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Exhibition: "My flea bit dugout in Tobruk" Montgomery's victory at El Alamein

In 1942, General Montgomery smashed the Afrikakorps at the Battle of El Alamein. The 8th Army then drove the Germans and Italians back into the Western Desert in Libya. This exhibition relives the story of the Battles of the Western Desert through the reminiscences of Bob Smith It also explores photographs, maps, documents and artefacts of that time

Assets in this exhibition:

The 51st Highland Division

The 51st Highland Division had surrendered at St-Valery-en-Caux, in France, on 12th June 1940. Back in Scotland, the 1st Battalion of The Black Watch, 1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders and 2nd Battalion Seaforth Highlanders were re-raised. In August the 9th (Scottish) Division was re-numbered 51st (Highland) Division.

In May 1941, Major General Douglas Wimberley was appointed to command the Division. As a Cameron Highlander, he believed fiercely in the smart turnout of his men and the wearing of tartan. He was affectionately known as “Tartan Tam.”

The 51st Highland Division was ordered to sail to Egypt in 1942.



Map of the War in North Africa, 1940-43

Exhibition Image One

Description

On 10th June 1940, Italy declared war against Britain and France. Italy controlled Libya. The British controlled Egypt and the vital Suez Canal. The Canal allowed ships to sail more quickly from Europe to India. In World War Two a new front was opened in North Africa.

On 14th June 1940, British units crossed the border into Libya and captured the Italian Fort Capuzzo. Italian General Graziani then mounted an offensive into Egypt but was stopped at Sidi Barrani. In December 1940, General Wavell ked a Commonwealth counter offensive, called Operation Compass. The Italian 10th Army was destroyed. The British 8th Army advanced rapidly through Tobruk to Benghazi and El Agheilar, halfway to Tripoli.

Adolf Hitler, the German Fuehrer, dispatched the German Afrikakorps to North Africa. It was commanded by Lieutenant General Erwin Rommel. He was to bolster the Italian forces and prevent a complete defeat. The Allied Army was overstretched and was quickly rolled back. Tobruk was left as a fortress behind enemy lines.

In November 1941 General Auchinleck led a second counter attack, relieving Tobruk and driving the Axis forces back to El Agheilar.

The success was short lived. In January 1942, General Rommel led his Axis forces in a counter attack which captured Tobruk and drove the Allies out of Egypt. General Rommel pushed on 400 km east to El Alamein. Rommel came to be nick named “The Desert Fox.” Promoted Field Marshall, he threatened Alexandria and the Suez Canal and Cairo were on the verge of falling to the Germans.

The new Allied commander was Lieutenant General Bernard Montgomery. He began, patiently, to build up his Allies and Commonwealth forces in the desert, west of Alexandria.

The Battle of El Alamein, fought in October 1942, was the turning point for the Allies. General Montgomery drove General Rommel’s Afrikakorps and General Messe’s Italian divisions back into Libya. The Axis forces’ retreat became a rout and in January 1943 the Allies entered Tripoli.

Source

Date: 1940-43
Contributor: Australian Army
Location: North Africa
Original Source: Courtesy of the Museum of the Australian Army


The 51st Highland Division sails to Egypt

In June 1942, the 51st Highland Division sailed from the River Clyde, the Mersey and the River Severn for Egypt. It put in to Cape Town in July. Major General Wimberley and his command flew north, in civilian clothes to Cairo. The Division landed at Port Tewfik, at the Suez Canal, in August. It moved to Geneffa and then to Quassassin. In September the Division moved to the front line of the British 8th Army.

The Division consisted of a Headquarters, commanded by Major General Wimberley; there were four companies of Royal Engineers and a Royal Corps of Signals Divisional unit. There were three infantry brigades, each consisting of three battalions of Highland Regiments. There were three Royal Artillery Field Regiments; an Anti-tank Regiment and a Light Anti Aircraft Regiment. It was supported by Royal Army Service Corps workshops. There were four RASC companies; three Field Ambulances and three Royal Ordnance workshops.


Units of the 51st Highland Division

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Description

H.Q.51 (H) Div. (Headquarters 51st Highland Division)

H.Q. R.A. (Headquarters Royal Artillery)
126 Fd. Regt. (126 Field Regiment Royal Artillery)
127 Fd. Regt (127 Field Regiment Royal Artillery)
128 Fd. Regt (128 Field Regiment Royal Artillery)
61 A/Tk Regt (61 Anti-tank Regiment Royal Artillery)
49 L.A.A Regt. (49 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment Royal Artillery)

H.Q. R.E. (Headquarters Royal Engineers)
239 Fd. Pk, Coy (239 Field Park Field Company Royal Engineers)
274 Fd. Coy. (274 Field Company Royal Engineers)
275 Fd. Coy. (275 Field Company Royal Engineers)
276 Fd. Coy. (276 Field Company Royal Engineers)

DIV. SIGs. (Divisonal Signals)

H.Q. 152 Bde. (Headquarters 152 Brigade)
2 Seaforth (2nd Barttalion Seaforth Highlanders)
5 Seaforth (5th battalion Seaforth Highlanders)
5 Camerons (5th Battalion Cameron Highlanders)

H.Q. 153 Bde. (Headquarters 153 Brigade)
5 Black Watch (5th Battalion The Black Watch)
1 Gordons (1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders)
5.7 Gordons (5th/7th Battalion Gordon Highlanders)

H.Q.154 Bde. (Headquarters 154 Brigade)
1 Black Watch (1st Battalion The Black Watch)
7 Black Watch (7th Battalion The Black Watch)
7 Argyll & S.H. (7th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders)

1/7 Middlesex (1st/7th Battalion Middlesex Regiment)

H.Q. RASC (Headquarters Royal Army Service Corps)
525 RASC Coy. (152) (525 Company RASC with 152 Brigade)
526 RASC Coy. (153) (526 Company RASC with 153 Brigade)
527 RASC Coy. (154) (527 Company RASC with 154 Brigade)
458 Div.Tps.Coy.RASC (Divisional Transport Company RASC)

H.Q.RAMC (Headquarters Royal Army Medical Corps)
174 Fd. Amb. (174 Field Ambulance)
175 Fd. Amb. (175 Field Ambulance)
176 Fd. Amb. (176 Field Ambulance)
29 Fd. Hyg. Sec. (Field Hygiene Section)

A.D.O.S. HQ & Dump (Army Depot Ordnance Supplies)

H.Q. REME (Headquarters Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers)
152 Bde. W’Shops (152 Brigade Workshop)
153 Bde. W’Shops (153 Brigade Workshop)
154 Bde. W’Shops (154 Brigade Workshop)

Provost Company (Military Police)

Postal Unit

13 Fd. Sec. Sec. (Field Security Section)

Recce (Highland Reconnaissance Regiment)

Source

Date: 1943
Contributor: Museum of The Black Watch
Location: North Africa
Original Source: Courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch Jack NcBride Collection from a sketch by Ian Eadie


The Battle of El Alamein

It was not until October 1942 that General Bernard Montgomery felt strong enough to mount an attack against Field Marshall Erwin Rommel’s Afrikakorps. The battle of El Alamein started on the night of 23rd October. It lasted until 4th November as the 8th Army slowly drove the Germans back. The objectives of each unit in the 51st Highland Division were given local Scottish names.

The 5th Battalion The Black Watch was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Tom Rennie. Made prisoner at St Valery-en-Caux, France, in June 1940, he escaped. Later promoted Brigadier, he commanded 154 Brigade at the Sicily Landings. Promoted Major General, he was later to command the 3rd Division at the Normandy Landings and the 51st Highland Division in France and the Crossing of the Rhine.

The 7th Battalion The Black Watch was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James Oliver, an Arbroath solicitor and a Territorial Army soldier. Later promoted Brigadier, he commanded 154 Brigade at the Normandy Landings, through France, to the Crossing of the Rhine. When Major General Tom Rennie was killed, Brigadier Oliver briefly commanded the 51st Highland Division.

Bob Smith’s 420 Artillery Company, Royal Army Service Corps, supported the gunners throughout the battle of El Alamein. German and Italian prisoners were taken. Bob Smith’s unit was assigned to transporting captured prisoners.

The victory at El Alamein was the first for the British and Commonwealth troops in World War Two against the Germans. It was the turning point in the War for the Allies.


General Bernard Montgomery

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Description

Bernard Montgomery was born in 1887 and spent his childhood in England and Tasmania, where his father was bishop. He joined the Royal Warwick Regiment and served in World War One, where he was wounded and awarded the Distinguished Service Order.

In 1931 he commanded his Regiment in Palestine, Egypt and India. He was promoted Brigadier in 1937 and Major General in 1938. With the 8th Infantry Division he defeated the Arab revolt.

In World War Two he was given command of 3rd Infantry Division in France and succeeded in withdrawing from Dunkirk. He was made a Companion of the Bath in 1940. He was critical of the British Expeditionary Force command and began a feud with General Auchinleck. He commanded XII Corps in South East England.

