Tag Archives: Abernethy

weekending 12th March 1916

My Name is Lily Galbraith and this is my first blog

My Name is Lily Galbraith and I live with my parents in Abernathy near Perth. I have known William Shaw since our school days and when he returns from the war in France we walk out together. We exchange letters when he is at the front. This is my first entry in this blog…

Lily Galbraith 1914

Miss Lily Galbraith.

I happened to meet Mrs Shaw today, walking down the High Street. She seems to have aged so much in the few months since we last spoke, but, of course, I didn’t tell her so. I asked after William, and his brother George, and she told me how well they seemed to be doing, but it was easy to see that she is pained at their absence.

I am careful to watch what I ask of people these days; it is so easy to stir up emotions, or worse, to be given bad news in the innocent asking. But I knew William was well, and George, because I received a letter from William just three days ago. I was torn between telling Mrs Shaw about the letter or not – it would be beastly for her to be finding out that he’s writing to me if he isn’t keeping up with his family as much. I’m not sure why, but I kept the news of my letter from her.

Mrs Shaw asked if I’d seen the motto in the newspaper that day. When I replied that I hadn’t, she read it to me. It said, It Costs More to Live Now Than Ever Before – But Isn’t it Worth it? What can you say to that? It does certainly cost more and more for things, but if it’s going to the war effort how can anyone naysay that? I don’t think there is a person in the land who would think that it is not a price worth paying, but the problem we all have is that there seems no end to this dreadful conflict.

The newspapers are a constant source of information, but they often carry worrying news. Just this week there was a report of a German seaplane raid in England which killed two men and a boy. It is troubling that aeroplanes can wreak such havoc, and it must be concerning for others in the same area that the war is now on their doorsteps. Of course, I don’t mention that, or indeed any other negative news to Mrs Shaw, or others you know who have men in the war. So we speak about brighter news, like the excellent word of a proposal to extend the shipbuilding industry in Dundee. Not that I’m over there all that often nowadays – working at the farm takes up so much time – but it is easy to see that the town needs work. Hardship can be seen all over this part of our land, but it seems very concentrated in Dundee.

It is strange being a teenage girl in this time. We are doing more and more jobs that used to be done by the young men, though we are happy to take these on. If we can’t be occupied in the war, then at least we do all we can for the war effort in a cheerful and diligent fashion, even if it’s painful or tiring. We do miss having men of our own age around though – you really appreciate what a nice bunch they are when they’re not around. Mind you, doing more work around the farms seems quite ordinary when you compare it to working in the munition factories, where my old friend Lilias and her mother are in occupation. They moved to Thornhill last year, her mother’s parents live there, and now she’s working in a factory in which she is making munitions. We keep in touch by letter, but she never goes into detail about what it is they are doing, though I’m not sure I’d want to know anyway. It is vital work though, and she must feel a more direct sense of helping the war effort than I sometimes do.

Last week my father left his Courier lying on the table when he went to bed. He hasn’t been keeping too well of late because of the swellings in his joints. Normally we files the paper away after he’s read it – he’s been keeping copies since the war started and they are kept flat under a table in the bedroom. My mother grumbled a bit at first, but now she encourages him to keep them. So when he left the one on the table I had a thorough read through it, and it is impossible not to be drawn into events. To read about our men missing and presumed killed brings it very close to home. Of course, each and every one will have a family and friends back home and so each becomes almost a personal tragedy for the reader. There was one report from action around Pilkem which stated that eleven British soldiers were missing after chasing attacking Germans back to their trenches, and it was believed eight of the eleven had been killed. Of course we understand that news from the Front is necessarily vague, but to quote eight as being killed seems to have an air of certainty.

On the same page is a Casualty List from Mesopatamia. It makes dreadful reading, and the Black Watch seem to be suffering a lot. You look at the names of the dead, and of the wounded, and of those reported missing, and though you don’t recognise any of the names still it fills you with dread. I miss William, more and more each day. His letters are so welcome, and yet I feel a sadness that he has to be there, along with his brother and so many other men from our area and our country. I wonder how it will be when he gets back. And when it will be.

