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Numbers from the War Memorial

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Numbers from the War Memorial.


Galashiels war memorial has 638 men listed on it.  I have tried to identify all of them.  So far I have identified 609, so 29 are “missing”.  Of the 609 the vast majority are listed on the Commonwealth War Grave Commission (CWGC) list of war dead but 17 are not.  These men generally died of disease after being discharged from the army.  As the CWGC lists of war dead were compiled post-war their deaths either did not meet the CWGC criteria or their families did not tell the military authorities about their death.  But the Galashiels community felt that their death was associated with military service and therefore honoured them with a place on the memorial.


They fought for 6 separate countries armed forces : United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and the United States of America

The men (and they are all men) served in 59 separate regiments and corps, though in many cases those corps and regiments are only represented by one man on the memorial.  The vast majority served in the army, 626; 11 served in the Navy and 1 in the Royal Flying Corps (RFC)(actually part of the army).  The RFC member is listed as serving in the RAF but he died before the RAF was formed on the 1st of April 1918.


Of those serving in the army, most served in infantry regiments that recruited from Scotland.  78% or 489 men served in Scottish regiments and a number of those who served in corps, such as the RFC or the Machine Gun Corps (MGC) were originally recruited into Scottish regiments.


The most popular regiment was the Kings Own Scottish Borderers (KOSB), the local regiment, with 240 men, followed by the 71 men of the Royal Scots (RS), who traditionally recruited in and around Edinburgh. 32 served in the Highland Light Infantry(HLI) which recruited in the Glasgow area, 31 served in the Cameron Highlanders, who  traditionally recruited in the Inverness area

The most common rank is Private – 425 privates or equivalent, 51 Lance Corporals, 21 Corporals 48 Lance Sergeants and Sergeants, 5 Sergeant Majors 24 Lieutenants, 6 Captains and 4 Majors died.  These are ranks given by  the CWGC, they can differ from those on the war memorial particularly for the non-commissioned ranks.  Promotion and demotion between the lower NCO ranks was at the discretion of the local Commanding Officer and  news of these promotions or demotions may not of reached the administrative staff before they were killed.  All in all there are 49 “errors” in rank.  37 have a rank on the GWM higher than their CWGC rank and 12 held a higher rank than listed on the GWM.



Born & Lived.

We know the birth places of 579 of the men – 386 were born in Galashiels  -66%.  The rest were generally born elsewhere in Scotland but 6 were born in England 3 in Ireland 2 in each of  Canada and South Africa  and 1 in Thailand, New Zealand, Australia and the United States.

They mostly lived in Galashiels .  There are addresses of some description for about  560 of the men of those 396 are in Galashiels.  124 lived elsewhere in Scotland, 13 in England, 1 in Ireland and the rest in parts of the Empire.  It’s likely that less  than 396 actually lived in Galashiels, they were mostly young men and a number may have lived in Edinburgh or Glasgow in lodgings but gave their “home” address as Galashiels.

Using the population data from the 1911 census about 4.5% of British men died in WWI,  Based on the number of men we know lived in Galashiels we can estimate that about 70% of the men on the GWM  lived in Galashiels.  As the male population of Galashiels was  6900 in 1911 this means Galashiels lost about 6.4% of its male population – about 40% more than the national average.   If you consider just the “military age” population (15-50) of Galashiels was 3698 the percentage is higher at 12%,  1in 8.



The oldest to die in combat was 52 and the youngest 16 – Their  average age was 27


When did they die?

18 died in 1914, the first two on the 14th of September  , 174 in 1915, 101 in 1916, 150 in 1917 and 132 in 1918.  A further 29 died post war, the last on the 21st of November  1924.

The worst day for the town was  the 12th of July 1915; 75 men were killed at Achi Baba when the 1/4th Battalion  of the KOSB mounted  an ill-fated attack on the Turkish trenches.

About 46% have no known grave, 51% are buried in a known plot and for about 3% we don’t know enough yet but it’s likely they were buried in a known grave.  Nationally about 53% are buried in a known grave so Galashiels experience is close to the national average.


Where are they buried or commemorated?

They are buried on 4 continents in the following 17 countries



No. Buried or Commemorated























Israel & Palestine






Lebanese Republic









Russian Federation















Note that where they were buried or commemorated does not always reflect where they died.  Several of the Royal Navy personnel, commemorated in the UK, died some way from the UK (Russia, off Ireland and off Spain). The unknowns are the sum of those who I’ve failed to identify (29) and those not listed by the CWGC (17) where I don’t have a site of their grave.  Many of these are likely to be buried in or near Galashiels .

They are buried in or commemorated on 227 cemeteries and memorials. Most of the Galaleans who are buried in a known grave lie singly or in pairs in cemeteries.  The cemetery  with largest number of casualties from Galashiels is in Galashiels; the Eastlands Cemetery  a mile or so from the war memorial.  Where possible if a man died of accident, wounds or disease in the UK their body could be sent to their home town.  As a result 23 men are buried at Eastlands, possibly more.  Other cemeteries with multiple Galaleans are those situated near the larger bases in France such the Terlincthun Cemetery with 7 Galaleans and those near the sites of large battles such as Caterpillar Valley cemetery on the Somme with 4 burials.

The memorial with largest number of men from Galashiels listed on it is the Helles memorial on the Gallipoli peninsula. This has 76 men listed on it – nearly all who died on the 12th of July 1915. Next is the Thiepval memorial in France which commemorates the missing on the Somme which has 40 men listed on it.


