WW1 service of four New Luce men who enlisted together
War was declared on 4th August 1914.
28th September 1914 was the day New Luce went to war. In September 1914 a group of volunteers was enlisted for war service from the Stranraer area (see the photograph and article below).
Image: Reprint from the Wigtownshire Free Press 1914:
The group included four men from long established New Luce families:
John Dalrymple, aged 19, a farmer from Milton of Larg;
Gilbert Fenion, aged 21, a postman from New Luce,
Peter Hardie, aged 28, a farm labourer from New Luce: and
William McDowall, aged 23, a railway surface man from New Luce (recently returned from Canada).
These four men traveled on to Perth where they all enlisted together into the Scottish Horse Regiment on 28th September 1914. They initially joined 2/3 Scottish Horse (who along with 3/3 were the training and reserve battalions of the third regiment). It is not certain why they chose to join a horse regiment rather than the local infantry regiment – but they would all be used to working with horses.
With these men at this point was Charles Erskine, a 30 year old native of Langholm who was working as a gamekeeper in the New Luce area at the time.
We do not know which regiment P McClymont (listed in the newspaper article) joined.
Training for the Scottish Horsemen was initially based in Perthshire, then at other training bases in the UK. They were all transferred at different dates between February and August 1915 to 1/3 Scottish Horse (the front line troops) after completing training.
Photo: Scottish Horse soldiers training at Perth in 1915:
August 1915 – December 1915 Gallipoli
All 3 Scottish horse regiments were part of the expeditionary force sent to the Middle East area in 1915
They sailed on the ship “Transylvania” at first heading for the main base in Egypt. After a stop in Malta they were re-routed towards Gallipoli in modern day Turkey. At the Greek island of Lemnos (Limnos) they were separated from their horses (as landing them on beaches in small boats where there is no harbour would be very difficult) and from that point they fought on foot.
On 31st August and 1st September 1915 the Scottish Horse regiments disembarked in the Gallipoli area at Suvla Bay. There were significant casualties, but much less than there had been in the regiments who landed some days before them, or the first troops that landed at Gallipoli in the spring. They were to be there for almost four months, much of the time in the front line trenches facing Turkish forces.
Illness in the strange climate was a major problem for all the regiments. As in all the Middle East campaigns, more men were hospitalised with malaria or stomach problems than by enemy action. William McDowall was hospitalised on 1st October at the 21st General Hospital, Alexandria with enteritis (the sick and wounded were being evacuated to Egypt to recover). He was discharged on 27th October before returning to his regiment at Suvla Bay.
John Dalrymple was also hospitalised with enteritis – he was returned to the UK on 12/12/15 and to Manchester from 26/12/15 to recover.
Late in 1915 it was decided to withdraw from the Dardanelles, and all allied forces were evacuated from the Gallipoli area towards Egypt. The Scottish Horse regiments left Suvla Bay on 19th and 20th December, and arrived at Alexandria at New Year. All the volunteer troops who were involved in front line action at Gallipoli qualified to receive the 1914 – 1915 star.
Image: Map of the Gallipoli / Dardanelles Area – Turkey:
Photo: Troops landing at Suvla Bay 1915:
January 1916 – autumn 1916 Egypt
The Scottish Horse regiments spent the first few weeks of 1916 recuperating at Abbassia, by Cairo.
This was very close to the great pyramids. (Peter Hardie was known to tell the tale of being able to look down onto a passing early aeroplane from the top of a pyramid!!). All 3 Scottish Horse regiments were then moved to Kantara to defend the eastern side of the Suez Canal. They also manned a forward position at Dueidar at the edge of the Sinai Desert. A lot of time was spent building fortifications with sandbags – typical of desert warfare. They fought Turkish forces at the Battle of Romani (Rumani) on 3rd – 5
th August 1916 and helped to drive them back across the Sinai Desert.
