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A Scottish Royal Army Medical Corps captain at the Front

Excerpts from the Diary of Patrick Cameron Macrae (1889-1917)
Dr Patrick Cameron Macrae from his obituary notice in Celtic Monthly, May 1917

Nobody knows our destination… Thus reads an early entry in the war diary of Patrick Cameron Macrae, my great-grandmother’s brother. Patrick – a lieutenant in the Royal Army Medical Corps – had shipped for France from Southampton two nights before on 29 July 1915. He started his diary, which he regularly punctuated with sketches such as those featured here, on the evening of his departure. Now, on 1 August, he and the other men of the 50th Field Ambulance were leaving Le Havre. As the train pulled out of the city he took note: ‘First signs of war – some German prisoners loading wagons – great burly men’.

Born in Inverness, Patrick was a Macrae on both sides of his family; his parents had moved there from Lochalsh and Glenshiel, where Macraes had lived for hundreds of years, in the last decades of the 19th century (Glenshiel was the site of an abortive Jacobite uprising in 1719). Patrick grew up in Dalwhinnie, where his father John was station master, and excelled in the local schools as his prize copy of Wordsworth still attests.

From Dalwhinnie he went on to the University of Edinburgh, where he studied surgery and enrolled in the Officers’ Training Corps; he was also president of the Celtic Society and captain of the Shinty team. (It was with some justice, then, that his obituary would describe him as ‘one of the most promising young Celts of to-day’.) On taking his degree in 1915 he joined the 50th Field Ambulance, which was attached to the 37th Division, as a lieutenant; in October he would be promoted to captain.

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About History Scotland

The March/April issue of History Scotland is packed full of history, heritage and archaeology news, opinion, in-depth features and events. Highlights include: * Farming in 19th-century Fife * Mutiny in the East India Company * Medieval fishing rights on the River Forth * Splendours of the Subcontinent - new exhibition * Excerpts from a World War I diary

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