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scottish regiments museums

Second To None

The heritage, tradition and treasured artifacts of Scotland's military
are on display in regimental museums all across the country.

BY STEPHEN MCGINTY

"War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing." The lyrics to Edwin Starr's 1969 anthem are words many of us would wish to agree with. However, there has frequently come a time in the course of human history when war becomes inevitable and, on a rare occasion, is even just. At such times the fates of nations rest in the hands of brave men prepared to do violence on our behalf. As George Orwell wrote in his 1945 essay Notes on Nationalism, "Those who 'abjure' violence can do so only because others are committing violence on their behalf."

For those interested in the history of the past 400 years, one unique way to follow its course is to visit one of Scotland's many museums dedicated to the regiments that have made up the British Army. Evenly spread throughout the length and breadth of the country from Edinburgh to Glasgow, from the Borders to the Highlands, any visitor to Scotland will not be far from a museum holding fascinating history wrapped in tradition and bound by courage.

A small wooden pig whittled by a bored Highland soldier in the trenches of World War I. An old box that held the papers of Adolf Hitler. A pair of red woolen socks from 1880. Colours that once flapped across the battlefield of Waterloo. The Highlanders Museum at Fort George boasts one of the largest collections of any military museum outside London, as well as one of the most stunning locations. Set in the huge, 18th-century fort outside of Inverness, which was built as a garrison from which to subdue the Highlands after the Jacobite Rising of 1745, the Highlanders Museum pays colourful homage to the men who served in the Seaforth Highlanders, The Queens Own Cameron Highlanders and the Queen's Own Highlanders over the centuries. Yet, for all its myriad of artifacts and weapons, it is the personal papers, correspondence and diaries making up the museum's paper archive that most successfully bring the past to life.

The full text of this article is available in the Winter 2014 issue of Scottish Life.

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