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The Duncan and James Strang Collection

 Fonds — Box: CLX-A-1624
Identifier: Coll-1885

Content Description

This fonds is composed of "The Seaforth Highlanders’ diary", which is in fact a collection of typescripts and manuscripts by Duncan W. P. Strang written during the First World War. They mainly contain a typescript draft of an unifinished book on the Seaforth Highlanders during the war, as well as abstracts of diaries and accounts of battles and tactical operations, and reflection on war and military strategy.

The first text is the most structured and the most complete. It is a typescript of the beginning of Strang’s unfinished book "The Seaforth Highlanders in The Great War", up to the sub-chapter on "The Battle of Ypres", in the second chapter. It also includes printed photographs in black-and-white, and military operation diagrams and maps. The rest of the documents are manuscript drafts of texts that are already in this typescript, as well as drafts of later chapters, and Strang’s own diaries and notes.

These texts give us a very detailed account of day-to-day military operations and actions of the Seaforth Highlanders from the point of view of an officer directly involved in the war, while the conflict was actually taking place. Strang’s writings show that he was perfectly aware of the unprecedented character of this war, which he calls "Armageddon". In the text entitled "Past and Present", he considers that this new type of modern warfare has given rise to "new valours": "the present titanic conflict has presented absolutely new heights of military gallantry and endurance to be scaled; has set up pinnacles of heroic achievement and service undreamt of by the bravest soldiers before". He then gives his motivations for writing this diary: "it is inevitable that in the light of such a novel and unprecedented situation it should be both desirable and necessary to record at the earliest possible moment the deeds and achievements of regiments under the new conditions". He adds that his "peculiar task" is "to set forth the services and achievements of the Seaforth Highlanders under the new conditions and judged by the new standards, to tell the heroic story of their splendid deeds, to show how transcending all their own unsurpassed records in the past, they have never once flinched or failed, and have achieved every aspect and phase of the new discipline and valour".

  1. "The Seaforth Highlanders in The Great War, by Duncan W. P. Strang, Major 8th Seaforth Highlanders", 48 pages. Describes the actions and roles of the Seaforth Highlanders from the beginning of the war to the Battle of the Somme, followed by ‘The Race to the Sea’ (typescript), 26 pages.
  2. Draft content table and preface, 10 pages.
  3. "The Opening of the War", 5 pages.
  4. "Chapter I – The Opening of the War" (draft), 14 pages.
  5. "Chapter II – The Autumn Campaign, 1914" (draft), 24 pages.
  6. "The Race to the Sea" (manuscript), 18 pages.
  7. "The Battle of the Marne", 8 pages.
  8. "The Battle of the Aisne", 10 pages.
  9. "The Battle of Ypres", 5 pages.
  10. Loose page with tactical diagrams and maps entitled "First Battle of Ypres", 1 page.
  11. "The Great War – the Crime of the Central Powers", 4 pages.
  12. "The War in Mesopotamia – Strategical History", 9 pages.
  13. "Preface", 3 pages.
  14. "Strategical phases on the Western Front", 14 pages.
  15. Loose page entitled "the Seaforth Highlanders in the Great War", 1 page.
  16. "Diary of the War on the British Front in France", 17 pages.
  17. "The Battle in Modern War", 40 pages.
  18. Loose pages: "The War to Date on the British Front in France", "Salient Features of the Battle and Retreat from Mons", and "The Opening of the War", 5 pages.
  19. "Preface", 10 pages.
  20. "The War in Mesopotamia – Table of Events", 6 pages.
  21. Loose pages entitled "Diaries", 8 pages.
  22. "The Gallant Seaforths – What they have done in the Great War", 2 pages.
  23. "The Gallant Seaforth", 2 pages.
  24. "The Great War", 2 pages.
  25. Loose page with a section entitled "Relief and replacement of troops", 1 page.
  26. "The Battle of the Somme", 17 pages.
  27. "The Seaforth Highlanders in the retreat from Mons", 8 pages.
  28. "Past and Present" (explaining Strang’s motivations for writing his diary), and "The Hardships and Dangers of Modern Warfare", 8 pages.
  29. "Abstract of Diaries of 7th Seaforths", 8 pages.
  30. "Abstract of Diaries of 9th Seaforths", 12 pages.
  31. "The Seaforth Highlanders in the Retreat from Mons", 8 pages.
  32. "The Retreat from Mons", 4 pages.
  33. "The Seaforth Highlanders in the Great War", 3 pages.
  34. "Seaforth Highlanders", 3 pages.

Also includes the original folders entitled "The Seaforth Highlanders" (which contained the papers), and "Seaforth highlanders. Extracts from the London Gazette. Honours awarded to the officers with records of their Deeds of Valour. 1914-1918" (empty).


  • Creation: 1914-1918


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Conditions Governing Access


Conditions Governing Use

Permission to quote and to publish must be obtained from the donor. Please contact the repository for more details.

Biographical / Historical

Reverend Duncan William Park Strang was born on the 17th of May 1887 in Ardrishaig, Argyll and Bute. He obtained an M.A. at the University of Edinburgh in 1910, before studying at New College and obtaining a Bachelor of Divinity in 1914. He joined up the Seaforth Highlanders in September 1914 where he reached the rank of Major, and for his service during the war he was awarded he was awarded the Military Cross and the Légion d’Honneur. His younger brother James died during the Battle of the Somme. After the war, Duncan Strang came back to the UK and became a minister of the Church of Scotland. In 1928 he was serving as a minister in the New North Church (now the Bedlam Theatre), before joining Greyfriars from 1931 to 1938.

Duncan Strang's younger brother James was born in 1889 in Ardrishaig, Argyll and Bute. He was a student of Arts and Divinity at the University of Edinburgh from 1908 to 1914, and obtained an M.A. in 1912. In 1915 he enlisted in the 17th Lancashire Fusiliers, 2nd Lieutenant. He was killed in action in France on the 30th July 1916, during the Battle of the Somme.


1 box

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated in July 2019. Accession no SC-Acc-2019-0088.


Accruals expected.

Archivist's note

The title 'The Duncan and James Strang Collection' was given to the collection at the donor's request, even though James Strang is not directly involved in the creation of the papers.

Processing Information

Catalogued by Aline Brodin in August 2019.

The Duncan and James Strang Collection, 1914-1918
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Edinburgh Library Heritage Collections Repository

Centre for Research Collections
University of Edinburgh Main Library
George Square
Edinburgh EH8 9LJ Scotland
+44(0)131 650 8379