Few years ago, when I visited Scotland for the first time, the legendary National War Museum of Scotland was one of the first places I wanted to visit in Edinburgh.
Walking through this jewel of military history, I came across a description of a 1915 German medal, “representing the figure of Death as a Scottish piper”. Many things come to my mind when I think of a piper, but certainly not death. But I could understand how the Kaiser troops must have felt when facing the gallant sons of Caledonia on the battlefield:
“German soldiers developed their own view of highland soldiers and were believed to have nicknamed their kilted enemy ‘the ladies from hell’. This back-handed compliment was rather appreciated in Scotland.”
You may say I’m partial because of my Scottish ancestors and you are right. I am partial, I admit it and I cherish it. Nevertheless, you have to admit that Highland Warriors are among the best in history.
But, please, don’t take my word for it.
Take into account what acclaimed military historian Saul David wrote about them:
“This charge of Fraser’s 78th [during the battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759] and the heroic performance of the 42nd at Ticonderoga, would transform the image of the Highlanders in the popular consciousness from that of dangerous savages who posed a threat to the security of the state to loyal and hardy shock troops of the empire. From this point on, the Highlanders joined the Guardsmen as the elite of the British Army, and both would win laurels in virtually every major conflict they fought, often – as was the case in Waterloo, the Alma, Tel-el-Kebir, Loos and Alamein – fighting almost side by side.” (All the King’s Men, p. 180).
If I got your attention this far on my post, then you will want to visit Canada’s War Museum’ awesome special exhibition on “Highland Warriors” which is on display until January 12th, 2020 in Ottawa.
In 2014-2015, my family and I lived in Scotland for six months. We visited many military museums – unfortunately not all of them. Nonetheless, I can attest that the historians and museologists of the Canadian War Museum have been able to recreate the same subdued ambiance and reverence as the one I experienced in Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Stirling and Fort George.
The set of lights, the chosen artefacts and the short but eloquent captions and descriptions contribute significantly to a unique experience for whoever truly wants to understand the nature and importance of Scotland’s contribution to military history and heritage for centuries.
Right when we exited the exhibition to make our way to the LeBreton Gallery (a favorite of my sons who can see tanks), my 9 years old daughter came to me and told me sotto voce: “Dad, our ancestors were real badass.” I could feel the pride and admiration in her voice. And I shamelessly agree with her.
So, many sincere thanks to the Canadian War Museum staff for planning and organizing this fantastic exhibition – probably the best exhibition I ever visited. For a little more than an hour, you made me feel like I was back in Scotland.
So, you can call it a vibrant success. Because it is.
Nemo me impune lacessit