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McCrae's Battalion: The Story of the 16th Royal Scots [Kindle Edition]

Jack Alexander
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £10.99
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Book Description

McCrae's Own was the 'Heart of Midlothian Battalion' mentioned all too briefly in Martin Middlebrook's classic book The First Day on the Somme. Raised in Edinburgh shortly after the start of the Great War, it was perhaps the finest unit in Lord Kitchener's volunteer army - a brotherhood of sportsmen, bound together by their extraordinary colonel and their loyalty to a quaintly named Association Football club, the famous Gorgie 'Hearts'. McCrae's were blooded in the Battle of the Somme, losing three-quarters of their strength on the first day alone. The Colonel himself was invalided home. In time the battalion recovered. It came of age at Arras, endured the muddy horror of Passchendaele, and held the line unbroken in the face of furious German attacks on the Lys in 1918. For almost a century their story remained untold. It was all but lost forever. Now, after 12 years of exacting historical detective work, Jack Alexander has reclaimed the 16th Royal Scots for posterity. In this stirring book he draws upon interviews with veterans and a unique archive of letters, diaries and photographs, assembled from the families of more than 1,000 of Sir George McCrae's men.

Product Description


'Magnificent, compelling, quite simply the best football related book of the year.' -- The Times

The best football related book this year -- The Times

Unbearably poignant -- The Herald

Book Description

Do not ask where Hearts are playing and then look at me askance. If it's football that you're wanting, you must come with us to France!' Private George Blaney, Castle Brewery, Edinburgh, December 1914

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1824 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Mainstream Digital; New Ed edition (18 Mar. 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0051UT6Z4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #100,680 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunningly good 23 Nov. 2003
By A Customer
This is a stunningly good book. It is part football story, part social history, part military history, part political history. However categorised, it is superbly well written, with intelligence and a nice dry sense of humour. There is also just the occasional "Edinburgh-ism" in the language which natives will enjoy.
The football story is the birth of Heart of Midlothian football club and the first forty years of its life, leading to the famous (in Edinburgh at least) voluntary (although as the book shows not quite spontaneous) mass enlistment of the players into the army in 1914. There is a fine description of how manager John McCartney in a couple of years turned a bottom half of the league side into championship contenders.
There is also a wonderful evocation of the social and political life of Edinburgh of the time and of the complex and intimate relationship between the classes.
It is also a military history of the Western Front, a new slant on a familiar story made more poignant and tragic by the link to the rich civilian life portrayed beforehand.
It is far from a simple tale of heroes, and deals with the complexity of the emotions of and influences on those who rose to do their patriotic duty but before doing so were pursued by the proffering of white feathers by those who never had and never would fight for their country.
The complexity is hinted at by a quote from Pat Crossan, one of the players who volunteered. For a long time he was apparently remembered fondly in Edinburgh for turning, during one of a sequence of recruiting marches and events around Edinburgh, and saying to a potential recruit "Have you got bairns? Well then, dinnae be sae daft", thus incurring the displeasure of Colonel George McCrae.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The common man and uncommon situations 18 Dec. 2003
As one who has a great interest in the Great War as well as the Heart of Midlothian Football Club I waited earnestly for this books publication. It was worth the wait!
Not only does Jack Alexander give the background to the Hearts mobilisation, but he relates a story of Edinburgh life in 1914.
The social rise of McCrae himself, from poverty to knighthood. The footballers on the verge of a championship, the mass of others, students, artisans, fans etc who put aside their hopes and fears and laid their lives on the line are covered in excellent detail by Alexander.
A wealth of detail, from a decade of research, put together with a readable, and very enjoyable narrative leaves us with a book that is hard to put down!
This however is a book that rings true throughout the UK. It reflects the lives of ordinary men from all walks of life who went of to serve in a cause greater than anything else in their own individual lives.
A Great Book for the Great War reader. A must read!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Military/Social History book 1 Oct. 2004
This is an excellent account of a long forgotten story and particulary odd behaviour by some sections of society during the Great War. Behaviour now largely forgotten. Who would know a stopper now!! This book is superbly written and a joy to read. Jack deserves a bestseller with this and anyone interested in the Great War, social history, military history or football have just got to read it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very readable battalion history 14 May 2004
In recent years a number of books have been written about particular battalions raised during the First World War. I have read many of them, and they are all make a valuable contribution to keeping the memory of the sacrifice of ordinary working men alive. You don't however, need a passionate interest in the Great War to want to read this book to the end. Anyone with a passing interest in the British in World War One, football history, or the social history of Edinburgh ( and I'm only 2 out those 3) should enjoy this book immensely.
Additionally for those of us with a deeper interest in the Somme battle, it's the clearest description I've yet read of events in Sausage Valley on a hot July Saturday in 1916.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fitting tribute 3 Aug. 2004
As someone that found through tracing my family tree that I had distant relations who fought and died with the 16th Royal Scots, I was rather humbled by reading this book. It is extremely well written, appeals to the football fan, war historian and Scot alike. I was fortunate enough to get in touch with the author and am looking foirward to having a beer with him almost as much a I anticipate the follow up!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great reading. Felt you were wth them. 15 May 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
My grandfather was in the Great War, at the Somme twice, and wounded twice. Paschendale(Ypres), and Mons. But with the Scottish Rifles.A Hearts fan all his days, and spoke often of the great Hearts team that went to War. And about the greatman Sir George.I was fortunate to live in Roxburgh Place, but 1940 was my year of birth. I was baptised in Lady Glenorchy's Church (now an annexe for the University). in that year. So when I read that Colonel MacRaes was a member of the church, and his funeral service had been at Lady Glenorchy twelve years earlier in 1928, it was a great surprise and honour for me to have a connection to such an honourable man. I recommend the book as a great reading, and all the brave men who lost their lives serving the country with the 16th Royal Scots, and the Lincoln and Suffolk regiments. The Lancashires, and also the 15th Royal Scots. Not forgetting all the officers and men in the photos who were casualties. Thank goodness for the time and energy Jack Alexander took to write such wonderful truth, I do hope Edinburgh City Council are never as complacent again as they were after Great War to returning heroes and give ear to the sufferings of brave men.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Fantastic read
Published 2 months ago by matt barrow
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book for any Hearts fan
Published 2 months ago by Margaret Bain
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A totally engrossing read from start to finish.
Published 2 months ago by Mark Brand
5.0 out of 5 stars Just finished reading this excellent book, written with humanity
Just finished reading this excellent book, written with humanity, a touch of humour, and never shying away from the horrors of the conflict. The level of research is astounding. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Nick Thornicroft
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
good book
Published 4 months ago by Mrs. S. L. Paterson
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book
Excellent book. Makes me proud to be Scottish...and a Hearts fan.
Published 7 months ago by Steven
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book I have read for 30 years
If you are interested in any of: the history of Edinburgh, the history of Scottish football, military history or the first world war then this book is essential reading. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars What a story
What a fantastic story of self sacrafice and sheer bravery, well written and not too burdened with heavy history - Excellent read
Published 17 months ago by Ian Alexander
5.0 out of 5 stars McCrae's Battalion
Very interesting book how one man inspired the people of Edinburgh and surrounding districts to march through the streets of Edinburgh from the Usher Hall in Edinburgh to the... Read more
Published 18 months ago by George Chalmers
5.0 out of 5 stars Great War
A very moving account of an episode of social history which was and is very important in the Edinburgh area.
Published 19 months ago by R Smith
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