Armed Forces and World Wars

Updated 11 October 2010

On this page

  • Armed Forces in Armadale

  • Armadale during World War I

  • Armadale during World War II: The War's Effect on West Lothian

  • The Scottish Korean War Memorial

A display from the Bevin Boy exhibition,
which toured West Lothian in 2007

You may be interested to visit The West Lothian and the Forgotten War Project


The Burgh of Armadale and District Medal presented to Bombardier John Ronald Wallace
for Gallantry in the Field 20 September 1917

Gallantry Awards

(information courtesy of Tom Gordon)

The awards received by men from Armadale and district consisted of:

  • 2 Victoria Crosses

  • 5 Military Crosses (one with Bar)

  • 10 Distinguished Conduct Medals (one with Bar)

  • 29 Military Medals

  • 5 mentions in dispatches

  • 1 French Medal Militaire

  • 1 French Medal of Honour with bronze clasp

  • 4 Belgian Croix de Geurres

  • 1 Italian Bronze Medal

  • 1 Serbian Samaritan Cross

16 March 1880
  • 1st Linlithgowshire Rifle Volunteer Corps consolidated with HQ at Linlithgow
  • A Company at Linlithgow, formerly 1st Corps
  • B Company at Bo'Ness, formerly 2nd Corps
  • C Company  8th Volunteer Battalion Royal Scots at Torphichen, formerly 3rd Corps; moved in 1881 to Armadale and used the hall in South Street that had been bought for them by Colonel Hope of Bridgecastle.  They used Volunteer Field.
1 April 1908: Formation of the Territorial Force from Britain's volunteer regiments.  The West Lothian Volunteers consisted of eight companies, attached to the Royal Scots, who were issued with bicycles
  • A Company: Linlithgow
  • B Company: Bo'ness
  • C Company at Armadale ( dets at Whitburn, Pumpherston, and Blackridge)
  • D Company: Bathgate, 10th (Cyclist) Battalion, The Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment)
  • E Company: Uphall
  • F Company: Fauldhouse
  • G Company: West Calder
  • H Company: Kirkliston

In 1912, a new drill hall was built in bathgate for D Company.



The Armadale Public School Roll of Honour

(click on photo for larger legible image)


 Transcript of National Relief Fund: Armadale Local Committee Minute Book 1914 - 1916



26th September 1919

Armadale Burgh Medal

In 1916, at Armadale Town Hall, the Armadale National and Local Relief Funds Committee decided that a special fund should be created for the purchase of a gold medal for every Armadale man who received, or was likely to receive, a gallantry award.  As can be seen by the medal at the top of the page, one side contained the Burgh coat of arms and the other contained the soldier's name and the date and details of his gallantry.  A wallet containing £25 of War Stock was also presented.  The first medals were presented on Gala day 1916 (see Galadays).

Display of War Memorabilia staged by Tom Gordon in Armadale Library 2006

The Roll of Honour page (link below) also contains World War II and Korea information

Armadale & District Great War 1914 – 1919 Roll of Honour  NAMES: Aitchison; Allan; Anderson; Angus; Balloch; Banks; Barbour; Baxter; Bennett; Bisset; Blackstock; Bonar; Borthwick; Boyle; Bradley; Brown; Brownlie; Calder; Campbell; Carlin; Christie; Conner; Copeland; Cosgrove; Coventry; Craig; Crichton; Cunningham; Curran; Darling; Davidson; Dickson; Donaldson; Dornan; Douglas; Dow; Drew; Dryburgh; Drysdale; Duff; Duncan; Edmond; Elliot; Ellis; Evans; Ferguson; Forgie; Forrester; Fraser; Frew; Friel; Gardener; Gilfoyle; Gilmour; Graham; Grieve; Grumbley; Hart; Harvey; Hastie; Hewitt; Hicks; Hogg; Hood; Hunter; Jenkins; Johnstone; Keddie; Kerr; Kirk; Knowles; Leckie; Liddell; Liddle; Mallace; Marr; Marshall; Mason; Martin; McAdam; McAlpine; McClory; McConnell; McCord; McCormack; McCubbin; McDermid; McDonald; McEwan; McGaw; McGlashan; McInulty; McKechnie; McKelvie; McKenna; McLaughlin; McMillan; Muirhead; Patterson; Neally; O’Reilly; Prentice; Ramsay; Ross; Smart; Smith; Sneddon; Spalding; Spiers; Stevenson; Stewart; Sykes; Syme; Todd; Traynor; Ure; Walker; Wallace; Watson;White; Williams; Wilson; Wylie; Young

