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Princess Royal backs ‘extraordinary’ contribution of Scots in First World War

A chapter is dedicated to St Columba’s Church in Knightsbridge, London which provided hospitality to 50,000 Scottish troops.

The Princess Royal has endorsed a new book about the “extraordinary” contribution of Scots in London during the First World War.

She is the new patron of the Scots in Great War London group which is publishing the work in June to mark the centenary of the end of the conflict.

The group is made up of 10 organisations including the Church of Scotland.

A chapter of the book is dedicated to St Columba’s Church in Knightsbridge which provided hospitality to 50,000 Scottish troops between 1915-1919.

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Volunteers would wait at Victoria Station for trains and direct Scottish troops towards the church on Pont Street.

They were fed, given time to rest and sometimes put up for the night before going back to stations to continue on their way.

Rev Angus MacLeod, minister at St Columba’s Church whose family are from the Isle of Skye, said: “The story of the church’s hospitality to visiting Scottish troops is remarkable and moving.

“It highlights themes that linked people one hundred years ago – hospitality, friendship, the meeting of need and giving of comfort, the offering of prayer.

“It inspires those same things today.”

The book recounts stories of members killed in action, including those from Crown Court Church of Scotland in Covent Garden.

Lord Kinnaird, an early star of football in England, was a member at Crown Court and lost two sons during the war.

The book says three quarters of the 60 players who turned out for London Scottish in the last matches never returned.

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St Columba’s church magazine then published a regular column titled Soldiers on Furlough with tales of of the soldiers and their families.

One letter received in January 1916 included a description by a delighted mother of her son’s arrival in London from the front.

He had told her: “What a reception we got in London when we came off the train.

“Someone came up to me and asked ‘are you from Scotland?’.

“‘Yes I said’. ‘Then come this way’ and there was a crowd of happy Scotties all looking a bit mystified.

“When all for Scotland had been collected, they were driven off to find a sumptuous repast waiting and the opportunity to make themselves clean and tidy for the home folks.”

The story will be showcased on Sunday at the Church of Scotland’s annual Heart and Soul festival in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh.

Princess Anne attended the event last year when she was Lord High Commissioner, the Queen’s personal representative.

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