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Tom Wilkie, 1st Black Watch


Ian Robertson
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Tom,

Yes Charles did survive the war. He was at home in hospital at the time of his father's death in February 1917 recovering from a wound. He died in 1935 when he was 42 and my mother was 6 but she can remember getting 1d from him on pension day. At the time he was married in 1922 he lived in Blackness road but the family, which was originally from Ireland, had lived in Lochee (surprise surprise) so that may have been his home address during the war.

Jim Kinnear was my step grandfather and was from Kirkcaldy. He would have definitely been in a scottish regiment in WW1 and in WW2 he manned an AA gun on the Forth. I should know more about him as we had a lot to do with him when we were kids and he used to let us play with his medals which I now realise were a Trio.

I'm glad that you've raised these points again, I really need to get a bit more focused on finding out what I can about these guys.

regards

Ian

P.S. the first "Old Brown Cow" or whatever is on me!

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Ian,

Remember, 1400hrs, Saturday: 'Barmaid! 2 pints of the finest Old Speckled Dustbin please!'. Give us an email if you need me to bring anything (cornish pasties scooped out to look like those 70's shoes that teachers used to wear, or something).

Aye

Tom McC

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  • 4 weeks later...

Ian,

Chanced upon a French postcard of the Black Watch - bridge crossing photograph that you posted a while back. There's also some writing on the back...unfortunately, my French isn't very good (kicking myself in recent years) <_< .

Aye

Tom McC

post-10175-1193664075.jpg

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Tom,

Interesting. The french I'm afraid is beyond me even if I could decypher the hand writing. Tom's pictures are all printed with a postcard backing and can be broken down into three groups; photos of him and his individual comrades taken either in a studio or in the Aldershot barracks as the picture in the very first post, groups of soldiers such as the one which Grumpy identified as being scout training in some of which Tom can be identified and which may have been taken for a local paper, and thirdly the photos which show the battalion/division training which i think would have been commercially availble.

I'd love to know what the writing on the back of the card said though!

I received David Webster's file from the Canadian records today. It is fasinating! There is huge amount of information and just on first scan I can see that he was wounded twice, the second time when serving with the 3rd bat Canadian Machine Gun Corps on the 2 Oct 1918 which resulted in a lenghty stay in various hospitals. A lot of the information means nothing to me so it may take me some time to work it out. anyway thanks for pointing me in the direction of the archive and I'll post some of his details once I've done some work.

regards

Ian

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I didn't realise when I first posted the question "What does this Badge mean?" that it would lead me so far and in so many directions. Following advice received on this forum from Tom McCluskey I applied to the Canadian authorities for my Great Uncle David Webster's war documents. I was delighted when they arrived last weekend. There are parts of it I can't decipher (doctors' handwriting seemed to be as bad then) and there are abreviations and initials, mainly regarding the period after his first injury ,that are confusing and that I may have misinterpreted but in general his service record is readable and interesting.

I can remember my great uncle as someone who never moved from the armchair by his fire unless he had to. This was wise as his top floor tenement flat always seemed bitterly cold to me, even in summer. He was a small man,of very few words who looked smart from a distance. He habitually dressed in a three piece suit with a collar and tie with his watch chain stretched over his ample stomach, however the whole ensemble was somewhat spoiled by the copious amount of ash that fell from the permanent fag in his left hand. Years later after his death in 1966 the Punch and Judy man in the television series "Hi-de-HI" always reminded me of him His right hand was disabled but nobody in the family (including his wife) knew the tale behind his injury.

Born in 1887 David Webster had emigrated to Canada and was working at his trade of Iron turner/machinist at the outbreak of the war. Then unmarried, he was managing to send home $30 per month to his widowed mother who still lived in Dundee. On the 5th of January 1916 he enlisted in the 103 Bat. of the C.E.F as 706554 Pte Webster. His attestation form shows that he was 5'3" tall at the time and his chest measurement was 36". His medical record states that his weight was 135lbs. With these statistics he couldn’t have been considered the mightiest warrior to have been sent to war but what he lacked physical was more than made up for by his determined nature.

