Knights Templars and Scotland

By James “Ski” Schiaffino Post 1814

Superstitions are a strange lot; Step on a crack, break your mother’s back; don’t walk under a ladder; break a mirror and have seven years of bad luck or cross a black cat’s path. How about, bad luck comes in threes, the number 666, knock on wood, or carry a rab- bit’s foot. Then there is the granddaddy of all supersti- tions Friday the Thirteenth! I can’t speak to the rest of them but I can relate to you the origins of the last one.

It was the year 1307 and it was a Friday, the 13th day of October when King Philip IV of France arrested the Knights Templars on trumped-up charges. History will tell you that the king and pope Clement V con- spired to steal the Templars’ vast treasury. Philip was deeply in debt to the Templars, and treasure he sought was missing. So the Templars in France were arrested, tortured and burned at the stake. History will also state that was the end of the Knights Templars. Hence Fri- day 13th became a bad day for a lot of folks. In this case History is a wee bit short on being completely correct.

Perhaps a bit of background is in order. One of my ancestors was a Knights Templar, so my interest in the organization is a long one. The Knights Templars were a religious order of knights that were founded in 1118 with the blessing of Pope Honorius II. They were origi- nally founded to protect pilgrims on the hazardous voy- age to the Holy Land. In 1139 Pope Innocent II issued a Papal Bull officially recognizing the Knights. The order was active until 1307 when Pope Clement V at- tempted to suppress the order. As the Holy Land was the Pope’s domain, the Knights were a separate entity and as such they were ostensibly under the control of the pope and were not answerable to anyone but the Pope. In medieval times those who undertook religious life, in any form, could travel across any border in Christendom. So the Templars could be anywhere, go anywhere they pleased and conduct their business ac- cordingly.

The Templar order was found in every Christian kingdom and in the Holy Lands. The Templars had established a reputation as being the best mounted cav- alry in Christendom. The Knights were monks not

priests. They did however practice the same vows as priests including chastity and poverty.

However, the Knights Templar were not all warri- ors. In actuality the organization consisted mostly of bankers, tradesmen and farmers. All in all, there were about 1,500 mounted knights and about 20,000 other lesser “knights” looking after their various affairs. The military arm of the Templars were fully armed and mounted while the “lesser knights” were trained in a few of the military arts such as archery and in the use of pikes, bills and swords in combat.

So, from where then did the Knights great fortune arise? Their wealth came from pilgrims. To make a pilgrimage was an expensive undertaking, so to protect the pilgrims from robbery or worse during their pil- grimage, in essence, the Knights invented the idea of modern banking. Now a pilgrim could safely travel to the Holy Land without any money. A pilgrim left a deposit at their local Templar “office” and were given a written letter of note - a sort of a 12th century debit card. The pilgrim then travelled on a Templar ship and stayed at a Templar hostel. To each place, the pilgrim travelled, the pilgrim presented the note and a certain amount was “withdrawn” to cover the current expenses and the new note of the current balance (lesser amount) was written. Upon your return home, you presented your letter of note and your deposit, minus a service charge, was returned. Making pilgrimages was a very popular pastime, so needless to say over time the Knights built a large treasury.

King Philip IV of France

Pope Clement V

With the popes’ blessing the Knights Templars grew into a private army to protect the Holy Land with their own navy to take them there. Out of necessity the Templars also possessed a very large support section. This group of lesser knights were responsible for main- taining all Templar properties, castles, hostels, farms, ships and various treasuries.

Philip IV had borrowed a large amount of money for the Knights to fund his many wars and he was for all intents and purposes, flat broke. He coveted the Knights vast amount of money. Like Philip, Pope Clement V had grown leery of the Templars’ wealth

and influence. Philip eventually coerced the pope to formally dissolve the order, which he did in 1312. However, as Philip arrested the Knights in France, he also was able to have a few of the Catholic kings in other countries arrest the Templars. “Officially” that was the end of the Templars.

