RSPBA Vice Chairman’s Bid to Trace Uncle’s Pipes from World War 2

RSPBA Vice Chairman John Hughes has contacted the Editor: ‘Just doing a bit of research into a shield that was presented to my uncle William Chisholm in 1943 from the Piobaireachd Society and with your extensive knowledge of the solo piping scene I thought I would seek your assistance.

‘I’ve attached an image of the shield and wondered if you had any insight into why it would have been presented. He was a piper in both the Seaforths and the Highland Light Infantry during his service and was a Prisoner of War.’

The Editor replied: Very interesting John. I’ve searched through the relevant Piobaireachd Society minutes at the National Library in Edinburgh but can’t find any reference to your uncle or to a special set of pipes presented to him. However there is detailed information on how the Society agreed to supply music to PoWs around that time and specific reference to one set of pipes sent to Offlag IIIC in Germany.

Having read through much of the relevant material I think it unlikely that the Society would have gone to the expense of having an individual plaque on any set of pipes sent to the camps in Germany. Indeed I am sure they, the Society, were unaware of each set’s recipient as the distribution seems to have been done by the Red Cross.

Would it be possible that your uncle was rightly proud of having received such a set during his incarceration and on returning home with them had the plaque added to the pipes?

I’ll run through details from some of the minutes shortly but here is a close up of the plaque:It reads:

W CHISHOLM
________________
The Gift
of the
PIOBAIREACHD
SOCIETY 1943
____________
PIPER

The Society minutes of November 30th 1941 record: The Hon. Secretary & Treasurer had a letter…regarding a request which he had received for sets of pipes, chanters etc. for Prisoners of War….It was mentioned that the Association of Highland Societies was at the moment sending 12 sets of pipes, 24 practice chanters, reeds and music per the Red Cross…



After discussion it was decided that the Society should not encroach on [this] work but that the Society should send three copies of each book [from the Piobaireachd Society Collection] or as many as are available…the meeting also sanctioned a quantity of MS paper being purchased and sent with the books….

On January 1944 the Society’s General Committee held its meeting in the club rooms of the Royal Scottish Pipers’ Society at 38 York Place, Edinburgh. The minutes record: The Hon. Secretary submitted…correspondence leading to a gift of pipes to PoW Camp Offlag IIIC…it noted the Society contributed £15 to the cost of the pipes. [This would probably be the bulk of the cost at that time]

There was submitted a letter from Officer Commanding 51st Highland Divisional Signals asking if it was possible for the Society to allot one or two sets of pipes to his unit. The Hon. Secretary was instructed to reply that the Society was not a distributing agency for pipers and to express regret that it was not in a position to help.

The Hon. Secretary submitted a letter from the British Prisoners of War Fund referring to the donation sent in April 1941 and asking for a further donation. Extracts from some of the thousands of touching and grateful letters received from Prisoners of War was enclosed with the appeal. The Hon. Secretary was instructed to reply that a personal application from any prisoner for piobaireachd books would be favourably considered. It was not considered advisable to send books unless specially asked for. In the special circumstances prevailing it was unanimously agreed to send a donation of £5 to the fund…

Relevant Minute Book of the Piobaireachd Society housed in the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh

At the Society’s General Committee meeting of 18th January 1946 a letter dated 9th July 1945 from the Returned Prisoner of War Association was submitted [no details].

The above shows that the Society, through cash donations, had, perhaps more involvement in supplying pipes than the minutes reflect and it may be that Piper Chisholm received one of these sets. Could it be that he was held at Offlag IIIC?

We would ask that any reader who has any information on the supply of pipes and pipe music to PoWs during WW2 to get in touch.


2 thoughts on “RSPBA Vice Chairman’s Bid to Trace Uncle’s Pipes from World War 2”

  1. Fascinating article! I had no idea that pipes were played in POW camps, let alone having funds set up to send instruments, practice chanters and reeds.

  2. Check the hallmark date on the shield as Chisholm may have had the shield made himself after his return to Scotland to authenticate the history of the pipe and as a thank you to the Society(?) These donated pipes are now being learned about by these discussions and via PP to many both here and abroad

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