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Remembered Today:

How the Scots Conquered England.


Skipman
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In 1914-1915 thousands of Scotsmen moved to England for training, the 1/6th Black Watch to Bedford, the 2/1st Scottish Horse to Kettering etc. A recent thread, unintentionally, highlighted divisions between our countries, but there is, and was, much that brings us together. I found this in the British Newspaper Archives, in The Perthshire Advertiser, and thought it worth posting. A Scottish Horse Trooper, Douglas MacDonald, writes of his time at Kettering: Wednesday 12/5/1915

Scottish Horse Farewell!

The last days in our English home-By a trooper-Out of the bewildering mixture of rumours, and counter-rumours emerges this one significant fact; we are leaving Kettering. Exactly when we shall go, or where we shall land, how we may fare, and when, if ever, we will return-these things are in the lap of the Gods. Suffice for the present that we are faced with severing those ties and connections which have been formed in our 6 months' stay in this hospitable little town. As I pen these words I stop to ponder over the long bill of indebtedness we have run up since we came here, and words fail me as I attempt to describe all that the town and townsfolk have meant to us.

Our Coming-

It seems but yesterday that we marched up the station-road, weary, bedraggled, and a little doubtful of the reception awaiting us. Our fears were soon set to rest though, and the months as they passed knit closer the early established bond between Scot and Saxon, soldier and civilian. I know that as we look our last on the town the uppermost thought in most minds will be " When shall we twa meet again?" Of course half the people in Kettering are coming north for their vacation this summer, but I am thinking rather of when it will be our luck to see the town again. In a few days as we lie in camp, or keep watch and ward, under the stars " somewhere on the coast " we shall be recalling the scenes and incidents that are gone. How the yarns will go round as we conjure up again those care-free nights in the billet, the merry dances in the "Vic" the glorious canters across the Boughton Park, and all the hundred and one things that have helped us to make our life here " one long sweet song "

There is a little shop in the town -it is really more of a home to us than a shop-and since the first word of moving came out, the boys have been beseeching, pleading, and entreating the proprietress to pack up and establish herself along with us wherever we go. How we shall replace it I can't imagine. The chairs are the softest, the tea, the most refreshing, and the cakes the sweetest a tired soldier could wish, and there is a dark little maid who lulls us to sleep with the tunes of the homeland. Nearly every coterie in the Brigade has its own special haunt, somewhere or other in the town. It may be a tea shop, a club, or an institute, and as often as not its a private house. We have taken possession of these places. At all hours in the day and night we have slept, read, sipped tea, and banged out our barbarous refrains on their pianos. To a stranger the position would be bewildering. He would never believe that our stay in Kettering had been confined to a short six months. So completely have we made ourselves at home that one would imagine we had been here years, instead of months. In most of the billets we have been as sons and brothers rather than a mob of soldiers forced willy-nilly upon hearth and home.


Heart Ties

And then there are those soft, tender ties of love that have crept in between the girls and the garrison. What of them? It was inevitable from the first that some of the sturdy hearts would capitulate to those dancing eyes that smiled ever so coyly on as we marched through the streets. Some of us have surrendered completely to the bombardment of eyes and lips, and have joined in the indissoluble bonds of matrimony the links between the Brigade and the town. Others more canny, as befits our Scottish natures, have plighted out troths under the trees, amid the romantic glamour of Wood-lane, and left engagement rings to keep us in memory till a more peaceful and propitious day shall dawn. For the remainder, there is scarce a man but has some soft good-bye and fair promise to breathe into an ear that would fain listen to anything else. Will these ties hold as the days go by, or will the memory and the promise fade and finally be consigned to the limbo of forgotten things?

And our foster mothers, what shall we do without them and they without us? How much they have meant to us words cannot tell. They have washed for us, sewed for us, made us tea in the cold mornings, and taken us right into their motherly hearts: but these are perhaps the least of their services. It is the little feminine things the soft touches instinctive to a woman's heart that have won us over. Many a boy sick, and weary for the sight of a dear home face has had cause to bless the ministering angel who comforted and cheered him; and not a few men lured away by the call of the drink have been stopped and steadied by the mere look of reproach in the face which was so like a dear one far away.

Our Kettering Pals.

Then there are the pals of the town; longing to be with us, envious of our khaki, but held by the claims of duty to the factory and workshop bench. We shall miss their joyful " What cheer Jock " as we meet them under the lamp at the street corners. We have played cards billiards and football with them, argued with them, sung ourselves hoarse together; the cup of out kinship would have been full had we managed to put our strength against theirs at cricket; alas this was not to be. However we have tested them, and they us and we have joined hands as pals. Men don't do more.

I overheard an officer of long experience say lately that he had never served in a Regiment in which the percentage of misconduct and crime were so small as ours. Further, at the farewell concert in the "Vic" when the Brigadier referred to the high standard of conduct amongst the men, he was greeted with rapturous applause from the huge body of civilians present. The dividing line between the broad and narrow paths in a soldier's life is easily crossed, and very small influences, and effects, can send him headlong on the first, or divert him to the second. If then, our behaviour has been good, I believe it is mainly due to the influences and good offices, which I have here attempted to record.


Shall we Meet Again

What more can be said, what more need be. these are four lines of Burns

Had we never loved so kindly,
Had we never loved sae blindly,
We never met and never parted,
We had ne'er been broken-hearted.

But perhaps these are not quite applicable. Surely somewhere, some-when, we shall meet again? Friendships and ties like those that we have formed are not so lightly broken. And, after all, we are going to our duty. Our preliminary training is over, and we are ready to take a more practical hand in the great game. The day is not far distant now when we shall join hands with our comrades on the Continent in the glorious task of breaking the chains of militarism which are riveted on Europe. What better Godspeed can you give us than " a Berlin"? Our stay in Kettering has been pleasant, and the joy of it has in no way interfered with the prosecution of our duty. Rather it has helped. We each have two homes to fight for now, and two towns with their eyes on us.

When the curtain of the future rolls away may it show us with a clean, and honourable, mayhap a glorious record. Some day may the chords of your memories be stirred by hearing of the lads who once basked in the sunshine of your hospitality. These things are things that endure, they are beyond time and above the trivialities of earth. When the blood of the battles, the thunder of cannon, and the clash of arms have died away may we return to further cement the bonds now tied between us and " Our English Home "


Mike


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I have read of many men in the unit I am researching (4th Highland Mountain Brigade, RGA, TF, Highland Division) who formed wonderful memories of and friendships with the people of Bedford, where the Highland (51st) Division trained. Quite a bond was formed. This recollection is particularly well expressed.

Mike Morrison

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" This recollection is particularly well expressed. "

Thanks Mike, I absolutely agree. Very well written. I wonder what records/photos etc, still survive in Kettering, and Bedford etc?

Mike

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Thanks for sharing Mike. I think there were Scots at Ripon too. However there is a great thread that gives tons on Bedford and 51st here:

 

 

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That thread unearthed some wonderful photographs including some now and then montages.

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That thread unearthed some wonderful photographs including some now and then montages.

Indeed, and belated thanks to seaforths for posting.

Mike

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That thread unearthed some wonderful photographs including some now and then montages.

Indeed, and belated thanks to seaforths for posting.

Mike

You're welcome. The guys have posted fantastic photographs on that thread. My icon is a cropped image of my granddad as a boy of 16 the photo was taken at Bedford when he started training in August 1914 so I am always keen to see the photographs the guys post on that thread.

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