The War to End All Wars

War Memorial

World War I may not have been fought on British soil but it transformed the social, economic and cultural fabric of Scotland forever.

The ‘workshop of the world’

Scottish industry and agriculture became indispensable to the war effort. Hailed as the ‘workshop of the world’, the shipyards, iron foundries, steelworks and engineering shops of Glasgow’s Clydeside churned out battleships, munitions and artillery. Meanwhile, the massive Dornock Munitions Factory sprung up between the towns of Gretna and Annan in Dumfries & Galloway, becoming home to the largest cordite factory in the UK.

Human cost

There was hardly a place in Scotland which did not escape the colossal blows inflicted by the conflict’s high casualty rate. Lowly populated places in particular, such the Isle of Lewis and Harris, sustained some of the highest proportional losses of any place in Britain.

Lest we forget

Wreath of poppies

Scotland’s collective experience of World War I was memorialised in the form of the Scottish National War Memorial. Located at Edinburgh Castle, it officially opened in 1928 and incorporates both a memorial and museum. More than just a commemoration, it stands as a testament to the scale of the nation’s military sacrifice, its unique martial heritage, and distinct approach to remembrance.

At memorials across the country, observe how different communities, institutions, military units and individuals have paid tribute to the fallen in their own singular way.

Scotland's war poets and writers

It was at Edinburgh’s Craiglockhart War Hospital that English war poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen first began to write poetry, and there are other significant works penned by Scottish-born poets and writers which reflect upon their own personal experiences and responses to the Great War.

Hailing from different parts of the country and social backgrounds, wartime writers gave voice to the Scottish experiences of the Great War, their works sharing the perspectives of everyone touched by the conflict, from the solider in the trenches and the journalist in the field to the grieving loved ones left behind at home.

Charles Sorley and Ewan Alan Mackintosh were talented young soldiers who documented their time in the trenches, and dedicated their lives to the cause. Violet Jacob documented the pain of losing a son during battle, and journalists such as John Buchan and Neil Munro reported from the front line, then went on to publish novels set during the war years. 

While many of these writers chose to express their wartime experiences in ways that are unmistakably Scottish, their works also testify to the all-encompassing repercussions of a war from which no one, irrespective of class, nationality and language, was spared.

Uncover more about Scotland's role in World War One.