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Inveravon, Pictish Stones, and War Graves

In between Ballindalloch and Criagellachie Bridge we turned off the A 95 to find Inveravon Church and its Pictish Stones.

The stones were once in the open but are now kept in a porch:-

Pictish Stones, Inveravon

Inveravon Pictish Stones

Information Boards:-

Information Board, Inveravon

Inveravon PIctish Stones, Information Board 2

In the churchyard I found two Commonwealth War Graves.

Private A G Patterson, Seaforth Highlanders, 10/3/1915, aged 18:-

War Grave, Inveravon

Private J A Cantlie, Gordon Highlanders, 30/5/1918, aged 20:-

War Grave, Inveravon


Roughcastle Roman Fort, Antonine Wall, Information Boards


Roughcastle Roman Fort, Antonine Wall, Principia Information Board

Commander’s Residence:-

Roughcastle Roman Fort Commander's Residence Information Board


Roughcastle Roman Fort, Antonine Wall, Barracks Information Board


Roughcastle Roman Fort, Antonine Wall,Bath House Information Board


Roughcastle Roman Fort, Antonine Wall, Granary Information Board


Roughcastle Roman Fort, Antonine Wall, Annexe Informatino Board

Beyond the Wall:-

Roughcastle Roman Fort, Antonine Wall, Beyond the Wall Information Board

Roughcastle Roman Fort, Antonine Wall (ii)

Defensive ditch to north of Roughcastle Fort:-

Roughcastle Roman Fort, Part of Antonine Wall

Defensive Ditch at Roughcastle Roman Fort

Roughcastle Roman Fort, Antonine Wall

Defensive pits:-

Defensive Pits at Roughcastle Roman Fort

Views of fort remains:-

Part of Roughcastle Roman Fort

Roughcastle Roman Fort Site

Burn to west of Roughcastle Fort. Antonine Wall to right:-

Burn to West of Roughcastle Roman Fort


Roughcastle Roman Fort, Antonine Wall (i)

Just before we reached the Antonine Wall at the Falkirk Wheel we saw signs for Roughcastle Roman Fort so decided to follow the path. It took us a while and I was beginning to wonder if we wouldever get there but we did. Only the outlines of the fort still remain.

The Information Board shows what it would have looked like:-

Roughcastle Roman Fort Information Board

Fort (south of Antonine Wall):-

Roughcastle Roman Fort Behind Antonine Wall

Roughcastle Roman Fort, from East

Wall before fort:-

Antonine Wall at Roughcastle Roman Fort

Southern Gate:-

Site of Southern Gate, Roughcastle Roman Fort



Antonine Wall above Roughcastle Tunnel

I mentioned in an earlier post, about the Falkirk Wheel, that the boat trip through the Roughcastle Tunnel takes you under the Antonine Wall.

It’s only a short walk uphill from the Tunnel’s entrance to some remains of the wall. Unlike its perhaps more famous counterpart further south, the stone built Hadrian’s Wall, the Antonine Wall was only ever a turfed barrier with a ditch. It’s all overgrown now:-

Part of Antonine Wall

Antonine Wall (Part)

Ditch at Antonine Wall

Antonine Wall Ditch

Information board:-

Antonine Wall at Falkirk Information Board

In the Company of Eagles by Ernest K Gann

Four Square/NEL, 1967, 221 p.

This novel of aerial combat in the Great War focuses on Sergeant Paul Chamay of the 322nd Escadrille in the Service Aéronautique and Leutnant Sebastian Kupper of Jasta 76 of the Luftstreitkräfte. Early in his combat experience Chamay sees his friend and mentor, Raymonde, killed by a German flying an Albatros with a distinctive target painted on its fuselage. Chamay is enraged since, though Raymonde’s aeroplane was incapacitated, he might have survived had Kupper (the Albatros was his) not come in to fire at him again, hitting him in the head. Chamay is from then on fixated on seeking out that Albatros and killing its pilot.

While that is the bare bones of the plot the book as a whole is much more nuanced than this might suggest, as it also explores – if only briefly – other characters, Chamay’s inventive but slightly hare-brained mechanic Babarin and forgetful armourer Susotte, his commander, the formal Captain Jourdan, and a lover, Denise, Kupper’s relationship with his wife Marie via her letters, his stolid batman Private Pilger, and the wily scrounger Feldwebel Groos. There is also a sequence involving a ham from Kempinsky’s, a gift to Kupper from Marie that is coveted by all at the front and manages to pass through several hands.

