Sordid chapter

As a student I did some voluntary work at what was then the National Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh.

Filing some old photographs dating from the First World War I came across those relating to the Quintinshill rail disaster which took place in May 1915 near Gretna. It left 210 soldiers from a battalion of the Leith-based Royal Scots dead and 224 injured, the biggest disaster in Britain’s railway history. What remained of the battalion carried on to Gallipoli, where further hell awaited them in that ill-fated campaign.

To my shame it was a disaster I had not heard of, and it was covered up at the time so as not to damage morale. But on Saturday 25 April the role Scots played in the Gallipoli campaign will be recognised during the Anzac Day service at Edinburgh Castle.

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The Scottish contribution to such a campaign extends beyond the Quintinshill disaster and saw thousands of Scots killed or maimed while fighting in appalling conditions on the beaches of Gallipoli.

Said Lord Lovat, one of the commanders of the campaign, afterwards: “Gallipoli was as sordid and miserable a chapter of amateur enterprise as ever was written in our history.”

Alex Orr

Leamington Terrace