Galloway’s Great War

Local soldiers in uniform at a trainng camp before going to fight at the front
Local soldiers in uniform at a trainng camp before going to fight at the front

Galloway soldiers are fighting in two theatres of war in July 1915 - on the western front in France and at the Dardannelles (Gallipoli) campaign.

Here are a few reports and letters home reflecting the conditions and experences of the ongoing ‘war to end all wars’.

The Galloway Gazette, July 10th, 1915


Two lads from the Wigtownshire village of Port William on the outbreak of war signed up to fight for King and Country in different regiments. They never saw or heard of each other again until a few days ago, when - the one carrying a kettle of tea and the other a hand grenade - they came face to face in the trenches. For an instant they stood spellbound till one of them recovered his power of speech sufficiently to ejaculate: “Oh Lor!” They then indulged in a hasty handshake, and promised that, please God, they would meet again. The lads referred to, we understand, were Private A Black, who was previously to enlistment in the Glasgow constabulary, and a son of Mr and Mrs Alexande rBlack, South Street, Port William and Private John Johnston, who was an apprentice engineer in Glasgow and the son of Mr and Mrs William Johnston, also of South Street, Port William.


The 1/5th KOSB’s are now at the Dardanelles (Galipolli) and on Monday the following letter was received by Mr Richard Jones, Commercial Hotel, Wigtown, from Private John Edwards, Harbour Road, Wigtown, from which it will be seen that all the Wigtown boys out there are well:

“Just a few lines, on an old envelope, to let you know we have arived safe on land and a pretty hot reception we got from our friends (the Turks) when we did arrive. We were about an hour ashore when they started to shell us, but we escaped very luckily. We went into the country about a mile and dug ourselves in like moles. Next move we got was up to the trenches and we have been in there nearly every day since. Of course, we were feeling rather funny when we got under fire at first, but we get shells to breakfast, dinner and supper, so we are getting used to it now. I felt rather sick myself at some of the sights I saw on our first day in the trenches, which I would not really care to mention. Of course you have just to put up with it all and wait your turn for revenge. Well, we are agreeing pretty well with the country. it is very hot through the day and exceedingly cold at night, but we are all quite happy and not downhearted; yet it is pretty slow progress, but sure. The night-time is when the most rifle fire goes on, as the Turks simply hold their rifles out over the top of the trenches and keep firing the whole night, in case we make a rush on them. It is an awful waste of ammunition. Then, through the day, the artillery keep banging away and an odd sniper keeps up the sport with his little ‘ping’ so you may guess we have always plenty to take up our attention. As I really cannot get paper you will have to excuse this scribble. We have lost a few mates since we came, but the most of the casualties are slightly wounded. All the Wigtown boys are safe and well and hoping this finds you and Mrs Jones the same.”


A letter has just been received from Sergeant MacRae, who is with the 1/5th KOSB at the Dardanelles:

“Lieutenant Roberts, Adam Birrell and 15 other men were wounded last night. Adam’s wound is slight scalp wound caused by a spent bullet. Where we are the worst thing we have to contend with is want of water. We have the rough of two miles, and then what we do fetch is for cooking and drinking and as there is a continual dusty breeze, what with not being shaved, the dust is hanging to our faces, you can picture to yourself what we are like! However, owing to being tanned with the sun it is not just as bad looking. When I get home I’ll have some yarns to tell you. You might send me some tobacco. We are only issued one ounce of cut tobacco here for a week, anthough I understand from the men of the other battalions I have been speaking to that they get two ounces of tobacco and two boxes of matches each week.”


Mr William Birrell, Creetown, has had a letter from his brother, Private Peter Birrell, from the Dardanelles, in which he says:

“We are having a hot time of it here, but we are sticking it out not so bad considering. Our Company “A”, have lost a good lot of fine fellows. The firing here never stops day or night. We have been here a fortnight now and have been in the trenches in the firing line for a week and also in support. Most likely we will be getting relieved soon. Down at the base it’s not safe either as it gets shelled every day. I have not seen Adam since he was touched, but he will be all right. We never get to know any news and none of our wounded are back with us yet.”


Lance-Corporal William Davidson, London Scottish, who has been killed in France by the premature explosion of a defective hand-grenade is the grandson of the late Mr William Davison, Culbae, Whauphill and a nephew of Mr C McClelland, Forkbank, Bladnoch.


Mr W Hunter, Newton Stewart, has received the Testament which was carried by his grandson, Alexaner Wylie Hunter, at the time he met his death on the battlefield in France. The bullet which killed him has gone right through the Testament.


Mrs Kilgallen, Barsolus, Stranraer, her received official intimation that her husband. Private William Kilgallen, RSF, has died from wounds recieved in action on June 17. Private Kilgallen was a national reservist, having previously served in the Connaught Rangers, and he re-enlisted in the RSF on September 27. Up to the time of re-enlistment he was in the employ of Mr J B Chalmers, Barsolus.

Mrs Flanagan, 31 Dalrymple Street, Stranraer has been informed of the death of her husband, Private William Flanagan, KOSB, who was killed in action at the Dardanelles on June 4. Private Flanagan was employed as a male attendent in the Wigtownshire Poorhouse previous to enlisting, and leaves a young widow and one child.