But, there is always a “but”. It wasn’t the end by any means, an organization such as the Templars didn’t amass a vast fortune through naivety or anonymity. Prior to Phillip’s order, the money that Philip (and the Pope and other Catholic kings) sought surreptitiously found its way to La Rochelle, France where it was loaded onto the Templar fleet. Sometime prior to Fri- day the 13th, the fleet sailed out of the harbor and dis- appeared from history. Friday the 13th came down to us as a day of infamy. It was the day the few remaining Templars in France were unlawfully arrested, tortured and burned at the stake and their treasury ‘disappeared’.

You are probably wondering by now what does this have to do with Scotland? Well, only 54 of the over 21,000 members of the order were tortured into false confessions and burned at the stake. So where did the other 21,000+ go? For starters most were in other countries to begin with and didn’t suffer the same fate as the few Templars who remained in France. Even though the pope had excommunicated everyone in the order, for the most part they continued to conduct their business as usual. This happened in countries who were otherwise cool to the pope and his mechanizations.

The fleet allegedly sailed to Scotland. Why Scot- land? The Templars had a large presence there. One of the early and influential members of the Knights Tem- plars was Henry St. Clair; he of Roslin Chapel fame. Also, Robert the Bruce was in Scotland and he, like the Knights Templars, also was excommunicated by the pope for his wee dustup with John Comyn. We know that the Templar fleet sailed from La Rochelle, France. It made a brief stop at Argyll in Scotland prior to it’s disappearance. Otherwise, there is no verifiable record of the fleet or any part of it either making any other landfall or being captured at sea. For all intents and purposes, it simply vanished along with the Templar treasury.

Rosslyn Chapel

Although there have been unsubstantiated rumors that it made landfall at Leith, the principal Templar port in Scotland and Rosslyn is near- by. Rosslyn is the ancestral home of the St. Clair’s who, along with the Logans, were the leaders of the Knights Templars in Scotland. But why would the fleet sail around Scotland just to make a port call, especially with French and England ships hunting for it?

As a wee aside, on several pillars within Rosslyn Chapel (built in 1460) are carvings of maize or corn. The Logan Coat of Arms also bears a stalk of maize or corn. There are rumors that Sir Henry St. Clair and his entourage lived among the Miq-mac Indians in New England and Canada 50 years prior to Columbus’ arri- val. You might also be aware of an ongoing History Channel story about “The Curse of Oak Island”. Oak Island is a man made island built out of sight from the main channel and populated with Oak trees which are not indigenous to that part of Canada. It was construct- ed so that anyone digging there would be flooded when they reached a depth of sixty feet. If someone were go- ing to hide something they went to a lot of trouble to create a perfect hiding place.

Robert the Bruce

So now Scotland was a possible new home of the Knights and you have excommunicated knights serving an excommunicated king; all in Scotland. Which brings us to Bannockburn, and the question of the Knights being present at the Battle at Bannockburn. There are several oddities about Bruce’s army that are either ig- nored or simply overlooked by contemporary histori- ans. For instance, in the space of a few short years Robert the Bruce went from a hunted fugitive with a few hundred followers capable of mounting sporadic hit and run skirmishes to a resourceful, formidable mil- itary commander with a well-trained, well fed and well armed fighting force employing state of the art military tactics and controlling 2/3 of Scotland. So from where did he get all the guidance? That’s not something one gets in a cave.

Historians will note that Bruce’s army was well equipped with armor, swords, pikes and bills. Sound familiar? (Hint: see above mention of “lesser” knights.) Unlike prior battles where the Scottish soldier provided their own primitive armaments like pitchforks, scythes or a variety of swords (contrary to popular belief the swords were not the two handed broad swords one sees today at parades.) and they brought their own food. At

Bannockburn not only were Bruce’s men well trained and well fed, they were all fully armed with uniform weapons. His battle tactics resembled those of any well trained military leader in Europe. From where did his knowledge come, not to mention all the money needed to fund his campaign?