I’ve resolved to tell Mrs Shaw that William has started writing me, and that I write back to him. Maybe it will help her, knowing that his letters are cheering me. Maybe it will let her share her thoughts with me, as we are both missing the same young man. I would like that to be the case. I would like her to know that I am so proud to know her son. I hope it helps. Tomorrow I start work at 6.30, and I’ll do my best, but my mind, like everyone around me, will be on our servicemen and what this day might bring to them.

Weekending 28th February 1915

 

The Fourth are off to war!

D138 Black Watch at Tay Bridge Station (C)DCT

What  week. I barely know where to start! So many things have happened, so many new experiences. I would never have guessed that I would begin the week in to bosom of my family and finish in France!

When I returned to the barracks, it was abuzz with activity. The NCOs were rushing around with great purpose and I was soon ordered to help distribute the new Lee Enfields. Yes, at last, we have been given our weapons! They are so much better than the old Martini-Henrys – no matter what father may think.

On the Sunday evening, Cpl Quin sat 2 Section down and told us that we would be away tomorrow. Tuesday at the latest. And  he told us that we must ensure all equipment is ready.

We were all terribly excited and all had big smiles on our faces. At last our time to fight has arrived. It didn’t seem real. Sgt Mjr Charles and McNab addressed us. Suddenly, it’s no secret that we will be off soon. They are proud of what we have achieved. We are fighting men. That evening there was  so much activity this evening. Webbing was checked, packs examined carefully, weapons cleaned. There was a real hubbub about the place.

I barely slept that night.  I managed perhaps two hours sleep. My head and my heart were fizzing with anticipation. On Monday, the atmosphere in Bell Street Drill Hall was alive with excitement and fevered activity.

SoldiersThe order arrived to us on Tuesday! We could barely believe it.  We were going to war! Up at 6AM, we marched to  Dudhope Castle. The morning was cold and the trees and grass were white with frost. The breath of the men puffed out in great clouds. Lt-Colonel Walker addresses us. He is the most admired and beloved of men in all Dundee. We cannot imagine a finer leader. He stood before us and spoke :

 

 

 

Colonel harry Walker, the Black watch “Men of the 4th Royal Highlanders, the chance has come for you to show in the field those high qualities which have always made. The 4th Black Watch is a Territorial battalion with which it is an honour to be associated. Men, you belong to a great regiment, one whose battalions of the field have gathered glory and reaped fame in every quarter of the globe. You have a great tradition to sustain, and I trust that when you proceed on active service, you will remember that tradition and do your best to garner fresh laurels for the Black Watch.”

 

 

 

 

 

Young%20Recruit

 

We stood straight as pokers, resplendent in our pristine uniforms and full kit. We are Col Walker’s regiment. We are Scotland’s regiment. We formed into three detachments and moved off for the station. 2 Section, 1 Platoon is in the first detachment. We marched with great gusto. Our kilts were swinging and the crashing stamp of boots on cobbles must have been heard streets away. Crowds rushed to the streets was we marched through them. People hung out of windows. Great cheers and applause followed our route. I saw one man sneak out of line to say farewell to his family.  I had never heard anything like it. It seems all of Dundee was out to see us off. Such joy and pride. It swelled our hearts.

 

 

D138 Army Reservists Leaving DundeeWe reached the station to the strains of “Hielan’ Laddie”. The pipers of 6th Battalion Black Watch have come to plays us off. With the two other detachments following behind we were ordered to board the waiting train. We needed no encouragement. We squeezed on board, many men get seats as quickly as possible. Others, like Robbie and Jack Gray and I stayed by the door. We took turns to lean out of the window to watch. The platform was crammed with troops and station staff and others. What a marvellous scene! Lewis appeared asking if anyone has any food. He’d eat his own hat if you put gravy on it. He was taking bets on where we’ll end up. No less than Brigadier-General McKerrell came to bid the Battalion “Goodbye”. This is it. The time has come.

