Galloway’s Great War

WW1 - Albert Laird and Kenneth McLean'Photo courtesy of Newton Stewart Museum
WW1 - Albert Laird and Kenneth McLean'Photo courtesy of Newton Stewart Museum

In this week’s Great War Diary, we feature the last of the photographs of servicemen from The Great War who were also pupils of the Ewart High School that are on file in Newton Stewart Museum on York Road.

This week we have two pals together, Kenneth McLean and Albert Laird.

Not much is known about Kenneth McLean other than he was serving in the Merchant Navy and was born in Whithorn in 1898 and we assume he survived the war.

Corporal Albert Laird of Minnigaff also survived the war. He enlisted in May 1917 in the 55th Training Reserve Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers. He was then transferred to 4th Reserve Battalion and then to 1/8th Battalion Scottish Rifles. Albert served on Western Front at Ypres, Kemmel Hill, Messines, Passchendaele. Menin, Lys Canal, Coutrai and Oudenarde. He was in action throughout the German Spring offensive in early 1918 and then the Allied battles up to November 1918.

The Galloway Gazette, July 24th, 1915


News has been received that Sergeant William Agnew of the Newton Stewart Company of the 5th KOSB has been wounded in action in the Dardanelles. Sergeant Agnew who prior to the war was foreman printer in The Galloway Gazette office has had a long connection with the local auxiliary forces, having been a member of the old Galloway Rifle Volunteers for many years and a member of the territorial company since its inception. It is understood that Sergeant Agnew was wounded in the knee by a piece of shrapnel and he has been removed to hospital in Alexandria. He writes to his wife at Creebridge to say that he is going on well.


The Gatehouse section of the Stewartry Volunteer Training Corps at their drill on Thursday had trench digging fully demonstrated. The men dug a trench of considerable length, regulation depth and formation, which they then occupied, periscopes being used during the operations. At an interval, Mr and Mrs Cross, Cally, entertained the members of the platoon to refreshments.


Lieutenant James Penham of the machine gun section of the 1/5th KOSB in a letter home gives a humorous description of life in the Dardanelles under active service conditions.

He writes: “I am feeling really comfortable just now, having had a good wash with a waterproof sheet and a bucket of water in a disused dug-out. We try all sorts of experiments in the way of food here. My men have been making porridge in their mess tins. The meal being oatmeal biscuits ground down in a tin lid with the head of an entrenching tool. Others make jam puddings with ordinary biscuits broken down and boiled with water and jam. We had boiled rice with jam but no milk except condensed, which is too scarce for boiling as a pudding.”

The Galloway Gazette, July 31st, 1915


News has been received about the growing number of casualties amongst the Newton Stewart members of the 1/5th KOSB at the Dardanelles.

A soldier of the 5th KOSB, writing home this week, stated that Private Gilbert, son of the Newton Stewart cabinetmaker, has been killed at the Dardanelles, although no official intimation has been received by his parents. It is also unofficially reported that Private Samuel McGowan, a compositor at The Galloway Gazette when war broke out, is listed as missing. He joined the Territorials a few months ago.

Private W Scott has been struck in the shoulder and jaw. The jaw has not been broken but he has lost a number of teeth. Private Scott was employed before the war in Messrs Rowan & Boreland’s shop.

Private Robert Ross has been slightly wounded by shrapnel in the hip. He was a former painter with Mr J H Galloway.

Piper Priestley has been wounded in the left arm and thigh while Private McGeoch has had his left elbow shattered.

Private W Stewart, son of the town’s fishmonger, is slightly wounded, and expects to be back on duty soon. Private W Bolt was also hit in the thigh when leaving his own trench to advance the attack on the Turkish position. The same day Private W Topping had the most of a shell land on his foot while he was guarding some Turkish prisoners who had just been captured. One of the Turks, he says, was quite sympathetic over his injury and wanted to take his boot off for him. The injury was very slight however.


Word was received on Thursday that Sergeant Edward, Private Gow and Private E Clark have been killed and that Sergeant McGaw and Privates J Edwards, D Boyd, W Clark, W Kelly and J Brock are wounded.

Mr Andrew McNeill of Bladnoch has been officially notified that his son James was killed in action at the Dardanelles on July 14th. Previous to being mobilised he was employed as a motor lorry driver at Bladnoch Creamery.

Mr McNeill received the following letter from Major McIntosh:

“Dear Mr McNeill,

I feel I would like to write to you just a few lines about your poor boy James as I was with him just after he was struck, having been covered with earth and dust from the same shell. He was busy working in the kitchen dug-out at the time doing all he could to add to our comforts so that you may say “he died doing his duty”. That is the highest praise one can give any soldier and none ever deserved it more than he did. Although he was Major Chino’s personal servant I knew him very well too and I have to thank him for many a kind service and cheery word. When he accidentally cut his hand a few weeks ago, he showed me what stuff he was made of for he never said a word while I stitched it up for him, and in spite of my orders to the contrary, continued to do most of his duties for Major Chino. He was struck in the neck by a shrapnel bullet and by God’s will it struck a vital nerve and he died within minutes, but he suffered no pain. Just when the bullet struck him he said ‘goodbye chaps” so he probably realise he was severely wounded.

“We all liked him for he was always bright and cheery, going about with a smile on his face and a kind word for everybody. We brought his body down from the gulley and buried him in a little graveyard we have formed in the open beside our camp in full view of the hill he, like us all, wished to get to the top of, and which we will ultimately gain and so avenge the losses we have sustained.”