Story of Scots in wartime London needs to be told – Princess Royal

28th June 2018

The Princess Royal has launched a new book about the contribution of Scots in London during the First World War.

The book, Scots in Great War London – A Community at Home and on the Front Line 1914-1919, was commissioned to mark the centenary of the end of the conflict.

Speaking at a reception at the Caledonian Club in central London, Princess Anne said she recognised it was a labour of love for the 10 organisations that contributed to the work.

One chapter charts the stories of London Scottish and Scotland international players. Their sacrifice and the stories of players who survived should be an inspiration to the players of today.

A chapter is dedicated to the story of St Columba’s Church of Scotland in Knightsbridge, which provided hospitality to 50,000 Scottish troops either on their way home from or going to the Western Front.

Volunteers would wait at nearby Victoria Station and direct the soldiers coming off trains towards the church on Pont Street.

They were fed, given time to rest and sometimes put up for the night.

Princess Anne, patron of the Scots in Great War London Group, said: “The role that those organisations played in the Great War is a story that needs to be told and this book does exactly that.

“Their members made an important contribution to Britain’s war effort.

“Tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of Scots, came through London during 1914-19 on their way to and from the Front.

“And were fed, watered, housed and counselled and succoured by their exiled countrymen in London.

“These are not dry-as-dust tales of the long forgotten.

“Their stories did not end with the cessation of hostilities, their humanity and sacrifice strike chords with us today.”

The Princess Royal spoke to Dr Stuart Steele, whose mother Peggy Leonard was a member of St Columba’s a century ago.

He said: “My mother joined the church the year before the war and became involved in the work with the troops when it began.

“One of the things she always said she did was write letters for individual soldiers to be sent to their homes.

“Apart from the hospitality and entertainment offered, the volunteers worked very hard at sorting out problems with paybooks and things like that.

“It was a very wide service that was provided and it’s great that it has been acknowledged and put on record because it hasn’t really been before now.”

The Scots in Great War London Group comprises of: St Columba’s and Crown Court Church of Scotland, Caledonian Club, London Scottish FC, London Scottish Regiment, ScotsCare, Scots Guards, Royal Caledonian Education Trust, Caledonian Society and Burns Clubs of London.


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