McCrae's Battalion


McCrae's Battalion was the affectionate name given by the people of Edinburgh to the 16th (Service) Battalion of the Royal Scots in World War I, raised from volunteers in 1914 as part of the New Armies called to the Colours by Lord Kitchener. The unit was named after its charismatic colonel, former Liberal MP for Edinburgh East, Sir George McCrae.

Background


Largely composed of professional and amateur sportsmen, "McCrae's" was the first of the so-called 'footballers' Pals battalions to be raised during the war and was the main inspiration behind the creation of the 17th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment in 1915.[1][2]

16 players from Heart of Midlothian F.C. ("Hearts") enlisted, along with 500 supporters and ticket-holders.[1] Hearts were leading the Scottish League at the time the battalion was raised in November 1914.[3] In addition to the Hearts contingent, players and 150 followers of Hibernian, seven Raith Rovers players and a number of professional footballers from Falkirk, Dunfermline Athletic, East Fife and St Bernard's also enlisted.[1][4][5] Fans were encouraged to follow in their heroes' footsteps and fight alongside the men they cheered on every Saturday afternoon.[1] Rugby players, athletes and a variety of other sportsmen also joined the battalion.[1][6][7][8][9][10][11]

The contemporary Hearts manager John McCartney authored two booklets documenting Scottish footballers in the Great War and those from Hearts who perished.[12][13]

The unit was named after its charismatic colonel, Sir George McCrae, a former Liberal MP for Edinburgh East. It was the subject of a detailed historical account published in 2003 by Jack Alexander.[14] Shortly after the publication of this book, a memorial cairn was constructed in the village of Contalmaison on the Somme. Designed by Alexander, the McCrae's Battalion Great War Memorial cairn now attracts hundreds of visitors every year to the village.[15][16]

In October 2014, the battalion was inducted to the Scottish Football Hall of Fame.[17]

Gallery


Battalion members


Footballers

Rank Name Nationality Position Club prior to enlistment Battalion(s) Wartime death date Wartime death place Decorations Notes Ref
Cpt James Logan  Scotland CF Raith Rovers 16th [18]
CSM Annan Ness  Scotland LH Heart of Midlothian 9th, 16th [nb 1] [19]
SSgt Jimmy Frew  Scotland LB Heart of Midlothian 16th [nb 2] [19]
Sgt Duncan Currie  Scotland FB Heart of Midlothian 16th 1 July 1916(1916-07-01) (aged 23) Somme, France [20]
Sgt George McLay  Scotland RH Raith Rovers 16th 22 October 1917(1917-10-22) (aged 27–28) Passchendaele, Belgium MM [21]
Cpl Alfie Briggs  Scotland WH Heart of Midlothian 16th [nb 3] [19]
Cpl Norman Findlay  England GK Heart of Midlothian 16th [nb 4] [19]
Cpl Tom Gracie  Scotland CF Heart of Midlothian 16th 23 October 1915(1915-10-23) (aged 26) Glasgow, Scotland [22]
LCpl Alex Henderson  Scotland LB Falkirk 16th [11]
Pte Jimmy Boyd  Scotland GK Heart of Midlothian 16th 3 August 1916(1916-08-03) (aged 20–21) Somme, France [23]
Pte Paddy Crossan  Scotland FB Heart of Midlothian 16th [nb 3] [19]
Pte Ernest Ellis  England RB Heart of Midlothian 16th 1 July 1916(1916-07-01) (aged 30) Somme, France [24]
Pte Mick Gibbons  Scotland IF Falkirk 16th [11]
Pte Bob Godfrey  Scotland CH Falkirk 16th [nb 3] [25]
Pte Jimmy Hawthorn  Scotland HB Heart of Midlothian 16th 1 July 1916 Somme, France [26]
Pte Jimmy Hazeldean  Scotland OL Heart of Midlothian 16th [nb 3] [19]
Pte Andy Henderson  Scotland CH Falkirk 16th [11]
Pte David Izatt  Scotland HB Dunfermline Athletic 16th 1 July 1916(1916-07-01) (aged 23–24) Somme, France [27]
Pte William Lavery  Scotland RB Raith Rovers 16th [28]
Pte Teddy McGuire  Scotland IR Heart of Midlothian 16th [nb 3] [19]
Pte John Morrison  Scotland FW Falkirk 16th [11]
Pte Jimmy Morton  Scotland IL Kilmarnock 16th 1 July 1916(1916-07-01) (aged 22) Somme, France [29]
Pte Willie Porter  Scotland CH Raith Rovers 16th [28]
Pte Bob Preston  Scotland HB Heart of Midlothian 16th [nb 5] [19]
Pte Jock Rattray  Scotland IF Raith Rovers 16th [28]
Pte Frank Reilly  Scotland CH Falkirk 16th [11]
Pte James Scott  Scotland FW Raith Rovers 16th 1 July 1916(1916-07-01) (aged 20–21) Somme, France [30]
Pte Wattie Scott  Scotland CH Heart of Midlothian 16th [19]
Pte Harold Sparkes  England CF Glossop 3rd, 11th, 16th 3 June 1917(1917-06-03) (aged 20–21) Pas-de-Calais, France [31]
Pte Jimmy Todd  Scotland OF Raith Rovers 16th 12 March 1916(1916-03-12) (aged 20–21) Nord, France [32]
Pte Harry Wattie  Scotland FW Heart of Midlothian 16th 1 July 1916(1916-07-01) (aged 23) Somme, France [33]
Pte Willie Wilson  Scotland OF Heart of Midlothian 13th, 16th [nb 6] [19]
Pte Bobby Wood  Scotland OF Falkirk 16th [11]
n/a Sandy Grosert  Scotland RH Hibernian 16th MM [nb 7]
[nb 8]
[34]
n/a James Low  Scotland OF Heart of Midlothian 16th [nb 9] [19]