General Claude Auchinleck was Commander-in-Chief and commanded the 8th Army in Egypt. In 1942. Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister, replaced him with General Alexander as Commander-in-Chief and General William Gott as 8th Army Commander. After Gott was killed in an aircraft crash, Montgomery was appointed to command the 8th Army in Egypt.

Within weeks, General Montgomery had begun to transform the 8th Army.

Given a black tank beret by a soldier, when inspecting a tank in the front line, he then always wore the beret with the tank badge and General Officer’s badge.

Source

Date: 1942
Contributor: Imperial War Museum, London
Location: Egypt
Original Source: Phorograph courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, London


Diagram of the forces at the Battle of El Alamein

Exhibition Image One

Description

The Allied and Commonwealth forces were on the right. Infantry Divisions were represented by national flags with xx above the box and a cross in the box. There were three British Divisions and one each from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India, with brigades, marked with x above the box, from Greece and the Free French.

There were three British armoured Divisions, marked with an oval tank track in the box.

The 51st Highland Division was towards the right flank, with the Australian 9th Division on the right and the New Zealand 2nd Division on the left.

The Axis forces were on the left. There were four Italian Infantry Divisions and one Airborne Division, marked with a parachute inside the box. There was one German Division and the Ramcke Airborne Brigade, marked with one x above the box and a parachute inside the box.

There were three Italian armoured Divisions and three German Armoured Divisions.

The battlefront was bound by the Mediterranean Sea, to the north, though the Royal Navy was able to supply artillery support, and the impenetrable Qattara Depression to the south.

Source

Date: 1942
Contributor: Wikipedia
Location: Egypt, North Africa
Original Source: Courtesy of Wikipedia


The Battle of El Alamein Orders Group

Exhibition Image One

Description

Major General Douglas Wimberley, right, commanded the 51st Highland Division at the Battle of El Alamein. He is seen here briefing his commanders of 51st Highland Division.

Lieutenant Colonel James Oliver, commanded the 7th Battalion The Black Watch and is seated, front left. He was an Arbroath solicitor and a Territorial Army soldier. Later promoted Brigadier, he commanded 154 Brigade at the Normandy landings, though France, to the Crossing of the Rhine.

Lieutenant Colonel Tom Rennie, in a kilt above the left hand white line, commanded the 5th Battalion The Black Watch. Later promoted Brigadier, he commanded 154 Brigade in the Sicily Landings. Promoted Major General, he was later to command 3rd Division at the Normandy Landings and then the 51st Highland Division in France and at the Crossing of the Rhine.

The 1st Battalion The Black Watch was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel W.N. Roper-Caldbeck, third from right, above Major General Wimberley.

Lieutenant Colonel Oliver wears a khaki shirt and Black Watch tartan kilt; Lovat green hose, with red flashes and black brogues. On his shoulder he has a star and crown to denote his rank. On his sleeve he has the 51st Highland Division insignia, HD in red on blue; three red bars for 154 Brigade and The Black Watch badge in dark Black Watch tartan. He wears a fawn Balmoral bonnet with the red hackle just visible.

Lieutenant Colonel Lorne Campbell, four above Lieutenant Colonel Oliver, commanded the 7th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. He was later to be awarded the Victoria Cross for outstanding bravery at the Battle of Wadi Akarit.

Two Gordon Highlander commanders wear Glengarry bonnets with red, white and black dicing and kilts in Gordon tartan with yellow stripes.

One Cameron Highlander commander wears a blue Glengarry bonnet and a kilt of distinctive Cameron of Erracht Tartan.

Three Seaforth Highlander commanders wear Balmoral bonnets with tartans patches and stag's head crest and kilts in Seaforth tartan with red and white stripes.

The officers in the painting are, from the left, clockwise: Lieutenant Colonel JA Oliver, 7th Battalion The Black Watch; Lieutenant Colonel McKessack, 2nd Battalion Seaforth Highlanders; Colonel Galloway, ADMS; Lieutenant Colonel J Colam, AA and QMG; Lieutenant Colonel L Campbell, 7th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders; Brigadier G Elliot, Commander Royal Artillery, infront; Lieutenant Colonel H Murray, 5th/7th Gordon Highlanders, behind; Lieutenant Colonel RDMC Miers, 5th Battalion Cameron Highlanders; Lieutenant Colonel R Grant, Divisional Reconnaissance Regiment, kneeling infront; Lieutenant Colonel TG Rennie, 5th Battalion The Black Watch; Brigadier DAH Graham, 153 Brigade Commander; Lieutenant Colonel A Thicknesse, 126 Field Regiment, Royal Artillery; Brigadier HW Houldsworth, 154 Brigade Commander;
Lieutenant Colonel RW Urquhart, GSO1; Brigadier H Murray, 152 Brigade Commander; Lieutenant Colonel R
Stirling, 5th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders, Lieutenant Colonel WN Roper-Caldbeck, 1st Battalion The Black
Watch; Lieutenant Colonel WA Shiel, 128 Field Regiment, Royal Artillery; Lieutenant Colonel JWA
Stephenson, 7th Battalion Middlesex Regiment and Major General DN Wimberley, Commanding 51st Highland
Division, kneeling on the right.

The original painting by Ian GM Eadie is at the Scottish United Service Museum, Edinburgh Castle.

Source

Date: 1942
Contributor: Museum of The Black Watch
Location: El Alamein, Egypt
Original Source: Courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch and the 7th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, Perth From the original painting by Ian GM Eadie at Edinbburgh Castle


Plan of the 51st Highland Division’s objective at El Alamein

Exhibition Image One

Description

The Division arrived at the start line on 23rd October 1942 by three routes cut through the Allied minefields named Sun, Moon and Star. 152 Brigade’s task was to clear another eight routes through the minefields.

153 Brigade was on the right. The 5th Battalion The Black Watch, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Tom Rennie, was on the right.

154 Brigade was on the left. The 1st Battalion The Black Watch, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Roper Caldbeck, was on the right of the Brigade. The 7th Battalion The Black Watch, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James Oliver, was on the left.

From the start line, General Douglas Wimberley designated advance lines in green, red, black and blue.

Battalions were given specific objectives named after towns in their Regimental areas. One of the 5th Battalion The Black Watch’s objectives was Arbroath. 1st Battalion The Black Watch’s objectives were Dollar, Comrie, Killin, Stanley, Crieff and Perth. 7th Battalion The Black Watch’s objectives were Dundee and Kirkcaldy.

Source

Date: 1942
Contributor: Pentland Press
Location: El Alamein
Original Source: Courtesy of Pentland Press from "The History od the 51st Highland Divison 1939-1945" by J.B.Salmond first published in 1953


Black Watch shoulder patches

Exhibition Image One

Description

The battledress blouses each have 51st Highland Division patches in blue with HD in a red circle. Below them are two red bars to indicate 153 Brigade, right, and three red bars for 154 Brigade.

The Black Watch Regimental patch is cut in the shape of the Black Watch badge, a St Andrews Cross with a star. The tartan is Black Watch tartan.

The 1st and 7th Battalion of The Black Watch were in 154 Brigade. The 5th Battalion of The Black Watch was in 153 Brigade.

Source

Date: 2009
Contributor: Museum of The Black Watch
Location: Perth
Original Source: Courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch


Khaki drill jacket

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Description

In warm climates, like the Middle East and North Africa, soldiers were issued with khaki drill uniforms.

The jacket is open at the collar. The brass buttons are inscribed with the Black Watch badge. For Highland Regiments the skirts of the jacket are cut away to show the kilt and sporran.

All khaki drill uniforms were heavily starched by the native “dhobi wallahs” who washed, starched and pressed uniforms for soldiers. Because of the pressing, all the seams show.

Source

Date: 1940s
Contributor: Museum of The Black Watch
Location: Egypt
Original Source: Courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch


Black Watch soldiers being briefed

Exhibition Image One

Description

Captain John Montgomery briefing B Company of the 5th Battalion The Black Watch at Gabes, Tunisia.

The soldiers wear khaki drill shirts and shorts with Tam O’ Shanter bonnets with red hackles. They wear webbing belts and ammunition pouches with small packs and bayonets; khaki hose with red flashes, boots and puttees wound around the ankle.

Captain MacGregor, left, wears the Highland Division HD sign and Black Watch badge on his sleeve.

There are two Bren guns in the foreground.

The Bren gun was developed in 1935 from a Czech machine gun, ZBvz.26, made in Brno, hence Bren. It was made in England at Enfield by the Royal Small Arms Factory. It had a bipod and fired .303 inch ammunition from a curved magazine.