In autumn 1916, as the horses they had left behind in August 1915 were no longer available (by then they were with the Dorset Yeomanry!), the regiments were officially “dismounted” and were reformed. Many transferred to the new 13th Battalion of the Black Watch (William McDowall), and some into the Lovat Scouts – part of the Cameron Highlanders (Peter Hardie). Both of these men were then sent to Salonica. Gilbert Fenion transferred to the 4th Black Watch (reserve Royal Highlanders) on 26/12/1916 and initially returned to the UK. He later transferred again to the Machine Gun Corps. John Dalrymple transferred to 4/5 Regiment Black Watch on 25/12/1916 and was transferred to France. Charles Erskine transferred to the cavalry – beyond that, we don’t know what happened to him (perhaps he was the only one to ever fight on a horse!).
Photo: Map of area east of Suez and Cairo:
Photo: Scottish Horse Regiment soldiers building a “redoubt” at Dueidar:
Autumn 1916 – May 1918 Salonika and Macedonia
In October 1916 the 13th Black Watch sailed to Salonika in Macedonia (modern day Greece) and were posted with The Lovat Scouts and other regiments to the Struma Valley as the 81st Infantry Brigade.
The Black Watch spent most of their time in the area near the small towns of Homondos, Karadzakoj and Kamila, where they fought Bulgarian, Hungarian and Austrian troops.
This was a fairly static stand-off situation where the opposing forces each held one side of the wide valley. There were many small raids and frequent shelling, but it was not the close quarters trench warfare as on the western front. Malaria forced more men out from the front line than wounds.
William McDowall and Peter Hardie remained in this area until May 1918.
Image: Map of the Salonika Front:
Photo: Field trench – Salonika:
1918 Western Front
John Dalrymple spent most of 1917 and 1918 with 4/5 regiment Black Watch in the northern France and Flanders area. He saw some of the worst trench based fighting at Ypres and Passchendaele.
Gilbert Fenion fought in 1918 on the western front with the machine gun corps – we do not know where.
Peter Hardie arrived on the Western Front in June 1918 with the Lovat Scouts Battalion of the Cameron Highlanders. Until the end of the war they were mainly involved in defending communication lines, signalling and sharpshooting (sniping).
William McDowall also arrived on the Western Front in June 1918 with the 13th Black Watch (which included most of the surviving men from the Scottish Horse regiments)
They sailed to Taranto in Italy and travelled by train to Amiens. There were about one thousand men in total, many still suffering from malaria contracted in the Struma Valley. They became part of the 4th Army Group. After a rest and training period,
they were moved to the front line at Vendhuile and joined the Hundred Days Offensive which ended the war. As the German troops were falling back, this was open warfare rather than trench warfare. The battalion fought at the battle of the River Selle (Le Cateau), and the Second Battle of the Sambre (Haute Cornee). The Battle of the Sambre was the last major engagement of the war on the western front.
Image: Line of Advance – Northern France / Flanders – October / November 1918:
WW1 ended on 11th November 1918.
The four New Luce men were all demobbed from their respective regiments in early spring 1919. It was perhaps unusual that a group of men who enlisted together and served for virtually the whole of WW1, in several different battles and countries, all survived to return to their home village. Many others from New Luce also fought and survived, but we don’t know who and where – we only have information on the Scottish Horsemen. Those who fought and died are listed on the war memorial at the church.
After the war, John Dalrymple returned to farm at Milton of Larg before moving in 1922 to farm at Ochterlure, Stranraer. Gilbert Fenion returned to New Luce for a short time and then moved to Paisley where he became a cattle dealer. Peter Hardie and William McDowall both returned to New Luce area to live and work, Peter as a farm labourer and drainer, and William as a railway surface man / plate layer.
Both lived in the village into their nineties.
Image: Pennant from Egypt sent back to New Luce in 1916:
Many thanks to the primary source of the information in this document:
Colonel David Arbuthnott (Black Watch, retired),
Scottish Horse Archive, Dunkeld Community Archive.
All facts in this document are available in WW1 war records and public records.
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