It is not really a mystery. The answer is quite sim- ple: The Knights Templars. Having been almost de- stroyed as an organization religiously, militarily and commercially, how could they have been persuaded to help Bruce stop the English invasion? They had long deep ties with Scotland. Scotland itself was isolated from Europe. Both the Knights and the Scottish king were excommunicated. The Templars had long been advisors to the Scottish kings. Following Friday the 13th, England could be considered an enemy. After all, the English king did arrest as many Templars as he could get his hands on.

Let us begin with the first question. The Knights Templars had been close advisors to the Scottish kings starting with David I. Their headquarters were located at Balantrodoch, a small village a few miles south of Edinburgh. Today it is known as the village of Temple. Robert the Bruce was now the king, therefore it follows that he was privy to their council and by extension their military support.

Although there were some Templar warriors in Scotland, most of The “Knights” in Scotland were not warriors, they were bankers and farmers working Tem- plar land holdings. The few Knights that fled to Scot- land were indeed warriors. Some historians put the number at 59. So now Bruce had a small but experi- enced group of fighters around which he could build his army.

This leads to the obvious questions about Robert the Bruce’s preparations for battle. To begin with, Scot- land was a poor, barren country. Twenty years of war with England left most Scots living in abject poverty bordering on starvation. The Lowland Scots, who were not poverty stricken, sided with the English. So from where did the food and money for The Bruce’s army come? If you can’t grow food you can buy it and the Templars had commercial ties throughout Europe.

Prior to the battle of Bannockburn, most Scottish soldiers used whatever they could find as weapons. Historians have noted that at Bannockburn, the Scottish army was uniformly and well armed. From where did Robert the Bruce acquire the armor and weaponry his army used? Again, it can be purchased from anywhere in Europe. The food and the training all have Templar fingerprints all over them.

The Templars were the paramount military force in Europe at that time. Even those few in Scotland were the knights who fought during the crusades. They would have the training and the wherewithal to supply Bruce’s forces. They could also provide him with “storm troopers” capable of disrupting enemy for- mations. The pivotal charge by Sir Robert of Keith’s cavalry employed the Templar invention and their standard military tactic “The Turcopolier or Squadron Charge”. The Templar Knights would form a close vee

-shaped wedge holding their spears “at arms” (the spear straight ahead braced by their elbow.) Shoulder to shoulder they would charge en masse into the enemy ranks. This would either slay those who stood their ground or scatter the enemy making them easy targets for following foot soldiers. (Only the Templars em- ployed this tactic. At this time in history knights fought solitary battles against another knight for personal glo- ry and the armor of the defeated knight.)

Then there is the mention of “gillies”, wee folk or sma’ folk and their timely charge from behind Gillies Hill. They have been identified as servants, hostlers and cooks and have been written off as “camp follow- ers”'. A Templar like any other knight of that time did not travel alone. He was accompanied by a contingent of sergeants (squires), craftsmen, baillis and menials who took care of the everyday needs of the knights. While the gillies and wee folk were not Knightley war- riors, some of them were Templar monks who were trained in the military arts but only to a lesser degree. But they had many of the skills necessary for survival on a battlefield.

Not all of the gillies were “knights”, most really were camp followers. But led into battle, by even the lesser knights, they would be far from a rabble of camp followers and quite capable of inflicting considerable carnage. Keep in mind that they chose the optimum time to attack, just when the English hoard was waver- ing. How did they know that? The “lesser” knights might not have participated in any other Templar bat- tles but they could watch and learn even from their iso- lated position. They would the use this knowledge at a critical point in the battle.

According to a passage on the ‘The Electric Scot- land’ website by George Bucanon, a Scottish historian, “Above fifteen thousand servants and attendants of the Scottish army had been ordered, before the battle, to retire with the baggage behind the adjoining hill; but having, during the engagement arranged themselves in a martial form, some on foot, and others mounted on baggage-horses, they marched to the top, and display- ing, on long poles, white sheets instead of banners, de- scended towards the field with hideous shouts. The English, taking them for a fresh reinforcement of the foe, were seized with so great a panic that they gave

way in great confusion”. That doesn’t sound like a rab- ble of camp followers. It sounds like a somewhat orga- nized force, to me.

