Scottish Pipers on Postcards and
During the expansion of the British Empire, spearheaded by British military forces it was soon realised that Highlanders made excellent troops and a number of regiments were raised from the Highlands over the second half of the eighteenth century. Although the early history of pipers within these regiments is not well documented, there is evidence that these regiments had pipers at an early stage and there are numerous accounts of pipers playing into battle during the 19th century and the Scottish Great Highland bagpipe became well-known worldwide. A practice which continued into World War 1.
For example, pre-war series such as the ‘Military Uniforms Series’ by Beagles, the ‘Savoy Series’ by Calder & Brown and the ‘Battle Honour Series’ and ‘Regimental Sets’ by Ritchie, Williams & Sons Ltd., all featured coloured photographic postcards of Scottish pipers, drummers and buglers
Both before and during the conflict the art publishers Miller & Lang of London and Glasgow produced numerous sets of colourful cards - many of which featured Scottish pipers. For instance, set number 347 comprised of six cards and the titles included ‘Scots Guard – pipe Major’, ‘Royal Scots Fusilier – Pipe Major’ and ‘Seaforth Highlander – Pipe Major.’ The cards were designed to look as if they were sat in a wooden picture frame. Another set of six cards, number 1884, featured a card titled ‘Gordon Highlander (Piper)’ .
Around 1907, Miller & Lang Ltd. of Glasgow released a superb set of photographic uniform cards with a high glossy finish. There were at least 12 cards in the set, which featured Scottish regimental uniforms and at least three cards portrayed pipers and two of them are illustrated below.
History and Tradition series
A number of Scottish Pipers can be found in an ever-popular basic set of 120 cards that illustrated the uniforms of regular Regiments and
Corps of the British Army. The set is known as the History and Traditions series.
The full set was published once each year starting in 1909 through to 1915, sometimes the postcard backs were slightly different.The series was published by Gale & Polden and the artists were Ernest Ibbetson and John McNeill. There were 114 regiments represented within the set - which the War Office authorized.
On the left side, each card had a uniform(s) illustration and on the right, a short history of the regiment, its battle honours and the regimental badge. During the years of publication the changes in uniform fashion and new battle honours and new regiments and other changes, were illustrated on a number of additional cards.
The Artist Conrad Leigh
The Artist Harry Payne
Pipers in the Great War
For example, in 1916, the Daily Mail newspaper issued a series of 176 cards titled The Daily Mail War Postcards which showed scenes and incidents that took place during the Battle of the Somme. The photographs had been taken by several members of the small band of official photographers who had been embedded with the British Army on the Western Front.
The first issue of cards was on 6th September and numbered 80, comprising
of ten series of eight. Many of the cards were of a morale-boosting type and
included studies with captions such as ‘Loyal North Lancs Regiment cheering
when ordered to the trenches,’ ‘Our gallant Highlanders, who love to charge the
enemy to the skirl of the pipes,’ 'Wiltshires cheering during the great
advance,' and '"Black Watch" pipers playing to the captors of
Longueval.' At least three cards from the series depicted Scottish Pipers and they are illustrated below.
“HIGHLANDERS PIPE THEMSELVES BACK FROM THE TRENCHES." This printed-photographic card is No.2 from Series 1, in the Daily Mail collection. The caption reads: 'Our gallant Highlanders, who love to charge the enemy to the skirl of the pipes, are fond of playing their national music in lighter mood as seen in the picture.' Another source said: ‘Men of 26th Brigade, 9th Division returning from the trenches with 8th Black Watch piper after the attack on Longueval, Montauban, 14 July 1916.’
The Pipes and Drums of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards
"The Gael", performed by The Pipes and Drums of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards at the Bannockburn Memorial and taken from their excellent "Highland Cathedral" DVD.
The Battle of Bannockburn took place on 24th June 1314 and was a significant Scottish victory in the First War of Scottish Independence and a landmark in Scottish history.The Scots royal fortress of Stirling Castle was occupied by the English and under siege by the Scottish army. The English king, Edward II sent a formidable force to relieve it. The attempt failed and his army was defeated in a bloody two-day battle by a smaller army commanded by Robert the Bruce.
The Menzies Clan still own a remnant of a set of bagpipes said to have been carried at the Battle of Bannockburn, though the dependability of the claim is sometimes debated.
Piper Daniel Laidlaw V.C. King's Own Scottish Borderers
It is not known if Piper Laidlaw was featured on a postcard - though he probably was. This image of him is on a cigarette card and is number 89 in the 4th series of 25 in The Great War Victoria Cross Heroes. The card was released in 1916 and details on the back describe his exploits that day at Loos and Hill 70. Laidlaw earned the nickname 'The Piper of Loos.'
During the Great War, pipers frequently lead the troops 'over the top' and were an obvious target for enemy fire. During the conflict around 1,000 pipers were killed.
In 1915, Piper Daniel Laidlaw was
40 years old and in the 7th
Battalion, The King’s Own Scottish Borderers, 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division.
During the Great War the following deed took place for which he was awarded the V.C.
On 25 September 1915, during the Battle of Loos at Hill 70, prior to an assault on enemy trenches and during the worst of the bombardment, Piper Laidlaw, seeing that his company was shaken with the effects of gas, with complete disregard for danger, mounted the parapet and marching up and down, played his company out of the trench to the tune of "All the Blue Bonnets Over the Border." The effect of his splendid example was immediate and the company dashed to the assault. Piper Laidlaw continued playing his pipes even after he was wounded and until the position was won.
"BLACK WATCH PIPERS PLAYING TO THE CAPTORS OF LONGUEVAL." This printed-photographic card is number 21 from Series 3 in the Daily Mail collection. The caption on the reverse reads, "The Tommies who are seen listening to the Black Watch Pipers, had just been engaged in the storming of Longueval, which they took in 25 minutes." This was not exactly true. Although the attack on Longueval began on 14th July 1916 and by evening a large part of the town was in Allied hands, due to further attacks and counter-attacks the strategic nearby Delville Wood was not taken by the Allies until 3rd September.
The Pipes and Drums of The Black Watch.
A view of the Scottish countryside taken from across Scotland. Accompanied by the music "The Dark Isle" performed by The Pipes and Drums of The Black Watch.
The stirring sound of the Scottish bagpipe is synonymous with strength, courage and
heroism during war. And picture postcards tell a small part of the story.