In 1914, Sir George McCrae raised a battalion of sportsmen. Seven Raith Rovers players (James H Logan, George McLay, Willie Porter, Willie Lavery, Jimmy Todd, Jimmy Scott and Jock Rattray) joined up, along with a group of players of Heart of Midlothian FC and several other clubs. The battalion, the 16th Royal Scots, took part in actions including the Battle of the Somme and the push for Passchendaele, and three of the players paid the ultimate sacrifice. They were:


George McLay, born at Crossgates, Fife, around 1889, was with Glencraig Celtic when Raith Rovers signed him in May 1910. The right-half had five seasons with the Kirkcaldy club, playing in a total of 79 league matches, with five goals. After joining the Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment), he was killed in action at the Battle of Passchendaele on 22 October 1917. He was awarded the Military Medal for bravery.


James Scott, born at Airdrie in 1895, started out with Craigton Thistle and Glasgow junior side Petershill. The inside-forward joined Raith Rovers in September 1913, and went on to play in 59 league matches, scoring 25 goals while at Stark's Park. He was killed in action at the Somme on 1 July 1916, alongside several of his Royal Scots footballing friends. A newspaper reported, "Word has been received from his officer that Private James Scott, Royal Scots, has been killed in action. Scott, who was a member of the Sportsman's (McCrae's) Battalion, enlisted while with Raith Rovers. He was one of Raith's most finished players, and certainly no-one's services were missed more than his. He was an all-round forward, and had become known as 'Raith's opportunist'. As a matter of fact, he was the most consistent goal-scorer Raith have ever had. He leaves a young widow. He was the first to mount a German trench in the advance, and was killed by machine gun fire."


James Todd, born at Edinburgh in 1895, had one season with Raith Rovers in 1914/15 after signing for them from Musselburgh, playing in 22 matches and scoring one goal. After the season ended he enlisted in McCrae's Battalion, the 16th Royal Scots, and died on the Flanders Battlefield on 12 March 1916.    


At Contalmaison, in northern France, a memorial cairn for McCrae’s Battalion was erected in 2004. Ten other Raith Rovers players also enlisted for service in other regiments during the Great War.


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 Fife’s War

Standing left to right: James Todd (killed), James W M Gourlay. Sitting left to right: George McLay (killed), William Lavery, James Scott (killed), and James H Logan.

Contalmaison Memorial Cairn.

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