Bute played its part in the Napoleonic wars and the Great War by providing men for the army and navy. However, during World War II, the island itself became a naval base and the whole of Bute became involved in the war.
Battery Place in Rothesay takes its name from a battery of guns built to defend the harbour in case of invasion by the French during the Napoleonic Wars. Hundreds of men served in the Argyll and Bute Militia, the Buteshire Battalion of the Voluntary Infantry and the Buteshire Battalion of the local militia.
During the Great War over 300 men from the island died while on active service. Mountstuart House became a naval hospital with Sir William Macewan, a pioneer in brain surgery, working as a surgeon there. The Bute Battery formed part of the 4th (Highland) Mountain Brigade Royal Garrison Artillery. A memorial book containing photographs of all the men who died during the war was published and the museum holds several copies in its library.
Between 1940 and 1946, the 7th submarine flotilla was based in Rothesay Bay followed, until 1957, by the 3rd Submarine Squadron. The shore base of the 12th Submarine Flotilla was the Bute Hydropathic in Port Bannatyne (HMS Varbel). X-craft submariners and charioteers trained in Loch Striven. These incredibly brave men had many successes, reflected in the 68 bravery awards (including 4 Victoria crosses) awarded to them. Thirty-nine men lost their lives and they are commemorated with a memorial at Port Bannatyne.
‘Bute’s War’ by Jess Sandeman gives a superb account of all aspects of Bute during World War II. It is available from the Bute Museum shop priced £5.
Link www.bute-at-war.org .