Scottish Troops Marching to the Front 1915
This image came from a small collection taken by a soldier of the Army Service Corps in France in 1915 with a Kodak pocket camera. Most of the photographs show the vehicles in his unit but this one is captioned ‘Highland troops’. As such they are likely to be from a unit in the 51st (Highland) Division.
The men featured in the photograph are wearing the leather 1914 Pattern equipment; with the huge influx of volunteers in 1914 the army could not equip every soldier with the standard 1908 Pattern webbing so a leather set was produced instead; many units wore it in France well into the end of 1916; it was not popular with the troops as it did not balance the load well and gave soldier’s back-ache. I can remember many veterans I interviewed in the 1980s saying they would ditch it at the first opportunity for webbing.
The men in the photo also appear to be going into action as cotton bandoliers of .303 ammunition can be seen; normally only carried to the front line at the time of an impending attack. The 51st (Highland) Division took part in several major engagements on the Western Front in 1915, most notably at Festubert and Givenchy, before they moved down to the Somme in the summer of 1915 and took over the sector at La Boisselle from the French Army.