After initial training in Canada he left Halifax on the 23rd July 1916 on the S.S. OLYMPIC arriving in Liverpool on the 31st July 1916 and he spent some months in England at several Army camps before being taken on the battalion strength in France on the 23rd December 1916. On his arrival he was hospitalised for a series of complaints including impetigo but he eventually was declared fit and returned to general duty. On the 11th of April he was wounded in the arms and legs by shrapnel and he was dispatched to no2 Aust Hospital in Boulogne. He then spent approximately 3 months in hospital in Stoke before he was sent to The Canadian Convalescing hospital in Bromley, Kent for final recovery. After his discharge from the hospital he went for training with Canadian reserve battalions in Seaford before returning to service on the 17th October 1917 with 16th reserve battalion.

On the 3rd May 1918 he was transferred to the 3rd Battalion of the Canadian Machine Gun Corps and it was while he was with them that he was wounded for the second time at Cambria on the 29th of September. He was once more wounded by shrapnel but the main injury was caused by a gun shot wound to his right arm causing a compound fracture of the right humerus and partial lesion of the right musculo-spiral nerve. He was admitted to a field hospital on the 3rd of October where he was treated before he was evacuated to England. He underwent many operations including bone grafts and he was also treated using electro therapy as doctors attempted to re-habilitate his almost useless right arm. He spent the armistice in the ward for serious cases in hospital and his situation became more fraught as his arm wound became infected. The arm was repeatedly drained and he was transferred first to Western Cardiff General Hospital and then to Buxton Hospital before he was eventually returned to Esquimalt Military Hospital in Canada on 21st May 1919 . Here he would undergoing operations, first to drain the pus from the abscess in his infected arm and to suture musculo-spiral nerve on the 20th January 1920.

Eventually the infection cleared up and it was decided that no more could be done for him. He was discharged as being medically unfit for service on the 6th of February 1920. He left the army unable to resume his trade and with a Good Conduct discharge certificate, various small scars from his shrapnel wounds, two large scars from his G.S.W., a gratuity, a pension and the War Service badges class "A" and "B".

David returned to Scotland where he married and had an intrest in a small shop which I think he had set up with the money he had sent home from Canada and which was run by first his mother and subsequently by his sisters. Apart form occasionally going into his shop, having the odd hauf in the local and going to a football match, David spent the rest of his life doing as little as possible, and who could blame him?

To the best of my knowledge he never spoke about his experiences at the front and my Father who knew him for 40 years knew nothing about the cause of his wounds.

David died in January 1966 at the age of 78 only two months after the death of his wife.

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Ian,

An interesting and well-researched conpendium of David Webster's military career and how it affected his later life. It's great that you've managed to find out quite a bit - and it's a very good piece that you have written about David

Whilst out and about I chanced upon this postcard of the 1st Black Watch, formed up at Fort George, wearing their white shell jackets. Unfortunately, like the Bridge postcard it does not enlarge too well.

Anyway, here it is.

Aye

Tom McC

post-10175-1194384072.jpg

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Tom,

Interesting photo, do you know when it was taken?

Regarding David Webster; I knew him reasonably well in his later years. He lived at the top of the Hilltown and I lived up Kinghorne road so we visited him often. The information regarding the shop came from my Dad but the only reason that he knew that David had been in the Canadian army was that it was common knowledge in the family that David got a pension from the army. Nobody knew what he had been doing in Canada or any details of his Military service. All the other information came from the records sent to me from Canada. There were 50 A4 and foolscrap pages; 60% of which must have been details about his medical treatment and his health; there was even a dental chart which showed that David had no extractions or fillings when he joined up!. I'm sure that a more knowledgeable and experienced researcher would have gleaned a lot more.

regards

Ian

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one group is probably 'The Scouts' under training. Several of the small variety of badge on show, and what may be binocular cases, and earnest note books.

The strange contraption with funnel is a field cooker [the German equivalent was nicknamed 'the goulasch cannon!]

Im just looking at your photo of the soldiers stepping onto a raft, do you know where it is? It looks like the basingstoke canal as it passes through Aldershot, the red church in the background and to the right of the photo would be Queens parade where I played many a cold game of football for the fire service!

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Im just looking at your photo of the soldiers stepping onto a raft, do you know where it is? It looks like the basingstoke canal as it passes through Aldershot, the red church in the background and to the right of the photo would be Queens parade where I played many a cold game of football for the fire service!

