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© The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) Museum Archives

Reverend Archibald Stuart - The Black Watch Museum Archives

A few months ago, the Museum was delighted to receive a fantastic set of documents relating to the Reverend Archibald Stuart from Perthshire. The collection includes photographs, diaries and personal letters from Rev Stuart’s time serving in the First World War. A highlight of the collection is his passport (image above) dating from 1917 until the end of the war, one of the earliest our archivist has seen. The papers in the collection make it possible to gain an understanding of the efforts made by Rev Stuart in helping British soldiers serving at the front.

The earliest letters in the collection, all written to his wife, tell us that Rev Stuart applied to become a chaplain for the British army in France in the early part of WWI but was rejected, perhaps because of his age (54). However, this did not discourage him and he applied instead to the YMCA and was accepted as a chaplain and granted permission to travel to the front in 1917.

Rev Stuart worked both on the front lines and in reserve, setting up areas for soldiers to come and relax during their ‘rest’ period from hostilities. Although these were largely Christian in nature, and involved prayers and religious services, other activities, such as sing-a-longs, were laid on to help soldiers relax.

His service with the YMCA came to an end in either late 1917 or early 1918. He applied once more but was rejected in April 1918 because of the ‘Spring Offensive'. This was an offensive launched on 21 March 1918 in which Allied soldiers were driven back by a massive German advance. A Letter from the Director of the YMCA to Rev Stuart informs us that all of the YMCA’s buildings had been destroyed and it was deemed too dangerous to allow volunteers to return to the front. However, the records show that Rev Stuart was back in France again in May working to help British soldiers on the front line.

In 1919 Rev Stuart was finally ordained as a chaplain for the British army, most likely because of his efforts with the YMCA. Furthermore, he was made a temporary Captain in 1920, capping a remarkable few years working hard to help the British war effort.

Rev Stuart worked amongst Black Watch soldiers during his time on the 5th Division front, and his son would later go on to become an officer in the Regiment.

To find out more about the Black Watch collection, visit their website.