The armed services in the County

Stephen A Bunyan

In this essay:

Throughout many years the men and latterly women of East Lothian have been involved in the armed services. The regular services have long been a source of employment, with many locals serving with distinction, while the volunteer sections (part-time, though also paid) have been an integral part of many people’s lives. In time of war the county was of immense strategic importance. In the post-war world this was less true and the military presence was greatly reduced, but at the same time the county remained an area of importance for recruiting. During our period there was a small naval presence and, until 1967, a considerable Territorial Army (TA) presence.

The Army

The British army is a complex organisation. Its main components are infantry regiments cavalry regiments and artillery regiments. In addition it has many other regiments and corps, which perform other functions for example, pay, signals, engineers, medical, veterinary and the Royal Army chaplains’ department. The regular army is made up of full-time career soldiers, supported by part-timers. From the 18th century, these were militia and volunteers, and by the 20th century, this voluntary force was organised as the Territorial Army (TA), largely as a result of the military reforms introduced by East Lothian MP, Richard B Haldane (later Lord Haldane), war minister 1905-12. It was known initially as the Territorial Force: this was disbanded at the conclusion of hostilities and was reformed as the Territorial Army (TA) in 1920.
From this point on, the TA maintained a fairly strong presence in East Lothian, playing a major part in the lives of many of its young men; this continued to 1967, when the county TA centres were closed. The regular army and the Territorial Army worked (and continue to work) closely together, particularly in the infantry where the TA units are located in the areas from which the regular battalions recruit. They share identity and history and practise mutual support. East Lothian retained its historic link with the Royal Scots (founded in 1633 by Sir John Hepburn, a native of Athelstaneford), and the 1st Battalion (part of the regular army) continued to hold recruiting drives (for both TA and regular soldiers) in the county. Both Haddington (1947) and Musselburgh (1971) granted the regiment the Freedom of the Burgh. East Lothian was also part of the recruiting area of 40th Field Regiment Royal Artillery.