Gann outlines the vicissitudes of a Great War fighter pilot, always on the lookout, never able to let his guard down, the rigours of open cockpit aerial warfare, swathed in warm clothing, the cramp induced by the controls.

There is also a brief account of the catastrophic Nivelle offensive of 1917, of the French units which fought in it, and died, the calamity which led to mutiny and refusal to undertake any more offensive operations.

Later in the book we find that Kupper thought he was performing a mercy on Raymonde, saving him from a fiery death, though of course Chamay never gets to know this.

The final encounter, to which the book was always leading up, unfolds in a way which is a touch unexpected.

I have long held in interest in the aerial aspect of the Great War having read the histories They Fought for the Sky by Quentin Reynolds and The Friendless Sky by Alexander Mckee in my youth. Though fiction, In the Company of Eagles is as good an introduction to the subject as any.

Pedant’s corner:- The cover illustration isn’t quite spot on. There are two [red] Fokker Triplanes depicted on the wraparound cover but none appears in the text – though an attack by new [black] RNAS Sopwith Triplanes on Kupper’s airfield does. In addition I believe only Manfred von Richthofen flew a red-coloured Fokker Triplane.

Otherwise; wiith (with,) Mercedes’ (Mercedes’s,) Albatros’ (Albatros’s,) “Jourdan hesitated so, that Chamay was certain he was trying to communicate ….” (no need for the comma.) “None of the items were used” (none … was used,) after the Nivelle offensive another German tells Kupper the French troops were mutinying (at the time they occurred the Germans were ignorant of the French mutinies,) Gros (elsewhere always Groos,) Barbarin (elsewhere always Babarin.) “Every French aeroplane was not flown by a man named Chamay” (at least one French aeroplane was, though, so that sentence isn’t true. It ought to read ‘Not every French aeroplane was flown by a man named Chamay’,) jettys (jetties,) pistules (pustules.)

Innerpeffray Chapel

Innerpeffray Chapel lies off a minor road about halfway between Crieff and Auchterarder. It is contiguous to Innerpeffray Library, the oldest library in Scotland.

This is a view of the chapel alone:-

Innerpeffray Chapel

In its graveyard there is a gravestone with a dedication to David McKendrick, missing at Cambrai, 30,11,1917:-

Great War Commemoration, Innerpeffray


Burns’s Cottage, Alloway, Ayrshire, Exterior

Since we were in the area we thought we’d have a look at Burns’s Cottage again – only this time we would go inside.

Cottage from road:-

Robert Burns cottage, Alloway, Ayrshire

Burns's Cottage From Northeast

Tam O’Shanter planter outside Burns’s Cottage, Alloway:-

Tam O'Shanter Planter Outside Burns's Cottage, Alloway

Cottage from rear:-

Burns Cottage , Alloway, Ayrshire

Burn’s Cottage sign on Poet’s Path:-

Sign for Burns's Cottage, Alloway

Reverse of Burns's Cottage Sign, Alloway

This information board says how Burns’s father planned to develop the field beyond:-

Smallholding, Burns's Cottage, Alloway

In the field is this wicker sculpture of Burns’s most famous character, Tam O’Shanter, on his mare, Meg:-

Tam O'Shanter on His Mare, Meg

Silhouettes in wall of field:-

Silhouette in Wall Behind Burns's Cottage, Alloway

Nelson’s Battles by Oliver Warner

David and Charles, 1965, 254 p including 8 p Index, 2 p Appendix of Nelson’s Ships and Captains and 1 p Appendix Note on Sources.

As its title implies the book concentrates on the sea fights in which Horatio Nelson took part. While some details of his life outside the navy are mentioned these are very much by the way as far as Warner is concerned as they did not impact on Nelson’s conduct at sea. Warner contends that it was Nelson’s victories that made the winning of the Napoleonic Wars possible. Without British sea superiority Napoleon could have threatened India or even invaded Britain. He certainly had plans to do so if the Royal Navy were to be neutralised. Though Warner does not mention it the prosecution of the Peninsular War would also have been impossible without British control of the  seas.