For more details about the individuals named, including some photos, see Tom Gordon's excellent 


If you are looking for Bathgate men, you may be interested in this publication: Bathgate in the Great War, Neil Anderson, 1999/2000

Surnames of Armadale-born men found in the British Army WWI Pension Records 1914 - 1920

(Please note that this is not a complete list)

CASEY (Patrick) b1881; DEWAR (James) bc1870; JOHNSTONE (George) bc1884, coal miner son of Alexander of Cambuslang, brother of James and Alexander; JOHNSTONE (James Leonard) bc1895, miner; McCALLUM (Douglas) bc1875, miner; McELROY James bc1891 bricklayer's labourer, son of James=Edith, brother of Charles and Edith; McKEOWN bc1894, coalminer, son of Thomas of East Main Street, Armadale, brother of John; NICHOL (David) bc1880, pressman in woollen mill, 1907 Galashiels=Nancy SWANSTON WILKINSON, father of Thomas, Isabel, William, David; RODGER (William) bc1889, coalminer, 1911=Janet BLACK, son of Peter b Glasgow; RUSSELL (Henry) bc1872, ploughman, Glasgow 1908 =Ann SMILLIE; RUSSELL (Henry) bc1881, miner husband of Ann of Airth, father of John, George, Henry and Agnes Bell; SANDS (Robert) bc1876, a maltsman; SINCLAIR (James) bc1892, coalminer son of Alexander of Cowdenbeath; STIRLING (George) bc1871; TENNANT (James) bc1894, son of Joseph of West End Garage, Armadale; TENNANT (Joseph) bc1891; YOUNG (George) bc1891

"One of my first memories in there (Park Terrace) was the start of the war, the start of the First World War.  I don't remember much about it, but I remember going up to Bathville Cross with my mother, I think it would be, to see the territorials marching up to the station to get the train away to join the army.  There was a territorial force in Armadale.  And that's about one of my first memories and it was just shortly after that I started school."

Courtesy of HAA: Early Memories interview extract interviewee: J. Love



Our thanks go to Davie Kerr for showing the HAA the copies of the letter and telegrams held by Jimmy McKeown

Evacuees in Armadale 1939 Tom Gordon's website Air raid wardens: Tommy Benson and Sandy Wallace




War approaches

February 1937: An Air Raid Precautions Committee was created, which included councillors, officials and representatives from each West Lothian burgh including Armadale.

War begins

Sunday 3 September 1939: Declaration of War and the torpedoing of the Donaldson ship Athenia, when she was 200 miles from Ireland's north coast on her way from Glasgow to America.  Her Captain, James Cook, husband of Julia Townson (daughter of the Bathgate's photographer George Townson) survived the attack as did 3 individuals from Armadale, Addiewell and Bathgate. 92 other people drowned as a result of the War's first act of aggression against Britain .


1938+: Plans were made to evacuate children, mainly from Edinburgh, to West Lothian.  Local teachers compiled registers of spare accommodation.

Friday 1 September 1939: 89 Edinburgh evacuees arrived in Fauldhouse and more followed to be billetted in other West Lothian villages.  Some mothers accompanied their children as is remembered by one evacuee#:

'We were on a new estate in Armadale... Mayfield Drive, with people called Smart.  It must have been hard for them, a young couple just married, and having to take my sister and me.  My mother and my two brothers were with the McKays... we were lucky to stay with such kind people... they couldn't have been nicer.'

By the end of 1939: Half of the initial evacuees had returned home, partly because the feared air raids had not happened as expected.  However, the early bombing raids of 1941 brought a return of evacuees and West Lothian people surprised officials by their willingness to take in evacuees voluntarily.

Polkemmet House was the largest of four local mansions converted into residential evacuee accommodation.  The young girls were educated there while the older girls travelled to Lindsay High School in Bathgate.  Because of wavering rolls and poor academic performance, the House was closed at the end of 1942.

By 1943: The majority of evacuees had returned home again.

Everyday life - civilian experience

Winter 1939-40: 42F in classrooms, even colder outside; pupils huddled near fires; brisk exercise; identity cards issued - to be carried at all times; restricted areas within 10 miles of high water mark on east coast.

Tuesday 25 June 1940: 5 Heinkel bombers out of Stavanger bombed West Lothian (the only deaths as a result of West Lothian bombing were at Howden House - the first civilians of the war to be killed on the Scottish mainland were Mrs Maria Fleming and her granddaughter Margaret). 

