Draft of Lanarkshire Yeomanry

Supporting the Troops during World War One

War with Germany began on the 4th of August 1914. Within days East Lothian’s reservists and Territorial Army volunteers were called up and mobilised. Camps and depots appeared all over the county: Dunbar’s story is typical.

In parallel with the military events and the dispatch of the British Expeditionary Force to France, a second mobilisation was taking place. Within three months of the outbreak of war, the Dunbar Parish Magazine was able to report that

  • afternoon and evening work parties were meeting weekly,
  • that a fund had been initiated by Mrs Kirk, the minister‘s wife, and
  • that over 8 dozen pairs of socks had been knitted and dispatched, amongst other garments.

The Church Magazine published detailed knitting instructions and passed along instructions from the committees or information about work completed.

In the early days of the support effort, delivery was ad-hoc: some comforts went by parcel, some to a Southhampton depot, and some with soldiers heading for the Front; later, it became highly organised.

Draft of Lanarkshire YeomanryAnother committee, organised amongst the combined churches of Dunbar, ensured that every soldier that left the burgh by train was provided with food, fruit, chocolate, reading material and cigarettes for the journey. The drafts were presented with their package at the station and waved goodbye by members of the committee and their volunteers. All the funds needed were raised by donation.

Other committees were organised to collect for the newly opened National Relief Fund, the Belgium Relief Fund, and others. Concerts and door-to-door collections provided most of the cash raised – the relief funds benefitted from a total just shy of £700 (then a considerable sum) by the end of September 1914.

5th Dragoon Guards guard at Dunbar POThe churches of Dunbar themselves had been involved from the day war was declared. They controlled many of the available halls within the town. For example, upwards of 85 men had been billeted on the Parish Church Hall and volunteers from the congregation paid for and cooked their first few meals. Once the first surge of mobilisation was over, the Church Hall became the base for a permanent guard supplied to the Post Office (just across the road) from the Cavalry Depot. The first guard group were reservists from the 5th Dragoons Guards: they slept in the Ladies Cloakroom and took meals at nearby houses. The 5th Dragoon Guards were one of the regiments whose headquarters were the Cavalry Depot that had opened in Dunbar just a few years before. The other church halls became reading and recreation rooms or canteens but whatever their use during the day, most were used every night for concerts, sing-songs and other fund and morale raising activities.

As the months turned into years the intensity of the local effort may have eased but the need for funds and support for the troops was continual and was kept going throughout the war – and beyond. Much of the story of this efforts remains to be uncovered, but it was detailed in the local press and church magazines: publicity was the means whereby the funds were kept flowing. Copies of these local papers can be consulted at the John Gray Centre, so visit us to find out more.

Keywords: World War One, First World War, WWI, WW1

4 thoughts on “Supporting the Troops during World War One”

  1. john barker says:

    I think my grandfather james William walker is the third man standing from the left . if it his its the only picture of him he was at killed at messines 31 October 1914 .their is a wonderful blow by blow account written by a officer from Aldershot to the 31 October his name is captain m crawshay 5 dragoon guards. my mum was a year old when her dad was called up has a reservist .

  2. David Barrett says:

    Hello again. My grandmother showed me another volume of my great-great-grandfather Daniel Casey’s memoirs a few weeks ago. This version was written in 1931 but the second volume was lost, which is why he rewrote his war memories and it is from the rewritten version that my previous post came from. Below is what he wrote about Dunbar in 1931, and I hope you find it very interesting:

    “On arrival at the platform at King’s Cross I bade goodbye to Jack Daly who to give him his due, had been very kind and considerate towards me when I was in a very cantankerous mood. Then I observed a tall muscular man in Khaki embracing a woman at the carriage door. He came into my carriage and I realised that we two were possibly destined to be its only occupants in our journey to Scotland. I could very well have dispensed with his company as his behaviour and language were to say the least very Bad. He took me for a civilian as no doubt I was. He informed me that he was “Blinder” Haythread of the 5th Dragoon Guards also in the South African War. He was Orderly to Gen. Baden-Powell. I just quietly informed him that I also had served through the South African Campaign. This rather took him by surprise and we soon were discussing different events relating to the War. At all events he produced a bottle of whisky, then I brought out the flask that Jack Daly had made me a present of. So through the night we travelled, as daylight appeared we were crossing the Borders of Scotland and about 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning we arrived at Dunbar station. As the train disgorged its passengers I was greatly surprised to see many old familiar faces of the 1st King’s Dragoon Guards. We all proceeded to the Cavalry Barracks of the (Scots Greys) 2nd Dragoon Guards, where to our surprise the rooms were overcrowded. I said to my newly- found comrades “we are not going to sleep in these rooms tonight because we shall soon be lousy”. I said “let us arrange with the Cook to get some straw from the stables and pack down in the Marquee Tent”. Although it was winter time this idea of mine was acted on and we all slept warmly and cleanly.

    But previously to this we had been and viewed Dunbar, a very ancient place with a direct view of the North Sea. Peeping through the Courts and Alleys where poverty prevailed one got the vision of the British Navy because there were anchored Torpedo Boats and Cruisers. We went to the Railway Tavern where the troopers of the Scots Greys were holding a Free and Easy Concert and in the course of the evening I obliged with several songs and got them singing the Chorus. A very untidy man came into our company and we found he was a Sargeant Major.

    The next morning (Sunday) we had to do the Foot Drill on the Parade Ground and this individual was our Drill-Instructor. Well I laughed, so we all did when he started giving us details. It was really funny to see some old soldiers, including myself, telling this Sargeant Major where he was wrong in giving the word of Command. I then learned that the regiment I had re-joined for, my old regiment the 1st King’s Dragoon Guards, were in India but that they were on their way to War. So I gathered my pals together and suggested we should put in an application to go to Aldershot as the quickest method of getting to the Front. This idea of mine went like wild fire through the barracks and when we approached the Commanding Officer of the Scots Greys he gave his consent that a Draft should be sent to Aldershot at once. So Monday morning found us being Played Out by the Band of the Royal Scots Greys to Dunbar Station. All the inhabitants of Dunbar turned out to cheer us. Now I have always been told and impressed that the Scotch People are mean. I found that this is a Lie, and a Defamatory Lie on a Noble Race of People. They came to the railway carriage windows and thrust cigarettes and chocolates upon us. In fact I have pleasant recollections of the people of Dunbar.”

  3. David says:

    Hi David

    Fascinating: any snippet like this is of interest to us, as we try to build a picture of what went on during the war years. Good luck with your publication plans – and keep us informed!

  4. David Barrett says:

    My great-great-grandfather Daniel Casey fought in the 5th Dragoon Guards during World War I and he wrote memoirs. He was one of those who went to Dunbar at the beginning of the war. He mentions Dunbar in the following excerpt: “But long before these forgoing events happened I was in Flanders, for on the outbreak of the war I had re-enlisted in the 5th Dragoon Guards. Jack Daly came to see me off at Euston Square as I was sent to Dunbar in Scotland. I had to wait until midnight for the train and to my surprise he insisted on paying for everything. He paid for a supper at a restaurant. He treated me in pubs and he bought me a bottle of whiskey to take with me on the long train journey. He seemed genuinely upset that I was going away. When I reached Dunbar I met some old comrades who I had left in South Africa, and who like myself had re-enlisted so we all made an application to be transferred to Aldershot as it was from there that troops were sent to the war front.” I intent to publish the full text soon.

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