Nelson first made his tactical acumen known at the Battle of Cape St Vincent where he moved his ship out of the battle line without orders as he realised to do so and make direct for the nearest Spanish ships would disorganise the opponent and – somewhat paradoxically – allow his commander’s ultimate intentions to be fulfilled. To naval men the line of battle “was sacred” so this unparalleled (and never repeated) leaving of the line without a direct order was a court-martial offence and meant probable disgrace, the more so since that commander, Jervis, was an extreme disciplinarian. Two other ships joined Nelson’s move however, and Jervis received him afterwards “with the greatest affection.” (He had after all won a victory due to it.)

Nelson’s next major encounter was the Battle of the Nile (more strictly of Aboukir Bay) where he split his force in two to attack both sides of the French fleet simultaneously, not as hazardous an endeavour as it might have been since the French ships were at anchor – at least at the battle’s start – and consequently unable to manoeuvre effectively. The result was confirmed when the French flagship L’Orient blew up spectacularly.

Nelson was famously to repeat disobedience at the Battle of Copenhagen. (“I have only one eye. I have a right to be blind sometimes.”) His Commander there, Parker, fully expected Nelson to ignore his signal to break off, though, if that was the correct course. However, others in the fleet of necessity obeyed it; to their cost. In many respects – the Danish ships were at anchor, and under the cover of shore guns – this was similar to the Nile, though Nelson’s tactics were slightly changed. This time he asked his ships to line up against their counterparts one by one, starting at the fifth Danish ship, the next two going on to the Danish 6 and 7 while others took on ships 4 to 1. In this way the least supportable part of the Danish fleet could be overwhelmed before the rest of it could affect the outcome. More remarkably the time elapsing between these orders being issued and their execution was extremely short. The victory cemented Nelson’s reputation.

Trafalgar was an altogether different affair; a full sea battle, one Nelson had sought for a long time. His plan was to cut the French and Spanish line in three (in the event only two such incursions were made) by the use of columns of British ships and so ensure a pell-mell battle in which he was convinced – correctly as it turned out – he would be victorious.

The details of the sea fighting of the times are gruesome. The casualties and wounds inflicted by cannonballs and splinters from wooden hulls pierced by them horrific. There was little shelter on the gun decks and no barriers to shot barrelling through them from one end to the other if raked by a broadside. On the open deck sailors and the soldiers the ships carried were even more exposed, Nelson himself felled by a rifle shot, and his national hero status thus guaranteed.  Britain’s naval supremacy was not to be seriously challenged for over one hundred years.

Whatever the faults in his private life (mercifully little of which does this account deal with) Nelson’s effect on his subordinates – not to mention the ratings – was inspiring.

Pedant’s corner:- “the Times’” (the Times’s,) “she had not formerly declared war” (‘formally’ makes more sense,) Guadaloupe (on a map. Now spelled ‘Guadeloupe’.)

1914 by James Cameron

Cassell, 1959, 214 p including 2 p Preface, 1 p Bibliography, 8 p Index.

The book’s title is 1914 and it is a history of the events of that fateful year but of course it is its latter half which will inevitably predominate any such undertaking. The year’s early months are all but ignored, Chapter 1 beginning with “That year the summer came ungrudgingly early.” Nevertheless, Cameron sets the scene of that last hurrah of Edwardian life. (Okay, the old King had died four years before but nothing much had changed in the interim.) He runs through life in Britain in the realms of painting, music, theatre (and music-hall,) dance, literature, fashion, and the nascent cinema with some detail. (At the White City, the Anglo-American Exposition proclaimed the “Wonders of the Panama Canal – the Grand Canyon – America’s skyscrapers.”)

In British politics, though the calls for votes for women were becoming ever louder, the Irish question was to the fore: this was the year of the mutiny at the Curragh. Other more normal political divisions were evident. In one of the broadsheets a Mr John Littlejohns from Pontypridd alliteratively thundered, “Mr W Churchill is the biggest braggart of blatant braggadocio in the brutish trituration of bombastic Radicalism!” continuing his diatribe with, “Mr Lloyd George addresses public meetings with the grimace of a mountebank and the spite of a viper. The present Government is a mawkish medley of parasitical lugubriousness, a neurotic contemporary amalgam of mental profligacy, which seeks to disintegrate the empire with persuasive pasquinades, Liberal levity, volatile vivacity, and designed deception.”

