On the home front, soon after Britain went to war, we read in the People’s Journal 22/8/14 of the formation of a local branch of the Red Cross Society, for the purpose of making warm garments for soldiers. Leading ladies of Abernethy comprised the committee, with the Rev George Macdougall being treasurer and Mrs G K Smith the convener. The first fund raising event we hear of was a Christmas concert.
Another charity, the Young Women’s Christian Association, doing similar work is reported in a PJ article of 9/1/15. “Mrs Moore secretary of the YWCA Abernethy, has received from Lady French (through her secretary) a grateful acknowledgement of work done by members of the association for soldiers at the front. The work consisted of socks, hosetops, belts, vests, helmets, mufflers, mitts, gloves etc.
Of all the press reports I have unearthed relating to wartime Abernethy, the following is the most detailed account of the experiences of an Abernethy soldier. It relates to the early stages of the war before the ghastly scale of the conflict became generally apparent. Up until this point there was hope that “it will all be over by Christmas”: -
Abernethy Soldier’s Exciting Experiences
Germans’ Brutal Conduct
Private Alexander Christie, of the 6th Dragoon Guards who belongs to Abernethy, has been invalided home from the front, having at Warnington received a shrapnel wound below the left shoulder blade, the bullet lying within four inches of the heart. Private Christie took part in the retreat from Mons and the subsequent advance of the Allies. In the course of an interview, he told of some exciting experiences.
“One day three of us were left behind by our squadron, who took our horses with them. The squadron was behind a small wood, when the German guns got the range and the shell fire was so heavy that we three who were scouting in the wood could not be recalled in time to accompany them. We remained some time in the wood, sheltering ourselves behind trees, until the firing ceased, the enemy having meanwhile been attracted by our trenches. We got to the edge of the wood, and found the Germans only about 300 yards away.
A mangold field lay between us and the rest of the hill over which our squadron had disappeared. We ran into this field 100 yards and flopped down to recover our breath, the enemy’s bullets whizzing past us to the right and left. Again we got to our feet and ran, and again rested in the drills, not one of us being touched by the bullets, though there was nothing between us and the enemy. In this way we got through the field and over the hill to safety, and on to the village where our squadron was stationed.”
After telling of the Aisne, he said: - “we pushed on to Warnington, where we had another hard fight, and found houses with bodies of old men, women and children in them. Ten old men were suspected by the Germans of being spies. The Germans made them dig their own graves and kneel down beside them and then the brutal soldiers shot them. On the way north we found that the Germans in their retreat had wrought as much destruction as they possibly could. Practically every house of any consequence had been entered and ransacked, and the pictures, ornaments, furniture &c smashed. While in the trenches at Warnington we were under very heavy shell fire. I got my wound at Warington on 21st October. At the time I got my wound my third horse since the beginning of the war was also wounded, being shot through the neck.”
People’s Journal 5/12/14 page 11
It would be interesting to hear from our readers if anyone knows what happened to Private Christie in later life. Indeed anecdotes relating to the later life of Abernethy servicemen who survived the War would make a useful addition to the information files on the War which we are compiling in the Museum of Abernethy. (tel 01738 850 889).