How did they die?

Most were killed in action 382 over 60%, 121 from wounds, 49 from disease, 10 from accidents 2 drowned and 2 were listed as gassed, though a number of those who were killed in action are likely to also have been gassed.  The low number who died from disease is a credit to the Royal Army Medical Corps and the Army Service Corps who managed sanitation and troop accommodation, in previous campaigns the British Army lost far more men to disease than in combat.  3 of those who died in accidents were members of the 7th Royal Scots who were killed in the train accident near Gretna on the 22nd of May 1915.



The CWGC lists 12 men who received some kind of award or recognition for service above what was expected of them.  There were 6 Military Medals , 2 Mentioned in Despatches and 1 each of Military Cross, Distinguished Conduct Medal, Member of the Victorian Order and a Territorial Decoration.  There is some variation between the awards listed on the War Memorial and those listed by the CWGC with 14 men listed as having some award. 

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The discrepancy in ranks may be partly due to the fact that, at that time, lance-corporal was an appointment and not a rank in its own right, so many lance-corporals may be shown as such on either the memorial or the CWGC records, and as privates on the other. A similar case is true of lance-sergeants, whose actual rank was corporal.



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It's always worth looking at the effects records as well in respect of rank.



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I'm away from my data at the moment but I think all the official records match up i.e. CWGC, effects, soldiers died, SWM etc the differences are between the "official " rank and the war memorial rank. It's generally in the non - commissioned ranks and probably reflects battlefield changes, perhaps some mis represention to folks at home? Mistakes I may have made in identifying the soldiers concerned but there is a least one soldier who is listed as a commissioned officer on the war memorial but I couldn't find any evidence he was commissioned.  I hope at some stage to dig through these and try to confirm to the extent that is now possible what is their correct rank

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phil andrade

Posted (edited)

A superb tour de force, gmac, and a sufficiently robust sample to justify hazarding some extrapolation .


It would certainly stand as a worthy attachment to that wonderful thread we had a few years ago in which one of our most distinguished members did so much to refute the outlandish estimates of Niall Ferguson about Scottish fatality rates in the war....although, it must be said, your research does suggest a significantly higher death rate than the UK average.


I note that just under ninety per cent of all deaths you have categorised - 505 from 566  - are attributable to enemy action , that is, killed, died from wounds or gas . That certainly accords with generally  cited estimates for the British experience of that war ; although it begs the question as to the remaining 43 of the 609 you've traced, let alone the additional twenty nine that have gone off the radar, so to speak.


The percentage of men of military age in the community who perished is 17.25, very much higher than the national average, and more redolent of that of Metropolitan France or Germany than of the UK 1914-18.


Thanks for this excellent work.



Edited by phil andrade

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Thanks for your kind comments - I'm on holiday at the moment so a detailed response to your points will have to wait but I did conduct this study partly to try and see how typical Galashiels experience was as earlier work I did seemed to suggest that using the gross numbers to work out % killed would be a significant over estimate when compared to the 1911 census figures.  I've also recently found one of the "missing" He worked in the merchant marine and died in an accident in Rotterdam during the war.  Not sure he would qualify as a " war death" will have to check. 

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I had read something about the high level of casualties suffered by Scotland and saw Galashiels cited as an example but I knew from earlier work that a number of those listed on the GWM did not live in Galashiels and part of the reason for doing the study was to find out where the men lived and determine the “accurate” casualty rate for Galashiels.  As you say the number is higher than other areas of the United Kingdom but not as high sometimes claimed.


Please note that the ratio I posted was incorrect.  The % value of 12% is correct but the ratio should be 1 in 8 not 1 in 6


I believe the main reason for the high casualties was probably a high level of mobilisation (though I don’t have any recruitment figures to hand) both pre- war and during the war.

Pre War – The Scottish Borders have a long standing military and quasi military history ( which is somewhat over shadowed by the reputation of Highlands outside of Scotland, One newspaper report on a casualty noted “The Border fighting blood was strong in both brothers”) and as a results the local territorial battalion the 4th Kings Own Scottish Borderers was strongly supported (228 men from the town about 6% of the male military age population mobilised with the battalion early in the war and nearly 20% of the casualties were associated with the KOSB’s two territorial battalions).

The towns industry  was  textiles, specifically high quality woollen tweed cloth, which was under pressure prior to the war and so enlistment was popular to avoid unemployment and underemployment. A potential task with the data is identify all those who enlisted pre-war or were pre-war territorials

During the War -The lack of employment opportunities probably boosted the early war enlistment figures  in addition as the war progressed and conscription  started as the main local industry had employed women weavers pre-war it was easier than in some other industrial areas to conscript the men.


One interesting figure is the % who are missing, that is they have no known grave, is 46% very similar to the national average of about 50%. If Scottish forces were used more often as “sacrificial” troops than troops from elsewhere as is sometimes claimed you might expect more “missing” casualties.


The 18 who are not on the CWGC but who I believe I have identified, nearly all died of disease apart from 1 who died in an accident. The diseases vary and include tuberculosis, dementia, trench fever and pneumonia, some of these were diagnosed during training and the individual discharged others occurred post war after demob.

I suspect the other 28 that are “missing” are in a similar position and died following discharge and prior to 1925 when the memorial was unveiled.


Thanks again for your positive comments

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I think you've gone about it the right way - from an open point of view. I'm a believer in not pre-judging the outcome and looking to see what the figures actually show, rather than what they are wanted to show.


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