Document of the month - November

Second Lieutenant James Edmond, 1887 – 1917

In the month of remembrance, we are featuring papers deposited recently with the Archives service relating to a local man who signed up to fight in the First World War as soon as he was able to in August 1914.

James Edmond came from a farming family who lived near Fintry. He was born on 31st August 1887, and spent his earliest days in the area, going to school and church in Balfron.

James, like many young boys of his day, had an interest in the military, and signed up as a volunteer with the Fife and Forfar Yeomanry when he was 18, in 1905. James volunteered to serve with the army the day after Britain declared war on 4th August 1914, joining the battalions of the Yeomanry who were chosen to serve abroad.

Initially, James undertook his basic training near Skegness in Lincolnshire, and then at Fakenham in Norfolk where he was instructed in the use of firearms. Once this instruction was complete, he travelled overseas as part of the first expeditionary force to the Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey, in September 1915.

James stayed in Turkey throughout the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign, having been given the rank of Squadron Quartermaster Sergeant, leaving the peninsula only 4 days before the final evacuation of all allied troops in January 1916.

April 1916 saw James return home to Scotland on leave. At this point, his term of service with the Fife and Forfar Yeomanry had come to an end, so James would have been free to leave. Instead, he decided to continue with his military career, and joined up with the 6th Highland Infantry Regiment, with a view to seeking a commission. James completed his instruction at the end of February 1917, receiving his Commission as a Second Lieutenant in the April of that year.

James served in Turkey and Egypt, distinguishing himself in action so that he was mentioned in despatches on 6th March 1916.

The letters are mostly written to James’ mum and dad and his sister Liz and her husband Bob Bain. All letters from active service personnel were censored at this time, so there is little news in them about military matters, but they are extremely interesting nonetheless, especially as James was serving in an area of the war that is generally less well known. Despite the fact that he is often writing from the front line, James takes a keen interest in goings on at both the family farm and that of his brother in law, asking about the various harvests and livestock, and the family bees.

This letter is an example of what James wrote to his sister and brother-in-law and is interesting as it recounts a meeting between James and his friend Sergeant G. Gall and some Gurkha soldiers while they were on active service during the Gallipoli (now Gelibolu) Campaign in Turkey:

Rest trench


8th Nov 1915

6 p.m.

Dear Bob & Liz,

It is a good long time since I wrote you last but I expect you would see some of the letters I sent to Balafark. Well we are still here in the trenches not in the firing line now. We had about 4 weeks in the fire trench, which is just in front of where we are lying now. The bullets fairly whiz across when there is any strafe on. The Turks are so nervous, if ourmen do the least thing unusual they start and fire like blazes with machine gun and rifle. But catch them firing any of their Heavy Guns at night, they know very well what they would get next morning from our Artillery who pick up the least move of the enemy. I had a walk down to the Beach where they draw the rations last night with the SQMS. I never felt so tired in my life and could hardly walk home though it isn’t so far. I don’t know how we would get on if

we had any marching to do. Well it is a great sight there, hundreds of mule carts drawn by two mules with their Indian Sikh or Gurkha driver. We have some great chats with the drivers, some of them having quite good English. They all came from France to here some of them being in France for 10 months. They are very kind to their mules and the mules will do anything for them. The mules are not the big American kind but small hardy animals just about the size of the common donkey. The other day as Gall & I were returning from bathing we came up to two Gurkha soldiers, they are little, well built fellows hacking wood from an old fallen tree, and I can tell you they went away with a great load. We got on the chat with them. Gall says to them Turk good. Gurkha says Turk no good. Gallipola plenty knife. Turk alla, alla. Gurkha no alla alla. Gurkha (takes his knife and draws it across his throat) meaning that is what he gives the Turk. Then he says Turk finish. You should hear them describe the German machine gun. They say the bullets go zip zip, pointing to his arms and legs. Hospital. Then he says zip zip pointing to his head or body. Finish. That’s plenty of that stuff. Glad to hear you had such a splendid harvest. How are the oats threshing out? You will have the turnips all up by the time you get this letter. How is Baby Bain getting on? Can she walk yet? See and cover up the bees well and keep them alive. Must stop 7.50 p.m.

Best love to all


Jas. Edmond

James Edmond was killed in action in Egypt on the 20th August 1917. A detailed account of the day of her son’s death was sent to Mrs Edmond by W. Menzies Anderson, a colleague of her son’s:

“A few nights ago, an attack was planned by us took place on an enemy trench lying about 800 yards from our firing line. This was not the enemy’s principal trench but was a small isolated one in “no man’s land”. The attack was preceded by considerable artillery fire on the trench & behind it & was carried out by one Company of our Battalion

with a Company of a sister Battalion cooperating on our right flank. Your son was in command of 10 men of my Company & his orders were to scout the ground behind the enemy trench after it had been taken. When the artillery had fired a considerable number of shells our attack went forward & got to a point perhaps 20 or 30 yards from the enemy trench where we were held up by rifle & machine gun fire and had to withdraw. It appears that your boy acted with great gallantry & rushed into the firing line with his party to fill a gap. Here he was wounded in the body & fell. His servant No.                         Private Two of his party then went to his aid but he ordered them to leave him alone, to follow their Sergeant & to press on. They left him & as they were doing so your son’s servant No 241379 Pte. ohnston came on the scene & took him in hand. Shortly afterwards the line withdrew & Later on Johnston straggled into Camp wounded. He was sent to hospital without passing through our Dressing Station & none of our Officers had a chance of speaking to him. We have written to Hospital for a statement to be taken from him but so far it is not to hand. I understand that Johnston stated to somebody that your son was again struck in several places & that when Johnston was wounded, your boy ordered him to get back & look after himself. It was futile for us to send a party out to a point so near the enemy trench swept by close range machine gun fire & your son has not returned. There is just a chance that the enemy may have picked James up wounded & that he may be a prisoner. But Johnston’s story was that he was gravely wounded & I feel that I cannot offer you much hope. Your son has been in my company for almost five months & we had all grown attached to him. He was a splendid Officer & his Platoon had implicit faith in him.”

Mentioned in despatches 06-03-1916

JE to sister 08-11-1915

James Edmond

W Menzies Anderson 26-08-1917 1

W Menzies Anderson 26-08-1917 2