Owing to the movements of troops around the various theatres of war, some Christmas parcels send from Newton Stewart in November and December only reached the local soldiers in March 1916. The following letters from two of them show how much a taste of home meant at that time.
This morning I received a very valuable and useful parcel from my friends in ‘good old Newton Stewart’. My chums and I enjoyed the contents very much. You know our rations are much the same daily, and such dainties give us a very welcome change. The shirts are welcome as we sometimes have some company (presumably he means lice) through sleeping in dugouts, which we can easily do without.
“We had a rough time here due to the wet weather but now it has dried up we have got the dugouts sorted and have little to grumble about.
So far I have been lucky regarding wounds, I got mixed up with one of Fritz’s explosives on Xmas Eve but escaped with only a few cut and bruises and only spent a week in hospital.
Fritz will get all that’s coming to him before long, although just now he is getting a bit fresh, but I think this will be his last try. I will close now as it is time for me to take up my post and keep an eye on our neighbours across the way. I am afraid we are not very sociable with Fritz, although we have been close neighbours for a long time!”
Owning to circumstances the parcel only reached me two days ago. Notwithstanding the great delay in delivery, the choice of comforts was such as to defy time and rough usage. Even the ‘Veeda’ bread was as fresh as the proverbial daisy, and was an excellent substitute for our notorious biscuits. At Ypres and Loos I came in contact with many Scottish soldiers whose speech was the music which drowned the sound of the enemy’s shells.
How proud I was at Loos! The ‘Tam o’ Shanter’ was everywhere to be seen, and I also experienced that inexplicable ‘call of the blood’.
‘Jock’ would patiently sit getting his wounds dressed with his souvenir helmet on, captured from the Hun. So numerous were these helmets amongst our Scottish regiments that my English friends commented that ‘Jock’ came to the war with no other intention than that of getting one of these much coveted souvenirs.
Be that as it may, the Huns had other ideas of ‘Jock’ when they named him “the lady from Hell!”
One humorous tale I must tell you concerns the difficulty my friends experience in conversation with our countrymen and the admission of a Scottish soldier to hospital. Having been furnished, after some difficulty with the accent, with the patient’s regimental number, name and rank, the clerk enquired about religion: ”C of E” or RC?” You can imagine everyone’s amusement when the patient blandly replied: “KOSB”.
Tom McNaught is near to here and I see him almost daily. Three of four other Newton Stewart lads are in the vicinity and I look forward to the pleasure of meeting them in the near future.”