Some of the effects of the disaster to HMS Pathfinder, the first ship ever to be sunk by a locomotive torpedo fired by submarine, were witnessed from East Lothian. At the time of the catastrophe clouds of smoke were observed rising towards the sky followed immediately by dense, black smoke. Then a number torpedo boats patrolling May Island and Bass Rock were noticed to increase their speed and head towards the scene of the explosion. The fishermen on the East Lothian coast abandoned herring fishing owing to the danger.
The recruitment policy during the Great War was to keep men from the same area together, this meant that casualties were usually specific to local recruiting areas. As 'Pals' fought together, more often than not they died together. This meant that local communities experienced collective mass grief rather than individual loss. An unlucky shell could wipe out a third of the adult male population of a small town.
The Lothians and Border Horse was a Yeomanry regiment, part of the British Territorial Army. It was ranked 36th in the Yeomanry order of precedence and was based in the Scottish Lowland area, recruiting in the Lothians – East Lothian, Midlothian and West Lothian – and along the border with England, particularly Berwickshire. In accordance with the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907 the TF was intended to be a home defence force for service during wartime and members could not be compelled to serve outside the country. However, on the outbreak of war on 4 August 1914, many members volunteered for Imperial Service.
8th Battalion, Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment) was a unit of the Territorial Force with its HQ in Haddington. It was attached to the Lothian Infantry Brigade. They had just departed for annual summer camp war broke out in August 1914, they were at once recalled to base. They were mobilised for war service on 5 August 1914 and moved to take up position on the Scottish coastal defences. They proceeded to France on 5 November 1914, landing Le Havre and joining 22nd Brigade, 7th Division on the 11th.