20th Century


Scotland made a significant contribution to the fighting and winning of the First World War, and the war had a big an impact on Scotland.

Scotland’s industries, which were in full demand during the fighting, soon declined after the hostilities and the attrition of its population to fighting gave way to another kind of attrition, through another wave of emigration.

Social injustices and changing attitudes towards Scottish identity also caused a permanent change in the country’s political landscape.

At the time, there was a huge feeling that Scotland had ‘punched above its weight’ in its contribution to the fighting – one of the reasons why Scotland made its own National War Memorial. Perhaps, most distinctively, Scotland contributed the general who commanded the British forces to victory. His role has been controversial, but Haig was the commander who had the realism and tenacity needed to win such a massive industrial war. These qualities were reflected in the service and experience of his fellow Scots.


The Scots played an important role in the Allied victory – from the battlefields of North Africa to life on the home front.

As Britain prepared for war, the heavy industries of the Clyde produced ships, guns, engines and munitions. Six weeks into World War II, the first shots of the air war over Britain were fired above the Firth of Forth as Scots pilots battled the Luftwaffe.

Scots spearheaded the formation of the SAS, the Dig for Victory campaign and the Anderson Air Raid Shelters. Commandos trained in Scotland and the D-Day Landings were rehearsed on various Scots shorelines including Eigg, Rhum, Loch Fyne, Kentra Bay, the Moray Firth and Arran.

Members of the Polish army, navy and air force, stationed in Scotland, fired on the Nazi bombers and fought in the Battle of Britain.

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Scots at War

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