EXHIBITION – Common Cause, National Museum of Scotland

Common Cause

Common Cause is a new exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland which examines the lives and stories of soldiers of Scottish descent who served for the Commonwealth nations during the First World War.

During the Great War, men from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa enlisted in their thousands, many of whom were Scottish emigrants. Closer to home, Scots living in English towns and cities joined up to serve with their comrades.

Common Cause is a small yet poignant exhibition which provides an insight into the experiences of those serving in the Great War, through displays of objects on loan from the Commonwealth nations, newsreel footage and photographs and reproduction recruitment posters from the period.

Highlights include Nancy, a sprinbok doe who was the mascot of the ‘South African Scottish’ infantry. Nancy survived the war despite suffering a wound which caused one of her horns to grow at an unnatural angle, then passed away shortly after the conflict ended. Equally moving are the bagpipes belonging to Canadian Piper James Richardson, which were found on the fields of the Somme and assumed to be Scottish until research revealed their true origin. And nearby is the Victoria Cross awarded to James Crichton, an Ulster Scot who fought at Gallipoli and on the Western Front for the New Zealand forces.

The reproductions of patriotic recruitment posters provide a glimpse back to a very different world view from today, whilst the large-scale photographs are perhaps the most affecting of all the exhibits. In these, the faces which stare out across the years remind you that those who experienced the horrors of the war – no matter where they were born or for which country they served – were very real people with very real lives.

Common Cause is at the National Museum of Scotland until 14 October 2014

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