Galloway’s Great War

Gunner George Gibson from Creebridge
Gunner George Gibson from Creebridge

In March 1916, with the introduction of Lord Derby’s Scheme the previous autumn to conscript more men to the ranks, tribunals were held over Galloway so men called up to the colours could ask for exemption.

The following report gives an insight into how it was decided who had to go to the war and who remained at home, and for how long:

The Galloway Gazette

March 11th, 1916

MEN APPEAL AGAINST CONSCRIPTION

The Machars tribunal met at Wigtown when forty cases were considered. Very few absolute exemptions were granted, but several were exempted until the of May, to allow for sowing (of seed) to be completed. Almost a dozen cases were heard in private, the majority being granted a few weeks’ exemption, and in every one of those cases, the military representative intimated an appeal. The tribunal sat that day from 2 o’ clock till six o’ clock, but due to the large number of appeals still to be heard, they met again the following day.

One farmer, appealing for his eldest son, a lad of nineteen, caused some amusement. On being asked to give the names and ages of the rest of the family, after mentioning half-a-dozen, hesitated and said it was difficult to “min’ them a’, but there was a wheen yet.” He rattled off three of four more names, and added that there were still more. Exemption for three months was granted for the oldest son.

Two brothers both appealed on the grounds that they were indispensable for the farms which they occupied. The military representative said he must have one of them, and would exempt the other. The elder brother replied he would go to loud applause.

A dairyman with 80 cows and 70 pigs made a strong case for the exemption of his only assistant but the military representative had asked the assistant if he wanted to go and “do his bit”. He replied that he would and the claim was at once rejected.

Two brothers who ran a grocers appealed on the grounds they were both indispensable, and that two other brothers had already left the business and enlisted. The military representative said he was willing to exempt one if the other came. Failing that, he would claim both. He insisted that women could do all that was required in a grocer’s business. The case was continued for two weeks to allow the brothers time to decide who would go.

DEATH OF CREEBRIDGE GUNNER

The funeral took place in the Military Hospital in Seaford of Gunner George Gibson of Creebridge, the son of mason Alex Gibson. He was 32-years old and had joined the Royal Horse Artillery at the age of 17. Before the war he was stationed at Newbridge, in Ireland. When a dozen men from his regiment were selected to join the Canadian Mounted Rifles, he was one of those chosen and was drafted abroad to serve in the South African War. When peace was proclaimed there he was sent to India and remained there until he was discharged. On the outbreak of war he volunteered his services again and was sent to France. He was wounded at Mons and invalided home. Later on he joined the Scottish Rifles and was stationed at the wireless station in Sussex. He left a wife and two children.

KILLED AT LOOS

Official news finally came from the War Office that Private Peter Crawford, previously posted as missing, was presumed killed in action at the Battle of Loos on September 25th, 1915. Private Crawford, who was a native of Forfarshire, was married to Gordina, the daughter of Mr Gordon Mills, Isle of Whithorn. He left her a widow with three children.

STRANRAER FOOTBALLER PRESUMED DEAD

The family of Private David Govan from Queen Street, Stranraer, were informed that “as no further news had been received” since he was posted missing at the Battle of Festubert on May 9th, 1915, it was assumed he had been killed that day. He joined the Black Watch on December 1914 and the only letter his parents received from him was to say he had arrived safely in France. The authorities knew nothing of his fate.

Private Govan was well known in Stranraer having been employed at the Wigtownshire creamery, and then before the war broke out, in the locomotive department of the Stranraer Railway Station. He was an enthusiastic footballer who played in the Stranraer Junior League at Stair Park. His brother William was also with the Black Watch.