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With tke Incomparable ' 29tli '


Incomparable 29th



Stk Battalion The Royal Scots
(Queen't Edinburgli Ride*)

LONDON : 38 Soto Square. W.


EDINBURGH : 339 High Street

Kdinbui'gh :
Pnoted by W & R. Chamber*, LimitwL







Edinburgh, June 19x9










Vn. THE C.O.'S STORY .51










XVn. IS IT WRITTEN? . . 171


XIX. ALL IN ! 184



EPILOGUE ....•,... 204

Witli tlie Incomparable * 29tli/


TINKLE, tinkle, tinkle, ting, ting, went
the telephone.
The acting adjutant picked up the receiver.

' Is that 5th Battalion, the Royal Scots ? '
' Yes, sir. '

* Headquarters, Scottish Command, speak-

* Yes, sir.'

* You move in forty-eight hours to Leaming-
ton to link up with the 29th Division.'

* Yes, sir.'

At last it had come.

Forty-eight hours later a battalion of over
a thousand men steamed out of Edinburgh
en route for that which had already been called
* The Great Adventure.' Little did one reckon
that it was destined to take part in one of the
most glorious chapters in our military history.
Little did those who entrained that day, or
those dear ones left behind to bear the agon-
ising suspense of waiting, think how few would
meet again this side of the veil.



ARRIVING at a dock in a troop-train at
/a. 1 A.M. on a beastly night in March is
not conducive to good temper. But the
experience had its points, and to most of us
the novelty more than made up for all its
little disagreeablenesses. But I still think (as
I have thought for years) that the calendar
would be greatly improved if we were to leave
the month of March out of it. It's an un-
mannerly month.

Our boat was a liner. I have not often
gone down to the sea in ships. Hitherto my
sole experience of boats had been in crossing
to or from Ireland, a brief but most justly
celebrated form of sea-voyage, a voyage of
which I invariably spent the first half fearing
I was going to die, and the last half fearing
I was not. Naturally, to me, who had known
only the little packets of the Irish Channel,
this sea-going liner seemed huge.

Leaving my second in command to look
after the company, I went on board to see
where my men should go. The big boat was
cold — clammy cold — and the big boat was
dark ; and its interior seemed an endless net-
work of low, narrow passages, all crossing and
recrossing each other repeatedly, and all leading


nowhere. I should say that 99 per cent, of
that boat's crew were asleep, and 1 per ceiit.
nowhere in particular. When I came to think
of it calmly, the crew were in their proper
place at that hour in the morning, especially
as we were not expected to come on board
until six. But at the time it struck me as
inhospitable, and I felt alone and neglected.

At long last I unearthed — or should I say
'undecked'? — a quartermaster, a comfortable
creature who listened to me kindly, and then
said that if I 'd get my men, in single file,
to a certain spot (I don't remember what
he called it — ships will never be my strong
point), hammocks would be issued in precisely
ten minutes. I said that I would do so. He
kept his word, and I kept mine. Companies
may have been moved more prettily, but few,
I think, more quickly, than I moved mine, in
the dark on that nasty March night, from
slushy dock to slippery deck.

I left my senior subaltern to superintend
the actual issuing of the hammocks, and went
myself to find out, if I could, what quarters
had been allotted to my men. I descended,
almost without mishap, sundry flights of per-
pendicular and spiral stairs, and again pene-
trated the various catacombs below.

The liner was, of course, now fitted up as
a troop-ship. The five decks where cargo
would be in normal times were full of long,
narrow tables and forms ; and from the roofs
hung a battalion of big screwed-in hooks on


which hammocks were to be fastened close
in taut bundles by day, and to dangle soporific-
ally at night.

The ship suddenly became a straining,
struggling, man-and-hammock-infested scrum.
I had never seen anything at all like it before.
I have since. But I do not care how infre-
quently I repeat the experience.

The entire battalion had now detrained, and
other company officers were in evidence with
their men behind them. Officers and men
came on board. That quartermaster was
perfectly impartial. He issued hammocks
to all comers alike, and, as far as possible,
to all at once. The great ship's highways
and byways became a seething tangle of
hammock-bearing men, all going in different
directions, and doing it vigorously.

