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Engineers surveying the seabed of the Firth of Clyde and the North Channel on the route of a planned undersea power cable recently came across a wreck. It was identified as that of a First World War German submarine, or U-Boat, either UB-82 or UB-85. Much press coverage resulted, due to the bizarre claim made by the captain of UB-85 when he surrendered to a British warship. A sea monster, he said, had attacked his vessel and damaged it so badly that it was unable to submerge. It seems more likely that human error was actually to blame, and that the captain did not care to admit this.

The war saw the transformation of the submarine from coast defence novelty to wide-ranging commerce destroyer. The wreck discovery is a reminder of the threat posed by these craft in the waters to the west of Ayrshire’s southern tip, where the shipping lanes in and out of the Irish Sea, the North Channel and the Firth of Clyde all converged. This was the closest to Ayrshire that the shooting war came.

On 11 March 1915 the auxiliary cruiser HMS Bayano, a converted merchant vessel, was sunk by U-27 about seven nautical miles south west of Ballantrae. 195 men were lost, and 20 of the 26 survivors were landed at Ayr.

Sectional view of a mine-laying coastal U-Boat.

Sectional view of a mine-laying coastal U-Boat.

Some classes of U-Boat were equipped to lay mines, and many commercial craft including Clyde Coast paddle steamers were hastily converted to auxiliary minesweepers. The Ayrshire shipyards at Ardrossan, Irvine and Troon constructed a total of 31 purpose-built minesweepers.

The Carrick Herald of 6 November 1914 reports the latest restrictions on local lighting. These were progressively tightened and extended in all coastal areas, and transgressors were fined.

The Carrick Herald of 6 November 1914 reports the latest restrictions on local lighting. These were progressively tightened and extended in all coastal areas, and transgressors were fined.

Concern that U-Boats would use lights on shore to navigate after dark led to a blackout being imposed in coastal areas around Britain. When a U-boat fired shells at a chemical plant at Whitehaven in Cumbria in August 1915, it raised fears that Ayrshire’s greatest contributor to munitions production, Nobel’s British Dynamite Factory on the coast at Ardeer, might be similarly targeted or attacked by saboteurs coming ashore. A permanently-garrisoned fortified perimeter was constructed around the works with small coast-defence guns emplaced on the seaward side.

A snapshot dated April 1918, taken from a window in Wellington Square, shows an SSZ class Royal Navy non-rigid airship off the beach at Ayr’s Low Green.

A snapshot dated April 1918, taken from a window in Wellington Square, shows an SSZ class Royal Navy non-rigid airship off the beach at Ayr’s Low Green.

Not long after the sinking of the Bayano, a Royal Naval Air Service base for anti-submarine airships was established at West Freugh on Luce Bay, Wigtownshire, and these craft would have become a familiar sight off Ayrshire’s southern coast. Unlike the huge and complex German Zeppelins with their rigid framework, they were simple gasbags with a rudimentary compartment for crew and engine slung beneath. Their main weapon was the radio with which they could summon patrolling warships if they sighted a submarine. In November 1916 airship SS-23 force-landed near Girvan due to engine failure. Its gasbag was deflated, and it was taken to West Freugh by road to be put back into service.

White crosses mark the graves in Girvan’s Doune Cemetery of French sailors Adolphe Harre and S. Brajuel, drowned when the Longwy was sunk in 1917.

White crosses mark the graves in Girvan’s Doune Cemetery of French sailors Adolphe Harre and S. Brajuel, drowned when the Longwy was sunk in 1917.

The French merchant ship Longwy was heading into the Firth of Clyde with a cargo of iron ore from the Spanish port of Bilbao when she was torpedoed by UC-75 on the night of 4 November 1917. She went down in the same area where the Bayano had been lost. The weather was rough and none of the 38 on board survived. The bodies of three of the crew, including the captain, Joseph Huet from Saint-Malo, were washed ashore near Girvan and were buried in the town’s Doune Cemetery. The following appeal appeared in the local press: ‘It would be a graceful thing on the part of this community, if there were a representative attendance at the interment’. Captain Huet’s remains were later returned to France, but at Girvan, crosses bearing the legend ‘Mort pour la France’ mark the graves of Adolphe Harre and S. Brajuel. Telegraphist Harre was one of an eight-strong French Navy detachment on board.

Although it eventually brought America into the war, the German U-Boat campaign took Britain to the brink of starvation before shipping convoys were belatedly introduced.