The pipers struck up “Happy We’ve Been – A Thegither”.

Doors slammed. Shouts went up along the platform. Shrill whistles blew. There was a great billow of steam and with a screeching shudder we were off. We cheered and waved as we pulled out of the station. A great “Hurrah!” went up from the platform. People overlooking the track waved as we pass. We crossed the Tay Bridge, heading south. I gazed up river towards Abernethy as we clanked across. My family. My family. Will I see you again?

I slept some of the way, played cards and dominoes with my section, watched the countryside rush by and sought out my old pal Harry. When we arrived at Southampton, tired and stiff, we disembarked before boarding S.S. Rossetti, which was anchored opposite Netley Hospital. We had two hours to wait and I snuck out of the station and found a Photographic shop. I am now the very proud owner of a Kodak Vest Pocket camera! I hope to send back some pictures from the front. For a night and a day we were at anchor, every one of us itching to set sail for France and the war.

Finally, at 6pm on the 25th, we left port bound for Havre, with a group of 300 Scots Guards also on board. Goodbye Blighty!

Weekending December 20th 1914

Awful news about my dog, Archie

spost 20th December 1914 front page small

Archie and me in happier times

Archie and me in happier times

 

I received terrible news in a postcard from mother on Monday morning. My lovely dog Archie has died. He was a fine age, but I shall miss him. My old friend has been with me since I was a small boy. We walked countless miles together through fields and hills. I remember when he was a puppy and used to eat my boots. I would roll him around the floor until he ran under the table in a mood. The rest of the day I was in a terrible funk. Poor Archie. My Archie. I will never forget him. Goodbye my old pal.  Robbie put and arm round my shoulder. Good pal. Harry was almost as upset as me as Archie would often be out with me, Harry, Tom and Jamie.

 

 

spost 20th december 1914 backI went home on Wednesday to see where father buried him and say my goodbyes properly. I Met an RAMC chap on the train home. His arm was in a sling. He got a horrible shoulder injury at the Marne. He’s been told his war may be over as he cannot use his arm very well at all. He was happy to be out of it but wishes everyone else was too. When I got home the mood was quite sombre. Father and I walked up the hill to see where he had buried Archie, under a big horse chestnut tree, where we’d take him for walks. I knelt by the grave and gave it a pat. “Cheerio old boy,” I say. Father patted my shoulder. “He was a good lad,” he said.

spost 20th December 1914 back pageOn the way back, I asked father if battle is really as scary as George says it is. Father looked out down the hill for a few moments and puffs out his cheeks. “Aye son,” he says. “I’ll not lie. It’s a cauldron of fire at times. It will make men and break men. You have to stay strong.” He tells me about fighting in the Sudan with the Black Watch and how he realises things have changed after talking to George. “But some things never change,” he says. “It is kill or be killed and you must make sure your aim is true and deadly.” We walked back home and have a dinner in Archie’s memory. I left for Dundee first thing.

 copOn Sunday, I went to church with mother and my sisters. Father stayed at home as his chest is bad. Our cold walk may be to blame. I cut out a report from the Saturday Post about women joining the police force. I’ll give it to Lily this afternoon, before I leave. Lily believes women can do anything men can. I don’t doubt she can but I wouldn’t like to see women on the front line! I go to Lily’s after my lunch of cheese sandwiches and ham soup, but she has gone to see her auntie so I left  the cutting anyway. I do hope I will see her next weekend. My memory will have to suffice. I wish I had a photograph of her like Watson does of Isobel.

I travelled back to Dundee and on to Barry Buddon in the late afternoon. Lewis has organised a card game. I pass after last time…

Weekending 15th November 1914

 A letter from Lily and dull guard duty…

sunday post 15th November 1914 small

I was excited to receive a letter from Lily. It was  addressed to “Private W. Shaw, 4th Battalion, Dundee.” That sent a shiver down my spine! She told me that she would like to see me when I return, perhaps this weekend and suggested that we go to picture house again. She also gave me news from Abernethy. Tom’s father has been back on leave. He seems quite different. He is now very quiet and not at all like the loud, cheerful fellow who left before the outbreak of war. I have not heard from Tom recently. I hope everything is all right.  He is very close to his father.