Source

Date: 1943
Contributor: Museum of The Black Watch
Location: North Africa
Original Source: Courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch


Battle flag of the 7th Battalion The Black Watch

Exhibition Image One

Description

The battle flag, with the number 62, flown by the 7th Battalion The Black Watch. The Battalion was commanded at the Battle of El Alamein by Lieutenant Colonel James Oliver.

The flag has a blue square with the 51st Highland Division sign, HD, in red at the top right, now faded to pink. The number 62 is in white on a brown background, in the top left. The bottom of the flag is red, now faded to pink.

Source

Date: 1940s
Contributor: Museum of The Black Watch
Location: North Africa
Original Source: Courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch James Oliver Collection


Lieutenant Colonel James Oliver's citation for the Distinguished Service Order

Lieutenant Colonel James Oliver was an Arbroath solicitor and Territorial Army soldier. He commanded the 7th Battalion The Black Watch at the Battle of El Alamein. The Battle started on the night of 23rd October 1942.

The citation reads:
"In the attack on the Miteriya Ridge on the night of 23/24 October 1942, Colonel Oliver's [7th] Battalion [The Black Watch] suffered 200 casualties but notwithstanding they kept right up to the guns throughout the four-mile advance and captured and held all objectives allotted to them.

"Six times the officer specially appointed for navigation was either killed or wounded but Colonel Oliver moved well to the front throughout and personally supervised navigation and reorganisation, and maintained control to a remarkable degree.

"There is no question that the success of this Battalion must be attributed to its high state of training and a dogged determination of all ranks to succeed under any conditions, but it is the universal and widely expressed opinion of both officers and men of the Battalion that their greatest inspiration was the complete disregard of personal danger and outstanding example as set down by the Commanding Officer. This was, without doubt, beyond all praise."


The Black Watch soldiers charging in the desert

Exhibition Image One

Description

Five Black Watch soldiers charge forward in the desert on a training exercise.

They all wear khaki drill shirts and shorts. They wear khaki hose, with red flashes, boots and puttees wound round the ankle. They wear webbing belts with ammunition pouches at the front an steel helmets with the straps under their chins. Each soldier carried a Lee-Enfield rifle with fixed bayonet.

Source

Date: 23rd September 1942
Contributor: Imperial War Museum, London
Location: North Africa
Original Source: Photograph courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, London E 17348 The photograph was taken by No 1 Army Film & Photographic Unit before the Battle of El Alamein


Highland soldiers charging

Exhibition Image One

Description

This evocative image was taken during training.

Thesoldiers all wear khaki drill shirts and shorts. They wear khaki hose, with red flashes, boots and puttees wound round the ankle. They wear webbing belts with ammunition pouches at the front and steel helmets with the straps under their chins. Each soldier carries a Lee-Enfield rifle. The soldier on the left has his bayonet fixed on his rifle.

Source

Date: 1942
Contributor: Imperial War Museum, London
Location: North Africa
Original Source: Photograph courtesy of the Imperial War Museum


A British Lee-Enfield rifle

Exhibition Image One

Description

The Lee-Enfield rifle had a bolt-action, and was magazine fed. It used a .303 inch bullet. 10 rounds fitted into a magazine.

The rifle had been developed in England by Lee-Metford in 1888. It continued in use in the British Army into the 1960s.

Source

Date: 1907
Contributor: Museum of the Black Watch
Location: North Africa
Original Source: Courtesy of the Museum of the Black Watch


Valentine tanks advancing in the desert

Exhibition Image One

Description

A classic image of Valentine tanks in close formation advancing in the desert.

The Infantry Tank III Valentine was developed by Vickers-Armstrong from the old Cruiser tank. It was rushed into production after the loss of all the British Army Matilda tanks in France in June 1940.

The Valentine tank was small and cramped. It had an inadequate 2 pounder gun which could not fire high velocity, high explosive armour piercing rounds. It had space for only two in the gun turret. Despite being no match for the German panzers, it was widely used in North Africa, because of its speed. It was replaced in North West Europe in 1944 by the Infantry Tank IV Churchill and US Sherman tanks.

Source

Date: 1940s
Contributor: Museum of The Black Watch
Location: North Africa
Original Source: Courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch


After the battle

Exhibition Image One

Description

Exhausted soldiers after the Battle of Homs.

The soldiers wear khaki felted wool battledress; steel helmets; webbing belts, ammunition pouches and back packs; webbing gaiters and hob nailed boots. Some of the men wear fore and aft forage caps.

A soldier in the foreground, wearing a great coat, sleeps with his arms around his rifle.

Source

Date: 1943
Contributor: Museum of The Black Watch
Location: North Africa
Original Source: Courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch


Steel helmet with red hackle

Exhibition Image One

Description

All soldiers were issued with steel helmets. The British issue steel helmet had a characteristic wide brim. Inside there was a leather padded head band and a chin strap. If left uncovered, the helmets caught the light and could be seen by enemy snipers. Most helmets had camouflage netting fitted over the top. Into this netting, twigs and leaves could be pushed.

This steel helmet has a camouflage net, but a red hackle has been added.

Source

Date: 1945
Contributor: Museum of The Black Watch
Location: Germany
Original Source: Courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch


Bob Smith recalls taking German prisoners back from the Battle of El Alamein

Exhibition Image One

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Description

1942. El Alamein, Egypt. Bob Smith,serving in the 51st Highland Division, describes how he transported German prisoners of war to El Alamein Station

Biography

Bob Smith joined the Territorial Army in 1939. He trained as a copper smith in the Royal Army Service Corps. He was posted to the 51st Highland Division in Egypt. He worked in 420 Artillery Company. This was an RASC workshop.

Transcript

What happened is; our big episode turned out to be; was taking back the prisoners of war to cages, as they called them. We had to transport these prisoners of war to rail carriages at El Alamein Station. They were boxed; boxed in. And we had; they were taken down to where the cages were for the prisoners of war.

Source

Date: 1942
Contributor: Bob Smith
Location: Western Desert
Original Source: Bob Smith video interview 11th November 2008 Made by YMCA Perth Museum of The Black Watch


German Prisoners

Exhibition Image One

Description

German prisoners captured by Black Watch soldiers at the Battle of El Alamein, waiting to be taken away to Prisoner of War camp.

The German soldiers wear khaki drill jackets and trousers and peaked caps. Two, in the foreground, have their great coats. It got cold at night in the desert. Some of the soldiers sit on rolled sleeping bags. One has a water bottle on a strap.

A group of Black Watch soldiers look on. They mostly wear steel helmets.

The official caption reads:
German prisoners, captured by the Black Watch in the Western Desert, waiting to be taken to a POW camp, 29 October 1942.

Source

Date: 29th October 1942
Contributor: Imperial War Museum, London
Location: El Alamein, Egypt
Original Source: Photograph courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, London E 18694 Photograph taken by Sergeant Fox, No 1 Army Film & Photographic Unit


German Prisoners at El Alamein Corner

Exhibition Image One

Description

German prisoners waiting for transport at El Alamein Corner. Bob Smith, serving with the Royal Army Service Corps in the 51st Highland Division, drove German prisoners to El Alamein Railway Station.

A flat bed lorry drives past a group of German prisoners, guarded by two British soldiers.

The German soldiers wear khaki drill jackets and trousers and peaked caps. They carry great coats.

The two British soldiers wear khaki drill shirts and shorts; webbing belts with long bayonets and steel helmets. They wear khaki hose, red flashes and boots with puttees wound around the ankle.

A Military Policeman, wearing a flat cap, stands in the middle of the road at El Alamein Corner.

The official caption reads:
El Alamein 1942: German prisoners wait for transport at Alamein Corner.

Source

Date: November 1942
Contributor: Imperial War Museum, London
Location: El Alamein, Egypt
Original Source: Photograph courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, London E 18523 Photograph taken by Lieutenant Knight, No 1 Army Film & Photographic Unit


Afrikakorps armband

Exhibition Image One

Description

An Afrikakorps armband taken from a German prisoner. The armband is dark blue with the word AFRIKAKORPS embroidered in silver thread between two silver bands, with a sandy coloured edging. The armband was worn on the sleeve cuff.

The Afrikakorps was formed to bolster the Italian Army and to drive the Allied Army into Egypt and the Middle East. The Afrikakorps was commanded by Field Marshall Erwin Rommel.

The charismatic Field Marshall had already driven the Allied Armies into the sea in France in 1940. Though 340,000 British soldiers were got away at Dunkirk, the 51st Highland Division had been cut off at St Valery-en-Caux and had surrendered.

Erwin Rommel, “The Desert Fox,” was the most famous commander in the German Army and, indeed, in any Army.

Source

Date: 1943
Contributor: Museum of The Black Watch
Location: North Africa
Original Source: Courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch


A German steel helmet

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Description

German steel helmets were close fitting around the head. There was a brim at the back to protect the neck. The peak at the front was slightly raised to protect the eyes. The helmet was black and caught the light if not camouflaged.