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Déniécourt Château, Estrées © IWM (Art.IWM REPRO 000684 36)

‘Inspiring Landscapes’ exploring the life and times of WWI Official Artist, Sir Muirhead Bone, is now open at Rozelle House Museum & Galleries, Ayr. Supported by funding from Museums Galleries Scotland, this project has involved local people researching the life and times of Sir Muirhead Bone, and creating Fine Art Prints inspired by the South Ayrshire landscape.

The exhibition runs from 29 October – 29 January 2017. Entry is FREE.

We are also proud to include the prints created by participants at our associated Rozelle Print Studio workshops. We asked people – including 3rd year Art pupils of Ayr Academy – to bring along their South Ayrshire based ‘inspiring landscapes’. Master Printmaker Ian McNicol then guided them through the printmaking process, exploring the techniques Muirhead Bone would have used.

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Attend one of our FREE printmaking taster workshops taking place throughout the exhibition:

Saturday afternoon’s from 1pm – 4.30pm on:

• 12th November 2016

• 26th November 2016

• 10th December 2016

• 21st January 2017

To find out more, and to book your place please telephone Rozelle House on 01292 445 447 or visit Rozelle House, Rozelle Park, Monument Road, Ayr KA7 4NQ

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One hundred years ago, families spread across the whole of Ayrshire were mourning the loss of loved ones. News was arriving of the heaviest loss of life the county had yet suffered in the Great War. On 12 July 1915, Scottish soldiers of the 52nd Lowland Division rose from their trenches and charged part of the Turkish lines at Cape Helles on the Gallipoli Peninsula. They included the 4th and 5th Territorial battalions of Ayrshire’s county regiment, the Royal Scots Fusiliers. This was the latest of the many attacks which had been launched since British, Australian, New Zealand and French troops landed on the peninsula in April. The aim of the campaign was to force the passage of the Dardanelles Straits, knock the Turkish Ottoman Empire out of the war, and open up Black Sea supply routes to Russia and, via the Danube, to Serbia. This apparent opportunity to break the stalemate of the Western Front was faltering due to resolute Turkish resistance.

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The Gallipoli Peninsula is shown in pink. The Cape Helles sector was at the south west tip, with the front line just south of Krithia village. The ANZAC sector was further north, between Gaba Tepe and Suvla Bay.

The allied bombardment which preceded the 12 July attack had reduced the Turkish positions to a confusing maze of shattered trenches. As officers and NCOs were killed and wounded, command and control began to break down in the face of Turkish shellfire and counter-attacks. The ‘trench’ chosen from aerial photographs to be the final objective turned out to be just a shallow scrape, and many men pressed on beyond it. Few of them returned. Others had been given the hazardous task of digging communication trenches from the British front line to the captured positions. This meant standing in the open exposed to enemy fire, and losses were heavy. Fighting continued through the night. Some isolated groups fell back to avoid being cut off and surrounded. This resulted in the withdrawal of others who thought that a general retreat must have been ordered. However, with the help of reinforcements from the Royal Naval Division, the captured trenches were secured by the end of 13 July. The operation would be officially referred to as the Action of Achi Baba Nullah. The British commanders judged it to have been a successful limited attack, but the offensive capability of the 52nd Division had been destroyed. Turkish losses were also heavy, but were more easily replaced.

Six of the Ayr men who fell in the 12-13 July fighting at Gallipoli. Robert Capperauld was a reserve player with Ayr United Football Club. From the Ayrshire Post.

Six of the Ayr men who fell in the 12-13 July fighting at Gallipoli. Robert Capperauld was a reserve player with Ayr United Football Club. From the Ayrshire Post.

The two RSF battalions had lost over 200 dead, including 12 officers, and 300 more were wounded. There are few of Ayrshire’s public war memorials which do not bear the names of men who fell at Gallipoli on 12 and 13 July 1915, or died of wounds in the following days. Ayr’s memorial has 15 such names, and Troon’s 10. The battalions of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers which attacked alongside the RSF suffered even more severely.

Four of the six Maybole men killed in the 12 July attack, three of them by the same shell while digging a communication trench. From the Ayrshire Post.

Four of the six Maybole men killed in the 12 July attack, three of them by the same shell while digging a communication trench. From the Ayrshire Post.

It was not only in British Army units that Ayrshiremen fought and died at Gallipoli. They were to be found in the ranks of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, among the British emigrants to these countries who made up a significant proportion of their army volunteers. Ayrshire local newspapers published letters which they had written from Gallipoli to their relatives in the county, and news of those killed and wounded also appeared.