A game now commenced which might be
called 'Shove and Push.' The rules of the
game were very elastic. If two men going
upstairs with hammocks met two men going
downstairs with hammocks, what was the
rule? I don't know what the rule was, but
the result depended upon which of the groups
of two suddenly became a group of four, or,
in military parlance, whose * supports ' arrived
first. During the warmer phases of the game
some of the hammocks were half in their
assignees' arms, half on the floor or stairs.
This added variety to the play, and gave it
spicy handicap, but it was detrimental to
the hammocks. One company commander at


least discovered this to his cost at the end
of the voyage.

I eventually found where my men were to
go, but another company had mistaken their
pitch, and had to evacuate first. That was
quite in order, because the referee of the game
had got lost, and therefore the game could
not stop. Well, there is one bit of sound
advice I can offer : if ever you play this game
at two in the morning, never lose your temper.
It is fatal.

The game gradually ceased by dint of
attrition, and I discovered that I had half
my company right up in the bows or forecastle.
The other half were practically next door
(that's not a nautical expression, but it will
have to do). I had had no luck in the game
— though lots of fun. If you had been in
that forecastle our third day out, you would
have enjoyed yourself, subject to being a
sailor. I am not. A number of the men
were not.

Having discovered my company's quarters,
and herded the men into them, it struck me
that I had been working hard, and without
* supports.' I had my men settled. But
where were my subalterns ? None was to
be seen. I threaded the passages ; I climbed
the ladders. At last I discovered two of
my aides — but no sign of the other two.
They were not with my second in command.
So I made tracks for the official quarters.
These were easy to find, and on going along


the corridor I saw that the name of each
officer, clearly written, had been tacked on
the door of the cabin he was to occupy. That
quartermaster deserves to be * mentioned.'

I discovered my own cabin, and then went
in search of those of my subalterns. I found
one with the names of the two boys I was
hunting on its door. Well, probably I 'd
find them sometime, and in the meantime
I might as well see how they were quartered,
and if everything was nice and pretty for
them — flowers on the dressing-table and plenty
of logs on the fire. I went in. That was
my moment of greatest astonishment. The
cabin was occupied. Its owners were in bed,
fast asleep.

Then there was trouble I It was three in
the morning. My temper had been severely
taxed for hours. I am quite sure those boys
had never dressed so quickly before in their
lives. / went to bed.

Next morning they both apologised humbly.
Having had a splendid bath and an excellent
breakfast, and feeling human once more, I
reminded them of a certain *para.' in the
Manual and closed the incident.

Poor boys ! One has made * the supreme
sacrifice,' and the other is out of the service,
wounded in action too severely to fight

The next day we spent in settling down ;
and the other regiment who were shipping
with us came on board. They had one-half


of the ship, and we the other. That night at
dinner some one said suddenly, * We 're off I '
and so we were. Our momentous voyage had

At ten every morning we had ' Ship's
Rounds,' a very earnest function. The cap-
tain, an absolute monarch, the two command-
ing officers, the adjutants, the sergeant-majors,
the captain of the day, and various smaller
fry went round and inspected the whole ship,
barring the engine-room. It was a very
minute inspection, and usually the adjutants
collected a wonderful fund of information,
which later on they dished up to various re-
sponsible persons, sometimes as a savoury,
sometimes not.

I went round very minutely myself our
first morning, going to the forecastle and in-
specting my own men's quarters before the
general inspection. I had ten messes right in
the bows, three decks down ; and I couldn't
go any farther *for'ard' unless I went out
with the anchor.

