Galloway’s Great War

Queues at a recruitment office in Edinburgh
Queues at a recruitment office in Edinburgh

April 10th, 1915

Matthew Campbell, Causewayend, aged 12, has been awarded one of two special prizes for boys under 16 in the “Weekly News” knitting competition for wounded sailors and soldiers.

A meeting of the Newton Stewart Volunteer Training Corps was held on Tuesday evening to consider a request to undertaking patrol duty in the district. After some discussion it was agreed to undertake patrol duty for certain nights in the week, and week-ends, as arrangements may be made. The Volunteer Training Corps is being successfully carried on. Almost 30 men have enlisted from it and five commissioned officers. It was arranged to have shooting each Monday and drill on Wednesdays and Saturdays and it is hoped that the numbers attending will yet be increased.

Wigtown Solicitor’s four sons in the Army.

Mr Hugh Todd, Procurator Fiscal, Wigtown, has four sons who have answered the country’s call. Shortly after the outbreak of war, Hugh Todd junior, a solicitor in Newton Stewart, joined the Scottish Horse; Dr William Todd went to the RAMC and Norman Todd returned from India to join the Middlesex Hussars, his situation being kept for him till after the war. Now the youngest son, George, has followed his brothers’ example and offered his services.

Mr A Donaldson, Whauphill, has been appointed by the committee of the National Egg Collection for the wounded in our naval and military hospitals as the representative in this district. The scheme is under the supervision of the War Office and Mr Donaldson will be glad to receive eggs for this laudable purpose from parties in the district.

Mr and Mrs McLean, Chippermore, Port William, have just received a letter from their son, Private Alex McLean, 1st Canadian Contingent, 48th Highlanders, in which he says:

“I have just come out of the trenches for a few days’ rest, after four terrible days. it was an awful time, but we made the Germans a little less, gained a good bit of ground and are still gaining. As you will understand, I am attached to the 7th Division “The Fighting 7th” as it is called, and it is well named. We had very few casualties in our regiment - I think about four - so that isn’t so bad. When I went into the trenches the first time I was sitting one after noon having my tea, when the Germans turned the machine guns on us and one of the bullets had the cheek to go through the rubber sheet I was sitting on. That was my closest shave yet......We hope to continue our good work, for it is a good and just cause we have all come for and I am not downhearted yet. I am used to the * Jack Johnstons’ now althoug it is not ‘just like being at hame.’ “

* A ‘Jack Johnson’ was the British nickname used to describe the impact of a heavy, black German 15-cm artillery shell. They were named after Jack Johnson the popular Texan world heavyweight boxing champion who held the title from 1908-15.

Extract from a letter from Mr William McGowan, apprentice on board the SS ‘West Wales’ to his father Mr McGowan, Barnbarroch. On their voyage home from China in March they saw a vessel being sunk by a submarine off Beachy Head.

“We have got so far safely though we think we had a very narrow escape. Yesterday afternoon about half past four the mate, the pilot and the man at the wheel all saw the periscope of a submarine close on the port bow. It crossed to the starboard bow and dived, evidently waiting to torpedo us, but we were too quick for it and went hard over to starboard and right ove the top of it. Whether we struck it or not we can’t tell because of course a submarine is simply a shell and we being loaded and drawing 23 feet of water we would never feel it. if it fired it missed us, so that is all we can tell.”

Recruiting in the Machars

The following enlisted this week: - Peter Menzies, Newton Stewart, Royal Engineers; John Rennie, Whithorn, Royal Scots Fusiliers; Peter McCourt, Whauphill, Royal Scots Fusiliers; George McShane, Isle of Whithorn, Royal Field Artillery; Hugh Maxwell, Isle of Whithorn, Royal Field Artillery; David McGowan, Newton Stewart, Royal Scots Fusiliers.

Glendarroch Convalecent Home, Kirkcowan

Thanks are due for the following gifts: - Mrs Henry, Strathleigh, Creebridge, tea and walking sticks; Mrs Gemmell, The Ewart, games; Miss Murray Dunlop, Corvisel, beetroot; Miss Gifford, Curlywee, khaki handkerchiefs; Miss J Breckenridge, cigarettes; Misses Gifford, Auchendoon, oatcakes and cakes; Mrs A Brown, Aireyligg, Glenluce, 2 dozen eggs and 2lbs butter; Mrs Cathcart, Newton Stewart Road, Kirkcowan, 2 pairs socks; Mrs James Murchie, Newton Stewart, scones; “A Friend”, Newton Stewart, eggs.

