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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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Glasgow Dental Hospital and School: the Impact of World War 1

By Florence Dall, Archives Assistant (Graduate Trainee), NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde Archives.

1 the glasgow dental hospital and school

The Glasgow Dental Hospital and School, 15 Dalhousie Street and 158 Renfrew Street [Henderson, History of Glasgow Dentist School].

On this day 1918 Thomas Gemmell, a Second Lieutenant of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and a dental student, died a Prisoner of War in a German hospital. Thomas, born in Stirling, joined the Glasgow Dental Hospital and School in October of 1915 to undertake a two year diploma course that involved observing and then completing a number of supervised dental treatments on patients who in return received free or cheap dental care. The school, established 1879, was run independently from the University of Glasgow between 1885-1945. It was situated on Renfrew Street opposite the Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh building from 1903-1931. Lectures were provided on a voluntary basis by the hospital staff and the student body was just 58 at the end of 1914, which was an all-time high for the independent school.

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Words of WW1: Preserving the voices of Great War poets

By Xavier Weiss, Project leader, Words of WW1 Project.

Words of WW1 Poster

A little under four months ago, ‘Words of WW1’ – a student-run project at the University of Glasgow – was launched. Concerned by the abstract and impersonal focus of many war memorials and casualty lists, this project seeks to take a different approach and concentrate on the individual experience of WW1 soldiers. To do so, we are revisiting one of the most powerful forms of expression available to them – their poetry. Unlike today, with our blogs, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, those living through the War had only pen and paper as an outlet. For many, poetry was where they could begin to process some of the moral trepidation, physical horror and psychological trauma the war evoked.

 

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Wings to War: Glasgow and the Centenary of the Royal Air Force

By Jesper Ericsson, Curatorial Assistant, The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery.

wINGSTOWAR

Today, 1 April 2018, marks the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Royal Air Force. A new special exhibition in the University of Glasgow Memorial Chapel, Wings to War: Glasgow and the Centenary of the Royal Air Force, explores the remarkable connections between the RAF and the University and city of Glasgow, from the age of fragile biplanes to fast jets, highlighting the contributions and sacrifice made by University staff and alumni. Artworks by former Director of The Glasgow School of Art, distinguished artist and designer Dugald Cameron, support the display.

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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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Gunner Herbert Briggs D.C.M.

By Euan Loarridge, Blog Editor, University of Glasgow Great War Project

bronze-medal.jpg

Italian Bronze Medal of Military Valour Awarded to Gunner Herbert Briggs for actions on the 11th of December 1917

Today, the 11th of December 2017, marks the 100th anniversary of an extraordinary act, carried out by a relatively ordinary individual. On the battlefields of the Piave River in North-East Italy, Gunner Herbert Briggs of 352 Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery, risked his own life to help drag a wounded Italian soldier from a crippled tank. During this rescue, Herbert himself was wounded in three places.

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