There was a sergeant who did nothing else
but look after the company's quarters. I
picked him out for the job more by chance
than anything else. It was a lucky leap in
the dark. He was never once *sick.' Why
he wasn't and how he wasn't I don't know,
for the scenes he must have witnessed beggar

The third day out was our test of good or
bad sailorship. After * Rounds' we usually


had 'Physical Exercise.' This soon after a
big breakfast, at sea at least, is not always
conducive to comfort. Now, in the army
seasickness is not a disease, nor yet an illness.
And unless you are ill you must go on parade.
Fortunately for me, my mind triumphed over
my body, but it was a near thing. Not
always was every one else as lucky ; but then
the men soon got their sea-legs, and ere long
every one started to enjoy himself. The other
regiment had just come from India {via the
Bay of Biscay), and were hardened.

Our third or fourth day out one of my men
was found asleep while on sentry duty beside
the water-tank. This was^a very serious crime.
He had to be brought before the CO. for
punishment. I ordered the company sergeant-
major to have the prisoner at Orderly-Room
in plenty of time. Having every confidence
in my C.S.M., I myself * rolled up' (the ship
was rolling too) at the last moment. To my
horror, there was neither sergeant-major, escort,
nor prisoner present. 1 got hold of two of
my men and sent them to hunt for the de-
linquents. They were not to be found.
Orderly-Room time had passed. I went in,
hardly able to keep my feet, but lurching as
little as I could, and faced the adjutant. He
cursed roundly, and I could say nothing,
as I was the officer responsible. At that
moment the sergeant-major staggered in —
violently seasick. The escort and the prisoner
had succumbed to the same malady, infected


perhaps by the sight and other signs of his
torture, and had disappeared. They were
found half-an-hour later in a horrible plight.
I had to put my sergeant-major under arrest ;
I was ordered to do so. This was his first
default in over twenty years of service, and
the next day he was admonished. I think he
felt it. I know I did. I felt it bitterly, and
felt that I was to blame. Officially there is
no such thing as seasickness in the British
forces. Assuredly discipline must be main-
tained — and should be. But the red-tape
that takes no account of seasickness, one of
the acutest discomforts the hmnan body can
know, seems to need cutting.

Our first stop was at Malta. Few of my
men had been abroad before ; their interest
was immense, and their comments were vastly

We left the next morning. No one knew
where we were going. But every one thought
he did, and I certainly heard a hundred or
more places proclaimed in confidence as our
destination. About tw^o days out from Malta,
Alexandria became hot favourite in the bet-

The voyage through the Mediterranean was
delightful. We got to know well the officers
of the other regiment aboard. I had wondered
just how * Regulars ' would regard us. These
officers were charming. Most of them had
had many years' experience, and without ex-
ception they seemed eager to bestow (but

10 AT SEA.

never to impose) any advice and information
they could on an amateur like myself. I shall
always remember one thing that one of them,
Major Summat, 1st Essex, said to me : * My
boy, you are a soldier now, and are going
into the real thing.' I have remembered that
sentence on more occasions than one.

It soon became an open secret that it was
Alexandria that we were making for, and on
April 2, 1915, we arrived there.



IN Egypt the 5th Royal Scots trained for
nine days, and then left in three portions
for the next stage.

In war-time the British soldier is well
shepherded. All that can be done for his
comfort and convenience is done, and done
cordially. The officer must fend for himself
a dozen times a day, which is all as it should
be. I had very much to fend for myself when
I reached the quay the day we left Alexandria.
Finding our particular boat (her identification
disc was not conspicuous) was rather a hunt-
the-thimble sort of business in the crowded
harbour melee. But at last I found it.

Seeing no signs of life on deck, I left my
men * at ease ' on the quay, and boarded (or
bearded) the vessel alone. Roaming the deck,
I discovered an individual in shirt -sleeves
looking down upon me from a dark and
perilous perch. At least, it appeared perilous
to me. I inquired for the master (I believe
that is the correct term for the skipper of
such craft, but I usually said * captain' — it
came more naturally). He of the shirt-sleeves
said that he was the master, and added,
* Come along up the ladder.' I went up the
ladder. Before my foot was off the top rung


the master threw at my head, * Will you have
a whisky- and-soda ? ' From that moment I
called the coatless one a gentleman. And so,
indeed, he proved — a real treasure of the deep.
There are many such afloat under the Union-
Jack, and some of them in queer -looking