Source

Date: 1945
Contributor: Museum of The Black Watch
Location: Germany
Original Source: Courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch


A German rifle

Exhibition Image One

Description

The Karabiner 98k was developed by Mauser in Germany in 1898. It was a bolt action rifle with space for a clip of five rounds of 7.92mm ammunition.

At the end of World War One Germany was not allowed to make rifles. The German service rifle was re-designated a carbine.

In 1935 Mauser developed the carbine and shortened the weapon. It was called a Karabiner 98k, for kurz, meaning short.

Source

Date: 1940s
Contributor: Museum of The Black Watch
Location: ermany
Original Source: Courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch


German Officer's visor cap

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Description

This is an Officer's visor cap. On the upper part of the cap is a badge of a German eagle, holding a swastika. On the band of the hat is a roundel in the German colours; black, white and red, surrounded by oak leaves. The silver cord chinstrap is placed over the visor.

For the infantry, called grenadiers, the cap had white piping. For the tank units, the cap had pink piping.

This is a modern reproduction visor cap.

Source

Date: 2009
Contributor: Sabre Sales
Location: Portsmouth
Original Source: Courtesy of Sabre Sales, Southsea Portsmouth


German Luftwaffe Officer's dagger

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Description

All German officers owned and treasured their ceremonial daggers.

The Luftwaffe was the German Air Force. Its commander, Field Marshall Josef Goebbels, liked to design elaborate uniforms.

This ivory handled dagger has a blued steel blade. It has a silver lace toggle and belt, attached to the steel scabbard.

Such German memorabilia was much sought after by Allied troops when German officers surrendered.

Source

Date: 1945
Contributor: Museum of The Black Watch
Location: Germany
Original Source: Courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch


4th Reichs Grenadier banner

Exhibition Image One

Description

This elaborate banner was made for the 4th Reichs Grenadier Regiment. On a yellow silk background, the letters R G R 4 have been embroidered in silver thread. There are silver crosses and swastikas in the corners. The edge of the banner is finished with a silver frill. There are silver tassels on cords attached to the wooden, silver ended pole

The reverse of the banner shows a black German eagle, with outspread wings, holding a swastika.

In 1942 Adolf Hitler renamed all infantry regiments as Grenadiers, in honour of King Frederick the Great.

Such German memorabilia was much sought after by Allied troops when German officers surrendered.

Source

Date: 1945
Contributor: Museum of The Black Watch
Location: Germany
Original Source: Courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch


A German Nazi flag

Exhibition Image One

Description

The German Nazi flag was red. In the centre was a white circle with a black swastika cross. The swastika was the emblem of the Nazi party. It came to be incorporated into all German insignia.

Adolf Hitler, the German Fuehrer, or Leader, liked to stage mass rallies. Hundreds of Nazi flags would be carried by marching soldiers.

Source

Date: 1945
Contributor: Museum of The Black Watch
Location: Germany
Original Source: Courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch


Filed Marshal Rommel and General Messe

Exhibition Image One

Description

Field Marshall Rommel greeting Italian General Messe in North Africa.

Erwin Rommel was born in 1891 in the Kingdom of Wurttemburg, Germany. He went to officer cadet school and was commissioned as a Lieutenant in 1912. In World War One he joined the Wurttemburg Mountain Battalion. He served in France and Romania. Three times wounded, be was awarded the Iron Cross, 1st and 2nd Class.

He was with the German XIV Army which broke through the Italian defences at Caporetto in Slovenia. His unit capture 10,,000 Italian prisoners at Matajur and a further 9,000 prisoners at Longarone. For this action he was awarded Pour Le Merite, the highest award in the Prussian Army.

In 1937 he published his war diaries at “Infantry Attack.” This attracted the attention of Adolf Hitler. Rommel was placed in charge of the Hitler Youth. In 1938 he was promoted Colonel in command Adolf Hitler’s personal protection battalion. Rommel was in the Polish campaign, in 1939. He asked Hitler for command of a panzer Division, despite having had no previous experience with tanks.

On 10th May 1940 his 7th Panzer Division broke through the Allied defences and poured into France. On 10th June he reached the French coast, cutting the French Army and British Expeditionary Force off from their supplies. On 12th June the 51st Highland Division surrendered to him at St Valery-en-Caux.

Rommel was promoted and given command of the Afrikakorps which was sent to Libya to support the Italian Army. He drove the Allies east out of Libya and into Egypt. He was stopped at El Alamein, a few miles from Alexandria.

General Giovanni Messe had led the Italian Army into Greece in 1940. Victory had been achieved only with German support. General Messe had led 60,000 Italians in support of the Germans in the attack on Stalingrad, where the Italians were badly mauled.

General Messe was sent to North Africa on 2nd February 1943, after the Axis defeat at El Alamein. He was appointed to command the Italian 1st Army, while Field Marshall Erwin Rommel was given overall command of the German-Italian Army Group Afrika.

Field Marshall Erwin Rommel wears a long leather coat over a field grey drill jacket and shirt. He wears the Knight's Cross at his throat. He wears a pale green visor cap, with a black head band and visor. On the cap is the German eagle, clutching a swastika. On the head band are the German colours in a black, white and red roundel, surrounded by silver oak leaves.

Rommel had been awarded Pour le Merite, known as the Blue Max, the highest award for gallantry in the Prussian Army, fighting against the Italians in 1917. Tactfully, he did not wear it to greet Italian General Messe.

General Giovanni Messe wears a khaki drill shirt, without insignia on the shoulders, and pith helmet.

Bob Smith, serving with the Royal Army Service Corps, exchanged this photo with an Italian prisoner for 10 cigarettes. The prisoner was as a US citizen. He had been visiting his family in Italy when war was declared. He was conscripted into the Italian Army.


Source

Date: 1940s
Contributor: Bob Smith
Location: North Africa
Original Source: Photograph courtesy of Bob Smith private collection


Field Marshall Rommel briefing officer

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Description

Field Marshal Rommel commanded the German Afrikakorps in North Africa.

He is seen here briefing officers from a map.

He wears a pale khaki drill jacket with general staff officer’s red and gold patches on the collar. At his neck he wears the cross of Pour le Merite, known as the Blue Max, the highest award for gallantry in thre Prussian Army. He won it during the Italian Campaign in 1917. He wears a green visor cap with golden eagle and swastika and black, white and red roundel surrounded by golden oak leave.

Two of the German officers wear filed caps and goggles and two wear fore and aft forage caps.

Source

Date: 1943
Contributor: Bundesarchiv
Location: North Africa
Original Source: Photograph courtesy of the Bundesarchiv


Field Marshall Rommel in his command vehicle

Exhibition Image One

Description

Field Marshall Rommel commanded the German Afrikakorps in North Africa.

He stands in his staff car, wearing a great coat, silk scarf and peaked visor cap, as he speaks to soldiers in a half track vehicle. The soldiers wear field grey uniforms and cloth caps.

Source

Date: 1940s
Contributor: Bundesarchiv
Location: North Africa
Original Source: Photograph courtesy of the Bundesarchiv


Field Marshal Rommel's desert uniform

Exhibition Image One

Description

Field Marshal Rommel commanded the German Afrikakorps in North Africa.

His North African uniform is a pale khaki drill jacket with brass buttons and general staff officer’s red and gold patches on the collar. Gold cords on the shoulders denote his rank.

His Afrikakorps armband is sewn on his right sleeve. A golden German eagle, holding a swastika, on black felt, is sewn to his right chest.

His green visor cap bears a golden eagle and swastika and black, white and a black, white and red roundel surrounded by golden oak leave.

His goggles have been placed over his cap.

Source

Date: 1940s
Contributor: Bundesarchiv
Location: Germany
Original Source: Courtesy of the Bundesarchiv


General Giovanni Messe

Exhibition Image One

Description

General Giovanni Messe had led the Italian Army into Greece in 1940. Victory had been achieved only with German support.

General Messe had led 60,000 Italians in support of the Germans in the attack on Stalingrad, where the Italians were badly mauled.

General Messe was sent to North Africa on 2nd February 1943, after the Axis defeat at El Alamein. He was appointed to command the Italian 1st Army, while Field Marshall Erwin Rommel was given overall command of the German-Italian Army Group Afrika.

He wears a khaki Service Dress jacket with his insignia of rank on his sleeve. This is a broad gold band and two rings as Generale di Divisione, or Major General. He wears a leather cross belt and khaki fore and aft cap with an Italian eagle.

Source

Date: 1943
Contributor: Museum of The Black Watch
Location: Itlay
Original Source: Photograph courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch


Italian Driver

Exhibition Image One

Description

This Italian prisoner was happy to drive a British Army lorry in North Africa

Source

Date: 1940s
Contributor: Bob Smith
Location: North Africa
Original Source: Photograph courtesy of Bob Smith private collection


An Italian dagger

Exhibition Image One

Description

Unlike the beautifully made and finished German daggers, this Italian dagger has a cheap steel blade and scabbard and a black Bakelite handle.