Lily said that she is proud of me, which made my heart do a somersault like a circus tumbler. I folded the letter carefully and put it in the pocket of my tunic. I took it out regularly to read again.

When I was on guard duty again with Jack Gray, he told me that his father was in the regiment and was killed in South Africa when he was a child. Gray worked for DC Thomson before the war, on the print presses. He told me what he did, but it sounds quite technical. Guard duty is so tedious! The Tay is grey and flat. There was no wind. The most exciting thing is when a train passes.

8-inch howitzers of 135th Siege Battery at La Houssoye, 1916.I spotted a piece in the paper saying farm wages are up by as much as £2. Well I wish I’d seen some of that before I left! Though I don’t know how Mr McLaren could afford all that. The Martini-Henry is a big gun. Brodie says his brother used one in action years ago and the recoil is like being kicked by a mule. MacLeod says his brother Michael is at the Coastal Artillery School along the coast at Broughty Ferry castle. Never mind the Martini-Henry, it must be a thrill to fire a really big gun. What a noise they must make. My cousin Malcolm is in the Royal Artillery  – VIII (Howitzer) Brigade. He’s already been in the thick of it in France.

service book 1After breakfast on Friday, those not on guard duty were taken on a shortish route march by Cpl Quinn. Out west along the Tay. I felt like the cock o’ the north in my full uniform. We drew admiring stares and calls from people on our way. After all our drilling over the weeks we looked the part and marched in perfect order.  At last I am beginning to feel like a soldier. I showed the lads the Field Service Pocket Book my father sent me. They’re all interested to see what’s in it. We found a section on field ciphers for encrypting messages. We feel like spies! Kind of thing Sexton Blake might use. Using sliding alphabet cipher in the book: B VTGGHM PTBM MH ZXM HNM YKTGVX MH MTDX HG MAX ANG. Robbie says O’Neill is a “UEHHWR HTY”. We have no idea what he’s talking about until he writes it down.

sunday post 15th Nove 1914On Saturday we were relieved first thing by  1 Section, Stan’s lot. Robbie and I told him he’s going to have great fun. So much to see and do. We left our rifles for 1 Section. Not that we could do much with them anyway. Shout ‘BANG!’ at Germans perhaps? I caught the train home. I got  a big hug from mother and the girls and father shook my hand. They are delighted to see me in my uniform. Father is a big, strong man, but I think his eyes were a little wet. We enjoyed a hearty lunch of mince and tatties. Army food isn’t bad, but nothing compares to mother’s cooking. After lunch I went out to meet Tom and Jamie. On way I stopped at Lily’s house to make arrangements for Sunday. Mr Galbraith opened the door and stepped back to admire my uniform before pumping my hand like he was drawing water. He called Mrs Galbraith and Lily. Mrs Galbraith said I look ever so smart and very grown up. Ready for the front. Lily did a lovely little gasp when she saw me. Those green, green eyes of hers flashed with  . . . something. Pride? I asked Mr & Mrs Galbraith if I could take Lily to the picture house in Perth and they agreed.

sunday post 15th Nov 1914Afterwards I met Tom and Jamie. They looked a bit jealous of the uniform. Well, Tom did. Tom’s father has been home for a week and will be going back soon. He has not said much about what he’s seen. He’s with Royal Scots and Tom knows he has been in some really heavy fighting. But when Tom asks for details his father goes quiet. He’s also been a lot more quick to anger than he used to. I suppose he must have seen comrades and friends be killed or wounded. That has to affect a man’s demeanour. Jamie said he wishes the war would stop now and everyone could go back to their lives and stop killing each other.

