Lovat Scouts

Below and on the following pages, links below, you will view stories and pictures of the Lovat Scouts from Skerray and relations of various people who have or had connections with Skerray or the people mentioned.
If anyone has other material,or would like to make corrections, I would be glad if you could submit it for content on this site. 

 

SKERRAY LOVAT SCOUTS  1939
BACK ROW:
LEFT TO RIGHT

Uisdean Mackay Not known Jock Mackay David Mackay   Hugh Gunn Charlie Mackay Hughie Campbell J J Mackay
Achtoty xxx (Couliver) Tubeg Modsary Tubeg Borgie (The Jigger)
    Lotts         Lotts

  NEXT ROW

Eric Mackay J.G. Mackay Ian Mackay A. M. Mackenzie Don Murray G. R. Mackay James H Mackay M Mackay
Strathen Clasnastruag The Iron Man  (Forester)  Borgie Borgie (GhandI) (McGibbon)
      Borgie     Lotts Lotts

 

Kenny Mackenzie Jimmy Gunn
(Son of Forester) (Lamigo)
(Borgie)  

 SKERRAY LOVAT SCOUTS (1939-1945)

The Troop for the 1939-45 conflict was formed from Territorials and existing Scouts.
As was the custom, after call up papers were served on 1st September, 1939, the enlisted would visit their  extended families within the village, before gathering to be transported to join others at camp. Kitty Ann Macqueen, former side school teacher in Island Roan, recalls, word reached her at her new post in Vagastie that the seventeen Scouts were to be taken down to Lairg by the open lorry belonging to George Mackay, Skerray. She met them at the road end at Vagastie en route to the train at Lairg Station, from where they travelled on to the station in Beauly.

Skerray was within the recruiting area of the Lovat Scout’s, from the Drumochter Pass to Cape Wrath and from the Black Isle to the Outer Hebrides. Troops from Sutherland, Wester Ross and Strathconon were assembled at Fanellan Farm into A, B & C Squadrons.

The Lovat Scouts, a family regiment, principally recruited from ghillies, stalkers and estate workers from the North Counties and Islands were mounted troops and assembled at Fanellan, Kiltarlity. Camp was made in the steadings at Fanellan- many new and good friends were made, whilst tending to the ponies and horses, which also were recruited from estates throughout the North and Western Isles. The troops competed with rats in their new accommodation. Skerray Scouts formed part of C Troop. For the winter, C Troop were billeted in Strathpeffer.  The Scouts were the last Scottish mounted squadron and renowned for their sharpshooting and stalking skills. By early spring the Squadron had reached a high standard of training in their role as mounted scouts and some treks in Easter Ross of over twenty miles a day were preparing the men for things to come. C Squadron were sent south and billeted at Sutton-on-Trent. It was here that the Scouts were to lose their ponies, which many had brought with them to Fanellan, and become a dismounted infantry regiment.

In 1940 Germany invaded Norway and Denmark and following the fall of Denmark, the power that had hitherto governed this island group, the Queen of Denmark beseeched Churchill to garrison the Faroes and thus the Scouts were sent to garrison the Faroes, an island with a population of just over thirty thousand.and saw active service guarding Skaalefjord and Thorshavn.  Part of their remit was to seek out German infiltrators within the community. After rounding them up they were shipped out for internment.
The Faroe Islands were known as the “Islands of Maybe” due to frequent sea-mists, and the resultant uncertainties of travel between islands. The Faroese people welcomed the new British military presence, especially the Lovat Scouts, mainly Scottish Highlanders, with whom they shared background and cultural elements.
After two years, in June 1942, they bade farewell to Thorshavn arriving at Invergordon, then moving onto Nairn to become part of the 157 Infantry Brigade of the 52 Division, and undertake mountain training. It was during a break in mountain training that the Scouts guarded the Royal Family at Balmoral, before being sent north to Halkirk