March 1940: Rationing.  Recycling and salvage, eg pots and pans.  Homing pigeons could only be kept with a police permit.  Place names were obliterated.  Initially, social events were cancelled, but, eventually, social life resumed.  Sports continued, and some flourished, as the many miners in the county meant that the sportsmen numbers were not as depleted as in some areas.  However, gala days became simple events as in Armadale in this year.  Also, amateur dramatics, concerts, film shows, home-grown entertainment.  Armadale people raised money for those affected by the London Blitz.

October 1940: Bombs and mines were dropped over a wide area including Paulville, Bathgate.

1940-41: Further alerts.  Communal feeding centres became British Restaurants at Churchill's suggestion.  Armadale officials planned the framework for such a restaurant.  Servicemen and -women used canteens.  Fund-raising and savings certificates were encouraged.  Many savings campaigns took place during the course of the war.

1941: Eggs rationed; introduction of 'the national loaf'; parsnip coffee. 'Dig for Victory'.  An allotments association was formed in Armadale so that food could be grown for the elderly and unemployed on land behind the Purification Works.  Armadale WVS started collecting waste paper.  Railings' ornamental value was considered.  Requirement to immobilise one's car.  People were encouraged to holiday at home.  Armadale town council was one of the councils that created special entertainment to persuade Armadalians to stay at home.

April 1941: 'War Weapons Week' - The Scottish Savings Committee set £150,000 as a local savings target.  After the parades, bands and dances, £447,260 had been raised.  When Italy surrendered to Germany, Italians in West Lothian were treated as enemy aliens by officials.  8 were interned, but freed by the summer. 11 April 1941: Armadale was one of the towns in which Sir Harry Lauder performed on behalf of War Relief Funds.  Provost Russell presented him with a set of briar pipes.: 'When you want me to come back to Armadale, just let me know...'.

1941-2: Fuel saving campaign; clothing coupons; 'make do or mend'; gravy powder = stockinged legs!  Utility furniture and many shortages of common items such as knicker elastic and toilet paper. The black-out; air raid precautions and exercises; gas masks; sirens; the early air raids; Civil Defence numbers grew; queues became longer.

By 1941: Armadale eventually built some public air raid shelters; other Councils had already built communal shelters.  All shelters  had to be listed and inspected by ARP wardens.

1942: Wide-scale rationing and the points system was introduced.  Petrol rationing brought transport crowding / pleasanter roads for walking or cycling / difficulties for isolated communities.  Spent shale provided ballast for empty USA food-supply ships returning home where it became a road-making ingredient. October: 'Tanks for Attack' campaign.  Crime had decreased, but not vandalism, and local councils saw 'juvenile deliquency' as a growing cause for concern, partly blaming paternal absence or long work-shift commitments.

By 1943: Only 5" of bath water recommended. Gramophone records were collected for melting down for shellac. 'Wings for Victory'.  Armadale Town Council responded to North African victories by sending congratulatory telegrams to Generals Eisenhower, Alexander, Anderson and Montgomery and received grateful thanks in return.

June 1943: National Book Salvage Week: for library book replacement; troop reading matter; pulping. 

1944: Cabbage ruled, but daily rations were often of higher nutritional value than some poor families had been able to get pre-war! June: 'Salute the Soldier' week: West Lothian raised £652,685.  The Thistle Foundation to build houses for severely disabled servicemen and their families at Craigmillar, Edinburgh, promoted by F. Tudsbery of Champfleurie House, Linlithgow.  Protected Areas declared (secrecy, in preparation for D-Day landings), causing some unexpected outcomes!  Revoked August that year.

Defence and non-combatant groups

Pre-war: ATS, WRENS, WAAF: women's groups, which took on non-combatant roles to free men for combat.  Eventually, women between 17 and 43 were conscripted for the first time.  Their choice: ATS; Naafi; Land Army; factory work, eg munitions work and steel foundry work.

1940: Formation of the Local Defence Volunteer Corps.  West Lothian's Commandant: Lord Charles Hope.  In early days of the appeal, 50 Armadalians joined.  12 Civil Defence districts were formed, which were to coordinate first aid, rescue, decontamination, mortuary duties, fire-watching and incendiary bomb handling.  The county's fire brigades came under county control and a National Fire Service was established.

1941: Local Defence Volunteer Corps became known as the Home Guard.  Joke: LDV stood for Look, Duck and Vanish!  County firemen, Red Cross personnel and rescue squads dealt with the devastation of the Clydebank Blitz. The Armadale volunteers used the local public school as their headquarters and firearms store, but warnings from the Town Council about the dangers prompted their removal.

