WW1 Scotch to be auctioned

A bottle of Scotch whisky purportedly belonging to a soldier in the First World War and never opened is to be auctioned this week.

_83809700_whiskypaThe whisky, a Croft Blend File Old Scotch, belonged to corporal William Mill but, somewhat surprisingly, he never opened it and after the war he kept it under his bed and it has since been passed down through the family.

As reported by the BBC, a picture of Mill, who served in a reserve battalion, the 3rd King’s Own Scottish Borderers from 1900 to 1906 and then a yeomanry regiment, will be included in the lot.

The whisky is being sold on website Scottish Whisky Auctions and is expected to fetch £2,000. Bidding opens this Friday and will last for 10 days.

The Glasgow-based auctioneer has said it is the oldest bottle ever sold on the site and auctioneer, Peter Burns, told the BBC that it looked as though it was in good condition despite its age.

He added that it was likely produced between 1889 and 1908 as the bottle manufacturer, Cannington, Shaw & co, were using a particular format in that period which is visible on the base of the bottle.

He added: “Apart from that, nothing is known about this bottle and the whisky inside it.

“It is truly a mystery and, despite casting the net far and wide for answers, through archivists, whisky writers, historical institutions and other knowledgeable individuals, not one single person has been able to shed any light on it.

“There is a very high likelihood that this is a one of kind and, when it appears on our website later this week, it could make for some interesting bidding activity.”

That the bottle managed to survive not being drunk during the war is a surprise. As recounted in the “Wine and Warfare” series on the drinks business, rum and whisky – indeed any alcohol – was prized by the troops serving in the trenches of France and Flanders and consumed fairly swiftly.

If Mill did take it to war with him it – as well as he – had a lucky escape.

It has, so far, proved difficult to track down Mill’s service record. It has been widely reported that he went to war with the 3rd KOSB but the 3rd was used as a training battalion during the war and never left the UK, finding itself in Ireland in 1918.

Moreover the picture of Mill included in the lot is from 1908 and shows him on horseback. The KOSB was an infantry regiment and a note on the back of the picture by Mill himself confirms he had served in 3rd KOSB prior to moving to a Yeomanry (territorial cavalry) unit in 1906, in all likelihood the Lanarkshire Yeomanry “D squadron of which” was recruited in Dumfriesshire as he noted.

letterHe wrote: “This is the first training of the yeomanry under the new Territorial Act introduced by Mr Haldane Secreatry of State for War under the Henry Campbell-Bannerman liberal government.

“I joined the yeomanry (D squadron which is recruited in Dumfriesshire) in 1906, after serving six years in the 3rd Reserve Battalion of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers*, and was promoted to full corporal in 1907.”

He adds that the, “horse in this photograph was the one I rode in 1907 + 1908 training and he belonged […] to Charles Payne Esq.”

Although he may have been quite old at the outbreak of the war (his date of birth was, perhaps, 1881 which would have made him 35), if he was still with the Lanarkshire Yeomanry in 1914 and volunteered for “Imperial Service”, he would have served in Gallipoli in 1915, Egypt in 1916 where, in early 1917, the Lanarkshires were amalgamated with the Ayreshire Yeomanry to create the 12th battalion “Ayr and Lanark Yeomanry” of the Royal Scots Fusiliers, the Palestine Campaign in 1917 and finally finished the war in France from May to November 1918.

Or, possibly, he was too old for active service and never left the UK at all.

*Author’s bold

One Response to “WW1 Scotch to be auctioned”

  1. For clarification: There is no William Hill included in the roll of the 1/1st Lanarkshire Yeomanry when they left for Gallipoli in August 1915

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