They joined the 227 Brigade and trained hard as an Infantry Squadron, billeted in Halkirk. They were camped at Braal Castle, Halkirk, from where they were often sent on forced marches along the North coast as far as Tongue. Permission was granted to the Scouts, when off duty, to fish, with rod and fly, on a stretch of the Thurso river. After a fortnight this permission had to be withdrawn- it was clear the Scouts had lost none of their native skills and caught too many salmon. The Scouts were keen to keep their separate identity and were delighted when they were chosen to become the Mountain Recce Regiment for the famous 52nd Division. The Scouts at first trained as mountain troops at Glen Clunie and Braemar in the Grampians and Cairngorms and then moved to North Wales to learn rock-climbing from the Commando School of Mountain Warfare. At this point, “hush hush” movements were occurring, leading the troopers to believe that we were to go abroad for active duty. In the winter of 1943/44they duly boarded the SS Mauretania at Liverpool and when at sea were advised that the ultimate destination would be the Canadian Rockies, for ski-training and rock climbing, with participation in an invasion of Norway the objective.

The journey across the Atlantic took five days. As the troopship was a relatively fast vessel, no naval escort was required. Nevertheless, the ship engaged in constant “zig-zagging” manoeuveres to confuse a potential enemy u-boat presence.  Anti-aircraft guns were manned in shifts. The journey was uneventful, barring a suspected collision, which caused some alarm. The mess dishes fell from their shelves, and troops were thrown from their hammocks. To the present day, it is not clear as to whether the ship struck an ice-floe or a submarine.

The SS Mauretania soon sailed into New York Harbour, giving the Scouts their first view of America, with the Statue of Liberty and the city sky-scrapers brightly lit, a stark contrast to a blacked out Britain. It took four days travelling by train to reach western Canada, and all were amazed by the quality, quantity and nature of the foodstuffs given to us- fruits, chocolates, etc, that were subject to severe rationing in the UK.

Despite the ongoing horrendous circumstances that dictated their goals, the Canadian experience was a truly memorable and wonderful one. Scouts were stationed respectively at Banff and Jasper, both in the province of Alberta.

After training they sailed back to Liverpool on the troop ship the “Andes” As embarkation leave was being given, orders had already arrived to join the 8th Army in Italy. On the 9th June 1944 the regiment arrived back in Scotland, and half the regiment at a time enjoyed a brief embarkation leave. Exactly one month later, the Scouts were leaving Glasgow by troopship, as part of a large convoy. Arriving in the Bay of Biscay, they were informed that we were to join the 8th Army in Italy, and land at the port of Naples, where the city was now extensively damaged, with many ruined buildings.

Within three weeks the Scouts were in action in the Appenine Mountains , north of Florence, as the 4th Indian Division along with the Gurkha Regiment. Going up into the front lines was a frightening experience. They travelled in the highly mobile jeep, supplies and munitions being conveyed by pack mule. The arid conditions meant that the enemy was able to identify their locations, as any progress made entailed the raising of dust clouds. They arrived in Naples and here the Scouts found themselves continuously in the front line. It was a campaign of frequent action and patrolling, as they fought from Naples to Rome, through minefields. It was here that that the Skerray group lost their only casualty, Jimmy Gunn from Lamigo. The news of Jimmy’s death reached his cousin Hugh Gunn, who immediately volunteered to go out and recover his body. Several other casualties were sustained. They were employed tactically, being mainly involved in reconnaissance patrols in “no man’s land” and behind the enemy lines.

Eventually when the German troops retreated across the Po valley and VE day was declared. The Scouts advanced freely across the Alps into Austria, a very beautiful country, with streams and rivers resembling those in their native Highlands, which they fished whilst contemplating their homeward journey.

Alas, this did not occur, as the regiment was flown to Greece, landing at Salonika. It had to participate in the ongoing civil war, based in the infamous Struma Valley. Ironically, this is an area in which the Lovat Scouts fought during the First World War, and was renowned for the presence of mosquito and the dreaded malaria it caused.

After approximately four months demobilisation began. The selection process was based on age, therefore most who had joined in 1939 were the first to be repatriated and discharged. Eventually all had been placed on the demobilisation list by July 1946, travelling in a contingent overland through Greece, Italy, Austria, Switzerland and France with the Cameron Barracks It was from here that the regiment was demobbed and sent home through the clearing station in Doncaster and then on to the Cameron Barracks in Inverness, the Scouts final destination.

All the above information and material is reproduced with the permission of the contributor Mr Iain H Fraser ©