24/07/2017
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New collection of records for Great War pipers

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There is a long history of Bagpipes and the British Army, and whilst they weren’t officially recognised until 1854, much of the Army’s battles since the mid-1700s had been fought with piper’s playing. The original purpose of the pipes in battle was to signal tactical movements to the troops during battle.

By the time of WWI it was not only the Scottish, or even British Regiments that had pipe bands, with Commonwealth countries such as Canada, Australia or even South Africa having regiments with their own pipers. The bagpipes’ importance in linking the men back to the history of their unit, and of their homeland, was not under appreciated. The sound and swirl of the pipes boosted morale amongst the troops and intimidated the enemy. However, unarmed and drawing attention to themselves, these extraordinary men were sitting ducks as they went over the top to pipe their men into battle.

Forces War Records has presented  the transcribed collection of records for ‘Pipers of Scottish and overseas Regiments during the Great War 1914-18’, as a permanent memorial to the men involved and an invaluable resource for genealogists.

This collection records all of the men who belonged to these pipe bands during the First World War. Apart from their general military information (names, service number, rank, regiment and battalion), this collection notes their fate (if applicable) and a brief outline of how the bands were utilised. Whilst this often states that the band was quickly withdrawn from frontline service – due to their importance with regards to moral, often even no longer being used as stretch bearers. It is quoted that over 1,000 pipers died during WWI

Records in this collection may include the following:

  •  Surname
  •  Regimental Number
  • First name(s) or initials
  • Rank
  • Regiment
  • Battalion
  • Gallantry Awards
  • Fate
  • Duty Location
  • A brief outline of the Bands service

The record set includes entries for a number of famous pipers including the following:

Private (Piper) James Richardson V.C., - Pvt J. Richardson of the late Manitoba Regiment, in the Battle of the Somme in 1916, obtained leave to play his company over the top. Held up by very strong wire under intense fire, the formation faltered, whereupon Piper Richardson strode up and down outside the wires playing his pipes with the greatest coolness. The effect was instantaneous. Inspired by his splendid example, the company rushed the wire and captured its objectives. While taking back a wounded comrade and some prisoners, Richardson remembered that he had left his pipes behind, and went back for them. The Victoria Cross was awarded posthumously to the hero in October, 1918.

Piper Laidlaw – During the worst of the bombardment, when the attack on German trenches near Loos and Hill 70 on September 26th, 1915, was to commence, Piper Laidlaw, of the 7th Battalion, The King’s Own Scottish Borderers, seeing that his company was somewhat shaken from the effects of gas, mounted the parapet with absolute coolness and disregard of danger, and, marching up and down, played his company out of the trench. The effect of his splendid example was immediate, and his company dashed out to the assault. Piper Laid law continued playing his pipes until he was wounded. For his conspicuous bravery he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

Piper McLennan – On July 21st, 1915 a Turkish redoubt was captured at Gallipoli. To great encouragement of the men, Piper K, McLennan, of the 1/7th (Blythswood) Battalion, Highland Light Infantry, advanced with the attacking line, playing the pipes. During the attack a shrapnel shell burst close to him, shattering his pipes, but with great courage and coolness, he began to tend and dress the wounded. His conspicuous gallantry was rewarded with the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

Go to the War Forces home page to start searching.

The September issue of The Armourer contains a guide to researching relatives and records.

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