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16 October 2014

Arnish Lighthouse

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Lewis War Memorial. A crowd has gathered for the 2005 Remembrance Sunday

So another two British soldiers have lain down their lives in the service of Queen and country in Iraq. You may well think "What on earth does that have anything to do with a Scottish island??" I'll explain.

In the First World War, 1,000 men from the Isle of Lewis alone perished. From a population of about 25,000, six thousand joined up for the armed forces. That's about HALF of all menfolk. Of those, 1 out of every 6 never came home again. 200 drowned within sight of home at the sinking of HMY Iolaire, on the Beasts of Holm, 2 miles south of Stornoway.
The First World War was a politicians' war, a conflict that had been brewing for a long time before the fuse was lit in Sarajevo, in 1914, when an Austro-Hungarian archduke was shot and killed in the street. A long litany of alliances between various European states then rolled into action, with war being declared in August 1914. I am convinced (personal opinion) that the man in the street at the time wasn't that fussed with a nobleman being assassinated in the street of some Balkan town. There had just been a bloody conflict there, again, only a year or so before. The story of the Christmas truce has surfaced increasingly frequently in recent years. It was touch and go whether the war would have fizzled out at that point. It was very, very near. But it didn't, and after a year of atrocities there was no truce at Christmas 1915.
Scotland generally and the islands in particular have always loyally provided cannon fodder for the forces. The economic situation in the islands was so dire that the honour, glory and payment associated with the colours was a powerful lure. Others joined the merchant navy, which suffered harshly under the U-boat campaign in the Atlantic. Naval reservists were called up and were transformed into foot soldiers under Winston Churchill, a pretty bad decision by all accounts. They were sent to defend Antwerp against the Germans, to no avail. I've described in a previous post that 100 Lewismen ended up in a Dutch internment camp for the rest of the war.
In 1914-18, people did not openly question the politicians' decisions about going to war. These days, we do.
Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 14:14


We may question going to war - but the politicians (or should that be politician?) still take no notice.

hrossey from Mainland Orkney

Whilst I go along with all that you say in your post, I think we should all from time to time "earth" our thinking by looking at the Iraq Body Count web site.

Septuagent from

Yes Harris coastline A great walk from Huisinis round the coastline - rugged but breathtaking. Great views of scarp from a fantastic beach (shame about the floatsam) then around to the most perfect wild camp spot by the beach at the head of Loch Crabhadail. I would love to explore the coastline north of this. Also a great walk right at the south west tip of Harris past the ruined chapel at Rubh An Teampaill!! Some fantastic little beachy bays here too!!

Coley from Lancashire

Haven't been round that way for quite a while, Coley, so it slipped the mind. I've been up Ceapabhal, above the chapel, and you can walk from Crabhadail to Kinloch Resort. Are you already in the islands?

Arnish Lighthouse from Stornoway

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