April 17th, 1915

Private James Bell of B Company, 2nd Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, in a letter to his brother, Mr William Bell, Garden Street, Gatehouse-of-Fleet, writing from France says: “I will try and stick it to the end if possible, which won’t be very long. We have a shout nearly every day from the Germans, and we let them know that we are still here. and don’t mean to go. I sent a postcard to Mr Henderson thanking him for the parcel from Gatehouse folk. When I see the parcel coming in it is the grand scones I think of. They are all right.”

The following brief report would win hands down in a name dropping competition:

Lieutenant Neil McMicking, 2nd Battalion Black Watch, who has been reported wounded, was born in 1894. He is the only son of Thomas George Torrance McMicking, the eldest son of the late Gilbert McMicking of Miltonise, Wigtownshire, by his marriage with Margaret Rowand, daughter of George Balloch, of Kinloch, Perthshire. Mr McMicking entered the army in 1913 and was promoted to temporary Lieutenant on November 15th, 1914. He is the nephew of Colonel Gilbert McMicking, MP for Kirkcudbright and first cousin of Lord Denman, late Governor-General of Australia, whose mother, now the wife of Sir Henry Primrose (Lord Roseberry’s cousin), is a sister of Mr McMicking’s father. The McMickings have owned Miltonise since the 17th century.

April 24th, 1915

For the past few months, the members of the Newton Stewart and District Work Party have worked so industriously that they have already used up over £50 worth of materials for soldiers comforts. Recently a whist drive was held to swell the empty treasury. This brought in £25, from which expenses have to be deducted. Another effort to raise further funds is to be made as the committee have arranged an excellent cinematography display by the well-known London Bioscope Company. This company has given several displays in Newton Stewart and the chairman of the last entertainment stated that it was “undoubtedly the finest cinematograph display ever given in Newton Stewart”. Mr Charlie Mair and other friends have kindly promised to sing, and some of the Belgian residents in Newton Stewart, including three children, will also sing in Flemish.

The following letter was received by Master John Cathcart, Station House, Sorbie, acknowledging gifts sent by him to Pte. Peter Smith, a Garlieston man at the front.

“I take the opportunity of writing to thank you for the parcel of stationery and chocolate which I received to-day. It is very kind of you to send them to me. Please thank Miss Milroy for the chocolate and tell her it was much enjoyed. We are now down for a rest. We left the trenches last night and arrived here in the early hours of the morning. We shall likely be out for a week or so. We were not in the battle you mention but were not that many miles away. The place we left last night was only 100 yards from the enemy, and we could hear them singing and talking quite distinctly. Archie has a curious experience the other day. The Germans were sniping at the corner where he was standing and a bullet came through the sand-bags sidways and went through his overcoat, tore his pocket to pieces, and stuck in a notebook which he had in his pocket at the time. By good luck the force was taken out of it coming through the bag, or it might have gone further and he might have fared worse.”

Private Archie Gass, Cameron Highlanders, wrote to his mother in Creetown about his near miss: “We are getting on all right, and I am in an advanced dug-out which is much superior to the one I left. We have a piano in the trench, and in our spare time we enjoy ourselves. I had rather an exciting time the other day, I and three companions were on outpost duty, and we got into a very hot corner; a regular fusilade of shots was poured on us, but, fortunately, we all escaped. One bullet cut through the pocket of my great coat and through the pocket of my tunic, striking a small tin and writing pad which I had in my pocket. This diverted the bullet, which passed down the inside of my kilt without doing me the least harm. I have the bullet as a souvenir of the occasion. I have not yet received the parcel you sent at Easter, nor have I recelved the parcel the Women’s Guild so kindly sent.”

Mr Willam McCreadie, Church Cottage, New Luce, has received a letter from his son, Private James McCreadie, 2nd Battalion Scots Guards, recently on active service in France. Up to the present Private McCreadie is unscathed, but his letter contains many side-lights on trench life and warfare. Notwithstanding hardships, such as sitting for hours up to the knees in liquid mud and water, and taking care that heads do not project too long at a time above the sand-bag front of the trenches, he says life there has its pleasures. In describing the destruction to a church and churchyard by shell fire, he says it would make one cry, adding that if the hesitants at home could see the devastation in Belgium and Northern France, “they would be hesitants no longer”.