PART II: 1900 - 1950

The King's Muir and Kingsmeadows, the ancient muster ground of the burgh's levies, was the main camping ground, although Hay Lodge and Morning Hill were also pressed into service as camping grounds. Much was done from local resources to make their time in Peebles easier for the troops in training. A Soldiers' Club was opened in the Quadrangle of the Chambers Institute in March 1915, this under the aegis of the YMCA and later the same year Soldiers' Institutes were also opened at Kingsmeadows and at Hay Lodge Park, again with the assistance of the local populace. Baths for the troops were also furnished by the town, aided by private subscribers. Much was done by local organisations, church guilds and the like, to provide additional comforts for the troops and also those already serving overseas.

In October 1915 the 2/8th Royal Scots, a unit which contained almost as many Peebles men as its front-line, which had been in France since November 1914, left Peebles for further service. By the following month Peebles ceased to be a military camp with the departure of the remaining Royal Scots battalions. Although a unit of the RAMC remained in camp in Peebles and later a battalion of the Argylls was stationed in the town for a brief period, the end of 1915 saw the end of the military presence in the town.7

Total war, for such it was, created its own demands. Not only was the manpower of Peebles called into war service but that of the womenfolk also. Amongst them were women who acted as hospital nurses, as members of voluntary aid detachments, and also those who visited and comforted mothers and wives who had men at the front. Work parties from the church and other organisations were involved in the making of hospital garments and surgical dressings for the wounded. In addition, women and children scoured the hills round Peebles for sphagnum moss which, when picked and cleaned, could subsequently be sterilised, placed in muslin bags and used as wound dressings.

The Red Cross had been created in 1864 as a result of the horrific casualties suffered by both combatants at the Battle of Solferino. By 1909, perhaps in the aftermath of the South African War, a branch had been formed in Peeblesshire. A scheme had been organised by the Army Council and the British Red Cross Society by which voluntary aid to the sick and wounded, always forthcoming in time of war, would be so organised in peacetime as to form a valuable supplement to the RAMC particularly that of the Territorial Army.

 

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