Lucille_Love,_Girl_of_Mystery_FilmPosterIn the newspaper today, there is news of the death of  Field Marshall Lord Roberts. He died of Pneumonia when visiting troops in France. Father was quite upset as I think he feels we need wise heads in command when fighting the Germans. Lord roberts was a real hero who had fought in Afghanistan and Africa. He had won a Victoria cross and was honorary colonel of the 3rd (Dundee Highland) Volunteer Battalion, the Black Watch.

I met Lily at her house after church (where everyone admired my uniform). We caught the train to Perth. We watched Lucille Love: Girl Of Mystery. Starring Grace Cunard and Francis Ford. A great film. Very exciting.  Afterwards we shared a bag of pear drops and walked by the river. Lily said it was good to see a strong woman on film. She is not the sort to think women should be shy and retiring types. Something tells me she will do great things. She talked about wanting to get out to France as a nurse. Says she will join Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service. I hope she will not do it as I cannot bear to think of her in danger anywhere near the front line. We travelled back to Abernethy in time for tea and I saw her to her gate. I would like to kiss her but it is not the done thing. And so I went back home for dinner and bed and dreaming of my sweet Lily Galbraith.

 

Weekending 25th October 1914

More Training with the Black Watch in Dundee

 

sunday post 25th october 1914map eastern front

Back into the joys of drill. Some of us seem to have forgotten how to march over the course of the weekend. Sgt Major Charles wasn’t impressed. Say he’s going to have to march us hard to turn us into real British soldiers – somebody the Black Watch can be proud of. So we started the week with a route march. 12 miles today. There was much limping and grumbling by end of the day. Robbie and I were sent to fetch vegetables from town for dinner. My boots didn’t feel too much softer, but I did smell strongly of vinegar, something the lads made so fun of. Stan asked if I could squeeze my boots onto his potatoes to improve the flavour. He thinks he’s a proper variety act.

yamagate troupeAnother route march on Tuesday  morning. My feet strated to  feel like they’re toughening up already. Others not were so lucky, like Stan, who was in real pain. Robbie is used to pounding the streets as a postie so he’s a natural when it comes to marching! He’s always cheerful. We went to see variety show at the Palace in the Nethergate later. Yamagata Troupe Japanese acrobats and the like. Cracking story about the Black Watch hanging on to stirrup straps of Scots Greys to charge enemy. Wonder if George was there?  Harry, his friend Peter from 1st of 4th Battalion, Stan, Robbie and I all went out to the Palace to see the show. The acrobats were magnificent as was Annie Stewart the vocalist. We stopped in a public house for a pint of beer afterwards. We all had a fine time.

Wednesday we a quieter day. More drill, of course. Standing still for long periods. Must be a test to see who can do it longest. I am quite good at it. I think i must have developed strong legs from all that ploughing. But there are some who wobble after only a few minutes. There was a terrifying story in paper about WOLVES eating the wounded and dead on the battlefield. is if fighting the Hun isn’t enough! It gave me a shiver down my spine.

the Black Watch KitHarry showed me his kit after we finished on Thursday. it was interesting to see it all laid out but it  just rubs in the fact 2nd of 4th don’t have it. The kit includes greatcoat, paillasse (a thin mattress), spats, garters, putties, glove, blanco tin, blacking and dressing. It also includes a hussif, which is a sewing kit. I have never sewed a stitch in my life and not sure my big fingers will be much use with a needle. perhaps i should ask mother to show me how it is done….

On Friday, I receive a postcard from mother telling me Chrissie has been injured at work. Thankfully it is not serious but she cut her hand quite badly. Sgt Maj Charles told us to adhere to four duties: obedience, cleanliness, sobriety and honesty. Some of those will test some of my new colleagues. Last night Wilson, came back to barracks very drunk. He was unwell  this morning and Sgt Maj Charles went through him like a dose of salts. He can be quite fearsome, but most of us like him. Clark says his father served with him in Boer War. Clark’s father fought with him at Magersfontein, a terrible attack that cost 2nd Battalion dearly. Says he was heroic that day.

