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1st/5th Battalion Gordon Highlanders
 
"Back from the dead"
How the reports of the missing were covered in the Buchan Observer


War Diary entry showing the missing from 26th March 1916


Buchan Observer 11th April 1916
Casualties among Buchan Soldiers
Peterhead men killed and wounded

Mrs George McRobbie, Fair View, Ronheads Peterhead, received official information that her husband L.Cpl G.C. McRobbie, Gordon Highlanders has been killed in action.  He leaves a young family of three – two boys and a girl.  In a letter to Mrs McRobbie the chaplain of the battalion wrote: “You will have already received the official news of your husband’s sad death. As chaplain of the battalion I write to give you the information at my disposal.  Your husband was on duty in the front line with his platoon when a mine was exploded almost immediately beneath where he was.  He and a large number of others were buried beneath the debris.  Most of them died instantaneously with the explosion which was terrific.  You will have the comfort of knowing that he suffered no pain.  Although the place was under fire an effort was made to recover the bodies and was continued for three nights.  Only five bodies were recovered but your husband was not one of them.  He still lies where he fell.  Our boys took every risk and made great efforts to recover the bodies, but without success.  When we knew that recovery was impossible I went up to the spot and standing as near the crater as possible I conducted a short service.  Christian words have therefore been said over them.  A cross will be erected in the cemetery near-by on which your husband’s name will be inscribed.  The commanding officer joins with me in offering you our sincere sympathy.”

Mr John Gill, Baker, 12 Love Lane, Peterhead, has been notified that his fourth son Pte William Gill, Gordon Highlanders, has also been killed in action.  Pte Gill who was 23 years of age was employed with Mr John Reid, contractor, Peterhead, prior to the outbreak of the war. A letter in similar terms to the above has been received by Mrs Gill from the chaplain at the front explaining the circumstances of the death of her son, who was killed on the same occasion and buried with his comrades, and conveying the sympathy of the commanding officer and the chaplain of her loss.

Letters have also been received by the parents and relatives of other local Gordon Highlanders who met their death at the same time.

Information has been received by Mrs Duncan 88 Longate Peterhead that her husband Pte Charles Duncan has been killed in action. Pte Duncan who was 25 years of age enlisted in May 1915. In civil life he was a carter in the employment of Mr James Sutherland, carting contractor, Peterhead. He leaves a widow and a young family of three.

Mrs John Robb 32 Constitution Street Peterhead has also received information that her brother Pte John Geddes, Gordon Highlanders, has been killed in action. Pte Geddes who was 29 years of age was a widower and leaves three young children. He enlisted on January 16 1915, prior to which he was a carter with Mr John Reid, carter and contractor, Peterhead. Mrs Robb has received a letter from the chaplain similar to the above with expressions of sympathy on the death of Private Geddes who, he says, was a promising soldier and died a soldier’s death.

Mr and Mrs Alexander Kindness, 1 High St New Deer, have received intimation that their second son, Pte Fred Kindness has been killed in action.  He was in his 10th year and was a farm servant prior to enlistment.

Mr Henderson, shoemaker, 52 Cross St Fraserburgh has received word that his son Myles Henderson has been killed at the front. Before joining the Gordons he was a tailor with Mr Purdie, High Street and was a young man of fine physique. His brother Lance-Corporal Henty Henderson has been missing since the battle of Loos.

Buchan Observer 25th April 1916
Back from the Dead
Missing Buchan Gordons reported Prisoners

Mrs John Robb, 34 Constitution Street Peterhead, who some time ago received intimation from an army chaplain that her brother, Private Geddes, Gordon Highlanders had been killed in action, and later on was officially notified that he was killed, has now received the glad news from her brother that he is a prisoner of war in Germany.

On a postcard dated April 13, Private Geddes says “I am a prisoner in Germany and am at present in Reserve Lazarette Mariahilf, Aachen.  I am well and receiving good treatment.”

Mr Henderson, shoemaker Cross Street Fraserburgh received good news from Germany.  Three weeks ago he was officially informed that his son Myles Henderson, a Gordon Highlander, had been buried alive owing to the explosion of a mine, but on Friday he received a postcard from his son stating that he was a wounded prisoner at Aachen, but was getting on well.