The dagger was collected by Sid Lunn, serving with the 5th Battalion The Black Watch, in Tunisia in 1943.

Source

Date: 1943
Contributor: Museum of The Black Watch
Location: Tunisia
Original Source: Courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch Sid Lunn Collection


Piper Major at El Alamein

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Description

Pipe Major McLaren of the 7th Battalion The Black Watch plays the newly composed tune “El Alamein.” Infront of him stand two drummers, wearing dark Black Watch tartan kilts, and half a dozen pipers.

All the soldiers wear khaki drill shirts with the Divisional sign, HD, on the sleeve; Tam O’ Shanter bonnets with red hackles; khaki hose, red flashes, boots and puttees with white tapes wound around the ankle.

The Black Watch was honoured, in 1756, as the Royal Highland Regiment. Since then pipers have worn the red Royal Stewart tartan. The pipe bag is covered in Black Watch tartan and the ribbons on the pipe drones are in Royal Stewart and Black Watch tartans. The pipers wear sporrans.

The drummers wear dark Black Watch tartan and leather straps to carry their side drums. The coloured cord is to hold their bugles. A base drum rests on its side behind the Pipe Major.

An officer, on the left, wears a khaki pullover with he Divisional sign, HD, on the sleeve; khaki drill trousers and a paler Balmoral bonnet.

Source

Date: 1942
Contributor: Museum of The Black Watch
Location: El Alamein
Original Source: Courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch The photogrpah is marked "Official WO Photpgraph: SECRET"


Bob Smith recites a song about his flea bit dugout in Tobruk

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Description

1942. Tobruk, Libya. Bob Smith recites a song about the Allied soldiers trapped in their flea bit dugouts in Tobruk.

Biography

Bob Smith joined the Territorial Army in 1939. He trained as a copper smith in the Royal Army Service Corps. He was posted to the 51st Highland Division in Egypt. He worked in 420 Artillery Company. This was an RASC workshop. His unit supported the artillery at the Battle of El Alamein.

Transcript

I’m an old RASC man and I’m stationed in Tobruk,
And the fleas they come and halt me in the sand.
You can hear old bastard Jerry, as he circles up above,
In my flea bug bound out dugout in Tobruk.

Oh, I wish I had my sweetheart to nurse her on my knee,
And tell me of the aweful jam I’m in,
But the angels up above her, will tell her that I love her.
In my flea bug bound dugout in Tobruk.

Oh the windows they are minus, and the door is four by two,
And the sand bags let the howling blizzard through.
You can hear that bastard Jerry, as he circles up above.
In my flea bug bound dugout in Tobruk.

Source

Date: 2008
Contributor: Bob Smith
Location: Tobruk, Libya
Original Source: Bob Smith video interview 11th November 2008 Made by YMCA Perth Museum of The Black Watch


The Siege of Tobruk

Tobruk, in Libya, was a vital port between Benghazi and Alexandria. It was captured from the Italians in 1941 and fortified. Then Field Marshall Rommel swept the British 8th Army west into Egypt. Tobruk was now behind the German lines. Tobruk marked the first time that the Blitzkrieg (lightning war) of the German Panzers had been successfully brought to a halt.

For much of the siege, Tobruk was defended by the Australian 9th Division. General Archibald Wavell, Commander-in-Chief of British Forces, instructed it to hold out for eight weeks. The Australians held out for over five months. The Division was withdrawn during September and replaced by British, Polish and Czech Divisions. The 2nd Battalion The Black Watch formed part of this force. The fresh defenders continued to hold Tobruk. The Royal Navy played an important role in Tobruk’s defence. It provided gunfire support, supplies, and troops and ferried out the wounded.

The Siege of Tobruk was lifted in December 1941. In 1942, after defeating Allied forces in the Battle of Gazala, Field Marshall Rommel captured the fortress.





Festung Tobruk

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Description

A German plan of Festung Tobruk – Fortress Tobruk

The town of Tobruk was located on a ridge that stuck out into the Mediterranean Sea. It enclosed the only safe harbour, Marsa Tobruk, between Alexandria, in Egypt, and Benghazi, in Libya, 1,000km (600 miles) west.

The German plan shows the defences of Tobruk with five concrete forts, newly built, and armed with the heaviest weapons, at Forts Perrone, Airenti, Pilastrino, Solaro and Maruca; concrete strong points, with artillery, anti-tank guns (Pak) and machine guns; rock cut strong points; anti-tank emplacements; tank traps; barbed wire and mines and minefields. There are 4 airfields.

Transcript

Forts, betoniert und moderm ausgebaut, mit schwersten Waffen bestueckt

Kampfstaende aus Beton fuer Geschuetze, Pak und M.G.

In Felsen gehauene Kampfstaende

Pakstaende

Panzerabwehrgraben

Drahtsperren mit Mine

Source

Date: 1940s
Contributor: Imperial War Museum, London
Location: Tobruk, Libya
Original Source: Courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, London MH 5849

Translation

Forts, in concreted and newlky built, defended with the heaviest weapons

Strong points in concrete with artillery, anti-tank guns and machine guns

Rock cut strong points

Anti-tank emplacements

Anti-tank defence ditch

Barbed wire barriers with mines


Map of Tobruch

Exhibition Image One

Description

A British map of Tobruch, or Tobruk. The town was a natural defensive position on a ridge that stuck out into the sea. It enclosed the only safe harbour between Alexandria, in Egypt, and Benghazi, in Libya, 1,000km (600 miles) west.

In feint red letters, the map has been overprinted with German defensive positions. Symbols mark strong points with 2 anti-tank guns and 2-4 machine guns; one anti-tank gun and 2 machine guns; one machine gun, and with one anti-tank gun. Some strong points were surrounded by a camouflage attack trench and were covered with barbed wire in front. The concertina wire was possibly mined.

The strong point markings have now faded, but were mostly to the west and south of the town as shown on the map.

Source

Date: 1940s
Contributor: Museum of The Black Watch
Location: Tobruk, Libya
Original Source: Courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch


Rats in the caves at Tobruk

Exhibition Image One

Description

The Australian 9th Division, commanded by Major General Morsehead, was instructed to hold out for eight week at Tobruk. The Australians held out for over five months. The Division was withdrawn during September 1941 and was replaced by British, Polish and Czech Divisions. The 2nd Battalion The Black Watch was part of this force. The soldiers survived for weeks at Tobruk, sheltering in caves. The garrison was finally relieved by sea.

Commonwealth soldiers in one of the caves at Tobruk. The soldiers wear khaki drill shorts, boots and socks. Some of the soldiers wear steel helmets and others wear Australian bush hats. Some wear their identity tags around their necks.

The soldier in the centre sits on a pile of camouflage netting.

The offical caption reads:
The 'Rats of Tobruk' - some of the 15,000 men of General Morshead's 9th Australian Division shelter in caves during an air raid during the siege of Tobruk. After six months besieged in the vital supply port the Australians were evacuated by sea and relieved by fresh troops. 823 men had been killed, 2214 wounded and 700 captured.

Source

Date: 13th August 1941
Contributor: Imperial War Museum, London
Location: Tobruk, Libya
Original Source: Photograph courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, London E 4814 Photograph taken by Lieutenant N Smith No 1 Army Film & Photographic Unit.


Soldiers in the trenches at Tobruk

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Description

Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion The Black Watch in a trench outside Tobruk.

It could be bitterly cold at night in the desert. Most of the soldiers are wearing khaki great coats over their uniforms, and steel helmets covered with sacking.

An officer, third right, with three stars on his shoulder, denoting his rank as a captain, has a pair of binoculars hanging around his neck.

Source

Date: 1940s
Contributor: Museum of The Black Watch
Location: Tobruk, Libya
Original Source: Courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch


Pipe Major Roy playing at Tobruk

Exhibition Image One

Description

Pipe Major Roy, 2nd Battalion The Black Watch, had been wounded in Crete. Taken prisoner he had escaped from Greece in a British submarine. He rejoined the 2nd Battalion The Black Watch and was at Tobruk. While wearing his kilt and piping, he was wounded again.

Pipe Major Roy wears a khaki flannel shirt, Royal Stewart tartan kilt and Tam O’ Shanter bonnet with a red hackle. He wears khaki hose, red flashes and boots with puttees wound around the ankle.

The Black Watch had been honoured as the Royal Highlander Regiment in 1756 for its service in North America. Pipers therefore wore the Royal Stewart tartan.

The motley crew of soldiers wears khaki flannel shirts and pullovers, khaki drill trousers and steel helmets covered in sacking.

One soldier, standing on the left, wears webbing pouches, with a gas mask in a bag at the front and his rifle slung over his shoulder. The soldier infront of him has his long bayonet fixed to his rifle.