All one needs to do is employ Ockham ’s razor (Lex Parsimoniae - all points being equal the simplest ex- planation is the best explanation) to reach the conclu- sion that the Knights Templars were present at Ban- nockburn and they were Robert the Bruce’s secret weapon.

The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon (Pauperes commilitones Christi Templique Salomonici)

MOTTO: Non nobis, Domine, non nobis, sed Nomini tuo da gloriam. (Not for us, My Lord, not for us, but to your Name give the glory)


The Knights Templar and Scotland by Robert Ferguson The Bannockburn Encyclopedia

British The Battle of Bannockburn




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Electric Scotland






WWII Coca-Cola Contribution to Troop Morale

At the outbreak of WW II, Coca-Cola was bottled in 44 countries, including those on both sides of the conflict. The war was taking a devastating toll on families as their loved ones left to fight and serve overseas. Coca-Cola saw employees leaving to enlist in the war and experienced rationing of the daily es- sentials for the business. Rubber and gasoline proved hard to come by making deliveries of Coca-Cola diffi- cult. Sugar rationing slowed production in many plants with one in Alberta, Canada completely closing over the lack of ingredients.

Finally, a special tax during the war forced the cost of a Coke to increase by one penny –an increase of 20 per cent. The entry of the US into the war brought an order from Coca-Cola Company president Robert Woodruff in 1941 “to see that every man in uniform gets a bottle of Coke for five cents, wherever he is and whatever it costs the Company.” Despite the difficul- ties, Woodruff knew that Coca-Cola could support the war effort. He found out just how important two years

later when a special cablegram arrived at the Coca- Cola Export office in New York City.

The effort to supply the armed forces with Coke was being launched when an urgent cablegram arrived from General Eisenhower’s Allied Headquarters in North Africa, 29 June 1943, requesting a shipment of materials and equipment for 10 bottling plants. Pref- aced by the directive that the shipments were not to replace other military cargo, the cablegram also re- quested 3 million filled bottles of Coke, along with supplies for producing the same quantity twice month- ly. Within six months, a Company engineer had flown to Algiers and opened the first plant, the forerunner of 64 bottling plants shipped abroad during WW II.

To build those plants, a special group of Coke em- ployees called Technical Observers (TOs) were asked to plan the logistics to install the plants and get the bottling started. One hundred forty-eight men served as TOs, complete with Army officer's rank, pay and uniforms that had a unique identification patch. One such TO was John Talley, an American who at that time had spent his entire Coke career in Canada work- ing in Toronto, Winnipeg, Port Arthur and Windsor.

John Talley went to Europe in 1944 and was first set with the seemingly impossible job of establishing bottling operations in a newly liberated Paris. Against all odds Talley managed the feat and went on to set up bottling plants across the American zone of occupa- tion in Germany. TOs like Talley supervised the ship- ment and operation of the 64 complete bottling plants

Coke’s campaign to give troops everywhere their soda did encounter issues in the Pacific. While the efforts to build bottling plants were successful, it was harder to get to more remote areas. There was a solu- tion, though: jungle fountains. These fountains, which were not common yet, that could be transported any- where easier than bottles could. To meet this need 1,100 jungle fountains were produced to aid in the war on thirst.

Through this effort, GIs halfway around the world deprived of the tastes of home who did not get to ex- perience many creature comforts, sustained mostly by C-Rations and whatever could be made in a field kitchen, had access to a supply of the drink. In a mod- ern cynical view, the whole Coke ordeal could come off as a marketing stunt, and it is no secret that the company did take advantage of the good publicity it gave them. Coke ads from the time showed GIs shar- ing Cokes with other Allies, which helped to spread the brand globally.

The effort did accomplish its mission of boosting troop morale. It is not hard to find accounts from troops excited about having access to Coke. In times of chaos, something as simple as a familiar sugary soft drink did a lot of good, and Coke did its part by providing GIs with more than 5 billion sodas.


March 2022]