Mr Alexander Turriff, Overside St Fergus, some time ago received intimation from an army chaplain that his son Private James Turriff, Gordon Highlanders, had been killed in action. He has now received a postcard from him that he is quite well and a prisoner of war in Germany.

Buchan Observer 2nd May 1916
Four Peterhead Gordons Prisoners
Previously Reported Killed

The welcome news was received in Peterhead on Thursday that four local Gordon Highlanders, previously reported as killed and later officially reported as missing, are all prisoners at Dulmen Westphalia, Germany.  Their names are Lance Corporal G. Mc Robbie, Privates Charles Duncan, William Gill and R. Wemyss.
Mrs McRobbie, Fair View Roanheads has received a postcard, dated 3rd April from her husband, Lance Corporal G. McRobbie, which informs her that he is in the best of health and that his new address is – “British Prisoner of War, L.Cpl McRobbie, Company 3 Barracks, Dulmen Westphalia, Germany”.
Privates Duncan and Gill write to their relatives and Private Slessor to a friend, from the same address as above, all stating that they are well.  Their homes addresses are respectively 62 Longate, 12 Love Lane and 44 Longate, Peterhead.

 

   

Postcard from Alexander Crawford acknowledging receipt of parcel -Side 1. Pte Alexander Crawford was one of a number of men reported 'Missing believed killed' in the Battalion's action on the Arras front on 26th March 1916.  This card is addressed personally to the Battalion's former Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Grant, who was also involved with the Prisoner of War Department.

Postcard from Alexander Crawford acknowledging receipt of parcel -Side2. At this time Crawford was held at a camp at Friedrichsfeld in the Rhineland.Prisoners here were often subjected to brutal treatment in the nearby coal mines.

 

Postcard  from Fred Kindness acknowledging receipt of parcel. Pte Frederick Mitchell Kindness was born in New Deer in 1896, the son of a farm servant.On 26th March 1916 he was reported as 'Missing believed killed'. It took several months to establish that he was a prisoner of war.In October 1916 he sent this acknowledgement from Schneidemuhl near Posen in Silesia (later part of Poland).

 PRISONER OF WAR RECORDS
FROM THE ABERDEEN ARCHIVES

The Aberdeen City Archives holds records from the Prisoner of War Bureau that operated during the war.

The Bureau was formed  to provide support for the families of soldiers from the district who had been taken prisoner.

"Working via mutual acquaintances and a well developed postal system across Western Europe the Bureau was able to build up a register of prisoners that included their next of kin and where possible, their state of health. The Bureau acted as a point of contact for the next of kin providing news of the prisoners, or providing advice on what to send their soldier or how. It also co-ordinated benefactors to send parcels of supplies and letters of comfort to prisoners of war." (Aberdeen City Archives) 

The following is a list of those men from the 5th Battalion who were taken prisoner on 26th March. It provides an interesting glimpse into the family situation of these soldiers. (ADPWB/7)

