Falkirk’s Johnny was one of the ‘Ladies from Hell’ in WW1

Johnny Walker, second left, at work in the moulding shop of Castlelaurie Foundry in 1918
Johnny Walker, second left, at work in the moulding shop of Castlelaurie Foundry in 1918

The bravery of Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders soldiers earned them respect – the uniform earned them the legendary nickname ‘The Ladies from Hell’.

It was a name given by the Germans to the kilted regiments of the British Army during World War One, including the Argylls whose ranks were swelled with Falkirk men.

Among them was John ‘Johnny’ Walker, a local iron moulder who volunteered for the trenches of Europe on January 15, 1915, at the age of 19.

Part of the 51st Highland Division, the regiment fought at Ypres and the Battle of the Somme.

Their kilts inspired the ‘Ladies from Hell’ or ‘Devils in Skirts’ nicknames from their enemy – who dreaded their attacks.

Johnny’s grandson and namesake John Walker (53) of Stenhousemuir, a sign language teacher with Falkirk Council, researched his grandfather’s war service.

He said: “Over the kilt they wore a canvas apron with pockets for grenades and spare ammunition. The wet conditions made their kilts extremely heavy and cumbersome but they won the respect of the German soldiers.”

After surviving many battles between 1915-17, John was eventually wounded in the Battle of Arras on Easter Monday, 1917, when a shell landed at his feet and he was sent back to Britain, a war hero, to recuperate – the war finished for him.

John said: “The impact of his wounds was severe. A piece of his right thigh bone was removed, leaving the leg slightly shorter than the left. To correct he attended Erskine Hospital and was fitted with a special built up boot, which he had to wear for the rest of his days.

“He could never completely close his left hand. However, Johnny was never one to sit around and as soon as he was fit he went back to Falkirk Iron Company at Castlelaurie foundry in Bankside making, ironically, artillery shells.”