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PostMy Father at The Somme (David Pike, France, 07/11/16 7:12 am)
Our editor JE wrote (July 1) asking me to send WAIS a photo of my father in the Seaforth Highlanders in the First World War, so I send two.
In the first photo, in trousers, he is standing. As I may have said already, the Battle of the Somme opened at 05:30 on his 19th birthday, and by close of day (or close of play, as they say in cricket, because the game resumes the next morning), the British Army's score on that opening day rattled up to 19,240 dead, including 60% of the junior officers. My father rarely spoke of it, except to say that it was a crime on both sides against youth, against ordinary men.
John Eipper also asked whether the Highlanders were still fighting in kilts. The order indeed came down that they were to switch to trousers. It's the only case I know in the British Army of disobedience going unpunished. The Highlanders responded, "We fight in kilts. If we don't wear our kilts, we won't fight."
Some people think I must be a Scot, but ours is a naval family from Plymouth. My father's only sibling was his brother in the Royal Navy who died a slow death in the sinking of submarine H47. The Seaforths' training base in Stranraer is the farthest possible distance from Plymouth. A case of the desire of youth to try something different.
JE comments: What a dashing young warrior. Thank you, David. I have a number of questions: how common was it for Englishmen to join Highlander regiments? Wouldn't they have experienced discrimination, hazing, linguistic alienation, or what have you?
Didn't mustard gas (1917) accomplish what High Command could not, regarding kilts? Pride and tradition are one thing, but you don't want mustard gas going up your kilt.
Finally, David: any information about the dog? S/he appears to be stuffed, or else really good at posing. Portraiture with Fido seemed to be something of a trope in the 19th and early 20th centuries.