Source

Date: 1942
Contributor: Museum of The Black Watch
Location: Tobruk, Libya
Original Source: Photograph courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch The photograph is marked IWM 6798


Pipe Major Roy’s kilt

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Description

Pipe Major Roy’s kilt with a bullet hole. Pipe Major Roy, 2nd Battalion The Black Watch, had been wounded in Crete. Taken prisoner he had escaped from Greece in a British submarine. He rejoined the 2nd Battalion The Black Watch and was at Tobruk. While wearing his kilt and piping, he was wounded again.

The kilt is made of red Royal Stewart tartan. The Black Watch had been honoured as the Royal Highlander Regiment in 1756 for its service in North America. Pipers therefore wore the Royal Stewart tartan. The pleats at the back of the kilt are pleated closely to the white line in the middle of the sett. This makes the patterned part of the sett into bands in the pleats.

The bullet hole is marked with a bullet case.

Source

Date: 1942
Contributor: Museum of The Black Watch
Location: Tobruk, Libya
Original Source: Courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch


The western pursuit into the Libyan Desert

After the decisive Battle of El Alamein there was heavy rain on 6th and 7th November 1942. This delayed the pursuit of the German Afrikakorps.

On 13th November Tobruk was recaptured. On 20th November Benghazi was taken. The 8th Army had covered 1,000km (600 miles) in less than two weeks.

On13th December the Germans withdrew from Mersa Brega.

In January 1943 the 8th Army captured Misurata and Homs. It entered Tripoli on 23rd January and the Germans had gone. In 7 days the 8th Army had advanced 400km. (253 miles)

On 4th February 1943 there was a Victory Parade in Tripoli.



Map of the western advance from El Agheila to Tripoli

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Description

General Montgmery's 8th Army pursued the Axis forces through Libya to Bengahzi. The Afrikakorps was defeated at Mersa Brega.

The 8th Army pushed on west. There were battles at Buerat, Homs and Corradini.

The Allies entered Tripoli at the end of January 1943. The Afrikakorps and the Italian Army had withdrawn from Libya.

Source

Date: 1942-3
Contributor: Pentland Press
Location: Libya
Original Source: Courtesy of Pentland Press from "The History of the 51st Highland Division 1939-1945" by J.B.Salmond, 1953


Black Watch soldiers marching in file

Exhibition Image One

Description

A platoon of Black Watch soldiers marching in file through the desert. They all wear khaki drill shirts and shorts. They wear Tam O’ Shanter bonnets (TOS) with red hackles. They wear khkai hose with red flashes and boots with tall gaiters and webbing belts with ammunition pouches at the front. They carry slung Lee-Enfield rifles.

The officer in the centre, wearing dark glasses, carries a pistol in a webbing holster.

Source

Date: 1943
Contributor: Museum of The Black Watch
Location: North Africa
Original Source: Photograph courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch


Bob Smith remembers being sent out to detect mines

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Description

1943. Western Desert, Libya. Bob Smith, serving with the 51st Highland Division in the Western Desert, describes being sent out to detect mines with a 12 inch bayonet.

Biography

Bob Smith joined the Territorial Army in 1939. He trained as a coppersmith in the Royal Army Service Corps. He was posted to the 51st Highland Division in Egypt. He worked in 420 Artillery Company. This was a Royal Army Service Corps workshop. His unit supported the artillery at the Battle of El Alamein. He raced with the 8th Army across Libya.

Transcript

[We didn’t get overstretched.] Not, really, no.

We had one occasion in one of these places. We found ourselves on a minefield. Now the big part about it is that when we [the British] lay down a minefield, we tell everybody where it is. But when the Germans laid down a minefield, they only put a cluster of stones up. And you don’t know whether the mines are on that side of the stones or this side or not. We had to do a course on detecting; mine detecting and we were given a 12 inch bayonet and what you had to do is you go around prodding through [sand] and see if you had any Teller mines or anything like that in it. We had all that to do.

Source

Date: 1942-3
Contributor: Bob Smith
Location: Western Desert
Original Source: Bob Smith video interview 11th November 2008 Made by YMCA Perth Museum of The Black Watch


Mine detecting

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Description

Soldiers in the desert being trained to detect mines with a metal detector.

The soldiers wear khaki flannel shirts and khaki drill shorts, cut very short. They wear khaki hose and boots with puttees wound around the ankle and steel helmets covered in sacking.

The official caption reads:
South African engineers training with mine detection equipment in North Africa. British and Commonwealth forces trained intensively in minefield clearance in preparation for the Second Battle of El Alamein.

Bob Smith, serving with the Royal Army Service Corps in the 51st Highland Division, had to use a 12 inch bayonet, poked into the sand, when he found himself in a German minefield in the Western Desert

Source

Date: 1940s
Contributor: Imperial War Museum, London
Location: North Africa
Original Source: Photograph courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, London E 188844


A British bayonet

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Description

The long bayonet was fitted onto the Mark III Lee-Enfield rifle. It was used during World War One and at the start of World War Two. It had a sheath which was fitted to the belt with a webbing frog.

The long bayonets were still much prized when shorter bayonets were introduced in 1941.

Source

Date: 1907
Contributor: Museum of The Black Watch
Location: France, Germany
Original Source: Courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch


A Black Watch Carrier in the desert

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Description

Officers of the 7th Battalion The Black Watch standing on a Carrier in the Western Desert.

Dr McGowan is on the right, with Sandy Scott, Douglas Selbie and Norman Miller. Driver Melville has named the carrier after himself.

The 0fficers wear khaki drill shirts and shorts with Tam O’ Shanter bonnets with red hackles. The officer standing wears Lovat green hose, red flashes and desert boots. The driver wears a peaked cap.

The Universal Carrier, also known as the Bren Gun Carrier, was a light armoured tracked vehicles built by Vickers-Armstrong. First produced in 1934, the vehicle was used widely by Allied forces during the Second World War. Universal Carriers were used for transporting personnel and equipment, mostly support weapons, or as machine gun platforms. Bren Gun Carriers were armed with a Bren machine gun and could pull a light gun.

The Bren gun was developed in 1935 from a Czech machine gun, ZBvz.26, made in Brno, hence Bren. It was made in England at Enfield by the Royal Small Arms Factory. It had a bipod and fired .303 inch ammunition from a curved magazine.


Source

Date: 1943
Contributor: Museum of The Black Watch
Location: North Africa
Original Source: Photograph courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch


A Valentine tank with Black Watch soldiers in the desert

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Description

A Valentine tank motoring through the Libyan Desert with Black Watch soldiers on board.

The soldiers, perched on the front and side, wear khaki drill shirts and short and Tam O' Shanter bonnet.

The Infantry Tank III Valentine was developed by Vickers-Armstrong from the old Cruiser tank. It was rushed into production after the loss of all the British Army Matilda tanks in France in June 1940.

The Valentine tank was small and cramped. It had an inadequate 2 pounder gun which could not fire high velocity, high explosive armour piercing rounds. It had space for only two in the gun turret. Despite being no match for the German panzers, it was widely used in North Africa, because of its speed. It was replaced in North West Europe in 1944 by the Infantry Tank IV Churchill and US Sherman tanks.

Source

Date: 1943
Contributor: Imperial War Museum, London
Location: North Africa
Original Source: Photograph courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, London E 14950


Black Watch graves in the desert

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Description

More than a dozen graves are marked with simple white crosses near a palm tree in the desert. The graves and plots have been marked out with stones.

Men of the 7th Battalion The Black Watch crouch down to tend the graves.

Source

Date: 1943
Contributor: Museum of The Black Watch
Location: North Africa
Original Source: Photograph courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch


Lieutenant Colonel James Oliver's second citation for the Distinguished Service Order

Lieutenant Colonel James Oliver was an Arbroath solicitor and Territorial Army soldier. He commanded the 7th Battalion The Black Watch at the Battle of El Alamein. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his organisational skills and personal bravery.

On the night of 21st/22nd January 1943 he was again commanding the 7th Battalion The Black Watch in the Libyan Desert.

The citation reads:
"On the night of 21st/22nd January 1943, Lieutenant Colonel Oliver's [7th] Battalion [The Black Watch] took part in a night march and dawn attack against the rear of the enemy's position at En Nab during the battle near Corradini.

"At Dawn, when confronted with superior enemy forces, and when separated from supporting fire of any kind, he personally organised a position, where hand to hand fighting between his Battalion and the enemy rear guard took place. Although slightly wounded in two places by mortar fire early in the engagement, he remained at duty throughout the action, and his coolness and determination to hold on, in a very difficult situation, undoubtedly forced the enemy to withdraw from his position earlier than he had intended and thereby reopen the line of advance for the coastal column of the 8th Army. In this action Lieutenant Colonel Oliver's Battalion suffered some 90 casualties."



Lieutenant Colonel James Oliver, DSO

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Description

Commanders of units of the 51st Highland Division in Libya in 1943.