Yes you seem to be correct. In post 98, 303man seems to agree with you.

regards

Ian

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Ian,

The 1st Bn The Black Watch were at Fort George between 1904-1906, then moving off to Curragh, in Ireland. During the same period, the 2nd Bn were in India. Here's a picture of a piper and drummer of the '73rd' at Cherat on the North West Frontier (now in Pakistan).

Aye

Tom McC

post-10175-1194468549.jpg

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Ian,

Back to Tom Wilkie and Battalion Scouts. Training in Reconnaisance Duties and Instruction of Scouts is contained in the publication: Infantry Training (4 Company Organization) 1914, paragraph 110.

I have enclosed pages 111-113.

Aye

Tom McC

post-10175-1195121595.jpg

post-10175-1195121654.jpg

post-10175-1195121699.jpg

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Tom,

Thanks for posting these pages, which besides helping the thread back on track, is very helpful in explaining not only the Scout's duties but the type of Soldier required for the role.

In the "Peoples Journal" edition dated the 13th may 1916, the report of Tom's death states that he was mentioned in dispatches. I was under the impression that this would be published in the "London Gazette" in the same way as medal awards for gallantry were, but I can't see any record of Tom's supposed mention. Could this just be an example of Journalistic licence relating to the note sent to Tom by the the Divisional Commander?How common would it be for a Divisional Commander to send a note to a N.C.O.? If someone was mentioned in Dispatches would they receive any record of it?

regards

Ian

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Ian,

I believe initially, it was mentioned in the London Gazette then subsequently an award was made of a bronze oak leaf spray, worn on the relevant campaign medal. Having looked at Wauchope, and MICs on the NA, I cannot find one for Tom. It looks like he was commended by the GOC, but unfortunately, it looks like this was not mentioned - he possibly should have been, or maybe there was a misunderstanding

Troops would generally get their MID for gallant behaviour, but it could also be for Meritorious service. C d'A Baker-Carr, was awarded the MID three times, and a DSO - whilst on the General Staff...I'll bet he never had to knock his pan in for these awards.

Aye

Tom McC

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Ian,

Thought I'd point out this book too, by Major H Hesketh-Pritchard:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sniping-France-191...4692&sr=1-1

It's a good easy read concerning the development of Sniping. Of course, it is mainly about sniping, but most of the observation and stalking techniques are common to both skills of sniping & scouting. Plus it contains quite a few decent anecdotes/case studies, and a chapter on scouting at the end of it.

Hope this is of use

Aye

PS - forgot to say I think It was the King that initiated the bronze oak leaf and also the letters MID to be associated with the soldier/officer

Tom McC

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  • 3 weeks later...

Ian,

Found this free book, by Joe Cassells:

http://www.archive.org/details/blackwatchrecord00cassiala

He was called back to the 1st Bn The Black Watch, from the Reserve, on the outbreak of the war. He was a Scout in the battalion, and I have no doubt that Tom and he would have shared similar experiences. It is worth a read and free.

Hope this is of use

Aye

Tom McC

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Tom,

Once again many thanks for this information. I've downloaded the book and I look forward to reading it.

I obtained a copy of the "Sniping in France" book by Major H. Hesketh- Pritchard. I found it very interesting, in particular the overlap between observers, snipers and scouts. it was also amusing to see words like dammed with the middle four letters replaced with asterisks; god knows how the editors of the time would have managed a Gordon Ramsay programme!

I recently downloaded the battalion diaries for the period from May 1915 to September 1916 to replace the ones I lost earlier this year when my computer crashed. reading through some of them last night put me in mind of a note sent by Tom to his sister after the battle of Loos which I have attched below.

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Friday

1st October 1915 2098 D coy,

1st Black Watch,

1st Infantry Bde

BEF

Dear Sister,

Just a few lines to let you know that I am

still in the land of the living.

We are back in billets after being in action

for 5 days. I am in the best of health.

I manager to get you a P.C. in this village

so I am enclosing it within.

No more at the present. hope that this finds

you in the best of health not forgetting Alex.

I remain

your brother

Tom.

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Ian,

Joe Cassells' book, the diary, and Wauchope, will probably give you a good idea of what was going on... especially things that Tom was not mentioning, or was not allowed to. But, if there was a Pte Gordon Ramsay of the 1st Bn The Black Watch, like you said, I can't imagine his mum having very much left to read after the censor's been at it. I can just imagine a whole range of swear words used as: nouns, verbs, and adjectives; all being blanked out by his platoon commander.

