Museum exhibition throws spotlight on Gallipoli fallen

Life in the trenches is featured in the 'Hawick to Gallipoli' exhibition
Life in the trenches is featured in the 'Hawick to Gallipoli' exhibition

A day etched in Hawick history is July 12, 1915. On that day 100 years ago far awa on the Gallipoli Peninsula in the Dardanelles, local sodiers of the 1/4th King’s Own Scottish Borderers stormed the Turkish trenches only to be decimated by devastating machine-gun fire.

In commemoration of this, a new permanent display dedicated to the campaign has been mounted by staff in the war memorial room at the museum, entitled simply ‘Hawick to Gallipoli’.

The not-to-be-missed fascinating display of photographs, badges, medals and soldiers’ personal items, as well as local press extracts of letters sent home to relatives, gives a graphic account of life in the Dardanelles.

The experiences of four Hawick soldiers in particular are featured in detail.

Lieutenant Louis Patrick Cathels, in Canada at the outbreak of the war, sent several letters to his father, giving a first-hand description of hislife in the trenches which were published in the local press. “The shell fire was awful, simply awful. The enemy guns were fiendish.”

Private Nichol Robertson, an apprentice at Forbes’ Nursery when called up, wrote: “When we turned to come back we came under our own artillery fire as well as the Turks’, we seemed to be getting hit from every direction.” He was wounded on the 12th and subsequently invalided home.

John Bonthrone Patrick was reported missing in the local press following the attack and in December “missing presumed dead” – a situation many a Hawick family had to face after the 12th.

The last of the quartet, Lieutenant James Brydon Innes, was one of four fellow officers buried by Lieutenant Cathels.

A composite of over 130 images of Hawick soldiers that were either killed, missing or wounded in the Gallipoli campaign, is a poignant reminder of what war can inflict on a nation.

A typical dug-out has been constructed to portray a little of what life was like in the trenches, featuring a wounded soldier and what many of them had as companions: nuts! Making it even more authentic is the sound of gunfire. In a letter to his father, Lieutenant Cathels wrote: “My dug-out is only 12 feet long, seven foot broad, four feet deep, simply cut out of the earth.”

There is lots to see and learn from, and all Teries should make a point of visiting to see what their forebears had to face. A ceramic poppy is there from last year’s display in London which had been placed there by Callum Murray in memory of his grandfather John Murray; a medal taken from a Turkish soldier; a vase fashioned from a Turkish shell; and copper horse-shoes made from a piece of the Cape Helles Lighthouse destroyed by HMS Prince of Wales.

This is only a resume of what is on display, there is so much more to learn of a period in not just national but more importantly Hawick history. Those who made the ultimate sacrifice deserve your visit now.

Memorabilia from the campaign is still turning up. At the museum last week, Haig Hinton, Bourtree House, Bourtree Bank, showed staff letters and pictures of the trenches. His grandfather, Robert Thomson, who was taken prisoner, lost an arm at Gallipoli.

Museum opening times are: Monday to Friday 10am-noon and 1-5pm; Saturday and Sunday 2-5pm.