Today was a bit rainy so we decided to choose an indoor venue for our explorations and the Gordon Highlander’s Museum fit the bill perfectly. According to their website: “Situated in the fashionable west end of Aberdeen, Scotland, in the former home of leading Scottish artist Sir George Reid, The Gordon Highlanders Museum offers a warm, friendly welcome to all visitors.” They did not disappoint!
For starters, the grounds and Sir George Reid’s former home were very nice and a pleasure to be in. It was immaculately kept inside and out and serves as a venue for a wide variety of purposes.
The Gordon Highlander’s crest is proudly displayed prominently near the entrance. Their motto, “Bydand,” means “abiding & steadfast.” We paid our admission, walked through the gift shop full of all things “Gordon.”
We were soon greeted by a very friendly volunteer guide by the name of Jim. He showed us around the ‘educational room where students who are studying World Wars I & II, and who come to learn about how the regiments fought, what kind of uniforms they wore, what tools and weapons they used, etc.
They even have a very well designed and handmade model of what the trenches looked like during the war and how they operated. I was amazed at how detailed and intricate it was!
After viewing an extremely informative and well-produced 15-minute film introductory overview of the history of the Gordon Highlanders we were set to begin walking through the artifacts on display within the two-floor museum. At the entrance, we were first introduced to a well-dressed and quite realistic mannequin donned in the Gordon Highlander dress!
Another handsome volunteer guide named David, proceeded to take us through the museum’s numerous display cases, thoroughly explaining each, telling us stories and pointing out particularly unique, interesting or historical items to pay special attention to. The individualized personal tour he gave us was very nice, relaxed, unhurried and extremely informative. David obviously was not regurgitating a memorized script and was very knowledgeable about every minute detail within the well laid out and artistically arranged chronological displays.
Let’s stroll through the displays and I’ll try to point out many of the interesting things David shared with us as we go… but first a brief history lesson on how the regiment was first formed:
The Gordon Highlanders was raised in 1794 by the 4th Duke of Gordon as a regiment of Highland Foot (infantry) officially named “The Gordon Highlanders” in 1881. Many of the original recruits were drawn from the Gordon estates assisted by the 4th Duke’s wife, the Duchess of Gordon (Duchess Jean).
The Duchess is said to have offered ‘a shilling and a kiss’ as an incentive to join her husband’s Regiment.
The Gordons were formed during the French Revolutionary Wars and played a prominent role in the final defeat of Napoleon at Quatre Bras and Waterloo in 1815.
A little side note about the horses’ hoof above: Horses were at a premium and quite valuable at that time. Because of this when an officer’s horse was shot and killed, he was required to cut off a hoof for “proof” that his horse died and wasn’t sold for profit! This particular hoof was made into a snuff box.
Below is an example of the uniforms they wore. Notice the lapels and cuffs; on the left is the fancier version with lace the officers wore and the right lapel is what the infantry wore.
This guy above, George Findlater, was quite the piper! Here’s a picture taken of a huge painting in the dining room depicting the scene of the battle; notice him sitting on the ground propped up against the big rock.
Actual letters written by soldiers sent home to their loved ones, below. One of the really fascinating things about this museum is that the displays hold authentic artifacts – not replicas. For instance, the medals you see are the actual medals, not facsimiles. Because they are so valuable and therefore worth a lot of money, many museums lock away the real ones and have facsimiles made for display. Not this place; they are so proud of their medals, they put the actual ones in the secure display cases. What you see is the real deal, like these letters donated by family members to the museum!
The Gordon Highlanders have served over 200 years (1794-1994). According to their website: “In the 19th century, the expanding British Empire saw The Gordons serve on the frontiers of India, Egypt, Sudan and South Africa.
In World War One, some 50,000 Gordons served in the regular, territorial and service battalions. Of these, approximately 27,000 were killed or wounded. Among other major battles, every Gordon Battalion saw action in the Somme in 1916.
In World War Two, Gordon Battalions served with the British Expeditionary Force in France in 1940, and in the Far East in 1942, where many became prisoners of war. Great success was achieved in the North African Campaign, in Sicily and Italy, in the invasion of north-west Europe, followed by the long advance into Germany, and the liberation of Burma.
In the years after 1945, the Regiment took part in peace-keeping and anti-terrorist operations in Malaya, Borneo, Cyprus, Germany and Northern Ireland, with detachments serving in the Gulf War and Bosnia.”
They earned a lot of medals and commendations along the course of history.
There are also a lot of pieces of memorabilia brought home from the war by the soldiers or returned to the regiment years later.
This next guy is another fine and outstanding example of the regiments’ bravery and individual commitment to abide and remain steadfast, according to their motto. Be sure to read the plaque detail below the picture to get the full details of what this one guy did!
Talk about bravery – utterly amazing!
The following is another great story. What the plaque below the photo doesn’t tell you is that the book was handmade by the people of the village of Chievres. Each page is hand lettered with fine detail. All of the paintings on the pages are hand painted watercolors! It is a priceless treasure!
This next piece I found rather interesting and poignant. These medallions, called the “Dead Man Pennies” were made from melted down shell casings which were left over after the cease fire and sent to all next of kin of those who died during the Great War, or later as a result of wounds received during the war. A whole lot better than a telegram wouldn’t you say?
They also served in Burma and were prisoners of war who were forced to work at hard laborers to build the railroad. I think there was a movie made about that recently!
Finally, before we headed downstairs there was this really cool, and extremely detailed model of the soldiers in western Europe fighting the Germans who they had cornered upstairs in buildings.
Downstairs we were taken into the dining room with the table set suitable for the Officers.
Next we visited the current exhibition “Citizen Soldiers.”
Followed by the Maersk Mc-Kinney Room where they keep the Regimental Silver. Absolutely gorgeous examples of fine treasures. Here are a few examples.
And last, but not least, the Armory…
“In 1994, after exactly 200 years of service, The Gordon Highlanders was amalgamated with the Queen’s Own Highlanders to form a new Regiment named The Highlanders (Seaforth, Gordons and Camerons).
In 2006, The Highlanders was merged with Scotland’s five other infantry regiments to form The Royal Regiment of Scotland.
Renowned as a courageous fighting force with an exceptional reputation for good conduct, professionalism and steadfastness, the legacy of The Gordons lives on through The Highlanders, 4th Battalion, and The Royal Regiment of Scotland.
The Gordon Highlanders is one of the great names in Scottish history and one of the most celebrated regiments of the British Army.”
After that wonderful tour of such a fine example of what a museum should be like, we wandered through the Tea Room and out the back door to visit the beautiful Memory Gardens outside to finish our tour by silently remembering those valiant soldiers…