Other sportsmen

Rank Name Nationality Sport Club prior to enlistment Battalion(s) Wartime death date Wartime death place Decorations Notes Ref
Lt Arthur Flett  Scotland Rugby union Edinburgh Wanderers 16th 9 April 1917 Pas-de-Calais, France [35]
Cpt Napier Armit  Scotland Cricket Grange CC 16th 4 August 1916 Somme, France [35]
Sgt Finlay MacRae  Scotland Field hockey n/a 16th 26 August 1917 (aged 30) Somme, France MM and Bar [35]
Pte Arthur Grant  Scotland Golf Le Touquet 16th [36]
Pte Harry Harley  Scotland Athletics Edinburgh Northern Harriers 16th 1 July 1916 Somme, France [35]
n/a Ned Barnie  Scotland Swimming 16th MM [nb 10]
[nb 8]
[37]
n/a John Dallas  Scotland Rugby union Retired 16th [35]
n/a Jim Davie  Scotland Rugby union Stewart's Melville 16th MC [35]
n/a Murdoch McLeod  Scotland Bodybuilding 16th 1916 Somme, France [35]

Notes


  1. Commissioned into the 9th Battalion, Royal Scots.
  2. Transferred to the Royal Garrison Artillery.
  3. Medically discharged.
  4. Discharged to trade in September 1916.
  5. Transferred to the Highland Light Infantry.
  6. Transferred to the 13th Battalion, Royal Scots and later returned to the 16th Battalion.
  7. Transferred to the Machine Gun Corps in 1915 and was later commissioned into the Gordon Highlanders.
  8. Decoration won while serving with another unit.
  9. Commissioned into the Seaforth Highlanders.
  10. Transferred to the Royal Engineers.

See also


References


  1. "The Sporting Battalion". McCrae's Battalion Trust. Retrieved 9 April 2017.
  2. "How the Football Battalions kicked off their war". Archived from the original on 24 July 2018. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  3. "21 November 1914 (showing League table)". www.londonhearts.com. London Hearts Supporters' Club. Retrieved 9 April 2017.
  4. "Wear These Shirts With Pride – Raith Rovers FC". raithrovers.net.
  5. "Soccer Soldiers: Footballers go to war". The National Army Museum. Archived from the original on 6 October 2007. Retrieved 19 March 2007.
  6. Purdie, Tom (2014). Hearts: The Supreme Sacrifice to Hearts at War. Amberley Publishing. ISBN 9781445633343.
  7. "History 1914-1924". official website. Heart of Midlothian FC. Archived from the original on 20 March 2017. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  8. "Heart of Midlothian & the Great War". Archived from the original on 11 October 2016. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  9. "Dunfermline Athletic & the Great War". Archived from the original on 10 April 2017. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  10. "Raith Rovers and the Great War". Archived from the original on 10 April 2017. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  11. "Falkirk FC & the Great War". Archived from the original on 10 April 2017. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  12. "Sport In War booklet, 1930" (PDF). ScottishSportHistory.com. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
  13. "The "Hearts" and the Great War booklet, 1918" (PDF). National Library of Scotland. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
  14. "How Hearts players made the supreme sacrifice". Scotsman.com. The Scotsman. 29 June 2006. Retrieved 9 April 2017.
  15. "Poignant 1914 Edinburgh derby to be commemorated on French soil". Scotsman.com. The Scotsman. 12 April 2011. Retrieved 7 October 2011.
  16. "Contalmaison pilgrimage". Hearts News. Heart of Midlothian F.C. 26 November 2010. Archived from the original on 29 December 2010. Retrieved 7 October 2011.
  17. Halliday, Stephen (27 October 2014). "McCrae's Battalion inducted into SFA Hall of Fame". The Scotsman. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  18. "Man behind the scenes at Stark's Park". Evening Telegraph. Dundee. 9 February 1932. p. 8.
  19. "The Heart of Midlothian FC Players' Roll of Honour" (PDF). Retrieved 23 July 2018.
  20. "Duncan Currie | Service Record | Football and the First World War". Football and the First World War. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  21. "George McLay | Service Record | Football and the First World War". Football and the First World War. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  22. "Thomas Gracie | Service Record | Football and the First World War". Football and the First World War. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  23. "James Boyd | Service Record | Football and the First World War". Football and the First World War. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  24. "Ernest Edgar Ellis | Service Record | Football and the First World War". Football and the First World War. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  25. "Robert Godfrey signs up for McCrae's Battalion 1914". www.falkirk-football-history.co.uk. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  26. "Casualty". www.cwgc.org. Retrieved 23 July 2018.
  27. "David Heron Izatt | Service Record | Football and the First World War". Football and the First World War. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  28. "Wear These Shirts With Pride | Raith Rovers FC". www.raithrovers.net. Retrieved 23 July 2018.
  29. "Casualty". www.cwgc.org. Retrieved 23 July 2018.
  30. "James Scott | Service Record | Football and the First World War". Football and the First World War. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  31. "Harold Sparkes | Football and the First World War". Football and the First World War. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  32. "James Colin Todd | Service Record | Football and the First World War". Football and the First World War. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  33. "Henry Benzie Wattie | Service Record | Football and the First World War". Football and the First World War. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  34. "Hibernian in the Great War" (PDF). Retrieved 23 July 2018.
  35. "The incredible George McCrae and his sporting battalion". Archived from the original on 24 July 2018. Retrieved 23 July 2018.
  36. Alexander, Jack (18 March 2011). McCrae's Battalion: The Story of the 16th Royal Scots. Random House. ISBN 9781845968212.
  37. "Dr William Edward Barnie | King of the Channel". www.kingofthechannel.com. Retrieved 24 July 2018.