Captain King was a charming chap. He
made light of all war's troubles, and of its
perils nothing at all. Like most sailors, he
had an unshakable faith in premonitions and
in foresigns. He knew that he was predestined
to die at home, on his bed, in the most orderly
and orthodox manner. And this was quite a
comfort, as there were rumours, and more
than rumours, of enemy submarines in near

While 1 drank my whisky the master stood
and shook his head at me. * Have another !
Oh yes, but do, for you Ve no business here —
so drink to it. You 've no right to arrive so
soon. I 've had no instructions to take you
on, or about you at all.' I produced my ' in-
structions,' and, seeing that we were otherwise
houseless and homeless, he consented to accept
them in lieu of his own, and the men were
allowed on board. That skipper was one of
the very best. The steward was also a good
sort, and almost before the last man was up
and over the gang-plank, he had an excellent
meal served out for them — piping hot, well
cooked, abundant, and clean. It wasn't a
liner, this second ship of ours, but it was a


most 'comfy' boat, more home-like than I
could have believed that a boat could be, and
we settled down, grateful and glad.

In the morning an ammunition column of
R.F.A. arrived, and I divided my detachment
into fatigue-parties to help in loading. Forage
and stores began to arrive also, and we were
more than comfortably busy.

Next day the divisional ammunition column
commander came with a few of his men and
no end of munitions. My detachment con-
sisted of about one hundred men of ' all sorts '
— artists, students, clerks, tradesmen, skilled
business men, &c., from Scotland. It was
splendid to see how, without exception, they
adapted themselves to these hard and bustling
circumstances. Nothing seemed too stiff or
too dirty.

The derricks were the stumbling-block in
the proceedings. But I had a lance-corporal
who had been a marine, and, as * Ubique' is
the marines' motto, he took charge of derrick
fatigues with a will and a rush. Under him
the men played with that heavy ammunition
— the heavier it was, the harder they played.
They used to fling shell ammunition about
in a way that would, I should think, have
given a munition-factory foreman cerebro-
spinal meningitis. Yet nothing happened.
The ' stores ' they treated with more respect.
If I remember rightly, one box of biscuits
slipped to a salt and watery grave in the
harbour. But not a drop of the rum ration


was spilled or mislaid ; the very greatest care
was taken of the rum ration.

Our transport and officers' chargers had
come, so far, from England in other boats than
ours. They linked up with us now. As I
stood leaning on the rail, watching the loading
and taking long last looks at Egypt, who
should come walking down the quay but
my own dainty dancer — the brute — led by his
groom ! I refused to recognise or claim the
beast, but told the groom to let me know
when the horrid quadruped was going to be
slung on board. 1 wished to stand by and
jeer at him. On my first day in the glory of
O.C. Company, he had made me the laughing-
stock of a regiment. I would curse him and
gibe at him before the tombs of all the
Ptolemies, in the very presence of the Sphinx,
witnessed by as much of the British Army
as was assembled together there on the
Alexandrian quay. I did think of bribing
the derrick Tommy to drop him hard, but it
didn't seem quite sporting to treat him so, for
was not he, as well as I, faring forth, perhaps
to die ; and in the same great cause, for the
same Greater Britain ? As a matter of fact he
came aboard gracefully, and got safely into his
stall in the hold.

It was great fun watching the mules being
shipped. You might have thought some had
lived their lives in slings. Others had a rooted
aversion to them. The saying * as stubborn as
a mule ' is a true saying. But I was convinced


that some of these were proud, rather than
stubborn. Some held up their head and
looked truly martial. Some cocked an ear
and held their head sideways, for all the world
like a terrier pup. Some were jaunty ; some
wept aloud. Some waved a humorous leg,
and some an angry one. Some took it
stoically, some all in good part, some in the
worst possible spirit and taste. They lacked
esprit de corps ^ those army mules en route to
Gallipoli. They had no uniform standard of
conduct or of carriage.

