black Watch
Highland Light Infantry (L)
6th Bn HLI
9th Bn HLI Glasgow Highlanders Seaforth Highlanders
5th Bn Seaforth Highlanders Gordon Highlanders

Hunting Stewart No.8 Government Tartan No. 1

White/ 2 long black/ Thistle (Also had privately purchased leather purse sporran) N/A

Leslie Tartan No. 7

N/A

Douglas Tartan No. 6
Government Tartan No. 1 aka Black Watch
Mackenzie Tartan No. 5. Slightly larger sett than the same tartan worn by the Seaforth Highlanders Mackenzie Tartan No.2 See Seaforth Highlanders
Government Tartan No. 1 with box pleat
Mackenzie Tartan No.2 Government tartan with red and white stripes. Only white shows in old photographs Government Tartan No. 1 with box pleat
Gordon Tartan No.3 In early 20th Century photographs the yellow strips shows as black so the Gordon tartan looks exactly the same as a Government tartan kilt

N/A
White / 5 short black / St Andrew N/A
Black / 3 short white / small version of HLI cap badge White / 5 short black / St Andrew white / 2 long black/ Stag’s Head – same as cap badge Grey / 3 dark grey/ Metal cantle white / 2 long black / Stag’s head on heater-shaped shield

Red and dark green
N/A N/A N/A Red and black N/A Red and white Red and black Red and white Red and dark green Red and Black

N/A
2 red tabs – double pointed and with one belled loop

Dark Blue/ red white and green (4th and 5th QE Rifles Battalions wore plain dark green glengarries)
Dark Blue/ red white and green

N/A
N/A
N/A 2 red tabs – double pointed N/A

Dark Blue/ red white and green Dark Blue/ red white and green Dark green No dicing Dark blue No dicing No black rosette Dark Blue/ Dark green

2 red tabs – double pointed
2 red tabs – double pointed
One red tab, Two stacked belled loops on plain tabs – no points 2 red tabs – double pointed
2 red tabs – double pointed and with one belled loop

Dark Blue/ red white and green
Dark Blue/ red white and green Dark Blue/ red white and green
Dark blue No dicing or red and white Dark Blue/ red white and green

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Regiment
Cameron Highlanders
Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders London Scottish Liverpool Scottish

Tartan
Cameron of Erracht Tartan No. 4 In early 20th Century photos the yellow stripes shows as black so it is difficult to distinguish this tartan from the Government Tartan unless there is a clear photo where subtle differences can be discerned. Government Tartan No. 1 with box pleat
Hodden Grey Not a tartan. A plain grey / brown colour chosen by Lord Elcho when the unit was formed in 1859. Forbes Tartan Similar to the Mackenzie tartan of the Seaforth Highlanders with no red stripe and with a larger sett than Mackenzie No.2

Sporran colour of sporran / colour and number of tassels / pouch badge
black / 2 long white / St Andrew – same as cap badge
Black / 6 short white/ Plain or Sometimes has a badger’s head for a cantle Brown-grey/ 2 long black/ London Scottish cap badge
Brown-grey/ 2 long black/ King’s Regiment “Horse” badge

Hose (socks)
Red and dark green
Red and white Hodden Grey Red and Black

Garter flashes

Glengarry Body/ Dicing

2 red tabs – double pointed

Dark blue No dicing

2 red tabs – double pointed

Dark blue Red & white

One dark blue tab pointed

Dark blue No dicing

2 red tabs – double pointed

Dark Blue/ red white and green

Glengarry
Headwear used by the Scottish infantry regiments from the 1850s onwards, and in use with Service Dress at the outbreak of The First World War. It was found to be impractical in the trenches and replaced at the front line from late 1914 by blue Balmoral caps with khaki covers and then the larger khaki Tam O’ Shanters from the spring of 1915.
Note: All pipers of all Scottish regiments wore plain glengarries without dicing.
Other headwear
Balmoral A dark blue flat bonnet with red tourie. A bonnet used by civilians since the nineteenth century, it was first introduced by the army in late 1914 as trench warfare developed. It was soon issued with a khaki cover and then superseded by the Tam O’ Shanter (see below). Officers wore their own privately purchased uniform during the First World War and often wore a khaki Balmoral rather than a Tam O’ Shanter from 1915 onwards.
Tam O’ Shanter A khaki flat bonnet with a khaki tourie. First introduced in April 1915 it was used by all Scottish infantry units – replacing glengarries, and commonly seen in studio photographs from 1916 onwards. It can be distinguished from a Balmoral by its larger crown and rougher material. In Scottish Divisions it was sometimes, but not always, adopted by other troops too - such as the Machine Gun Corps.
Atholl Bonnet Another nineteenth century civilian bonnet adopted by two Scottish volunteer cavalry units after the Boer War. The Atholl was shaped like a Balmoral bonnet with the addition of a diced band. It was only used by the Scottish Horse and Lovat Scouts. The Scottish Horse had red, white and blue dicing and a red tourie. The Lovat Scouts had blue and white dicing and a blue tourie and theirs is sometimes called a Blue Bonnet
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Kilmarnock Bonnet A similar bonnet to the Atholl but with a larger crown which was stiffened so it looks like a Tam O’Shanter in shape. It was in use by the Royal Scots and King’s Own Scottish Borderers in Full Dress from 1903 until 1914 - replacing the Home Service helmet they had worn since the1880s. It was also used pre-1914 by the 6th Bn Highland Light Infantry with a green crown and an eagle feather behind the badge. The battalion adopted the glengarry in wartime but their Kilmarnock may be seen unstiffened like an Atholl bonnet in early WW1 photos of the 6th Bn HLI. The Kilmarnock re-appeared for formal dress for all Scottish regiments in the late 1940s until the glengarry came back into fashion again in the 1960s. (The original Kilmarnock Bonnet - the name taken from its place of manufacture - was drum shaped and was first used in the late 18th Century. It had a diced band by the early nineteenth century and with the addition of ostrich feathers it evolved into the feather bonnet) Feather Bonnet The feather bonnet was first adopted by the Highland regiments in the early nineteenth century and was last used by frontline Highland troops during the Indian Mutiny. It was used in full dress uniform by the regular Highland regiments until 1914 and is still used by drummers and the pipers of some regiments until today. Volunteer rifle regiments did not wear feather bonnets so if an ordinary soldier was photographed wearing one he will have been a regular soldier Service Dress peaked cap Worn by the Royal Scots Greys (2nd Dragoons); Scots Guards; Ayrshire Yeomanry; Lanarkshire Yeomanry; Queen’s Own Royal Glasgow Yeomanry; Lothian and Border Horse; Fife and Forfar Yeomanry. Also worn by Scottish Territorial Force units of the Royal Garrison Artillery; Royal Field Artillery; Royal Engineers; Royal Army Medical Corps and Army Service Corps. In use from 1905 up to the Second World War until replaced by the Field Service Cap (the cap worn by the platoon in Dad’s Army) and later the beret. Wolseley Helmet Widely worn throughout the British Empire’s tropical postings from the Edwardian era onwards; it was the standard hot-weather headwear for Scottish soldiers in Gallipoli, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Palestine and India during the First World War. It was used between the wars and in the first years of the Second World War until it was replaced by slouch hats and headwear used in temperate climates e.g field service caps, Tam O’ Shanters. .
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Highland Regiments
Territorial Force Battalions The Scottish Military Research Group (Registered Scottish Charity SC043826)

Guards & Lowland Regiments
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Yeomanry
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Other Corps
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Scottish Military Research Using Family Photographs