Peebles in Two World Wars

been Lieutenant-Colonel William Thorburn, DSO, TD, of Kingsmuir, Peebles, remembered by many in the town with affection as 'Colonel Willie'.3

Honours gained by the 8th Royal Scots in the course of the war include one Victoria Cross (won by Corporal W. Angus), nineteen Military Crosses, fifteen Distinguished Conduct Medals and sixty­three Military Medals. One of the most decorated soldiers was a Peebles man, Private J. Lamb, DCM, MM. The battalion's total casualties were 389 killed and 1,280 wounded. Of the killed, sixteen belonged to the original Peebles 'G' Company which left Peebles for Haddington in 1914 and, of this gallant company, only one, William Shortreed, still survives (1989).4

'G' Company of the 8th Royal Scots was not the sole contribution made by Peebles to the prosecution of the First WorId War. A number of regular reservists had departed to return to their regiments in August 1914. In pursuance of the Government's dictum 'business as usual', mill workers had remained at their looms and indeed the changeover by the mills to Government contracts for khaki and other uniform cloth was deemed to be work of national importance. The same could be said for workers in agriculture and on the railways. In consequence, there were few enlistments from Peebles until Lord Kitchener's appeal for 'the first hundred thousand' began to have an impact on voluntary recruitment. In October 1915, as the scale ofthe conflict became apparent, the Derby Scheme for voluntary service was introduced and from then on a stream of men left to join the Armed Services; by the end of 1915 a roll of 1,764 men had enlisted from Peeblesshire for service.5

Conscription was introduced in March 1916 by the Military Service Act of that year. By 1918 it was estimated that a further 1,000 had been conscripted from the burgh for wartime service. The burgh itself was much affected by the war as the struggle intensified. As early as the end of 1914, numbers of territorials were sent to the town for training purposes and, over the following year, the numbers were to increase greatly. Indeed, by 1915 the town had taken on the status of a great military camp. In the main, the units were from the Royal Scots and consisted of the second-line battalions, embodied on the departure of the front-line units for service. The following were represented, together with their later third-line equivalents: the 2/4th, 2/5th, 2/6th, 2/7th, 2/8th and 2/9th Royal Scots. In all some 7,000 men were in training in Peebles by 1915.6