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Scotland’s First World War book launched

23 June 2014

An extensively illustrated new book, Scotland’s First World War, exploring the physical legacy of the war in Scotland, was launched in Orkney.

The book follows an audit of First World War buildings and structures in Scotland, which was commissioned by Historic Scotland and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) in 2013. This identified the surprising wealth and variety of buildings and monuments across the country - over 900 in all - greatly increasing our understanding of the impact of the conflict in Scotland. In many cases their First World War connections were previously unknown.

The new book explores this surprising wealth of buildings and structures from the war and what they tell us about the scale and achievements of the war effort in Scotland.

It includes a wide range of outstanding archive images of military bases, personnel and equipment, as well as lesser-known aspects of the war, such as drill halls, prisoner of war camps, and hospitals. It shows how the conflict touched all communities in the country at the time and illustrates the range of work undertaken across Scotland to protect the country from enemy attack and prepare Scotland’s soldiers for war.

Scotland’s First World War was launched on Friday by Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, during a visit to Lyness and Scapa Flow in Orkney. The naval site at Lyness has significant connections to WWI, when Scapa Flow was the base of the British Grand Fleet. Now home to a visitor centre, it houses poignant and sometimes very personal artefacts from Royal Navy ships anchored in Scapa Flow during the war, and from the German High Seas Fleet, which was interned here after the Armistice and scuttled by its German crews in 1919.

Fiona Hyslop said: “As we approach the centenary of the outbreak of the conflict, it is important that we reflect on the sacrifice and immense efforts of our forebears in defence of our country. This is something we will be forever grateful for. It is equally as important to appreciate the tangible remainders of that conflict that still exist in our historic environment. Much has already been written about the First World War, but we still have a lot to learn.

Scotland’s First World War will prove invaluable to our education and understanding of how every community played its part during World War One.”

Ms Hyslop added: “The book is based on detailed research commissioned by Historic Scotland and RCAHMS and is an excellent addition to our knowledge and understanding of the built heritage of the First World War in Scotland. I hope people of all ages will read it to learn more about this important period and gain a deeper appreciation of what previous generations did for their country.”

The author of Scotland’s First World War, Kevin Munro of Historic Scotland, commented: “Scotland’s role in the First World War was significant and we are learning more all the time about the contribution made by communities across the country. While the centenary is primarily a period of commemoration, it is also an opportunity to learn more about the conflict and the history and built heritage of WWI. It was a privilege to research and write Scotland’s First World War and I hope the contribution it makes to our knowledge will spur current and future generations to keep the legacy of WWI alive.”

Included in this research on which the book is partly based is:

  • Revealing information of top secret anti-invasion defences prepared around Edinburgh in case of enemy attack
  • 350 drill halls in use all over Scotland during WW1, of which 189 survive today
  • 239 hospitals – ranging from village halls to vast hospitals that are still in use today
  • 64 air stations, 30 of which had not been included in Scotland's record of sites before the audit. This is a mix of seaplane bases, fixed wing bases and airship stations
  • 39 prisoner of war camps over the period of the conflict, with Scotland’s main site being at Stobs near Hawick. The others ranged from Edinburgh Castle to the more modest Miners’ Cottages on Raasay
  • anti-invasion defences in 39 places, the majority located around Edinburgh and East Lothian
  • 20 firing ranges, with just over half preserving remains of the original site
  • 15 barrack and military accommodation sites, the most notable being Edinburgh’s Redford Barracks, still operational today
  • 11 naval dockyards and naval bases, including sites used by the US Navy in Invergordon and Inverness

All of the records from the WWI audit  – which feature hundreds of modern and historical photographs of sites – are available to view online on RCAHMS’ Canmore database: www.rcahms.gov.uk/firstworldwar

Scotland’s First World War is available from all good bookshops for £11.99 or can be ordered through Booksource, phone 0845 370 006 or email orders@booksource.net

Notes for editors:

  • Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with safeguarding the nation’s historic environment. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament.

  • RCAHMS is the National Collection of materials on Scotland’s built environment that connects people to places across time. It is the first port of call for information about the built environment of Scotland, from prehistory to the present and records the changing landscape of Scotland and collects materials relating to it. www.rcahms.gov.uk  


  • Scotland welcomes the world in the Year of Homecoming 2014 providing a year-long programme of events alongside the Ryder Cup and Commonwealth Games. The Year of Homecoming Scotland will run until 31 December 2014 throughout the length and breadth of the country. Visitors from around the world are invited to join in a celebration of the nation’s food and drink, active pursuits, cultural heritage, nature and ancestral heritage. Homecoming Scotland 2014 is a Scottish Government initiative being led by EventScotland and VisitScotland, supported by numerous partners. To find out more visit www.homecomingscotland.com. For more on Historic Scotland’s Homecoming activities visit www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/homecoming or tweet us using #hshomecoming.

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For further information


John MacNeil, Media Relations Manager
Historic Scotland Media Office
0131 668 8714 or 07854 366 827
john.macneil@scotland.gsi.gov.uk