Plans have been revealed for a £7million transformation of an iconic building for London’s treasured Scottish community.
The custodians of London Scottish House are leading an ambitious £7 million refurbishment to preserve the past of the London Scottish Regiment volunteers, and carry them into the future.
Steeped in history, the London Scottish Regiment has a distinguished record of operational service from South Africa in the 19th century to Afghanistan in the 21st Century.
London Scottish was founded by the London Scottish Rifle Volunteers in 1859. 160 years later, their legacy lives on. A dedicated 25m shooting range, designed in 1988, is being reinstated at London Scottish House for a variety of users, including the London Scottish Rifle Club and training cadets.
The modernisation of this historic facility has been long awaited by the Scottish Regiment, who formed the Rifle Club alongside the London Scottish Rugby Club and the London Scottish Golf Club in the 1800s. This trio of long sporting traditions are key to the community’s identity – one that is so well recognised across the UK.
It was originally sponsored by the Royal Scottish Corporation now ScotsCare, The Caledonian Society of London, and the Royal Caledonian Schools and was commanded by Lord Elcho. On 31 October 1914 the Regiment was the first territorial volunteer unit into action in WW1 at Messines Ridge (Belgium), where they took 500 casualties in the first day, and later the battle of Ypres, and the Somme.
The 2nd Battalion fought a distinguished campaign in Palestine culminating in the capture of Jerusalem before it was posted back to France in 1918.
In 1939 the 3rd battalion formed as an anti-aircraft regiment and defended London during the Blitz. 1943 it then left for North Africa and served in the allied invasion of Sicily and the Italian Campaign. Three soldiers have been awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery.
Membership of the Rifle Volunteers was a self-consciously middle-class affair to begin with, the middle classes having been largely excluded from (or having paid to avoid) roles in the regular army, although the Militia and Yeomanry had existed long before. Membership incurred costs, not least through men providing their own equipment, and was awarded through the proposing and seconding of new members, very much like a private club.
However, by 1862 more than 120,000 men had signed up, more than half from the upper-working class, including a number of purely artisanal corps.
London Scottish House is home to the world’s oldest volunteer Pipes and Drums Band, formed in 1860 and the oldest still to be playing in its original uniform. The London Scottish pipers were tutored by pipers from the Scots Guards, as well as the Sovereign’s Piper, William Ross, and the drummers by an instructor from the Royal Marines Band, which was a mark of the prestige and position held by this new-found volunteer regiment.
As part of the First Territorial Army Infantry Regiment to see action at the outbreak of the First World War the Pipes and Drums of the London Scottish went into battle at Messines, Belgium on 31st October 1914.They went into battle as riflemen not as musicians, stretcher bearers or on rear echelon duties. Pipers and drummers fought and died with rifle and bayonet, not chanters and drumsticks. The battle was reportedly ferocious and confused and within the space of one evening the Band had been decimated.
The famous photograph of the London Scottish survivors taken the morning after by French Liaison Officer Paul Maze shows Pipe Major Kenneth Greg battered and bruised and with his rifle still in hand. In four short months the Pipes and Drums had all but been wiped out.
Today the Band continues the unbroken tradition with practise on Thursday evenings in the Drill Hall. Nicholas Gair MBE Bass Drummer can be found practising as he has done for many years. As a young boy performing at Highland Gatherings in the early 1960s the London Scottish Regiment held a particular fascination for him.
He said: ‘In so many ways the reservists were just like us – teachers, lawyers, bankers, tradesmen and businessmen going about their daily jobs and voluntarily reporting for duty.
‘It is an immeasurable privilege to now be a member of the Pipes and Drums of the London Scottish Regiment. I feel very much a part of an exceedingly distinguished heritage and it is an honour to march in their shadow and to parade in front of their names on our three memorials.’
The world famous band continues to play at high profile ceremonial and military events such as Beating Retreat and The Lord Mayor’s Show, as well as events at the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, the Guildhall and Royal Chelsea Hospital.
They also perform at numerous civilian events as well as touring throughout Europe and further afield.
With such a proud past, London Scottish are now looking to the future – Scottish Field will bring you more details of the appeal.
Visit https://londonscottishhouse.org/ for more details on London Scottish House.