Saturday, 23 April 2016

Orkney at War (Feb, Mar and Apr 1916)

A little late this time, but here are some items from our seventh instalment of our Orkney at War Exhibition. This display attempts to show how World War One affected Orkney and Orcadians using items from the Orkney Archive collections which were created at the time. Archives such as newspaper reports, souvenir books, Military Tribunals, photographs and council minutes.

Sadly there are no entries in Margaret Tait's diary for these months, so instead I can show you some more pictures and comments from Nurse Lily Gunn's souvenir book.

"What! Write in a book where ladies look, And critics spy, not I, not I." by Sgt Major W Stephenson.
From the newspapers:

Orcadian, 5th February 1916 - Snippets from Soldiers Letters
An Orcadian who is serving with the Edinburgh Battalion Royal Scots guards, writes: On arrival at our port of disembarkation we were placed under canvas for the night. Canvas in January came as somewhat of a surprise, but as we were given an extra blanket, we were very comfortable, though we slept 14 to a tent. The morning after we arrived in France we were marched to the station and embarked in cattle trucks, 30 men in each truck. Our billets are scattered over a large area, and are mostly barns through a distillery is also used. The great drawback to life in a barn is the want of light. No lights are allowed as there is the great danger of the straw catching fire, and things are continually being lost. Work here is much the same as in England. We do platoon drill and bayonet fighting, and have already found out that the words "rest camp" is a misnomer. The climate is fine and healthy, and so far has been dry and we are enjoying ourselves fairly well. There is a village near our billet, and we are allowed to visit at night.

Orcadian 12th February 1916 - Eggs for our Wounded Soldiers
From the following list for eggs collected in the various country districts in the north of Scotland, it is gratifying to notice that Orkney takes first place in this splendid work. The figures are fir the first five weeks of the present year:- East Aberdeenshire, 107 dozens; West Aberdeenshire, 94; Banffshire, 50, Elgin and Nairn, 78; Inverness (Mainland) 75; Ross-shire (Mainland), 36; Sutherland and Caithness, 39; Orkney, 204; Shetland, 40.

From the Kirkwall Town Council Minutes:
The following letter was read:- "Registered No. 23832 General Post Office, Edinburgh, 8th February 1916. Sir, Orkney Mail Service. With reference to your letter of the 17th ultimo addressed to the Postmaster of Kirkwall, I am directed by the Postmaster General to state, for the information of your Council, that, while much regretting the inconvenience occasioned by the recent interruptions in the steamer service between Scrabster and Stromness, due to weather conditions, he fears that he cannot see his way to take action as regards the revision to a service through Scapa Flow. This is a matter which rests entirely with the Admiralty, and is not one in which the Postmaster General can interfere. I am, Sir, your most obedient servant, (sgd) J E Kirkwood, Secretary."

The Clerk stated that he had as instructed written the Admiral Commanding the Orkneys and Shetlands and Mr Munro and Mr Wason and that he had received a formal acknowledgement from the Admiral's Secretary and letters from Mr Munro and Mr Wason stating they would do their best with the Departments concerned.

From February 1916, local authorities hosted Military Tribunals which decided whether some men with particular trades could be exempt from enlisting. The results were publishing in the newspapers.

Orcadian 15th April 1916 - The Orkney Tribunal met at Kirkwall on Monday - Baillie McLennan presiding. The other members sitting were Messrs James Johnston, W.L. Hutchison, G Bain, R Houston, and Rev. G R Murison. Lieut. Munro, Seaforth Highlanders was present as military representative.

Application by a Shapinsay Farmer A Shapinsay farmer with 200 acres arable and 10 pasture, 6 work horses, 4 young horses and 11 ewes applied for exemption on his own behalf. His wife was 35 years of age. His father aged 75 and his mother aged 71 were on the farm with him. He had a male servant aged 18, another aged 24 (a discharged Territorial on the termination of agreement).
Conditional exemption was granted applicant and temporary exemption until 10th August to the younger of his servants.
An Application Refused A young man of 25 years of age, married, applied on his own behalf. He worked his father's place of 23 acres arable land, rented at only £4. Only his father, aged 55 and his mother age 50 were on the farm. On the place were 1 horse, 6 cattle and 2 sheep. he took a few days with the road contractor when not required on the farm. A medical certificate was produced to the effect that the tenant of the place suffered from chronic bronchitis.
On applicant being informed that his application was refused, he said they would just have to give off the place.
The Chairman replied - that is a matter upon which we cannot advise you.

Fighting by Invitation A Deerness farmer applied for the exemption of his brother. He has 67 acres arable, 3 work horse, 1 young horse, 18 cattle and ten sheep. On the farm was applicant 41, married and his brother, single, his mother and a delicate sister.
Applicant said: "My brother was never canvassed"
The Military Representative: "and he had to wait until he was asked did he?"
The Clerk: "Would he have enlisted had he been canvassed?"
Applicant: "I don't know"
The Military Representative: "Fighting by invitation"

From a Stromness Doctor's scrapbook:

From the newspapers:
Orkney Herald, 29th March 1916 - Captured at Kirkwall: German Who hid in a Trunk
It was reported a fortnight ago that a German had been arrested in a lady's trunk in his' wife's cabin on board a Scandinavian liner which had arrived in Kirkwall for examination. A Copenhagen telegram now gives publicity to some particulars of the incident:-
Among the passengers on board the steamer Frederick VII which arrived at Copenhagen on Monday afternoon, the 20th inst. from New York, was a German lady Fran Roewer, whose adventures occupy columns of the local papers. Her husband, a German engineer at Kiau Chau, escaped from a Japanese Internment Camp to New York, to which place the lady proceeded from Europe to fetch him to Germany. The couple evolved a novel plan to evade British inspection at Kirkwall. It was arranged that Roewer should cross the Atlantic in his wife's cabin trunk. In order to effect this he was obliged to undergo a preliminary anti-obesity cure for three months before embarking.
At first the scheme proved successful. The lady occupied two special rooms on board ship, and Roewer hid in the ordinary large trunk during the daytime breathing through a specially made ventilator under the name plate and enjoyed liberty at night. No-one on board suspected anything though some passengers expressed surprise at the lady's huge appetite. All the meals were served in her cabin and an extra supply of sandwiches were desired every night.
At Kirkwall Roewer left the trunk as he feared British inspection, and was caught in a small packing room. He has been interned, but his wife was allowed to proceed.

From the Register of Sasines:
In April 1916 a feu disposition for a piece of ground of about 6 acres in North Walls was recorded in the Register of Sasines. The ground was entrusted to the Office of the Lord High Admiral by Thomas and Theodosia Middlemore of Melsetter "to be used only as a cemetery".

This was the land now called Lyness Cemetery:
Archive references: Lily Gunn's Souvenir Book D1/983; Kirkwall Town Council Minutes K1/1/17; Orcadians serving from Flotta D1/1127; Lyness Cemetery photo by Tom Kent TK1749
Click on the label "Orkney at War" below to see more blog posts on this subject.

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