That aside, it's great that you still have some of Tom's letters. A good piece of family history to look after.

Aye

Tom McC

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Tom,

Thanks for the photo; again it's very intresting.

I am very grateful for you pointing me in the direction of Joe Cassel's book. Not only does it give you an insight into the scout's work but it also highlights the almost continual combat the contemptibles were involved in and the extent of the losses. In one part, after he has described a period of fighting he says that he was once again detailed to carry out scouting work as he was PRACTICALLY the only Black Watch scout left! The astonishing part of Tom Wilkie's story is not that he was killed but that he lasted so long without even being wounded,

My Grandmother had the first five volumes of an encyclopaedia called "The History of the Great War" published by Waverley book company. This was produced a volume at a time and was paid for by subscription. I don't know why they stopped getting it (the last chapters deal with Italy's entry into the war); it may be that the depression kicked in with the publication of volume 6, but when i was a kid my very favourite part was a plate depicting a charge by the Scots Greys "with the Black Watch hanging on their Stirrups" at St Quentin. As a young boy I would look at this for ages imaging the shot and shell, the screams, the thunder of the horses hooves and I would get shivers going up my back imagining what would happen if you fell over in the charge! Pity it was a load of old cobblers then; Joe Cassels reports in his book that although they supplied supporting fire in the action they were not involved in the charge. The encyclopaedias were not what you would call an impartial account of the war, they were more like "tales that stirred the Empire" but Joe's account managed to shatter an Illussion that I'd had for 40 years.

post-16112-1197234015.jpg

regards

Ian

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Ian,

I think there was plenty of that type of sentiment in books and publications of the time, the fact that it elicited some sort of emotion meant that it achieved its mission. I still enjoy looking at these type sketches, but more so the traditional regimental stuff such as Forward the Forty-Second and Tel-el-Kebir, even now. However, with age and I hope a bit more wisdom I am able to cast more of a critical view of these pictures. One of the genuine Black Watch artists that I enjoy the work of, is Joseph Gray; the fact that he served in the Regiment puts more of a personal edge into his animation of the scene. He creates something that an Italian artist just does not quite capture. There are a couple of his sketches in the art section of the forum, plus his work is displayed in the McManus (closed just now) and Balhousie.

As an aside and out of interest, did you notice the different cap badge that a 1st Bn Sergeant wears?

Aye

Tom McC

post-10175-1197318306.jpg

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  • 3 weeks later...

Tom,

Once again many thanks for posting the additional pages reagarding scouting. The more I read the more I'm astonished that Tom survived so long.He must have been pretty tough. Not only do you get to go over the top with all the others, if you survive you get to crawl around no man's land in the middle of the night... in a kilt!!!

Going back to the Joe Cassels book; although it was a fasinating read I must say that his stories regarding German attrocities sat a little uneasy with me. They seem too much like the official propaganda line. Bear in mind that the book was originally published while the war was still going on. He is pretty definite on the Christmas day football in no man's land (I couldn't believe it, I was never offside) saying that the British were more used to the game and therefore better than the Germans. If true it is probably one of the last times we managed to beat them.

regards

Ian

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Ian,

As you said Tom must have been good to make it so far. There are occasions when raiders and machine gunners put trousers on for certain tasks so possibly if you were leopard-crawling around no man's land as a scout they may have put breeks on. Joe Cassel's reference to the children with no hands: I have no reason to doubt that he witnessed children with hands missing as sights like this of civilians and military personnel would be commonplace near the forward edge of the battle area, how it happened may be down to his own deductions (it may have even been down to German shell-fire, and something was lost in translation), I guess we'll never know. It is still an interesting read though, and I believe he wrote it in America.

Also whilst out and about I managed to pick up this postcard of what looks like the Tailor's shop of the 1st Bn The Black Watch. It was sent to a Mrs Skene in Perthshire and the photograph was taken in Farnborough, which is a stone's throw from Aldershot, so I thought that this thread is a good enough place to show these chaps off alongside you excellent shots of the 1st Bn at Oudenarde, before the war.

Aye

Tom McC

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