Life in the Army of 1915
Dirty Horse Boxes Were Our Billets!
Long before daybreak, and often up to seven p.m., we drilled and carried out one hundred and one duties, Monday to Friday, Saturday to noon, Sunday Church Parade and every second week there was cook-house and camp cleaning.
We did not get out of camp or rather barracks for three weeks. Only when we had mastered saluting, alertness, spit and polish, kit inspection and the elastic words, 'military manners' did we get an outside pass.
I was fortunate - I had received an 'A' report from all instructors, which meant at the end of my first month my pay was increased 31/2d per day. I received a train voucher, forty-eight hours leave and 10/- board money.
I made a bee-line to Queen Street Station in Glasgow. It was grand to slip off the train at Leuchars Junction and walk over the familiar fields to my home at Balmullo. As a youngster I did not like stew and I never ate rice pudding. I arrived home at lunchtime and mother, charmed to see me remarked, 'It's stewing beef and rice pudding for lunch!' I put mother at ease- 'I'll eat it, I eat anything now, after being at Maryhill Barracks.' Her food was delicious.
The leave soon came to an end and one hour before ten p.m. (deadline on my pass) l reported to the guardroom.
Sergeant-Major Fox was standing beside the orderly sergeant.
'What did I tell you Sarge. The boy Caseby would be the first to report back.' S/M Fox looked very pleased and for the first time he patted me on the back.
One morning, while having instructions on an eighteen-pounder gun, we were called to parade, as a colonel wished to inspect us. The foot and marching drill satisfied the colonel. He inspected us with the usual remarks, 'His hair is too long, take his name,' and, 'Why did you not polish your boots? Take his name,' and, 'Button undone there, take his name,' and, 'What makes you grin? Take his name.
After the march past and salute, we were addressed by a major with an Irish twang.
'This afternoon at two p.m. assembled troops will pack their kits and proceed to another depot. As you pass through our city streets, no breaking ranks, no idle talk, proceed as trained soldiers loyal to the King.'
It was a long, long route march. We landed at the Scotstown Stallion showground. Tired and hungry, we were lined up in the cold, frosty showground. We were to be vaccinated and inoculated. It was a grim episode indeed. We all shivered.
An RAMC orderly cleansed the upper left arm and an RAMC doctor scratched the arm in two places and blew on the vaccine.
Next came an RAMC sergeant. He injected us with T.Pb2, followed by another RAMC orderly who fixed on a bandage. The cold was intense. Operations finished we were dismissed to reassemble at the billets.
The 'billets' were stallion loose boxes. In each box, uncleaned from a previous horse show, twenty men were herded in a place fit for one stallion. We were like sardines in a tin. Later, while we were having our evening meal in a cold marquee, I got permission to send a telegram to my brother, a teacher in the Vale of Leven. Two hours later my brother John called, tipped a sergeant 10/- and got me a twenty-four hour pass.
Though under par from vaccination, injection, freezing cold and fatigued from the long march, I had a very pleasant twenty-four hours, extended by another twenty-four hours, on request by my brother, as I was sick.
On my return to the showground, I found two men had died and a dozen were taken to hospital. Some men had very bad arms, others came out in blisters. My weekend with my brother toned me up - I was well fed and rested and within four days I was assigned the duty to carry meals to medically unfit soldiers.
As I had a free hand at the 'field kitchen', I saw to my patients. They had the best of food I could scrounge. At the end of ten days all patients were fit and on parade.
We were told to pack our kits for a new destination. Another march, this time to a troop train that took us to Slateford Station, Edinburgh. To our very great surprise we arrived at the New Redford Barracks, the first of Kitchener's Army to occupy the finely-furnished quarters.
This work, Going With God, is copywrited by Ronald R. Caseby, 1993. All rights reserved. Used here by express permission.