Michael Morrison's grandfather fought with the Bute Mountain Battery in the First World War and is looking for the ancestors of his grandfather's colleagues. Here he tells part of the brigade's story.
OUR ancestors left their homes and their families in the counties of Bute, Argyll and Ross and Cromarty in August of 1914 and started up on an adventure that would change their lives and the course of world history.
They were members of the Fourth Highland Mountain Brigade, as assigned to either the Ross and Cromarty Mountain Battery (also just called the Ross Battery), the Argyll Mountain Battery or the Bute Mountain Battery. Many were also part of the Fourth Ammunition Column, which saw service in France, separate from the Brigade.
The brigade moved through Scotland to Bedford, in England, where they took up rigorous training. The Ross and Argyll Batteries, augmented by members of the Bute Battery, shipped out of England for the Mediterranean and Egypt, from which they played a pivotal role in the Allies' efforts at Gallipoli.
Although the campaign was not successful, all accounts of the activities of the two Scottish batteries indicate that they fought well, sacrificed much and were a bright light in the dark history of that campaign.
The Brigade, now joined by the Bute Battery, fought the ensuing campaigns in Salonika, Bulgaria and Greece. Although originally mobilised with the 51st Highland Division, they went to the Mediterranean with the famed 19th Division and also fought with the 11th Division. They accounted well for themselves in all ways and were rightfully proud when they returned to Scotland.
My grandfather, Dan Morrison of Rothesay, was mobilised with the Bute Mountain Battery in August 1914 along with his uncle, James Morrison. Dan was a trumpeter who worked his way up to become a sergeant; he was commissioned in October 1915 and went to the Mediterranean Theatre with the Argyll Battery.
He was transferred briefly to the Bute Battery and was assigned to the Royal Air Force Flying School in Egypt in 1918. He finished the school and earned his wings on Armistice Day, after which he was transferred back to the Bute Battery for occupation duty, transportation, home and demobilisation.
Once home in Rothesay, he married my grandmother, Nora McKim, and in 1920 joined his uncle, also Dan Morrison, in Honolulu, Hawaii. The war's effects followed him here, however, as a malaria outbreak there threatened to reactivate the disease he had picked up in the Mediterranean, and he left with my infant father and grandmother for Santa Monica, California, where he lived the rest of his life.
Dan's uncle Jimmy was made the acting Regimental Sergeant Major of the Ammunition Column, and saw service in France, where he was awarded the Italian Bronze Medal for Military Valour and the Meritorious Service Medal for his actions. Jimmy and my great-grandfather founded Morrison Brothers Plumbing on Watergate in Rothesay.
What makes this story remarkable, and why should it interest you? My grandfather took a camera with him to the war. Several soldiers apparently did, but my grandfather carefully placed his photos in two albums and marked almost all of them with notes as to who is in the photo, where they are, the dates and what they are doing. He maintained them and passed them down to my father who, in turn, passed them down to me.
I have scanned the photos and made them available to the Bute Museum; however, there is one unmet goal I am seeking to fulfil. Several people, including Ivor Gibbs of the Bute Museum, have also taken an interest and are assisting me in this quest.
I would like to find the descendants of the soldiers pictured and named in these photographs. When I find them, I will provide them with copies of the photos of their ancestor.
I have found a couple of descendants and have truly enjoyed providing them with a photo they had never seen before. I have also enjoyed the personal connection with the people I have met so far, and have a vision of something in the nature of a reunion when we find a permanent home for the artifacts and story of the Fourth Highland Mountain Brigade.
The Bute Museum has expressed an interest in assuming this role and it would be fitting, as the Brigade headquarters was located in Russell Street in Rothesay.
As I live in southern California, the task is particularly daunting, so I am grateful to people like Ivor for their assistance. I feel that my grandfather would want me to undertake this task - the photos and artifacts have great historical value, so I am also interested in providing copies to researchers interested in the story of the Fourth Highland Brigade and their three wee batteries.
If you have an ancestor who fought with the Fourth Highland Brigade, or would like further information, please contact Ivor Gibbs at the Bute Museum in Stuart Street - telephone (01700) 505067.
(Photographs of the Fourth Highland Brigade, in addition to the two published above, are being held at the Bute Museum.)