Lieutenant Colonel Roper-Caldbeck, centre commanded the 1st Battalion The Black Watch in North Africa. Lieutenant Colonel James Oliver, behind him, commanded the 7th Battalion The Black Watch.

Three Black Watch officers wear Black Watch tartan kilts with green bows on the aprons; leather sporrans; Lovat Green house and brogues. The officers wear fawn Balmoral bonnets with red hackles.

Lieutenant Colonel Roper-Caldbeck wears a webbing belt and khaki drill shirt with the Divisional sign, HD, and the Black Watch badge, in dark tartan, on his sleeve.

Lieutenant Colonel James Oliver wears a khaki battledress blouse with a crown and start on his shoulder, to denote his rank, and the Divisional sign, HD; three red bars for 154 Brigade and the Black Watch badge, in dark tartan, on his sleeve.

Both Lieutenant Colonel James Oliver and the officer to his right wear webbing belts with a pouch for a compass and a pistol in a webbing holster.

Facing the officer is Brigadier Douglas Graham, commander of 153 Brigade, which included the 5th Battalion The Black Watch. Known as “Old Lionheart” he had served in the Cameronians during World War One. He wears khaki drill shirt and shorts and a dark blue Glengarry bonnet with the Cameronian crest.

Note, in the centre, a member of the Army Film & Photographic Unit with a cine camera.

Source

Date: 1943
Contributor: Museum of The Black Watch
Location: Libya
Original Source: Photograph courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch


Lieutenant Colonel James Oliver's Distinguished Service Order and Bar

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Description

The first medal on the left is the Distinguished Service Order. The ribbon has clasps at the top and bottom. Brigadier Oliver was awarded the DSO a second time and so a bar, with a crown, was added to the ribbon. He was awarded his two DSOs while commanding the 7th Battalion The Black Watch in North Africa.

The other medals, from the left are the 1939-45 Star; the Africa Star, 8th Army; the Italian Star; the French and German Star; the Defence Medal and the War Medal 1939-45, know as the Victory Medal. Brigadier Oliver was also awarded the Coronation Medal in 1953 and the Royal Victorian Medal.

Brigadier James Oliver was a solicitor from Arbroath. He joined the 4th/5th Battalion The Black Watch in the Territorial Army. Promoted Major he was called out with the 5th Battalion in 1939. He commanded the 7th Battalion The Black Watch in North Africa in the 51st Highland Division.

He was twice awarded the Distinguished Service Order, for his leadership. In October 1942 at Miteriya Ridge, at the Battle of El Alamein, in Egypt, his Battalion lost 200 men in its four mile advance, but held its objectives. In January 1943 at En Nab, near Corradini, in Libya, his Battalion was confronted by superior forces but held on all day with 90 casualties. Brigadier Oliver was twice wounded that day.

Lieutenant Colonel Oliver was promoted Brigadier and commanded 152 Brigade in the 51st Highland Division. At the Normandy Landings he was later given command of 154 Brigade. He was made a Commander of the British Empire for his leadership in his Brigade's actions at Caen; at the thrust towards Falaise and in capturing the wood at St Sylvain, during the Normandy breakout.

Source

Date: 1942-3
Contributor: Museum of The Black Watch
Location: North Africa
Original Source: Photograph courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch James Oliver Collection


Bob Smith recalls guarding the road for the King and Winston Churchill

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Description

1943. Tripoli, Libya. Bob Smith, serving with the 51st Highland Division in Libya, describes guarding the road for the visit to Tripoli of King George and Winston Churchill.

Biography

Bob Smith joined the Territorial Army in 1939. He trained as a coppersmith in the Royal Army Service Corps. He was posted to the 51st Highland Division in Egypt. He worked in 420 Artillery Company. This was a Royal Army Service Corps workshop. His unit supported the artillery at the Battle of El Alamein. He raced with the 8th Army across Libya to Tripoli.

Transcript

Our one [Victory Day] was when the war ended in the Western Desert. We were in Tunis. And that was our VE Day – V whatever you like to call it. But that was the only one we were ever at.

But I’ll tell you what we did do. When we got to Tripoli; when we got to Tripoli, we were given Bren Guns and we became a patrol on either side of the road from Tripoli to Castel Benito [the airport] because King George the Sixth was coming out, up to Tripoli. King George the Sixth was coming out for to give us a visit. And he did come out and give us a visit, but they put a wee bit too much sun tan on him. He was browner than what we were.

But the - and the next one that came out after that was Winston Churchill. And we were still on road patrol on that particular area. And this was all done; you forgot about all the rest of your job altogether, you had to do that.

Source

Date: 1943
Contributor: Bob Smith
Location: Libya
Original Source: Bob Smith video interview 11th November 2008 Made by YMCA Perth Museum of The Black Watch


Pipes and Drums march past in Tripoli

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Description

The massed Pipes and Drums of the 51st Highland Division marching past in Tripoli, March 1943.

The pipers wear khaki felted wool battledress, webbing belts and kilts. They wear khaki hose, with red flashes and boots, with puttees wound around the ankle. The two Drum Majors, at the front, wear white belts. Their maces are tucked under their left arms as they salute to the right.

Winston Churchill, in a blue Royal Air Force uniform, is on the saluting base with General Bernard Montgomery behind his shoulder.

Note the HD - the 51st Highland Division's symbol - painted on the wall behind the saluting base.

Source

Date: February 1943
Contributor: Museum of The Black Watch
Location: Tripoli, Libya
Original Source: Photograph courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch


Pipes and Drums play for the march past in Tripoli

Exhibition Image One

Description

The massed Pipes and Drums of the 51st Highland Division play for the march past of the Division in Tripoli, March 1943.

The pipers, in the foreground, partially obscured by palm trees, wear khaki felted wool battledress, webbing belts and kilts. They wear khaki hose, with red flashes and boots, with puttees wound around the ankle. The senior Drum Major, in front of the pipers, has turned to face the pipers.

To the right some of the drummers have acquired sporrans. These are Cameron Highlanders who wear a black horse hair sporran with two white tassels. The sporrans have been moved around to the left buttock, so that the drum can rest in front.

A Black Watch Battalion marches past. The officers wear felted wool battledress blouses, webbing belts and kilts, with Lovat green hose, red flashes and black brogues.

Armoured cars are drawn up on the far side and tanks on the near side of the parade route.

Two tall pillars, erected by the Italian Dictator Mussolini, to commemorate Italian military might, are just visible on the right through the palm trees.

Source

Date: February 1943
Contributor: Museum of The Black Watch
Location: Tripoli, Libya
Original Source: Photograph courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch


Black Watch pipers and drummers pressing kilts

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Description

Pipers and drummers of 7th Battalion The Black Watch pressing their kilts, ready for a parade. The pipers' kilts are made of red Royal Stewart tartan. The Black Watch had been honoured as the Royal Highlander Regiment in 1756 for its service in North America. Pipers therefore wore the Royal Stewart tartan. Drummers wore the dark Black Watch tartan.

The pipers and drummers wear khaki drill shirts with the 51st Highland Division symbol, HD, on the right sleeve. One drummer also has a tartan patch in the shape of the Black Watch badge. They wear white aprons, perhaps to protect their modesty for the photograph. Highland soldiers wearing the kilt have always been, and still are, "Regimental" and wear no underwear. They wear khaki hose, red flashes and boots with puttees, with white tapes, wrapped around the ankle. They wear Tam O’ Shanter bonnets with red hackles.

There are six jocks and seven kilts. Three kilts are in Royal Stewart tartan and four kilts are in Black Watch tartan. The apron of a piper's kilt is laid out and shows the sett. The pleats, which are being pressed with an iron heated on a Primus stove, are pleated to stripe.

The edge of a drum is just visible under the tarpaulin to the right.

Behind the group, a soldier, wearing denim trousers and a sweater, reads a book.


Source

Date: 1943
Contributor: Museum of The Black Watch
Location: North Africa
Original Source: Photograph courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch


Black Watch piper's kilt

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Description

Black Watch pipers wear Royal Stewart tartan kilts. The Black Watch was honoured as the Royal Highland Regiment in 1756 and so the pipers wear Royal Stewart tartan.

The pleats, at the back, are pleated to the white stripe in the pattern. This makes the back of the kilt look different to the front. The kilt is bound at the top with green tape. There are hooks to hang the kilt.

The kilt is a Ministry of Defence sample kilt, complete with label at the top. The pleats are still stitched in and the kilt has never been worn.

Source

Date: 1980s
Contributor: Black Watch piper's kilt
Location: Perth
Original Source: Courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch


General salute

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Description

Soldiers of the 7th Battalion The Black Watch presenting arms for a "General Salute."

