Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Men in Kilts...Scotland the Brave

A brave piper in battle, WW I (public domain)
1918--In the murky trenches of World War I France, smoke chokes the air and the sound of whizzing bullets and screaming rockets fills your head. Exhausted, running low on water, bullets, and motivation, you sink into the depths of mud and despair. Then, above the stupefying noise of battle, the skirl of bagpipes pierces through the gloom and your spirit lifts. Inching up the side of the trench you lift a cautious eye over the top and through the swirling haze you see…men in kilts and know you have a chance to survive. The Kilties have arrived and brought their centuries-old stamina, courage, and heart. 

Scots charging with bayonets, World War I. (Mary Evans Picture Library)

The age-old military tradition of
Scotland stemmed, at least in part, from its generations of inter-clan fighting, Highland versus Lowland regional squabbles, and battles with its powerful southern neighbor: England. The Scots brought, not only a joy of fighting, but loyal and courageous natures that were welcome and necessary in times of war. In 1914, at the onset of World War I, the British army was already heavy with Scottish volunteers but the threat of Germany sent out Scottish
Piper and troops at Longueval, WW I (public domain)
regiments en masse. By 1918, half of Scotland’s male population between the ages of 18 and 45, had fought in the war. An average of 15% of Scottish regiments were killed in battle compared to 13% of the British. The Scots went full out. Their regiments became clan substitutes, adding an additional layer of loyalty and sacrifice. Many of these regiments wore the traditional kilt and earned the name, Kilties. The tartan kilts added to the soldiers’ sense of pride and helped them retain their Scottish heritage, setting them apart from the English troops. Led by pipers, encouraging the men to give their all behind the blood stirring call of the bagpipes, Kilties fought with legendary bravery. It is estimated that around 1000 pipers died in the war. Scotland the brave, indeed.
Nope, nothing beneath. Brave, indeed! World War I (public domain)

And what, one might ask, did those Kilties wear beneath those knee-length kilts? Why…nothing, of course. As a matter of fact, wearing any kind of underwear beneath the kilt was considered being out of uniform and was not allowed. The only time the soldiers were to wear something modest beneath the kilt was in competitive sport such as the Highland Games and in traditional dance. (And, I believe that is the case to this day.) 

Kilties and their dog at rest, World War I (Getty Images)

 Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now!


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