Beating retreat: the Scottish military tradition in decline - NMS Research Repository
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Book chapter

Beating retreat: the Scottish military tradition in decline

8 August 2015


The Scottish military tradition in the British Army is recognised as one of the most visible and celebrated manifestations of Scottish participation in the growth of the British Empire. When, in the middle years of the twentieth century, that empire began to break up, the impact on the Scottish regiments was profound. This chapter compares the experiences of Scottish regiments and their popular and political constiuencies following three key phases of decolonisation: the partition of India in 1947; the 1956 Suez Crisis, and the withdrawal from Aden in 1967, each of which were swiftly followed by drastic cuts to the infantry. In certain circumstances, Scottish sensitivities about reputation and identity could turn these cuts into public controversies of national political significance. The comparison suggests however that, by the mid-twentieth century at least, Scottish militarism’s state of health was less closely related to the fate of the Empire, and to the barometer of popular imperialism in Scotland, than might be assumed.


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