I caught the train home at 5.30 pm. Harry was on duty guarding docks so I travelled back alone. A lady approached me on train and said a fit young man like me should enlist. I told I have but I don’t think she believed me. When I got home Chrissie showed me her hand. It was heavily bandaged. She won’t be able to work for a while. I played Bowls with father and Tom and Jamie on Saturday morning. Tom’s father, with 2nd Battalion Royal Scots, is due home on leave next week. We had a quiet night. Cards and dominoes with family, including granny and grandad, in the kitchen. Good to be home.

On Sunday I showed father what I have learned in training. My marching, turning and coming to standstill smartly were all improving. Father seemed impressed. But he was as dismayed as I am by lack of uniform. I Met Lily and her friend Jean for a walk up the hill. Mrs Galbraith gave us a lunch to take of lemonade and cheese sandwiches. of course I would have preferred to be enjoying this sunny autumn day with Lily alone, but Jean was adamant that she wanted to come too. Pah!

 

week ending 4th October 1914

 My Birthday Arrives!

I spent most of the week impatiently waiting for my birthday. Then my adventures can begin!

Killing another GermanI saw this great cartoon in paper called “Killing another German”. You have to fill in the blanks to finish drawing.  I tried drawing my own version. Me and George shooting Bosch who are firing Black Maria at our lads. Tom is such a lucky so-and-so. He received a German helmet in the post this week!  It has a large dent in left side and dried blood inside. Tom put it on and marched up and down outside his house shouting in German accent until his mother told him to stop at once. A real treasure. Will wrote to George to ask for something.

Mr McLaren’s son, Alan, was injured and is in hospital in Vendresse. Would you believe that the hospital got shelled with shrapnel by cruel Huns! Alan has lost part of his left arm and will be coming home to Blighty. Mr McLaren is a tough sort, but I know that he has been very worried about Alan, so I think he’ll be relieved.

I decided to ask Lily to the picture house. On Wednesday morning I had extra porridge to give me the courage. I saw Lily coming out of Granny Ramsay’s shop, took a deep breath and called her name. She laughed when I asked if she’d like to go and watch a picture-film with me. Even though I must have sounded like a gibbering idiot,  she said yes! As long as her father lets her . . .

I was walking on air! I couldn’t wait to tell  Harry.

On the morning of my birthday, I woke up earlier than usual. I felt different. I was more alert and confident, as if this was a moment I had  been preparing for for a long time. I am now ready for action. Ready to serve my King and country.

Kodak Vest Pocket CameraAt breakfast the whole family wished me happy birthday and my sisters gave me a new harmonica. Chrissie said she couldn’t bear to hear my old one slowly die in agony. Granny and Grandad gave me two shillings to put towards my camera fund. A few more shillings should do it. I want a Kodak Vest Pocket Camera. Small enough to take to war. Mother gave me a lovely journal and a set of pencils. Bravely, she said I must write what I see and do when I go off. Then, as I opened it she burst into tears. I gave her a hug. Poor mother. Lastly Father fetched a parcel from the other room. I opened it slowly, the flash of dark tartan under brown paper. It was his Black Watch kilt. “In case you need it to get started, son,” he said. “Wear it with pride.” There was a smaller package on top of the kilt. I opened it to find a small carved wooden cross. Father explained his mother gave him it when he went off to fight. “Saw me through, son. I hope it will you.” Suddenly, the joy of my birthday and my presents seemed rather trivial.  Soon, I hope, I shall be at war.

I told Mr McLaren I am to join the Black Watch

 Blackford carters with Black WatchTerritorials 1914I Told Mr McLaren that I would be joining up on the following Monday. He shook my hand and said he was proud of me. I don’t know how long he would have kept me on anyway – some of the horses are due to be requisitioned by the Army. The local Black Watch Territorials came to look them over  last week.  I will miss my friends in the fields but my place is in the Black Watch, fighting with my brothers in arms. That night I was taken to the Tavern by my father for an ale. Harry came too. He’s still grumbling about not seeing action yet.