  Number Name                              POW Details                                    Home Details   Remarks 
  1933  Livingstone, Forbes   Englander Kommando I
No 2 Gefangenen Kompagnie,
Fredicksfeld Deutschland
 Brother Pte Thomas Livingstone 2nd Bn Black Watch. His (Thomas's) wife lives at 25 Stanley St Aberdeen.     Guardian who brought up prisoner, Mrs Elsie Thomson, Benthoul, Peterculter, who has sent two parcels up till now will send a parcel every fortnight, but she is unable to send much.  
  2065 Slessor, John Robert  Englander Kommando I No 2 Gefangenen Kompagnie 
German No.34 Friericksfeld
21 Sept 1916  
Father Alex Slessor, Hatton Lodge, Hatton, Cruden. Farm servant in poor circumstances. Will send a box occasionally. Prisoner's sister  Mrs Stott, Broseston, Ellon will send comforts to him occasionally.  
  3307  Paterson, George  No 2631 9 Compamy, 9 Barracks, Giessen    Father William D Paterson, Brigend, Cruden, Port Erroll. Farm servant. Wages £50 with house. Large family,  3 sons in army, 2 daughters in service, 4 at school, 2 not attending - too young. Paterson is not receiving any allotment for prisoner.   
  3040  Kindness, Frederick Mitchell  1. Block 3 Company 4, Barrack 33 Dulmen, Westphalia Germany.      
2. Schneidermuhl, Posen 3/11/1916  
Father Alex Kindness, 3 High St New Deer.  In poor circumstances. Has sent a box of eatables, and will try to send now and again. No other assistance.   
  1416 Anderson, Robert Stephen  1. Co. 3 Barrack 33A Dulmen, Westphalia,  Germany    
2. Coy 9 Block 2 Minden 
Father George Anderson, 55 Shore St, Fraserburgh.  Not well off financially. Will send a box of food as often as possible.    
  2857 McRobbie, George Cook 1. Coy 3, Barracks 33A Dulmen, Westphalia Germany.
2. German No 26. Englander Kommando I. No 2 Gefangenen Kompaniegne, Friedricksfeld.  15/5/1916 
Wife Mrs Mary McRobbie, Fairview, Geddle Braes, Peterhead.  Separation Allowance 23/- weekly for 3 children.  Will endeavour to send a small parcel of food every week.  Burden to send weekly parcel, and wife to be asked to send money for bread.  Lady Bective accepts this prisoner. Miss Victoria Campbell, Barkeley Hotel, Piccadilly W. Miss V Campbell sends weekly parcels for 3 months from Junior Army and Navy Stores, London. 
 2534 Gill, William  1. Company 3, Barracks 33A Dulmen, Westphalia Germany.
2. EK1, GK 2 ( Englander Kommando I. No 2 Gefangenen Kompaniegne), Friedricksfeld. 
Father John Gill, 12 Love Lane Peterhead. Earns 32/- per week. Prisoner's mother has been sending a parcel containing food every fortnight to him at the Front and will continue to do so.   
2805   Crawford, Alexander  1. Company 3, Barracks 33A. Block 3, Dulmen, Westphalia.
2.German No. 6.English Kommando I, Gefangenen Kompaniegne 2. Kriegsgefangenenlager, Friedricksfeld. 
Wife Mrs Crawford, 40 Kings Crescent Aberdeen. Separation allowance of 25/- for herself and 4 children. She has not sent any parcels and states she is not in a position to do so.  Mrs T Crombie adopts through Bureau for fortnightly parcels. Bureau second adoption. May 17 Lady Bective to send fortnightly. 
 1524  Henderson, Myles Duff Duncan Mossford  1. Reserve Lazarett, Mariahilf, Aachen, Germany                               
2.Reserve Lazarett, Sall 15, Julich, Rheinland                                    
3. 2 Kompagnie, No 4646,   Kriegsgelangenenlager, Stendal. 
4. 7 Kompagnie, Kriegsgelangenen-lager, Gardelegen 
Father Alex B Henderson, 52 Cross St, Fraserburgh.  Shoemaker 81 years of age, not well off financially. Intends to send a parcel of food frequently to his son.  1.Bureau to send fortnightly bread.  2. Captain George Abercromby, Forglen, Turriff sends weekly parcel through Bureau. Sent £5 towards cost on 15th Nov 1916. 
 2937   Geddes, John Reserve Lazarett,  Mariahilf, Aachen, Germany. Camp No. 49943, Barrack 3B, Friedricksfeld  Father William Geddes, 9 Back St Peterhead.
A carter earning 28/- per week.  Mrs McRobb, 34 Constitution St, Peterhead, a half sister of prisoner draws an allowance of 5s10d weekly from him and also an allotment of 15/- weekly for prisoner's 3 children, one of who lives with Mrs McRobb and two with their grandmother Mrs Will, Greena, Rora, Longside, who gets 10/- weekly of the allotment.  Both ladies are in poor circumstances but Mrs McRobb is to send a parcel of eatables occasionally. 
Adopted for weekly parcels [by the Bureau] by: Miss Neish, Hazelwood, Peebles. 
         

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Carolyn Morrisey