Problems in Scotland
^^^ Ayr Scotland, training base for the newly recruited Newfoundlanders. Read more about Newfoundlanders lasting links with Scotland
Once the first contingents of Newfoundlanders had moved from Gallipoli to France, the practice from then on had been to transfer newly recruited troops from Newfoundland directly for training to Ayr, Scotland.
But, by mid-1916, cracks began to appear in this system.
Much of this was caused by a duality of control over the NFLD troops overseas, i.e., Newfoundland officers or British officers.
In 1916 a proposal was made to transfer the Newfoundlanders from Ayr to Barry (160 km to the Northeast) but it was strenuously opposed by Newfoundland. Then, when Premier Morris was informed that the British Military authority was planning to do this anyway, he threatened to remove the Battalion completely.
Newfoundland troops had been very happy in Ayr, in fact, a number of them had already married local girls.
The Constable of Ayr laid a complaint “about the unruly behaviour of the Newfoundland soldiers in his town.” The Premier was livid. He demanded a full investigation as, in his opinion, the credit of the Colony, and the honour of the Regiment were involved. He suggested that the Police Chief’s complaint was “grossly exaggerated and it implied that the Newfoundlanders were a set of lawless savages, absolutely out of control…” He concluded that this “was a downright libel on our men and an insult to the Colony.”
The cause was lost, and the British Military authorities forced the move from the old Toon of Ayr - albeit temporarily.
In fairness, there may well have been a few occasions when the Newfoundlanders, on payday, did do a little carousing in town. (An un-named Padre declared afterwards that “as everyone knows, Newfoundlanders are typically a very docile and pleasant group of men who rarely drink, smoke, sing loudly, or act improperly in any way. The fact that they constantly joked about the British stiff upper lip approach to life must have caused some members of the British society to have their feeling hurt. Ahhh.”)
This is but one classic example of the way Newfoundlanders related to their host communities during the war, whether it be in Scotland, France, Belgium or England. Their jaunty, friendly dispositions could make people smile even under the most austere of circumstances.
To this day, there remains some controversy as to what, or who caused the Ayr Constable to make such an unfortunate accusation against the Newfoundlanders. One thing is clear, however – he was absolutely alone in the Town. It seems that no one is on record for supporting him.
The move to Barry eventually turned out to be OK. As with every other place they came to live in Scotland, they were soon making friends with the local inhabitants.
Barry, Carnousie, Monifieth and Broughty Ferry became intimately familiar to the Newfoundlanders, and more than one member of the Regiment brought back home with him a charming Scottish lass as his Bride.
After only a short stint, the Battalion was returned to Ayr and the training of incoming recruits was resumed at a stiffer pace than ever.
It must be noted that the time between the arrival of new recruits and their moving forward to France and/or Belgium was all too short.
When each departing draft left Ayr for the Front, the Citizens would typically give them a royal send-off. As an officer of the Depot staff said “The crowds surged with shouts and tears and singing. And when the troop train pulled out of the station there was the roar of Auld Lang Syne and Will Ye no Come Back Again.”
There can never be any doubt that the Newfoundlanders in Ayr and Barry did indeed win the hearts of the People.
Then, they left for the Front. Many would never return as their earthly remains would forever lie in the soil of either France or Belgium.
OMM. CD. BA. LTh. BD. DD.
Archdeacon Gerald Peddle was ordained a Priest of the Anglican Church of Canada in 1969. Now retired from active ministry, he has served parishes in Newfoundland and Labrador, Québec, Ontario and the Arctic. He has also served as a Chaplain to the Canadian Armed Forces. His final appointment, in the rank of Brigadier General, was as the Chaplain General at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa. For the next six years, he provided specialist ministry to both National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada. In total, he has served more than 51 years in active ministry.
Gerry currently serves as the Chairman of the Board for Beechwood, Canada's National Military Cemetery in Ottawa. He has also served as an International Guide, specializing in Battlefield Tours for several years.
The Caribou Tour to Gallipoli
In June 2022, we look forward to having Gerry back on the battlefields with us, escorting us on a special pilgrimage to Gallipoli Turkey, to see for the first time, the last of the six Caribou along the Newfoundland Caribou Trail in Europe. Check out the tour June 2022 >