March 1941: 500 Clydebank evacuees were brought to West Lothian and received accommodation in houses.

December 1941: Civil Defence Rest Centres were established to provide temporary accommodation for those bombed out and homeless.  Armadale Public School conducted a test of its Centre.  The Centres were never needed and were stood down in 1944.

1942 - 43: Invasion Committees were formed and disbanded.

1943: Women were accepted into the Home Guard: no weapon or uniform except for a brooch.  Tasks - telegraphy, telephony, driving, food preparation and serving.  Later their role was described by Lord Hope in 1944 as providing 'refreshments on big special occasions'.  At its height, the 2 battalions consisted of 2,000 people.  The Women's Land Army had 107 girls at work in West Lothian.  90% of Britain's single women and 80% of married women were in work.  Exemptions: those with elderly relatives or young children.  Inevitable social changes because of mobility, new-found freedom and separation.

December 1944: With a feeling of optimism, the Home Guard was stood down nationally.

Employment, Nursing and Voluntary Work

By 1940: 729 registered unemployed at Bathgate Employment Exchange, half as a result of a fall in trade at Armadale Hosiery / lay-offs at Westfield Paper Mill.  Strikes were banned, but still occurred, although less frequently than in peacetime.  Miners under 30 were allowed to enlist.

1940: Wallhouse Mansion, Torphichen, and Bangour Village Hospital became war hospitals.  Bangour Annexe was built to cope with the expected numbers of wounded.  Some joined the Red Cross,  the St Andrew's Ambulance Association, or practised First Aid with the ARP.  Uniforms and equipment were provided by local fund-raising.  First Aid posts were created in every sizeable town.

1941: A WVS branch was established in West Lothian to assist the existing women's organisations: comforts for troops; fund-raising; canteen organisation; entertainment; salvage, etc. 

1941-2: Coal was needed again, and so 33,000 men were released from the forces into mine work.  Many efforts were made to increase production.  At a public meeting at the Regal Theatre, Armadale, John Armstrong, miners' agent, emphasised 'the paramount importance of coal in the present emergency'.  Ernest Bevin, Minister of Labour, tried to increase the number of pit workers.  Eventually, by ballot, some of the call-up of 18 year olds were sent down the mines rather than on to battle.  There were 2 hostels in the county for the Bevin Boys.  The 111-bed hostel (consisting of a series of Nissan huts) in Armadale was on the area now occupied by McNeil Crescent, MacDonald Avenue and King Street, north of East Main Street.

"It was generally thought that a Bevin Boy was placed into the coalmining industry because of his convictions as a conscientious objector.  Facts show there were only 41 out of a total of 47,859 Bevin Boys."  The Forgotten Conscript, A History of the Bevin Boy by Warwick Taylor, Bevin Boy (Oakdale) South Wales

3 June 1944: Armadale Miners' Hostel was opened with a capacity for 250.

1945: Colliery time-keeper James Filson said the Bevin Boy absences were high.  Labour relations were poor, but the nationalisation solution was only followed 2 years after the War under Manny Shinwell, Minister of Fuel and former West Lothian MP.   In July 1945, Armadale Miners' Hostel had 145 residents, but, by December 1945, it had 107 residents who were coalmine employees. (The accommodation total could house industrial workers and service personnel who are not included in the figures.)  The list of mines under the Coal Mines Act in Great Britain during 1945 included the following for West Lothian: Armadale No 15; Barbauchlaw; Blackrigg Nos 1 and 3; Bridgeness No 6; Carriden; Drumback Nos 1 and 2; Duddington Nos 3 and 4 (OS); Dumback Nos 1 and 2.

1947: 43 Europeans from Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland and the Ukraine volunteered to work in Scottish Shale mines.  They were housed in the Bevin Hostel. (the national Coal Board began 1 January 1947, and The British Coal Industry was de-nationalised on 1 January 1995, returning to private ownership.

Information is sought about Bevin Boys who stayed in huts behind the Institute around where King Street is today.  Billy & Jimmy WOOD  from Torry in Aberdeen have been remembered so far.  Ron Dingwall has told us that both Billy & Jimmy were keen B.B.s and gained the highest medal available to boys. It was the 1st Armadale B.B. Company attached to the East Church.

Update posted 8 February 2009: I'm grateful to Marion Hossack for telling me that John Struth, Eddie Murray and Peter Horsbrough of Seafield trained the Bevin Boys at Balbardie Pit.  I understand the three went on to Moorcock Hall in Fife and that John Struth was awarded a medal for his part in the pit rescue at the Burngrange mining disaster.

