Fighting Scots

For centuries, Scots have gone into battle fortified by their reputation as wild, impulsive, fanatically brave warriors. 
But does this image have any basis in truth? Edward Spiers, Jeremy Crang and Matthew Strickland investigate

The charge of the Scots Greys at the battle of Waterloo, 18 June 1815, was immortalised in this famous painting of 1881 by Lady Elizabeth Butler (1846-1933). (Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images)

George Macdonald Fraser wrote in Quartered Safe Out Here (1992), the memoir of his experiences as a young infantryman in the Border Regiment during the Burma campaign in 1945, that:

“Nothing put more heart into me, young and unsure as I was – most of all, fearful of being seen to be fearful – than the fact that, being a Scot, it was half expected of me that I would be a wild man, a head case. This age-old belief among the English, that their northern neighbours are desperate fellows, hangs on, and whether it’s true or not it’s one hell of an encouragement when you’re 19 and wondering how you’ll be when the whistle blows and you take a deep breath and push your safety catch forward.”

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