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Officers’ Service Records: University Fallen in the National Archives

By Euan Loarridge, PhD Candidate, Department of History, University of Glasgow.

OfficersServiceRecordHeader

Header of Army Form M.T.392 (The Pink Form) Application for a appointment to a temporary commission in the Army during WW1. WO_339/38350 TNA, London.

Amongst the National Archives’ vast collection of documents relating to the First World War are boxes WO_339 and WO_374, which together constitute a series of files related to the service records of individual officers of the British Army who served in that conflict. Unlike the service records for ordinary ranks, which are available to view and search online,  digital copies of officers service records are  not currently available and so can only be accessed in hard copy, in person, at the National Archives in London.

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‘Our Little Holiday’ Glasgow Fair on the Western Front

By Kath Roper-Caldbeck,  University of Glasgow Archives and Special Collections Volunteer

‘Glasgow Fair is on so I do not see why we out here should not have our little holiday as well.’

Daniel McFarlane, 13 July 1918, from the Western Front

 

DC179-2-1-4-12_Daniel McFarlane

DC179-2-1-4-12 Photograph of S/17857 Private (Later Lance Corporal) Daniel McFarlane, 7th Battalion Queens Own Cameron Highlanders, taken while on leave in Tain, Invernesshire in 1915.

 

As an Information Management and Preservation MSc student I have been volunteering at the University of Glasgow Archives & Special Collections, working on a project enhancing existing catalogues.  One of the collections is that of Daniel McFarlane, a medical graduate of the University who fought in the First World War having joined the 7th battalion of the Cameron Highlanders in April 1915. The collection includes an extensive archive of around two hundred letters written to his mother and three sisters throughout the war, which cover his experiences from initial training in Inverness and Tain, to fighting in the trenches in France, and finally ending his war in Belgium where he was demobilized in 1919.

As we in Glasgow approach the time of the Fair holiday in July, a tradition that dates back to the 12th century, it seems appropriate to highlight a letter Daniel wrote to his sister Annie 100 years ago on 13th July 1918 where we can see this was not far from his thoughts. On the second page he mentions that the ‘Glasgow Fair is on so I do not see why we out here should not have our little holiday as well’. [1] He then proceeds to detail the recent company sports day that was held, which had gone very well for him:

‘We had company sports the other day & I got one or two events. I got first in the 220 yds race & was a member of the winning team in the relay race, I myself running in the last 220 yds & getting in first. I got second in the 100 yds, but feel confident I could have got first had the start been fairer. I also got third in the long jump, just going in for fun, & never having attempted it before.’ [2]

He does however mention that ‘So far we have had no prizes’ [3] and jokes that he had better stop these or be accused a cheat.

 

 

This letter has an optimistic tone, with the company at that time having moved away from the front. A minor complaint about a cut on his finger making it difficult to write is brushed aside as he writes ‘still what does that matter when we have no prospect of the trenches before us for some time.’ [4]

Daniel would have another six months to go before demobilization. In October he tells his mother about a close escape he had from some action, unlike the rest of his section:

‘You see they were going over the top just at the very hour I left them…I was extremely lucky. Nearly all my section got slightly wounded & all good soldiers every one.’ [5]

By this time rumours that the war was to end were circulating:

‘We are all frightfully alert as regards peace news just now & the feeling here is that it may come at any moment. The popular belief of us on this course is that we will see no more fighting as it will be over before we return… I expect everyone at home too will be on pins & needles as regards the news.’ [6]

Writing to his mother in December 1918 following the Armistice of 11 November, Daniel’s thoughts have turned to future life beyond the war.  He ask his mother to make enquiries on his behalf following reports he saw in the newspapers ‘that students were in the same position as men who had jobs awaiting them that is the men who would go first’ [7] potentially after Christmas.

 

 

 

01.Letter DC179-1-2-15-7 (pages1and4)

Daniel’s final letter from Belgium written on the 12th of January 1919, DC179/1/2/15/7.

