‘Feeding the 50,000’ – a unique armistice commemoration

10 October 2018 | Chloe Bowerbank

Leading Scottish actors will take part in a unique event with readings and music to mark the extraordinary efforts a Scottish church in London took to look after Scottish soldiers in the First World War. It is the very essence of love, compassion and friendship shown in the worst of circumstances.

The story of the wartime hospitality is such a remarkable one - amusing, poignant and inspiring - and we have always wanted to share it beyond our own walls
Revd Angus MacLeod, minister at St Columba’s

Phyllis Logan and David Robb from “Downton Abbey” (Mrs Hughes and Dr Clarkson), James Cosmo from “Game of Thrones”, folk singer and TV presenter Isla St Clair and Gordon Kennedy (Radio 4 and TV appearances including “The Halcyon” and “Casualty”) will lead a special performance to mark the centenary of the Armistice in 1918.

St Columba’s Church of Scotland, in Knightsbridge, provided hospitality to 50,000 Scottish troops returning from the trenches and going back to the Front after leave. Most had never been to London before and had to wait 18 hours or more for connecting trains to Scotland. Church members looked out for soldiers at stations and took them back to the church for a wash, hot meals, entertainment and often room to sleep overnight.
The work of St Columba’s became widely known throughout Scottish regiments at the Front and amongst grateful families of soldiers who had been looked after. Details of this remarkable effort only recently emerged after analysis of church magazines and archives.

Game of Thrones star James Cosmo said:
“The Centenary of the Armistice will be an important time to reflect on the tragic losses in the First World War. I am pleased to take part in this performance to mark the contribution of Scottish soldiers and the work of church volunteers to care for them.”

Actor David Robb said:
“Both of my grandfathers were WW1 men. Both were wounded but survived the war and I treasure my childhood memories of them, my Scots Grandpa and my English Grandad. As an Anglo-Scot with a lifelong interest in military history I feel privileged to be part of what feels like a family commemoration.”

Revd Angus MacLeod, minister at St Columba’s, said:
“The story of the wartime hospitality is such a remarkable one – amusing, poignant and inspiring – and we have always wanted to share it beyond our own walls”.

Revd MacLeod was one of the founders of the “Scots in Great War London” initiative, bringing together two Church of Scotland churches in London and eight other organisations including the Caledonian Club, the London Scottish regiment and London Scottish FC. HRH The Princess Royal is the Patron of the group. A commemorative book has been published and a series of events is planned for the autumn.

Rev MacLeod added that the “Feeding the Fifty Thousand” performances will be a “memorable and unique honouring of those who have prayed and served here before us”. They will be at 3pm and 7.30pm at St Columba’s, Pont Street, Knightsbridge on Saturday October 20th. Tickets are available online through Eventbrite ( search for Scots in Great War London) or by emailing events@stcolumbas.org.uk Proceeds to Poppy Scotland.

For further information contact Revd Angus MacLeod, 0207 584 2321, or email Susan Pym at susanpym@yahoo.co.uk