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Scottish Military Disasters
Paul Cowan

5 1/2 x8 1/2" • 208 pages
ISBN 9781903238967 • paperback • $19.95

"Author and war journalist Paul Cowan gives a pithy thumbnail sketch of each battle or incident (the longest episode is nine pages), and sets each event in the context of its time and also lists, where appropriate, its military or historical consequences. And he has a sharp eye for anecdotal detail, from the gory to the humorous, about the battles and their aftermath. All in all, it is a cracking good read."
--Brian Townsend, The Courier

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Scotland's reputation as a nation proud of its military history betrays the fact that the past is littered with catastrophes and failures. From the time of the Roman invasions until the Korean War, Scotland's military history is testament to the fact that victories are always talked up and recorded, but disasters are quietly forgotten. In all some 32 episodes of Scottish battlefield ineptitude are investigated by journalist Paul Cowan. These are:

A Desolation Called Peace: Mons Graupius 83 or 84AD; Dance If You Can: Falkirk 1298, The Fool Killer: Faughart 1318; The Loser: Vermeuil 1424; Renaissance Man: Flodden 1513; Massacre in Norway: Kringen 1612; The Death March: Dunbar 1650; The Braw Lads: Namur 1695; The Auld Enemies: Culloden 1746; Death Prophesied: Ticonderoga 1758; Headless Horror: Fort du Querne 1758; No Tea Party: Boston 1776; King George and Broadswords: Moore’s Creek 1776; Rocketmen: Pollilur 1780; The World Turned Upside Down: Cowpens 1781; The Will of Allah: El Hamet 1807; The Stonewall Highlanders: New Orleans 1815; Women and Children First: The Birkenhead 1852; Walpole’s Folly: Ruiya 1858; Mountain Madness: Majuba 1881; Highland Humiliation: Magersfontein 1899; In Dublin’s Fair City 1914; Infirmary Blues: Bedford 1914; A Signal Disaster: Gretna 1915; Blooding the Pups: Gully Ravine 1915; Courage is Not Enough: St Valery 1940; The Fighting French: Lebanon 1941; The Fleet of Foot: Hong Kong 1941; The Cossacks: Austria 1945; Malaysian Massacre: Batang Kali 1948; A Hill in Korea: Nantong River 1950.

Scots-born Canadian writer Paul Cowan began his career in journalism as a copy boy on one of Scotland’s most prestigious daily newspapers, the Glasgow Herald. Since then, he has contributed to most of the major media outlets in Britain and Canada. He came to Canada in 1997 to work for the Edmonton Sun. During his time with the Sun he reported from Afghanistan and Kosovo. He has also contributed to the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, the Vancouver Sun and the CBC. His first book, How the Scots Created Canada, a national bestseller, was greeted by critical acclaim when it was published in 2007. He lives in Regina, Saskatchewan.


Media Reviews

"[T]his pacy, lucidly written history is extremely readable and highly informative"
—Martin Tierney, The Herald

"A fascinating and highly recommended read."
—Ian Smith, Scottish Bookshelf

"Scotland has been known for recruiting and training some of the best military units in the world. The Black Watch, Gordon Highlanders, and Camerons are just a few of the elite outfits that have been immortalized throughout their existence.
But there is another side to Scottish military history. Canadian journalist Paul Cowan has spent the last two decades doing exhaustive research into Scottish military blunders since the Middle Ages. From Falkirk in 1298, where William Wallace was soundly defeated by an English army led by King Edward I, to the Korean War in 1950, the author examines various tactical errors committed by Scottish military leaders. 
At the Battle of Fort Duquesne, during the French and Indian War, the Montgomerie Highlanders attacked a fort held by the French and their Indian allies in present-day Pittsburgh. An 850-man reconnaissance force led by Major James Grant was caught by surprise, and hundreds of Scots were killed. Their severed heads were put on wooden stakes along the trail that stretched for the three miles as a grisly reminder to all who followed.
Cowan feels that ignoring these mihaps does a gross disservice to the brave Scottish soldiers who fought with distinction in spite of these losses. He certainly knows this subject firsthand – his great-grandfather, Private Robert Cowan, was killed at Gallipoli in 1915 while serving with the 8th Scottish Rifles.
—Military Heritage

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Scottish Battles