 

By this time his section had moved from France to Belgium and indeed just after Christmas on the 13 Jan 1919 he got the good news, as relayed to his mother:

‘This, I hope, is the last letter I will write to you from Belgium… I received yesterday a call to the orderly room I guessed pretty well what the reason was… when I got to the orderly room I was informed that I was for demobilization. Yesterday I had my papers signed, today I see the C/O and tomorrow I expect to hike the homeward trail & very nice too. Do not be surprised then if I am some time on the road. Travelling is very slow…. The fastest part of the journey, according the letters from those already demobilized is from London to Glasgow’ [8]

He ends this letter by asking her to ‘hunt out the “civvies”!’ [9] That same year Daniel went on to study Medicine at Glasgow University, graduating in 1924.  He continued to practice medicine as a GP until he retired in 1966.

 

 


There are many more letters in the collection to explore, along with postcards, photographs, telegrams and official army correspondence. You can find the updated catalogue here: https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/glaas/data/gb248-dc179

Read more WW1 related content on the University of Glasgow Library’s Blog:

‘Dear Mother, just a note to inform you that I have seen the war through safely’
by Kimberly Beasley.

The First World War and the University of Glasgow: The Participation of Students and Staff by Nichola Jones.

References:

[1] DC 179/1/2/14/9

[2] DC 179/1/2/14/9

[3] DC 179/1/2/14/9

[4] DC 179/1/2/14/9

[5] DC 179/1/2/15/1

[6] DC 179/1/2/15/1

[7] DC 179/1/2/15/4

[8] DC 179/1/2/15/7

[9] DC 179/1/2/15/7

Archie Bowman: Prisoner of War

By Hamish Ross, Author of ‘Archie Bowman: Foot Soldier, German PoW & League of Nations Man’, 2018

Archie Bowman Book

Hamish Ross’ new book on Archie Bowman was published by Pen & Sword in June 2018. 

When C Company 10/11 HLI was given the order to surrender, Lieutenant Archie Bowman found it hard to take: ‘My vote was cast for a fight to the finish, but Mr Cuthbertson who was in command ordered the surrender. I do not blame him. He is a splendid fellow, and was wounded in two places. But to me the act of surrender was almost unendurable.’

So swift was the enemy advance at the battle of the Lys on 9 April 1918 that their haul of prisoners had to suffer a two-march to reach a railhead to be transported to prison camps in Germany. The pace of the long file of prisoners was slow because of the wounded; it looked like a huge funeral procession, only, Bowman wrote, they ‘left behind the dying and the dead.’

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The Bowman Letters: Letters From A Prisoner of War

By Petros Aronis, Student in History of Art, University of Glasgow.

Heading Bowman

DC77/5/4/3 Collection of Letters to and from A. A. Bowman c.1918.

Today is the 100th Anniversary of the start of the German Spring Offensive, known in German as ‘Die Kaiserslacht’ or the ‘Kaiser’s Battle’ which took place on the Western Front during the First World War. University of Glasgow Archives and Special Collections have created an Instagram account to honor a very important graduate and lecturer of University of Glasgow: Archibald Allan Bowman.  During the Spring Offensive, Bowman was captured by Germans and wrote dozens of letters home to his wife while living in a prisoner of war camp in Germany. These letters give a great insight into the struggles of prisoners and how their families were affected during the difficult time of war. The Archives have decided to publish these letters on the Instagram account @lettersfromaprisonerofwar on the 100th anniversary of the day they were sent. The first letter will be published on the 5th of April 2018 and the last on the 20th of December 2018. This blog post serves as an introduction to the project and elaborates on Bowman’s life before the War and the incredible circumstances of his capture.