On Sunday morning I was besides myself with fear and excitement.  I washed my face and combed my hair neatly. My mother had pressed my best shirt and I left at 10.55am sharp to meet Lily. I am sure I wasn’t late, but when I arrived, she was standing outside the train station wearing a pale blue dress and white bonnet with a blue ribbon. She looked beautiful! Mr Galbraith was standing by her side. He gave me a stern warning about properness and looking after Lily in Perth. He works for the bank and is well respected. I assured him that I would be the perfect gentleman. He said he had heard I was joining up shook my hand. He said that I am a fine example to other young men.

Actress violet-hopsonWe caught the 11.15 train to Perth. I could barely speak. I tried several times, but my mind was blank and my throat was so dry. We walked to La Scala to see Drake’s Love Story starring Violet Hopson. We watch the film. Violet Hopson is a real beauty, but not a patch on Lily. Finally I found my tongue. We laugh and joke about our schooldays and the people we know. Lily told me she thinks women should be equal to men. She says she believes women should be allowed to vote and she wants to go to university one day. If someone like Lily is fighting for that cause I don’t doubt it will come to pass. She is no pushover.

We caught the train home and Lily said that she was worried for me joining the army and going off to fight. You only worry for someone if you like them, so my heart did a somersault when she said that. Unlike the journey there, we babbled away 19 to the dozen on the way back. She made me laugh so much. I will miss her. When we reached the station Mr Galbraith was waiting for us. I shook Lily’s hand and her green eyes glimmered as she said goodbye. My heart did that somersault again. I watched as she walked off in the afternoon sun, her blue dress rippling in the breeze. Will this be our first and last day out together?

 

Week ending 13th September 1914

At last some news from George in France

Hurrah! A postcard from George at last. Mother gasped and cried when it arrived. We all gathered round as father read it out. It was a very short note:

“All right so far. Hard fighting but gave Hun a pasting.  Much love to you all, George.”

We were all cock-a-hoop. I threw my cap in the air and Janet and Chrissie waltzed around the kitchen table, laughing. Mother wept tears of relief. Father was very quiet, he is not the kind of man to give anything away, but I think he must have been imagining what George was experiencing.

an advertisement from 1914 for the Black Watch regiment in DundeeMore than ever I want to get out to France with Harry and get in the thick of it with George and the other Black Watch lads. There was an advertisement in paper asking for ‘men of good character and strong physique’ to join Black Watch. I know that I must wait until I am 18,  but I’m ready now!

Reports have our boys north of Paris, retiring ‘step by step’. Have to hope George is still okay until we hear from him again. The following morning I Ran to work with spring in my step. I Told Andrew and the others about postcard and couldn’t help but dance a jig! Jock looked puzzled.

The following morning I woke up with a sore stomach. I think I ate a hard plum from Clow’s yesterday. Or perhaps it was just the excitement of hearing from George. I took Archie, our collie, for quick walk. Me on bicycle, him running beside. He only has one eye, so had to keep on good side. Mr McLaren’s son, Alan, is a stretcher bearer. Mr McL furious at news report about Bosch cutting off fingers of RAMC tending to wounded. I wouldn’t put that sort of thing past the Germans. I read of them killing women and children in Belgium. They’ll get what’s coming to them. My harmonica is on its last legs. Sounded like a dying goose when tried to play Roamin’ In The Gloamin’.

allies advanceNews was good from France yesterday. “Allies’ victorious advance” said the headline in the Courier. Come on boys! Father is working in a big house. He’s a joiner with Morrison Bros. There was a bad accident yesterday. a boy lost his hand. and smashed legs in a fall from the roof. I popped into Granny Ramsay’s shop for a bag of pear drops. Met my pal Tom, who relieved me of six sweets. He’s a gannet! Tom was heading for the sawmill. His father is out in France and Tom said his father is going to send him a German helmet from the front as soon as he can. We’re both champing at the bit to join war, though he wants to join Royal Scots like his father. He’s not 18 till January, though. So I should be out there before him. Perhaps I will win a German Helmet of my own!