How many Bevin Boys were there?  How many stayed in Armadale? Can anyone supply more names? e-mail Rosie 

Bevin Boys Association; The Wartime Bevin Boys Project; Bevin Boys Research Project; Bevin Boys in Wikipedia

A display from the Bevin Boy exhibition,
which toured West Lothian in 2007

8 May 1945: VE Day.  Around that time, in Armadale, an effigy of Hitler was burned at Trees farm and the Silver Band marched through the town.

Joseph Polland of East Main Street, Armadale, d 1992, aged 71.

Joe was born at Northrigg, one of nine children.  He performed well as a pupil at St Mary's Bathgate and went on to work in a firm of Chartered Accountants.

In 1939, he volunteered for the RAF and he became a rear gunner in Lancaster bombers.  He achieved the rank of Flight Lieutenant.  Although he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, he was reticent to speak of the circumstances in which he had earned this award.  He said that he was more proud that he could wear his uniform on special occasions after leaving the Service.  He was instrumental in setting up the local branch of the Royal British Legion.

After leaving the Service, he qualified as a chartered accountant and worked in the firm of Thomson and Balfour for ten years, before founding a firm at Shotts with his brother.

He is remembered as a generous benefactor of Armadale Children's Gala Day.


You may be interested in Evacuees in Armadale


Help wanted!  Were you evacuated to Armadale in 1939 or later?  Did your family take in an evacuee?  Do you have any memories of evacuees in Armadale?

Does anyone remember an evacuee called James VANDEPEEAR who was sent to stay with an Armadale family in 1939? He has told me, "I was an evacuee from Edinburgh at Armadale.   I did not stay there long, and can only remember a row of terrace cottages sloping down to a field or play ground, and I recall sliding down a bing on a shovel.  I was barely 5 years old at the time, and what I do remember is very little.  The row of cottages on a slope is fairly certain, and a swing park at the bottom of the hill.  As to the names of the family I was with, I cannot remember them at all, except that they had three sons, at least, and I think I shared a bed with them." 

James Vandepeear's sister has written about the day she visited Armadale to collect James and to return with him to Edinburgh.  Here are extracts from her account:

"I was sent to bring him back.  It was also the first time I had ever been allowed to travel anywhere on my own, so I was nervous....

I boarded an SMT bus, asked the conductor to tell me when we reached Armadale then sat down....... when I saw Armadale my first impression was 'grey', grey skies, houses, streets, even the people on the bus were grey and dour looking.

However I got off the bus at the first bus-stop in Armadale, stayed on the left side of the road, passed by a rough hedge, there may have been a house behind it.  I must have walked about 100 yards before turning left into a long sloping street lined with houses which were stone fronted with a window each side of the front doors painted either black or dark green.  This was the first row of houses.  I stayed on the left hand side, walked over half way down on a slabbed pavement until I saw Jim sitting on the doorstep, a rather strange doorstep, the house being on such a long slope meant that if you lived at the top you had a thin step - the lower down the slope the higher the step.  The house Jim lived in had two and a half steps but they were not whitened with pipe-clay.  The pavement was not wide but had small kerbstones.  I remember how bleak it all looked, not a tree anywhere.

There was another little boy with Jim, also an evacuee, they were not allowed to play in the house even though it was late summer and chilly.  The adults in the house were, I believe, a single brother and sister in their late thirties."

Other possible clues: the surname 'Begbie' and the numbers 5 and 15.

 If you have information, which could help James to identify the place where he stayed, please e-mail Rosie



The Scottish Korean War Memorial, Witchcraig, West Lothian


The Scottish Korean War Memorial,  situated at the south-western corner of Beecraigs Country Park at NS 988 728, was opened officially on 27 June 2000, marking the 50th anniversary of the start of the Korean War.    The wooden pagoda, situated in a garden landscaped with the yin and yang that appear on the Korean flag, houses the names of all the fallen British serviceman in regimental groupings.  The site, chosen by the Lothian and West of Scotland branch of the Korean Veterans' Association as a fitting place for contemplation, has been planted with 110 Korean pine trees within the yin and yang.  Each tree represents 10 men serving in British regiments who died in the Korean War.  On the site is a pathway, known as United Nations Avenue,  leading to a picnic area.  The path is planted with 21 trees representing each country involved in the UN.  In the entire garden are 1090 native birch trees, one for each of the British personnel who died as a result of the conflict.

Right: three of the panels of names inside the pagoda