It was a * top-hole' voyage. We were a
merry mess of eight officers, four of whom
were Regulars. The O.C. troops was a gunner.
The adjutant, Lieutenant W. D. Hislop, a
clever artist, was one of my subalterns.
Though our boat was a * tramp' (I apologise
to the captain, if ever he reads this and
recognises his ship), personally I enjoyed the
voyage much better than I had that on the
liner. The men also were very much more
comfortable. They had sports every day
and singsongs every night, and were as
jolly and contented a lot as you could wish
to see.

On the forenoon we were sailing a mail
arrived. Home letters ! This was just the
one thing needed to enhance our already very
high spirits. I know how eagerly letters from
* the front ' are coveted and read and kept at
*home.' But I think that home letters are
even more to us at the front. How much


they are their writers can scarcely suspect.
There is no telling it.

Just before we cast off, one of my men
came to me, anxious and hurried, with a
War Office letter requesting him to report at
Nigg, Ross-shire, Scotland, he having been
given a commission. The letter had just
missed him before his going overseas, and had
been chasing him ever since. There was little
time to think it over and decide what should
be done. I suppose, technically, he ought to
have left us then and there, and found his way
back to Scotland. But he begged to stay
with the company, now so near the fighting-
line. I agreed, and promised to lay the little
tangle before the CO. when we linked up
again with the regiment. I fancied the CO.
would attach him as an officer, pending
Whitehall instructions as to his disposal.
And to take him with us seemed the sane,
as well as the kind, thing to do, as, should
he go back to Scotland, by the time he got
there he almost certainly would find that his
regiment was in some other and far-distant
theatre of war, and would have to spend the
rest of the war chasing it about the globe —
chasing always, but never quite catching up.
* I came out to see this show, and I want
to see it first at any rate,' he pleaded, far
keener to get into the fight than to take up
his commission. Before instructions about
him reached us he was wounded and sent
back to hospital at Alexandria. Through


an error he was reported in the casualty list
as killed, and read of his own death in papers
sent to Egypt to him from home. A number
of soldiers do that. When this one was well
again he came back to the peninsula as an
officer, and there, alas ! fell gallantly leading
his men.

We sailed in the early forenoon, escorted
(as we were all the way) by T.B.D.'s, for
submarines were all about us on the voyage.
A second transport started at the same time
with another of our detachments. This was
a much faster boat than ours, and soon left us
behind and out of sight. But the race is not
always to the swift, especially in war, and we
reached Gallipoli before she did ! For two
days the men had a nice, lazy time. With
the exception of just enough physical exercise
to keep them in training, we gave them no
work, as they had been working more than
hard for some time now. The better the
soldier, the wiser and the more necessary it is
to let (or, if need be, make) him rest now and
then. Like every other fine instrument, he
loses his edge and his power if not laid on a
shelf to rest from time to time. All that our
men had to do now most of the time was to
watch the gunners at stables and exercising
their horses. It is wonderful how you can
exercise a horse on board ship, and well worth
seeing. Watching it one day, I thought of
my own animal, and, relenting, went down
to the hold to see it. I took a pocketful of

Mth. B


lump-sugar with me. But it would have none
of me, nor a lump of my offering. A pretty,
friendly mare in the next stall got the benefit
of my dancer's evil temper. I know that
beast hated me. I never saw it again — nor
wished to.

Our third day out, at one in the morning,
of all unkind hours, I was rudely waked by a
voice shouting through a megaphone, * What
ship is this ? ' I immediately pictured a fleet
of enemy submarines, and thought grimly of
all the ammunition in the hold, and what a
rotten end it might be to our Mediterranean
errand. I climbed out of my berth and took
a look through my port -hole. I saw one
of our own destroyers. It was a comforting
sight. It lay very close to us — so close that it
seemed as if I might almost touch it. I heard
the commander give an order to change our
course several degrees, and then I curled up
again to complete my interrupted repose. I
was very sleepy — one usually is at sea — and at
that ungodly hour was not particularly inter-
ested to know why we were changing our

We had an event on board ship the next
morning, an addition to the strength of the
ship's company arriving in the shape of a foal.
The mother lived all right, but the little raw
recruit stayed but a day. It was a pretty
beastie, and every one of us was sorry when

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