In 1914 the largest military presence in Moray was the Territorial Force with the 6th (Morayshire) Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders, in the west of the modern county and the 6th (Banff and Donside) Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, in the east. The territorial cavalry, the Yeomanry, also recruited in the area for the Scottish Horse.
Some men were already serving in the regular army or, having completed their service within the previous five years, were liable for re-call from the Reserves.
Shortly after the outbreak of war Lord Kitchener decided to raise his New Army as part of the regular army structure. In Moray this saw many men enlisting into new battalions of Seaforths and Gordons as they were formed.
With a rich heritage in fishing and seafaring along the coast of the Moray Firth it was natural that some served in the Royal Navy and the Royal Naval Reserve. Many fishing boats were impressed into service and their crews went with them to provide support at naval bases such as Cromarty and Scapa Flow. Others were engaged directly with the enemy in minesweeping and patrolling duties.
Even those fishing boats that were allowed to continue their trade did so at great risk of being sunk by German mines, submarines or surface ships.
The navy found that it had too many reservists for the number of ships available and some were diverted to become land-based soldiers in the Royal Naval Division.
The Royal Flying Corps was very much in its infancy having only been formed in 1912, however, rapid expansion saw significant numbers of men, often from skilled engineering backgrounds, enlist.
In 1914 opportunities for women to serve in the army were limited to the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Corps and the Territorial Force Nursing Service. There were also voluntary organisations, such as the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry and the Voluntary Aid Detachments. Later on many other branches of the army were opened to women.
As well as those from Moray serving in British units many who had emigrated, or were working overseas, enlisted into the armed forces of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
The Grantown-on-Spey Company of the 6th (Morayshire) Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders, await the train to take them to their war station at the Cromarty defences. Photo courtesy of ‘The Northern Scot’.