Essex Scottish Pipe Major

Pipe Major Jock Copland, Essex Scottish Regiment. Created a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1946.

Pipe Major Jock Copland, Essex Scottish Regiment.
(Image from The War Illustrated, August 16, 1940)

“Jock” Copland – Always Ready

A return to the stacks at the University of Victoria Library provided a hidden gem amongst familiar pages that, this day, I turn a little slower finding clues within the pictorial offerings. This one image here – records the familiar collar badges of a Canadian regiment – The Essex Scottish Regiment, and a name Jock Copeland [sic].

Apart from the collar insignia the bass drum provides a clue with its painted image of the unit’s cap insignia. The image detail is slight but there is enough to affirm a day in the life of this Scottish regiment from Canada. So what was this day and who was Jock Copland (correct spelling) that brought Canada to the front cover of The War Illustrated in 1940?

John “Jock” Copland was born in Shettleston, Lanarkshire, Scotland 27 January 1880 and previously served for seven years as a piper with a unit of the Royal Engineers (Territorials). In 1911 Copland immigrated arriving in Galt, Ontario and worked as a mechanic. In his spare hours Copland founded a pipe band that became the pipe band of another Canadian Regiment, the Highland Light Infantry.

During the Great War Copland joined the 241st Battalion CEF (The Canadian Scottish Borderers). With the 241st Battalion CEF, based at Windsor, Ontario, Copland was asked to form a pipe band and went overseas with them but was unable to join them on the Western Front being found medically unfit for service.

Returning to Canada, Copland and later returning pipers of the 241st formed the Border Cities Pipe Band which, in 1927, formed the nucleus of the Essex Scottish Pipe Band. Copland taught several aspiring pipers to play and his son James later became Pipe Sergeant of the regiment, and a second son, Robert, their Drum Major.

During the Second World War Jock Copland, aged 60, lied about his age and proceeded overseas with the Essex Scottish. Upon the regiment’s arrival in Aldershot, England, 3 August 1940 the British newspapers, having learned of the arrival of the Second Canadian Infantry Division, appeared in the historic military town. It is on this day that The War Illustrated image of Pipe Major Jock Copland was taken.

Like his regiment’s motto Semper Paratus (Always Ready) Jock was always ready to serve. However, though on a very active British home front during the Battle of Britain, once again Jock’s chance to serve in a theatre of war on continental Europe would be denied. Being 15 years over the age for active service, Jock was returned to Canada, whereupon he became Pipe Major for the 2nd Battalion Essex Scottish of the Canadian Reserve.

With over twenty-five years service in the Essex Scottish Regiment (1929 – 1958) Copland’s devotion was recognized in 1946 when he was created a Member of the Order of the British Empire (Civil Division).

Jock Copland of the Essex Scottish Regiment passed away 29 April 1966.

About The Author

Paul has worked with the Paradigm Motion Picture Company since 2009 as producer, historian and research specialist. Paul first met Casey and Ian WIlliams of Paradigm in April 2007 at Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and in Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was further amazed by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Film captivated Paul and with time he became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography and soundtracks. At the University of Victoria, Paul studied and compared Japanese and Australian film and became interested in Australian film maker Peter Weir and his film "Gallipoli" (1981). Paul was entranced when he learned Weir had visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. The film "Gallipoli" alone led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii and Gallipoli. It was, however, when Paul watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", that Paul understood how his own experience and insight could be effective and perhaps influential in film-making. Combining his knowledge of Museums and Archives, exhibitions and idea strategies with his film interests would be a natural progression. Paul thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm an eye (and ear) to the keen and sensitive interests of; content development, the understanding of successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Like Paul's favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, he believes in the adage “To deepen not broaden.” While on this path Paul always remembers his grandmother whose father did not return from the Great War and how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to guide him.


2 Responses to “Essex Scottish Pipe Major”

  1. Chuck Copland says:

    Thank you for sharing this information about my great grandfather I believe that i have the drum that is in the picture behind Jock.

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