Aberdeen and the Great War

World War One was a conflict of unparalleled ferocity…

There were 2.75M battle casualties on the Western Front alone, 25% of who were killed, died of wounds or wSirHenryGrayere missing in action. The majority suffered filthy contaminated wounds from high explosive shell, bomb and mortar blast. It was clear that the surgical experience of previous Wars was useless and existing standards of surgical care were hopelessly inadequate. In the early months of the war, many men died from gas gangrene because there had been far too long a delay in providing treatment. Consulting Surgeon to the British Forces Sir Anthony Bowlby realised that the wounded had to have surgery before they were sent back to the base hospitals. A complete revision of the way in which care would be delivered to the wounded soldier and surgical thinking and approach to the management of war wounds was required.

Prominent in this regard was Aberdeen Surgeon Sir Henry Gray (inset) Consultant to the Royal Infirmary and the Sick Children’s Hospital who made major contributions to all branches of surgery, especially orthopaedic surgery, and was instrumental in revolutionising the management of gunshot fractures of the femur or thigh bone. He was widely regarded as one of the leading figure in Wartime Surgery.

The ‘Stane Jock’


The 51st (Highland) Division Memorial at Beaumont-Hamel commemorates the soldiers of the 51st Division killed during World War I. The memorial is located near Y Ravine in Beaumont-Hamel Memorial Park. This position had been the scene of the Division’s 1st major victory on 13 November 1916 during the closing stage of the Battle of the Somme.
Y Ravine was a forked gully (hence its name) which contained a formidably-fortified warren of defensive positions that had been the scene of a stunning victory by the Highland Division on 13 November 1916. The selected Sculptor for the 51st Division Monument was George Henry Paulin. The base of the monument consists of rough blocks of Rubislaw Granite which were produced by Garden & Co. in Aberdeen, Scotland, and are assembled in a pyramid form.
Company Sergeant Major Bob Rowan of the Glasgow HLI was used as the model for the kilted figure atop the memorial. The figure faces east towards the village of Beaumont-Hamel. On the front of the memorial is a plaque inscribed in Gaelic: La a’Blair s’math n Cairdean which in English translates into “Friends are good on the day of Battle”. The other plaque reads “Scotland by this monument in the land of her ancient ally and comrade-in-arms commemorates those officers and men of the 51st Highland Division who fell in the Great War 1914-1918”.


The 51st Division consisted of –
152nd infantry Brigade- 5th and 6th Seaforths, 6th and 8th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.
53rd Infantry Brigade – 5th and 7th Gordon’s and 6th and 7th Black Watch.
154th infantry Brigade- 1/4th Royal Lancaster Regiment,1/4th Royal North Lancashire Lancaster Regiment, 1/8th Liverpool Irish Regiment and 2/5th Lancashire Fusiliers.

The sculptor chosen for the memorial was George Harry Paulin, a man who experienced an enormously long and successful HighlanderPaulincareer as a sculptor and also saw a surprisingly varied range of experience at war. Born in 1888, the son of a Church of Scotland Minister, Paulin attended Edinburgh College of Art and L’Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. He established a studio in Florence and on the outbreak of war in 1914 joined the Army as a Trooper in The Lothian and Borders Horse Regiment. He was invalided out of the army following an accident, but then joined The Royal Flying Corps. He transferred to The Royal Naval Air Service and eventually ended the War as a Flight Lieutenant in The RAF, having served in all 3 branches of the Armed Forces. On the outbreak of war in 1939 he was rejected for Military service, but supported the war effort by working in a Glasgow munitions factory. Paulin’s artistic career took off following the end of war in 1918. He received numerous commissions for Town war memorials, as well as commissions for Regimental memorials, including the Machine Gun Corps and Royal Tank Regiment Memorials at Whitehall. His work also includes numerous private memorials and busts and after the coronation of Queen Elizabeth 11 in 1952, Paulin received a number of Royal commissions. He spent the final years of his life living in Berkshire and died in 1962.

War Bonds & Julian the Tank Bank

Charged with raising money for the war, the Scottish War Savings Committee initiated a ‘Tank Bank’ campaign which, though carried out at home, would become one of the most successful tank operations of the entire war. Tank No. 113 referred to as `Julian’ was sent on a tour around Scotland. A Tank would arrive for a week with great fanfare, Civic Dignitaries and Local Celebrities would greet the Tank and speeches would often be made atop it. The tank would be accompanied by soldiers and artillery guns, sometimes an aeroplane would drop pamphlets over the Town or City prior to the Tank’s appearance exhorting the people to invest. The Tank would usually put on a show for the crowds in order to demonstrate its capabilities. The visited town or city would have a fund raising target it tried to meet, the amount raised by each location would be reported in the National Press thus ensuring a strong competitive element, especially between the larger Industrial Cities
Tank Bank Week in Aberdeen was a great success. Crowds in Rosemount Viaduct and Union Terrace clamoured to attend Julian. The Tank also gave a demonstration in the Castlegate.


£2 million was raised in a week in Aberdeen by Julian over 16 Guineas per head from the ever canny and frugal Aberdonian Population. The incentive was that the City that invested in the most War Bonds got to keep Julian the Tank Bank.
Julian the Tank Bank was given to Aberdeen at the end of the war and sited at the Broadhill. It remained there until 1940 when it was taken for WW2 Scrap. An area of town around the Castlegate where Julian was stood in 1918 is still known as “the tank” site.


Most of this information is taken from the Doric Columns website. The site is run by Eddie Fowler who was the Dux of Hilton school in 1955 and later attended Powis Academy. Both schools would later merge to form the new St Machar Academy in 1988. Our thanks to Eddie for allowing us to share his research into Aberdeen’s wartime heritage.

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