No one thought of war. When the crisis came there was no immediate consensus for war; the Manchester Guardian was for neutrality. Yet Europe, and Britain, slid into it just the same.

Despite the warnings from the last century, the US Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 (whose treaty arguably pointed directly to this later conflict,) the cost in lives still came to many as a shock. France lost 800,000 men in the five months of fighting in 1914; most in the Battle of the Frontiers. Cameron says, “It was not to recover from this for many a generation.” (It certainly hadn’t by 1940.)

British troops took things stoically for the most part. Unlike the Germans, known to sing ‘Die Wacht am Rhein’ or the French with their ‘Marseillaise’ or ‘Brabançonne’ they did not march to tunes of patriotism, honour, or glory but instead to songs irreverent and frequently obscene: above all to “an inconsequential ditty called ‘Tipperary’, a mild, music-hall number the uproarious, passionate, almost immortal success of which was a mystery never in history to be explained, or indeed repeated.” Its triumph astonished its jobbing vaudeville composer Jack Judge “to his dying day.”

Yet when they had to the Tommies fought fiercely. On August 27 a battalion of Munster Fusiliers, acting as a sort of rearguard during the retreat from Mons, “became detached from the main body of the 1st Guards Brigade. They fought for almost twelve continuous hours against huge odds, and died, as far as was ever learned, to a man.” Cameron says, “Mons itself could have been, almost was a disaster.”

At home rumours abounded – myths of Cossacks with snow-caked boots landing all over Britain to defend the West. This was around the same time as the Russian armies were being surrounded at Tannenberg, where almost every man was captured or killed, including General Samsonoff. (In Solzhenitsyn’s August 1914 Samsonoff is portrayed as committing suicide.) News of this defeat did not pass the Allied censor. Spy fever ensured that “every pull-up and tea-room … fell over themselves to dismiss anyone remotely suspected of alien blood; not a hard thing to detect in the catering trade.”

Though the Germans undoubtedly committed what would now be called war crimes, the soldiers of the BEF was not deceived by the word pictures in the British or even more furious French press. They knew their enemy: “Jerry was a coarse bastard, but if he was the undisciplined sot he was said to be, would he make such a superbly professional job of his sandbag barricades and his trenchings, would he stand in his defensive positions so resolutely and long?”

The steel helmet when it eventually came was apparently “accepted reluctantly, even derisively; it was finally sanctified by a black-and-white artist called Bruce Bairnsfather, who had invented a strange philosophical, whiskered archetype for the middle-aged Tommy whom he called ‘Old Bill’.”

Towards the end of the year income tax was raised for earned income from 9d in the pound to one shilling and for unearned income from 1/3d to 1/6d. Beer went up a penny a pint (a staggering 25% increase,) tea duty from 5d to 8d a pound. All the new taxes would bring in only £65 million. The war was costing £8 million a week. France, Russia, Belgium and Serbia all requested loans from the pre-eminent financial power, Britain.

It was a strange war. Days after the naval defeat at Coronel had been avenged by the sinking of the Scharnhorst, the Gneisenau, the Nurnberg and the Liepzig in the Battle of the Falkland Islands, HMS Bulwark, a pre-dreadnought battleship, inexplicably exploded in Sheerness harbour, with only twelve survivors of its nearly 800 crew. As Beatty was to say at Jutland two years later, there was “something wrong with our bloody ships.”)

This book is an intensely readable overview of those months of peace and war. Though its focus is understandably for the most part on Britain it covers the salient points of the war’s spread into the wider world. It is all the more readable for not concentrating on events in diplomacy or on the battlefields.

Sensitivity notes: Lenin is referred to as having ‘Jewish’ eyes and there is a reference to the thudding music of the negroes.

Pedant’s corner:- The words ‘England’ or ‘English’ is frequently employed to mean ‘Britain’ or ‘British’, England is at one point described as an island. Otherwise; “the land-locked harbour of Port Stanley” (I had no idea of the precise geography here but wondered: how can a harbour be land-locked? I have since looked it up. There is indeed a channel to the sea.)

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