The town of Fort William's origins are military. The area itself, at the westernmost end of the Great Glen fault that runs from Inverness, has historically been of great strategic and political importance to the control of the Highlands.
Much of the area's more renowned military stories revolve around the events leading up to and arising from the Jacobite risings of the mid-eighteenth century.
An important episode in this saga was the now infamous Massacre of the MacDonalds at Glencoe, when thirty-six people were slaughtered by soldiers they were housing and feeding, in order to make an example of their Chief's delay in signing an oath of allegiance to William III. (The museum holds objects and correspondence related to this event, including a facsimile of the letter giving the order for the massacre). For general background, please take a look at the Jacobite section of our website.
As well as holding a wealth of material relating to the Jacobite story, the museum also holds a fascinating collection of clothing, guns, medals, and other paraphernalia relating to the Highland regiments, from the Boer War to the Second World War.
One of our newest sections is the Commando Room which tells the story of the Commandos who trained in Lochaber during the Second World War. Download our Commando leaflet here.
The West Highland Museum has an extensive collection of military medals relating to the Highland Regiments and others, dating from the Waterloo Medal of 1815 to the Crimean and right through to the Second World War.
The medal pictured was one of three presented with a large bronze plaque in 1914-1915. These bronze plaques were issued to the families of all dead soldiers from the beginning of 'the Great War', World War One.
As time passed and the numbers of the slaughtered rose exponentially, the Government could not afford to meet this self-imposed obligation. These medal sets serve as a poignant reminder of the initial optimism and ultimate tragedy that accompanies armed conflict.