THE HAWICK EXPRESS & ADVERTISER AND ROXBURGHSHIRE GAZETTE, 5 FEBRUARY 1915
In the wider world by Friday 5 February 1915, when this particular issue of the Hawick local paper was distributed, Turkish forces had just reached the Suez Canal after crossing the Sinai Desert and were engaging British troops, the Turkish forces had also recently attacked Aden (now in Yemen), the German government had announced that they would begin a blockade of Britain on 18 February, and the British, French and Russian governments had announced that agreement had been reached on pooling their financial resources.
The war was becoming a truly World War, with Eastern and Western Fronts, and a Middle Eastern theatre of war.
So it was then that on 5 February, the Hawick Express and Advertiser and Roxburghshire Gazette reported that the 4th King’s Own Scottish Borderers (K.O.S.B.) needed 200 more soldiers. ‘There are hundreds of Young Men on the Borders who have not yet answered the call’, the notice stated.
The newspaper also carried an advertisement for recruits to a new so-called ‘bantam’ battalion sponsored by Archibald Philip Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery, 1st Earl of Midlothian. Such battalions were for potential soldiers of below the British Army’s minimum regulation height. The advertisement asked for men aged 18-38 ‘of good physique […] willing, if accepted, to defend their Homes or to march to Berlin’. The ‘Rosebery Bantam Battalion’ was raised in Edinburgh and would move to France in December 1916 serving on the Western Front for the remainder of the war.
Once the men, be they the men of the ‘Rosebery Bantam Battalion’ or those of the 4th K.O.SB. were at the front – or billeted in the region, or recovering in hospitals and nursing homes across the country – they could look forward to the ‘comforts for the soldiers’ collected by private individuals as this notice in the Hawick Express and Advertiser and Roxburghshire Gazette shows. Readers were asked to send a postcard if they wanted sheets, pillow-cases, vests, games and music to be collected for the soldiers.
The newspaper, like other local and national titles across the country carried advertisements for appropriate clothing for the Front and other theatres of war… for officers at least !
The ‘Burberry’ War Kit was ‘a safeguard against rain, snow and frost, in the trenches or or on the march’. British warm ‘Burberry’ came in ‘Lined Fleece or Fur, Khaki Serge or Gabardine’.
A short notice service Kit came with ‘Tunics, Slacks, Knickerbreeches, Great Coats and British Warms ready to try on’.
The newspaper provides us with a reflection of the Home Front too…
Readers of the Hawick Express and Advertiser and Roxburghshire Gazette could look forward to a weekend serial; the ‘splendid war serial’ entitled The Day or, the Passing of a throne by Fred M. White (this was Frederick Merrick White 1859-1935, pioneer of the spy story).
The story featured, among other characters, ‘one of the chiefs of the British Secret Service’, his chief assistant who was the ‘inventor of a wonderful new aeroplane’, and ‘a native of Alsace’ who was in reality ‘in the service of the Democratic Federation of Germany enthusiastic over the formation of a German Republic’.
For soldiers billeted in Hawick and elsewhere in the Borders, pubs were ‘out of bounds’ to them except between the hours of 6 o’clock and 8 o’clock at night.
The newspaper shows us how life was beginning to change for women too, with prospects looking good for employment in the commercial and industrial world in 1915. A College in Edinburgh announced examinations that were to be held for Civil Service posts ‘For Girls Ages 14-20’. The College claimed that there would be ‘an unprecedented demand for assistants’. The time was therefore right ‘for young people to secure a Government Post’.
Then as now, the newspaper also carried advertisements for remedies, not least this ‘Best Remedy Known for Coughs, Colds, Asthma, and Bronchitis’, and which ‘Effectually cuts short attacks of Spasms, Hysteria, and Palpitation’:
And there were advertisements for escapes as well… often to North America… with passages from Glasgow to Quebec and Montreal, or to New Brunswick, from £10 upwards in Second Class. The Donaldson Line boasted that the steamers were ‘fitted with Marconi Wireless Telegraph’.
The Anchor Line too though it worth mentioning that its steamers sailing from Glasgow to New York were fitted with ‘Marconi Wireless Telegraphy’.
The Allan Line sought to get ahead of the game (maybe) by advertising that they had ‘Matrons for unaccompanied young women’.
News out in the wider world of the announcement by the German government that they would begin a blockade of Britain on 18 February 1915 should have warned of the fate awaiting coastal merchant and transatlantic shipping. In May 1915 the Cunard vessel R.M.S. Lusitania was sunk by a German submarine just 18 km off the Old Head of Kinsale Lighthouse (Co. Cork, Ireland) a few hours from its scheduled arrival time in Liverpool.
The Donaldson Line vessel Athenia would meet the same fate in 1917, as would the Anchor Line vessels Cameronia (sunk 1917), Tuscania (sunk 1918) and Ausonia (also sunk 1918). All of those vessels had been listed in the February newspaper ads.
Dr. Graeme D. Eddie, Assistant Librarian Archives & Manuscripts, Centre for Research Collections
(This issue of the Hawick Express and Advertiser and Roxburghshire Gazette lies in Sarolea Collection 80, ‘Belgian Relief 1914-18, Correspondence and other papers’, Coll-15.)