Each soldier wears a khaki drill shirt with 51st Highland Division symbol, HD, and Black Watch tartan badge on their right shoulders. They wear webbing belts with brass buckles and slides and Black Watch tartan kilts. They wear khaki hose with red flashes and boots with puttees, with white tapes, wound around the ankle. They wear Tam O’ Shanter bonnets with red hackles.

Each soldier is presenting arms with his Lee-Enfield .303 calibre rifle with fixed bayonets, in a "General Salute." Each rifle has a tightened webbing sling.

Source

Date: 1944
Contributor: Museum of The Black Watch
Location: North Africa
Original Source: Photograph courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch


Black Watch tartan kilt

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Description

The kilt is made from nine yards of heavy woollen Black Watch tartan. The tartan is dark green, dark blue and black with black tram lines.

There are many pleats at the back. The tartan has been pleated to the dark blue squares in the sett, so that the back of the kilt, on the left, looks different from the front of the kilt.

The Black Watch has worn this tartan since the 1730s.

Source

Date: 1980s
Contributor: Museum of The Black Watch
Location: Perth
Original Source: Courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch


Carriers on parade in Tripoli

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Description

King George VI taking the salute in Tripoli, March 1943. He wears a Royal Air Force uniform. General Montgomery is on the King’s left. Major General Wimberley, commander of the 51st Highland Division, leans over on the King’s right.

The further Bren Gun Carrier, “Balaclava” is driven by Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. The Sutherland Highlanders were famously the "Thin Red Line" at the Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War in 1856.

The nearer Carrier, “County of Angus” is driven by a sergeant of the 5th Battalion The Black Watch, with a gunner in the rear. They wear felted wool battledress, Tam O’ Shanter bonnets with red hackles and webbing belts and straps.

The Universal Carrier, also known as the Bren Gun Carrier, was a light armoured tracked vehicles built by Vickers-Armstrong. First produced in 1934, the vehicle was used widely by Allied forces during the Second World War. Universal Carriers were used for transporting personnel and equipment, mostly support weapons, or as machine gun platforms. Bren Gun Carriers were armed with a Bren machine gun and could pull a light gun.

The Bren gun was developed in 1935 from a Czech machine gun, ZBvz.26, made in Brno, hence Bren. It was made in England at Enfield by the Royal Small Arms Factory. It had a bipod and fired .303 inch ammunition from a curved magazine.

Source

Date: February 1943
Contributor: Museum of The Black Watch
Location: Tripoli, Libya
Original Source: Photograph courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch


Bren Gun

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Description

The Bren gun was developed in 1935 from a Czech machine gun, ZBvz.26, made in Brno. It was made in England at Enfield by the Royal Small Arms Factory. The name BREN came from the first two letters of Brno and Enfield.

It had a bipod and fired .303 inch ammunition from a curved magazine.

This Bren gun was the letters DP painted onto it to show that it has been disabled for demonstration purposes.

Source

Date: 1940s
Contributor: Museum of The Black Watch
Location: Perth
Original Source: Courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch


King George VI

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Description

King George VI, right, with General Montgomery at 8th Army Headquarters in Tripoli, Libya.

The King wears a khaki drill jacket and trousers. On his shoulder he wears the insignia of a Field Marshal, crossed sword and baton in a wreath below a crown.

General Bernard Montgomery wears a khaki drill shirt, tie and trousers. On his shirt sleeve is the 8th Army symbol. On a shoulder slide he wears the insignia of a General; crossed baton and sword; star and crown. He wears a black tank beret with the Royal Tank Corps badge in front of a General Officer’s badge.

Source

Date: 22nd June 1943
Contributor: Imperial War Museum, London
Location: Tripoli, Libya
Original Source: Photograph courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, London A 24995 Photograph taken by Lieutenant Chetwyn No 2 Army Film & Photographic Unit.


General Montgomery inspecting the Black Watch

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Description

General Bernard Montgomery inspecting a company of the 7th Battalion The Black Watch at Sfax, Tunisia.

General Montgomery wears a felted wool battledress and black tank beret.

The soldiers wear khaki drill shirts, webbing belts and Black Watch tartan kilts. They wear Tam O’ Shanter bonnets with red hackles. They wear khkai hose, red flashes and puttees wound around the ankle. Each soldier is standing to "attention" with his grounded Lee-Enfield rifle on his right hand side.

The Company officer wears a pistol in a holster on his left hand side.

The tall figure on the left, wearing a bonnet, is Major General Douglas Wimberley, commander of the 51st Highland Division. There is also a French officer in a kepi and a Tunisian official in a tarbush.

Source

Date: 1943
Contributor: Museum of The Black Watch
Location: Sfax, Tunisia
Original Source: Photograph courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch


Bob Smith recalls celebrating his 21st birthday in Libya

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Description

1943. Tripoli, Libya. Bob Smith, serving with the 51st Highland Division in Tunisia, describes celebrating his 21st birthday, on 22nd May 1943, and then being injured playing football.

Biography

Bob Smith joined the Territorial Army in 1939. He trained as a coppersmith in the Royal Army Service Corps. He was posted to the 51st Highland Division in Egypt. He worked in 420 Artillery Company. This was a Royal Army Service Corps workshop. His unit supported the artillery at the Battle of El Alamein. He raced with the 8th Army across Libya to Tripoli.

Transcript

I certainly do, yes. That was a very special occasion [my 21st birthday.] Because what happened; the OC [Officer Commanding] of my unit decided that all the boys had had a bit too much for, for quite a while, and it was time they had a bit of recreation. So he gave us permission to go down to Karawan, after our midday meal, and be back by a certain time at night. And we went down there and we did have a very good time. And they all were wishing me to have another birthday.

Oh, aye, well what happened was I got a very bad kick in the football and it worked out we were doing a fortnight there [in Tunisia] on leave. That was after the campaign had finished and we were doing that. And I got a very bad kick on my leg and it came up like a balloon. And not only that, you could boil a kettle on it at the same time.

And it worked out that they got to the stage they got me into 23rd Scottish Hospital and it worked out that I got operated on there; and the result was that the operation would not heal. And then they discovered that I was lacking in Vitamin C. And they turned round and they sent me down to the docks at Tripoli, and put me on a boat which was a hospital ship called the “Oxfordshire” and then we set off sail from there, and I find myself now I’m going to Haifa in Palestine.

So when I get to Haifa in Palestine, I come off the boat and there’s a hospital crew waiting to take us to a hospital in Nathanya. And I go in there and I get down and I; everything; still having a job getting this [my leg] to heal. And the funny bit about it was, what they did get originally was, they got some gauze and they used to love to put Vaseline on it and then put that on my leg. But at the same time I had to eat six oranges a day for to get back my Vitamin C. I had to do that. So I get down there in Sarafand, sorry Nathanya, and then convalesce after moving about a bit; and convalesce I get put in the Convalescent Depot at, what do you call it, Sarafand, yea. And that’s it.

Source

Date: 1943
Contributor: Bob Smith
Location: Libya, Tunisia
Original Source: Bob Smith video interview 11th November 2008 Made by YMCA Perth Museum of The Black Watch


A football match in Libya

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Description

The final of the Royal Air Force Cup in Tripoli, in March 1943.

Aircraftsman McKenzie, goalkeeper for Fighter Wing, throws himself in front of a Communications Flight attack.

Bob Smith, serving with the Royal Army Service Corps in the 51st Highland Division, was badly injured by a kick in a friendly football match in Tunisia in 1943.

Source

Date: 20 February 1943
Contributor: Imperial War Museum, London
Location: Tripoli, Libya
Original Source: Photograph courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, London CM 4744 Royal Air Force photograph


Bob Smith in Palestine, 1943

Exhibition Image One

Description

Bob Smith, serving with the Royal Army Service Corps in the 51st Highland Division, was badly injured in a football match in Tunisia. He was sent by hospital ship to Palestine. He was made to eat six oranges a day to recover his Vitamin C levels, at Nathanya, Palestine.

Bob Smith wears a khaki drill shirt and sweater. He wears his Royal Army Service Corps forage cap at a jaunty angle.

Source

Date: 1943
Contributor: Bob Smith
Location: Nathanya, Palestine
Original Source: Photograph courtesy of Bob Smith private collection


Exhibition credits

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Description

Bob Smith at the launch of the THIS HAPPENS IN WAR exhibiton in Pitlochry in November 2009.

THIS HAPPENS IN WAR is a partnership between the Museum of The Black Watch, YMCA Perth, Atholl Country Life Museum and The St Andrews Preservation Trust

Documents were provided by the Museum of The Black Watch and Bob Smith.

Images were provided by the Imperial War Museum, London, the Museum of The Black Watch and Bob Smith.

Objects were provided by the Museum of The Black Watch.

Video interviews were made and edited by YMCA Perth with Bob Smith.

Words by Ruari Halford-MacLeod

Source

Date: 2009
Contributor: Museum of The Black Watch
Location: Perth
Original Source: Courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch