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The WW1 London Scottish Regiment's Hollywood Connection


roverrocks
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I'm nearing the end of a fascinating though often horrifying history book published in 2013 called "Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes To War" by renowned historian Max Hastings.  Have learned in this book just today that an amazing number of superb British actors at one time or another during WW1 all served with a hard fighting British Army regiment named the London Scottish Regiment.  Ronald Colman, Herbert Marshall, Claude Rains, Cedric Hardwicke, and Basil Rathbone all served with valor and distinction with this crack unit at some time during their WW1 service.  Makes one wonder how many fine would-have-been great great actors perished during The Great War on both the Allied/Entente side and the Central Powers side.  RIP all.

 

RONALD COLMAN:  Served as a Territorial Army (British reserve army) soldier starting in 1909.  Called up and sent to France in September 1914 with the London Scottish.  Suffered a severe shrapnel wound at the brutal Battle of Messines on the Western Front on Oct. 31, 1914 in an ankle.  Probably kept him from being killed during the war.  Colman was invalided out of the army in 1915 after serving with distinction.  Colman limped the rest of his life and hid it well in moviedom and on the stage. The rest of his post WW1 life is a Hollywood legend.

HERBERT MARSHALL:  Marshall was shot in his right knee by a German sniper.  He went through various operations but ended up having the leg amputated at the hip.  Marshall was fitted with a prosthetic leg.  Marshall went to great lengths in his acting career to hide the fact both privately and professionally of this severe wartime disability and I had never known it until today.  His distinctive walk was a result of this disability which was little known.  The rest of his post WW1 life is a Hollywood legend.

CLAUDE RAINS:  Served with distinction on the Western Front and rose from private to captain during his British wartime service.  Rains was gassed severely in action and remained nearly blind in one eye.  The rest of his post WW1 life is Hollywood legend.

CEDRIC HARDWICKE:  Served in the British Army including service with the London Scottish Regiment from 1914 to 1921.  Once again his post Army life is the stuff of Hollywood legend.

BASIL RATHBONE:  When called up to service in 1914 he trained with the London Scottish Regiment as a private.  Underwent officer training subsequently and was then commissioned an officer in the Liverpool Scottish Regiment where he rose during the war to a captain in Intelligence.  Rathbone led daring nighttime and daylight intelligence raids to ascertain enemy German positions.  After his younger brother John was KIA in 1918 Rathbone became even more daring in his intelligence patrols and was awarded the Military Cross for"conspicuous daring and resource on patrol".  At points he and his intelligence patrols wore camouflage outfits designed to look like trees.  After WW1 once again his life was the stuff of Hollywood legend.

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Basil Rathbone:  a picture of him as an actor and as a WW1 soldier. 

 

Also a picture of a very young Charles Laughton in WW1.  Laughton did not serve with the London Scottish Regiment but another unit and was injured in one of the numerous WW1 gas attacks.

 

Am also including a picture of Maurice Chevalier in his WW1 service with the French Army during which he was wounded by shrapnel, taken prisoner by the German Army, and spent two years as a POW.

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I'm nearing the end of a fascinating though often horrifying history book published in 2013 called "Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes To War" by renowned historian Max Hastings.  Have learned in this book just today that an amazing number of superb British actors at one time or another during WW1 all served with a hard fighting British Army regiment named the London Scottish Regiment.  Ronald Colman, Herbert Marshall, Claude Rains, Cedric Hardwicke, and Basil Rathbone all served with valor and distinction with this crack unit at some time during their WW1 service.  Makes one wonder how many fine would-have-been great great actors perished during The Great War on both the Allied/Entente side and the Central Powers side.  RIP all.

 

RONALD COLMAN:  Served as a Territorial Army (British reserve army) soldier starting in 1909.  Called up and sent to France in September 1914 with the London Scottish.  Suffered a severe shrapnel wound at the brutal Battle of Messines on the Western Front on Oct. 31, 1914 in an ankle.  Probably kept him from being killed during the war.  Colman was invalided out of the army in 1915 after serving with distinction.  Colman limped the rest of his life and hid it well in moviedom and on the stage. The rest of his post WW1 life is a Hollywood legend.

 

This is very good.  I wonder how Colman felt playing Charles/Smithy in Random Harvest?  

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I recommend that you all visit Basilrathbone.net, which has some letters written by Rathbone, as well as other information about his military career.  Rathbone was profoundly affected by the death of his brother, and in his writings speaks bitterly about the futility of WWI.

 

I think I recall Colman saying that Smitty was one of his favorite roles.  I often wondered whether the air of wistful melancholy that pervades that performance and his performance in Lost Horizon were the results of his wartime experiences.

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basilrathbone.net:  Great but very sad/moving website info on Mr. Rathbone and his WW1 experience.  Thanks very much for posting it.  I had not known of it before.  This year being the 100th anniversary of the start of WW1 I think we should all reflect back on the War To End All Wars and the many millions lost and wounded in the tragic affair followed by the even more murderous Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-20.  My own little hurts and whines and travails are so very very trivial in comparison to what that agonized generation on all sides went through.

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Indeed, roverrocks, I also consider the tragic aftermath in Europe, and further challenges which pretty much sets up WWII animosity.   In the movie The Enchanted Cottage, Herbert Marshall plays a blind pianist, and he recounts losing his sight in the "last war"--WWI.   He speaks about so matter-of-fact,  I wonder.   

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