To coincide with the Centenary of the Armistice, a number of Scots organisations in London have combined to produce a book ‘Scots in Great War London’ that records stories, and examines the close links between the organisations, and their shared hopes fears and tragic losses. It notes too that Scotland’s casualties were disproportionately higher than those from other parts of Britain.
One of the contributers to the book, the BBC’s health Editor Hugh Pym, and his wife Susan (both elders at St Columba’s) came to Riverside this week to share stories collected in ‘Scots in Great War London’. Susan grew up in Dumbarton and Riverside is her ‘home church’. Donations were collected for the work of Poppy Scotland and Borderline, the charity that works with homeless Scots in London.
There was a well-established Scots community of around 90,000 in London before the Great War broke out in 1914. Their work and background covered a wide range of professions, jobs and social backgrounds, but their Scottish-ness was a bond between them. Organisations like the Caledonian Club, the Caledonian Society and the London Scottish FC (rugby) catered for social and sporting interests, while Crown Court and St Columba’s Church of Scotland congregations catered for spiritual and social needs. There were links too with Scots regiments like the Scots Guards and the London Scottish Regiment.
When war broke out many who belonged to Scots organisations signed up – and many never came back. At the same time troops from Scotland passed through London going to and from the Front. Over the course of the War St Columba’s fed and entertained nearly 50,000 Scots troops passing through London, going to war or going home.