Private John Oman from Girvan, killed 8 May 1915, was one of a number of Ayrshire emigrants who died at Gallipoli while serving in the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. From the Carrick Herald.

Private John Oman from Girvan, killed 8 May 1915, was one of a number of Ayrshire emigrants who died at Gallipoli while serving in the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. From the Carrick Herald.

The most prominent and controversial Ayrshireman at Gallipoli was the head of one of the county’s oldest landowning families. Major General Sir Aylmer Hunter-Weston of Hunterston, who had been born at Hunterston in 1864, was placed in charge of operations in the Cape Helles sector. He would be criticised for ordering a succession of mis-managed and costly frontal attacks in the early part of the campaign. Learning from these, he later changed to more carefully-prepared assaults with concentrated artillery support and limited objectives, of which the 12 July attack was one. He was typical of British commanders at this stage of the war in being inexperienced in modern methods of warfare, and in command of officers and men similarly inexperienced and often inadequately trained.

The Ayrshire Yeomanry setting off for Gallipoli from their training base at Annsmuir near Cupar, 26 September 1915.

The Ayrshire Yeomanry setting off for Gallipoli from their training base at Annsmuir near Cupar, 26 September 1915.

Reinforcements for the 52nd Division which arrived in the autumn included men of the Ayrshire Yeomanry, the county’s Territorial cavalry unit. They left their horses behind and served as infantry. By this time major assaults had ceased, but they were engaged in several sharp actions and lost 18 killed.

Reluctant acceptance that the campaign had failed, and that the troops could be better employed elsewhere, led to the evacuation of Gallipoli. The ANZAC/Suvla sector was evacuated in December 1915, and the Cape Helles sector in January 1916. This was so well-managed that in both cases, the Turks did not realise what was happening until the last men had embarked. The 52nd Division with its Ayrshire units fought on against the Ottoman forces in Egypt and Palestine until transferred to the Western Front in the final stages of the war.

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NextOfKin Next of Kin, an exhibition created by National Museums Scotland, opened on 4 July at Rozelle House. It presents a picture of Scotland during the First World War through treasured objects from official and private sources, kept by close relatives and passed down through generations.

South Ayrshire Libraries and Museums team are delighted to host Next of Kin, and to be working in partnership with National Museums Scotland. The exhibition was previously shown at the National War Museum in Edinburgh Castle, and Rozelle House will be the second of eight touring venues around Scotland.

It is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Scottish Government. Each of the host venues will be adding material from their own collections to tell local stories which reflect the themes of the exhibition. The full list of partner organisations and touring venues.

The material on loan from National Museums Scotland looks in detail at eight individual stories, from throughout Scotland, which both typify and illustrate the wider themes and impact of the War on servicemen and women and their families back home. Objects include postcards and letters, photographs, medals and memorial plaques. Examples include;

  • Two autograph books in which Nurse Florence Mellor collected drawings, watercolours, verses, jokes and messages from the wounded soldiers in her care at Craiglockhart War Hospital.
  • The pocket New Testament which Private James Scouller was carrying the day he died at Cambrai in 1917, returned to his family by a German soldier on the eve of the Second World War.
  • Drawings and postcards by Henry (Harry) Hubbard, an architectural draughtsman in Glasgow who contracted illnesses so severe that he ended up spending 16 months in hospital.
  • The last letter home from George Buchanan, Seaforth Highlanders, a railway plate-layer from Bathgate who was killed in action on the first day of the Battle of Loos, along with his memorial plaque and service medals.
  • The shell fragment which wounded Private William Dick. He kept the fragment after it was removed from his leg, but later died from the wound.

The exhibition at Rozelle House will tell the stories of Ayrshire born Thomas McMath, and brothers in arms, David and James Cumming.

Thomas McMath was wounded and taken prisoner at the Battle of Arras. While in captivity he received parcels and supplies from families and friends at home. Displays include a notebook in which he meticulously recorded the package donor and content so that he might acknowledge each act of kindness.

Both Cumming brothers served and died in Palestine in the campaign against Ottoman Turkish forces. The display tells the story of their service and sacrifice on this fighting front.

In addition to ‘Next of Kin’, South Ayrshire Council Museums will be displaying local objects, artefacts and stories, including items loaned by East Ayrshire Council / Leisure Trust, families, and local collectors. From South Ayrshire Collections, we will be displaying the Caribou of Ayr, which was gifted to the people of Ayr in September 1916. Its story will be told through the perspective of James Cooper, a Newfoundlander who came to Ayr.

