The Boys Brigade in Dundee

Dundee and Angus Boys Brigade During the Great War 1914-1919.

Project by Cameron Stuart (11) of the 1st Carnoustie Company to gain his Badge for a project on the BB and the Great War of 1914-1918.


BB2017National Service BadgeA nice interesting piece of research that Cameron has done on the History of the BB during that terrible time, We thank him for allowing us to put this on our Website.

This new badge is based on the design of the First World War National Service Badge. The badge's aim is for young people to understand something of our history, explore the concepts of conflict and peace and to provide opportunities for social action. To be awarded to members of the Brigade in an age appropriate activity related to the First World War. Available until the end of the 2018/19 session.


Project by Cameron

The Great War

The Boys’ Brigade was founded by Sir William Alexander Smith on the 4th October, 1883 in Glasgow to develop Christian manliness using semi military aspects. Within a short space of time, companies sprung up across the country. The first company in Dundee was started in St Paul’s Church, Nethergate. The Dundee Battalion was established in 1891. The 1st Carnoustie Company was founded on the 30th October, 1889. A local paper reported that approximately 100 boys attended this first meeting in Carnoustie Public School. The Reverend A.J Campbell, Barry spoke to the boys about the rules and expectations. After the drill, the meeting ended with the Lord’s Prayer and the National Anthem (God save the Queen because Victoria was the reigning monarch).

When war was declared on August 4th 1914 many companies were at B.B camp and most of the officers were pulled out of camp to go to their Territorial units! Approximately 100,000 officers and ex-members joined the armed forces within the first year to serve their country.

Boys’ Brigade Battalion, George Square, Glasgow - Sept. 1914

A new battalion of the Highland Light Infantry was formed in Glasgow on the 2nd September, 1914. It comprised of about 800 men who were all former members of the B.B.

On the 1st July, 1916, they took part in the big push in the opening stages of the battle of the Somme and suffered dreadful casualties. On just that one day, the 16th Boys’ Brigade Battalion lost 20 officers and 534 men.

Home Front
At the beginning of the war, The Boys’ Brigade was keen to help Local Authorities in any way possible. There was a considerable demand for orderlies which was easily met as the boys were keen to help. They undertook a variety of duties. These included the collection of waste paper, acting as messengers and guarding public infrastructure. They were also called upon to sound the “all clear” when zeppelin air raids were over. They helped with war fund collections and supported ambulance stations. Flag days were very popular and raised a lot of money for different funds. These included Wounded Horses, Belgian War Relief Fund, Dundee and Forfarshire Prisoners of War help Committee and also the Huts in France.

During that time the boys were encouraged to take part in Red Cross work. In Dundee, Mr Cleland, who was the ambulance convener, called the officers and senior boys together. They formed the City of Dundee (No. 2 Section) Stretcher Bearers. They were on call day and night to meet the ambulance trains arriving in Dundee from the front and to transport the sick and wounded to the local hospitals. From the Officers and ex-Members of the Dundee Battalion 17 Stretcher Bearer Parties were formed. Two years later, they were still assisting the Red Cross and four of the stretcher parties had arranged a fully equipped Dressing Station.

The Dundee Courier, June 1916, reported on the Carnoustie B.B inspection. It referred to Dr Hunter who had tested the boys’ knowledge of ambulance work and said they had done well. A presentation was made to Mr Hanton for the work he had done during the winter in instructing the boys in practical ambulance work. Although there is no evidence available to date, it is highly likely that the boys helped the local Red Cross hospitals in Carnoustie. Carnoustie had two Red Cross hospitals - Carlogie House and Union Hall.

Carlogie House, Carnoustie

The National Service Badge
In 1915, it was announced that a new badge was to be introduced to recognise the voluntary work which was being done by the boys. This would be called the National Service Badge. It was for voluntary and unpaid work done out of school or business hours in connection with the war. To earn it, they had to complete not less than 100 hours of work. It was to be worn on the left arm, below the King’s badge. The badge would be accompanied by a certificate.

In 1917, some companies chose to affiliate with the Territorial Force Association. Those companies adopted the cadet uniform.

Recreational Huts

From the outbreak of war, the Y.M.C.A. provided huts both at home and in France to cater for the needs of soldiers. These huts provided refreshments, reading and writing materials and the chance to purchase comforts. There were over 500 centres in operation, many near to the Front line. Huts were also provided by the Churches, the Boy Scouts and the Boys Brigade. The BB had two huts. They had one in Edinburgh which was used by the soldiers going to and from the front. They also had one in Rouen in France.

BB Hut in Edinburgh


BB Hut in Rouen, France

Outstanding Bravery

The members and ex-members of the Boys’ Brigade did their country proud. They were all heroes but some were awarded special recognition. Eleven of them were awarded the Victoria Cross and ninety- three of them were awarded the Military Cross.

One boy, however, stood out from the rest. That was William Walker.

Walker joined the 4th London Brigade when he was 12 and served for two sessions and became adept at bugling which led to his heroic conduct at the battle of Jutland. He joined the navy as bugler aboard H.M.S Calliope when she led her squadron into battle on May 31st. He had to stand on the bridge next to the captain and sound the commence. A splinter of shell stuck him in the side but he stood at his post until he fainted of blood loss. He needed 3 ribs removed leaving a 10 inch scar near his heart. In hospital, he was visited by the king and the Admiral, Sir John Jellicoe. The admiral rewarded him with a specially inscribed bugle in commemoration of his heroic conduct.
Then he was dubbed the Kennington hero.

The silver-plated bugle presented to William Walker. It's inscribed, “ Presented by the Commander in Chief to W.R. Walker, 'HMS Calliope', 31st May 1916"

War Memorials
Following the end of the war, Memorials were erected across the country .There were memorials and rolls of honour in towns, churches, schools and places of work. These memorials remembered those who had given their lives for their country.

In St Andrew’s Parish Church, Dundee, the Boys’ Brigade continues to be remembered. Many of the young men and ex-members answered the call to fight for their country but some did not return. Those who did survive decided to erect a Memorial in the Church to honour their friends. People responded with donations and a beautiful tablet was erected in 1922. It says,

1914 - 1918

“Till the Great Re-union”

In addition to the plaque, a beautiful communion chair was also presented by The Former Members Association.The inscription reads,

IN THE GREAT WAR OF 1914 -1918.

St Andrew’s Church, Dundee

In Glasgow, there is a Memorial to the Highland Light Infantry which includes the Boys’ Brigade Battalion.

Presently, we are commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Great War. This project has allowed me to find out more about it and what it was like for boys in the BB at that time. I think that when Remembrance Sunday comes round this year I will remember the part the BB played in the Great War.

Cameron Stuart. 1st Carnoustie Company - The Boys' Brigade

  • Return to Top
  • Return to the Boys Brigade Home Page
  • Return to Home Page
  • Iain D. McIntosh, 2022