I Heard later that the boy injured at father’s work, Sandy Wilson, died in hospital in Perth. It makes my sore ankle seem silly now. Janet  is still worried about getting the belt. I tried to cheer her up by doing an impression of Mr Mitchell the headmaster. She didn’t find it very funny…

Father went to see Sandy Wilson’s parents. He said he was a good lad, and just a tragic accident. Sandy was the same age as me. A reminder that war isn’t only place death can call.

 

The horses we have at Mr McLaren's farm

The horses we have at Mr McLaren’s farm

In Friday’s newspaper, the ‘Motto for To-day’ was : “A nation’s honour is in the guardianship of the individual subject.”  I am not sure what it means, to be honest. Chrissie said she wants to start writing to Harry. I pointed out he is in Dundee, not France. She stuck her tongue out at me. Mr McLaren still worried horses will be taken by army. They are in desperate need of horses and are visiting all the local farms to  find out how many there are in the area. Mr McL says plough the is useless without something to pull it – not to mention all the other things we need horses for around the farm. Although much of the harvest is in, there is still so much to do that can’t be done without horse power. Mr McL says he can’t afford traction engine.

A Call to join the Black Watch Regiment

Provost Garrick held a meeting in the hall on Friday night. He is rallying men to the colours. I went even though I am still too young to join up. I met Tom and Jamie Anderson beside the Blink (watering point) after work and headed to the hall. Provost Garrick gave a rousing speech. He said that men had already answered bugle call of the Motherland in defence of right and justice. But he thought that Abernethy could still do better and would enlist all young men who felt it their duty to join Kitchener’s army. Mr Nicolson of the Recruiting Association said the Black Watch regiment urgently require young men “to fight to a victorious finish”. He said we are facing a time of grave national danger against a “military monster”. It was scary but stirred the heart and blood. Tom and I cheered our hearts out at the end and wished we could put ink to paper that very night. Jamie seemed less certain. That night steeled my resolve to join the fight against monstrous Bosch. The day after my 18th birthday, October 4, will be the day.

My mother was not well on Saturday morning. She stayed in her bed with a fever. Granny made porridge for all of us and tended to mother. I saw Lily on way to work. To impress her I tried to go ‘no hands’ on bicycle and almost took a tumble on the cobbles. I won’t try that again! It was heavy going in the fields all that day. My ankle was still aching slightly from last week, but I’m not complaining after what happened to Sandy Wilson.

I met Harry after dinner. He is with 4th Battalion of the Black Watch regiment in Dundee. Most other lads going to Perth or Cupar but want to get in with Harry’s lot. It was a warm evening so we took a stroll through fields to River Earn making fun of our old teachers as we went. We laughed till we cried! I told Harry  that I’m saving to take Lily to picture house next Sunday. He said he’s heard she needs spectacles so I may have a chance. Home and bed. Sexton Blake adventure in old Penny Pictorial before lights out. The East Coast Mystery, about an airship. Exciting stuff!

My First Post

My name is William Alexander Shaw and I am ready to fight and die for my country. I’ve been champing at the bit to join up and get stuck into the Bosch. Now I’m 18 there’s nothing stopping me. Tomorrow I’ll be at the recruitment hall first thing. My father George Shaw fought with The Black Watch in Egypt and my brother, George Jnr, is with the regiment in France right now. He fought at Mons and has been in the thick of it since. All I want is to get my uniform and rifle and go and fight by his side – brothers in arms. I’ll be said to say goodbye to my little sisters, Chrissie and Janet, and my mother Helen, but I have to do what is right. I just hope sweet Lily Galbraith writes to me when I’m away. It took as much courage to ask her out to the picture house as it did deciding to join the army! I hope you follow my story. I don’t know what will happen or where I will end up. I may not even return, I suppose. But I’m sure there will be plenty to report when I join the fray.