A sobering photograph doing the rounds on social media is serving as a stark reminder of how devastating the Great War was for Scots regiments sent to fight in France and Belgium.
First photo shows the Cameron Highlanders at Edinburgh Castle on August 12, 1914 before leaving for France.
The second photo allegedly shows the same battalion at Edinburgh Castle in 1918 after the war or depending on the source, in 1918 after the armistice, however this photo has been photoshopped, but this photo conveys a telling story.
The first photo is apparently printed in Dugald MacEchern, The Sword of the North: Highland Memories of the Great War (1923) p.150: captioned as taken on 12.8.1914, the day they started for France. Officers are named. There is no corresponding post-war photo of the 1st Battalion in the book.
MacEchern writes that by Christmas 1914 only one officer and 27 men remained “unscathed” – possibly including those wounded as well as killed. In the first photo we can see 27 officers and about 1,000 soldiers.
Apparently the original photo was from the Kildonan Museum on South Uist and was part of an exhibit which states: “The 1st Camerons sustained heavy losses in the early months of the war with the result that by Christmas 1914, all but one officer and 27 men were killed or wounded of the 27 officers and 1,000 men whose tartan had swung down the Lawnmarket from Edinburgh Castle on 12 August.”
The second photoshopped picture is accurate in that it shows 27 soldiers and the one “unscathed” officer. Perhaps it was created as a representation of the devastating losses of the battalion.