Cooper was one of the First 500, the name given to the first volunteers, who journeyed from the Dominion of Newfoundland, to the UK to fight in the war. On 8 August 1916 the regiment was shipped to the Dardanelles, where they saw their first action, experiencing life in the trenches under enemy fire. James himself suffered from dysentery, and was shipped back to the UK for treatment.

The Regiment then went on to Suez before heading to France. On reaching the Western front line on 1 July 1916, the Regiment was exposed to brutal fighting at Beaumont Hamel in what was to become the Battle of the Somme.

Cooper was one of only 110 who survived that day. As a result of James’ wounds at Beaumont-Hamel, he returned to Ayr, and spent the rest of the war training new recruits as a Lewis machine-gun instructor at the training camp. He married Margaret Dunlop and they had a daughter, Gladys. Demobbed in Newfoundland, James had to work his passage back to Ayr to rejoin his family. He only returned to visit Newfoundland on the death of his wife 53 years later.

For more information on the Newfoundland Regiment, please see: The Newfoundland Regiment and The Great War, The Rooms and James Cooper Blog.

Also on display will be the story of Thomas Scott, whose parents ran the Tam o’Shanter public house, and whose boyhood love of horses saw him join the Royal Field Artillery where he drove horse-drawn ammunition wagons.

While researching these two stories, Pamela McIntyre, Library & Museums Development Officer, identified a short clip of a film, showing Newfoundlanders enjoying their leave, available on The Rooms, Newfoundland Provincial Museums, Gallery and Archives. Tom Barclay, Reference & Local History Librarian, confirmed that the film shows the Newfoundlanders hanging out of the upper windows of the Tam o’ Shanter Inn, in Ayr. The licensee at the time was Mrs Scott, Thomas Scott’s mother.

So three stories then, of James Cooper, Thomas Scott, and the Caribou are linked.

Larry Dohey, Manager of Collections and Projects, The Rooms Provincial Archives Division, Newfoundland, confirmed that the clip was part of a much larger one hour documentary which was screened in Newfoundland during the war. This short clip is all that survives. No one had been able to identify the whereabouts of the scene – till now. Larry said “Given that Thomas Scott’s’ family were the owners of the inn at the time of the Newfoundlander’s presence in Ayr, and that others from the area were fighting on the Western Front along with the Newfoundlanders, I can understand how they were all getting along with such ease.”

To view the short video ‘Horsing around in a window’, follow the link for ‘Leave’ on the daily life page.

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ww1exhibition

Exhibition

Wednesday 6th August – Saturday 30th August 2014, Carnegie Library, 12 Main Street, Ayr

To commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, an exhibition of photographs and memorabilia will be on show in Ayr’s Carnegie Library. It will cover the battlefields and the home front, including auxiliary hospitals. Tributes will be included to the soldiers from Newfoundland and the airmen from the Commonwealth and America who were brought to Ayrshire by the war.

Entry to the exhibition is free.

The Great War Home Front on Film: A Scottish Screen Archive Selection

Wednesday 13th August 2014, 7pm Carnegie Library, 12 Main Street, Ayr

Local History Librarian Tom Barclay will present seven short films from the National Library of Scotland’s Scottish Screen Archive. They include; the visit of King George V to Clydeside in 1917; a 1918 government film about food production; the fund-raising visits of a tank to Scottish cities; Peace Day celebrations in Kilmarnock in 1919; and the unveiling of Saltcoats War Memorial. The screening will last approximately one hour followed by refreshments.

Tickets £3 including refreshments. Numbers are limited for this event, please book in advance.

Tickets available from Carnegie Library or phone 01292 286385 to book.

Ayrshire’s Great War: The local impact of the global conflict 1914-1918

Wednesday 20th August 2014, 7pm, Carnegie Library, 12 Main Street, Ayr

As part of our First World War Centenary commemoration, Local History Librarian Tom Barclay will be repeating his presentation on Ayrshire’s part in the war which he prepared for our South Ayrshire History Fair in June. He will follow the course of the conflict, and look at its effect on the county’s men and women and on those from further afield who were brought here by the war. The talk will last approximately one hour followed by refreshments.

Tickets £3 including refreshments. Numbers are limited for this event, please book in advance.

Tickets available from Carnegie Library or phone 01292 286385 to book.

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