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Hard Drinkers and Hard Fighters

By Ellen Embleton, Club 21 Intern and undergraduate student in History and English Literature, University of Glasgow

With the global significance of the Great War, the input of a small community like that of the University of Glasgow could very easily be marginalized. Glasgow University’s Roll of Honour, however, refuses to let this happen in its efforts to commemorate the life of every student and staff member who fell in the years between 1914 and 1918, as well as those who served and survived. It is this restoration of the human element to the Great War that inspired my involvement in writing Roll of Honour biographies. With the passing of the last of the WWI veterans, the lives of these servicemen may seem, more so than ever, very distant from our own. Yet many of them studied the same subjects as I study, had the same aims as I have and even lived on the same road as I live on now. Glasgow University’s Roll of Honour reminds us of these similarities and allows us to glimpse the people and life behind the action of the War.

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O.H. MAVOR DID THIS!

by Stacey Clapperton, PhD Candidate in History of Art, University of Glasgow

A British soldier, who may have spent endless months fighting in the trenches on the Western Front, finds himself in an army hospital with undisclosed injuries. We don’t know how long he has been lying in his hospital bed. We don’t know the last time he enjoyed the comforts of home. We learn, from the author of this scene that the soldier in question, Private Swish, has had his dug out blown in and is awakening from “dreams of beautiful nursing sisters and blue jacketed bliss”. Now this may not seem like a particularly humorous moment for this or any soldier, but in the expertise of a cartoonist armed with subtle humor, the scene transforms. Private Swish awakens to a barked command of “DRINK THIS” by an unsympathetic, sullen and knackered looking hospital orderly who looks like he’s about to force the patient to shift over, so he himself can have a lie down. This scene composed of a simple ink and wash drawing with white highlights, measuring a modest 29.1 x 22.7 cm, was created by Osborne Henry Mavor in 1916.

GLAHAG_43148

The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery Reference: GLAHA 43148

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Pìobaireachd Society WW1 material: Encore

Blog posted on behalf of Club 21 placement volunteer Karen Oakley:

Over the past few weeks, I have been researching the Pìobaireachd Society’s correspondence from the war years. It has been a fascinating way to get a sense of home life during the four long years of war and its effects on one society: from the financial restrictions to the effects of conscription. Even the appearance of the letters speak loudly of the context: a strong black line around the outline of the letter indicated a period of mourning, as my supervisor Rachael told me.

Lieutenant Col. John Grahame of the Highland Light Infantry writing to the society requesting 3 or 4 pipers. He expresses concern at the fact that they currently only have one piper, “and without pipers a Highland Regiment is like Hamlet without the Prince!” (DC80/373/15)

Lieutenant Col. John Grahame of the Highland Light Infantry writing to the society requesting 3 or 4 pipers. He expresses concern at the fact that they currently only have one piper, “and without pipers a Highland Regiment is like Hamlet without the Prince!” (DC80/373/15)

My first main post outlined the correspondence relating to the Society’s preparations to train pipers with view to their serving in the army. This aim was ubiquitous in their correspondence, even in peacetime. The pride and importance associated with it was real- something which is more difficult to understand today having experienced two World Wars and since learned of the experiences of those on the front line.

As the war progressed, the amount of correspondence becomes thinner, which in itself is an indication of the effects of war on the running of the society. My next post told of the financial difficulties in being able to continue to run piping classes. Yet more importantly, members revealed the reality that many prospective teachers and pupils were serving abroad. Unfortunately, there is no correspondence from members who served on the front line. The impact of war for many of them, on an individual level is now understood to have been emotionally draining and long-lasting.

My last main post showed that plans were drawn up soon after the war to commemorate the pipers who had fallen, mainly through the establishment of a Military School of Piping at Edinburgh Castle. Unfortunately, this main centre never came to be though pipers continued to be taught in classes across the country.

This is my final post on the Pìobaireachd Society’s World War One material. I have really enjoyed my placement at the Archives Services and really appreciate the time and assistance by everyone here in helping me. I would highly recommend you take the opportunity to visit if you can. Please contact the Duty Archivist to make an appointment: enquiries@archives.gla.ac.uk

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