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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Great War characters: The book that hasn't been written


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A book, that should have been and could still be written, (in my opinion, which probably counts for nothing) is one about the colourful, enigmatic character Robert Andrew Scott Macfie, Quartermaster with the Liverpool Scottish. If nothing else, Macfie's many letters written home to family and friends that span the entire war, field note-books and papers would surely make interesting reading in a published form?

Robert Scott Macfie, educated at Cambridge and Edinburgh a member of a prominent sugar refining family in Liverpool, was a volunteer pre-war, and at the outbreak of war rejoined aged 44 as a private in the Liverpool Scottish and rose to colour sergeant. Eventually becoming the Regimental Quarter Master Sergeant
Viewed as ideal officer material, he rejected many offers of a commission. A prolific letter writer, there is apparently, a large collection of his letters written to family members and friends throughout the entire war, full of detail and largely uncensored, except for a few written while he was in hospital, these are held by the Liverpool Scottish museum (I haven't had the chance to read them) and the Macfie papers are held at the IWM. Post-war he became an expert in gypsy lore, wrote at least one book on the subject and travelled extensively. He also wrote a cook book for Army cooks. Quite a lot of anecdotes about him and extracts from his many letters are in Helen McCartney's 'Citizen Soldiers: The Liverpool Territorials in the First World War'. He's also referred to quite a bit in McGilchrist. 'Liverpool Scottish 1914-1919.
There was a memoir about him called 'Friend of all the world: A memoir of Robert Scott Macfie', written in 1935 as part of the series from the Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society - a society revived by him post-war. Copies on Abe.
As far as I'm aware, no other book has been written specifically about him.
There is also a section about him in 'Bravest of hearts' Hal Giblin
In one letter after the terrible events of the Battle of Hooge, which nearly annihilated the Liverpool Scottish, he wrote to a friend '..don't imagine that we are gloomy. Perhaps we should be. As a matter of fact the remnant is very fit, singing, talking and joking as if there was nothing melancholy or even serious in the whole world. In the midst of death we are in life'. Yet by 1918 he wrote to a friend 'I'm rather lonely now. All my friends are either dead or invalided home and I don't take to their conscript successors. We lost again very heavily in Cambrai counter- attack. Now there are only 72 of us to wear the 1914 Star ribbon: out of more than 1800 who came out in France in 1914'.
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There's a photograph of Robert Scott Macfie in the IWM Collection here


But, part of the caption reads ...'involved in development of the tank'

Surely an error? They have the wrong Robert Macfie!

Maybe this is the one they are getting mixed up with



Is there someone to write to at the IWM to have the caption changed?

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What about the rsm buried I think in vlamertinge wounded about 12 times then made a bet with his friend who had also been shot loads of times, the next time any of them became wounded they would pay the bill for a company dinner well needles to say he lost the bet kia, I believe when he was buried 6 vc holders carried the coffin, for my sins I forget his name even tho I have stood beside the brave soldiers grave. :blush:

Biff :poppy:

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top man kens

for two reasons

1 thats my man

2 he was kia the day of my birth thats 17th March not 1918 tho

Biff :thumbsup::poppy:

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