New Cumnock’s Fallen in Northern Russia

Today we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice  between the Allies of World War I and Germany “on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918” in France. While the news would generate scenes of joy and celebration across Europe, including the parish of New Cumnock, soldiers from the Royal Scots, among others, were fighting for their lives in Northern Russia.

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Three men from New Cumnock lost their lives in the Northern Russia campaign, including one on Armistice Day.

  • Private David Smith Paton, 20 years old, killed 27th October 1918
  • Private William Collins, 20 years old, killed 11th November 1918 – Armistice Day
  • Private Samuel McWhirter, 22 years old, killed on 22nd February 1919

The 2/10th Battalion Royal Scots

Raised in Linlithgow in 1914 the 2/10th Battalion was based for most of the war around Berwick and Coldingham on coastal defence duties.  In June 1918 it was stationed in  on garrison duty at Ireland.

“By that stage of the war the Battalion was largely manned by soldiers who, although rich in experience, were officially graded as fit only for garrison duty.”

The battalion was strengthened to a force of 1,000 and at the end of July left for Aldershot, prior to setting sail for Archangel in northern Russia  as part of a task force that numbered British, Canadians, French, Italians and Americans.

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Archangel (Arkhangelsk) Campaign

“The Allies considered that the Russian Bolshevik regime was a puppet of Germany. Accordingly it was felt that, if those forces opposed to the Bolshevik government were reinforced and encouraged, the Romanovs might be restored.”

  • August 1918

On the 25th August the Royal Scots reached Archangel situated on both banks of Northern Dvina River near its meeting with the White Sea some 500 miles of Moscow.  The following day three companies embarked on barges at Archangel and, by the end of the month, reached the village of Bereznik near the confluence of the Dvina and Vaga.

  • September 2018

On the 11th September an attack by a Bolshevik column was successfully repulsed.  A small forced advanced up the river and captured a 3-inch gun (which can be seen at Glencorse Barracks, Penicuik).  A combination of the tricky terrain and frequent engagements ensured progress up river was slow for the next two months.

  • October 2018

In late October there was a severe setback when an attack on the village of Topsa was unsuccessful and the Battalion’s losses were about 80 killed, wounded or missing. It was during this engagement on the 27th October that Private David Smith Paton from Connel Burn, New Cumnock  was killed in action.

  • November 2018

On the 11th November – on the day the Armistice was signed – the Bolsheviks mounted a major attack aided by gunboats. The attack on the right bank was readily repulsed but that on the left bank continued throughout the day with fierce fighting and an uncertain outcome.  By nightfall the Bolsheviks withdrew after heavy losses with several hundred killed or subsequently succumbing to their wounds or exposure in the north Russia winter.  The 2/10th Battalion Royal Scots lost 19 men while 34 others were wounded. Numbered in the fallen on Armistice Day was Private William Collins from Craigbank, New Cumnock.

  • January-February 1919

Hostilities resumed and as the winter gave way the Bolsheviks mounted offensive operations in Vaga. It would be during these attacks that on 22nd February 1919 that Private Samuel McWhirter from Connelburn, New Cumnock was killed in action.

  • Spring 1919

It became apparent that allied success in northern Russia had no prospect of strategic success. Although the Americans were withdrawn in May the British were slower to reach the same decision.

  • June 1919

The Battalion moved to Murmansk after being relieved by the 2nd Battalion The Hampshire Regiment.  A few days later the Battalion embarked at Murmansk and sailed into Leith on 18 June 1919 where they were me by cheering crowds as they marched to Leith Central station en route to Redford Barracks where they were to be demobilised.

The Battalion had been in existence for five years and, although it had only seen operational service for ten months it had suffered 132 fatalities. It also achieved the distinction of gaining for the Regiment the battle honour ‘Archangel 1918-1919’, the only battle honour won during the war by second-line battalion of the Regiment and an honour shared with just two other regiments of thee British Army.

The New Cumnock Fallen in Northern Russia

It is not clear when these three young men joined the 2/10th Battalion Royal Scots but perhaps was at the time it was strengthened while on garrison duty in Ireland.

Private David Smith Paton (b. 14.10.1898, k. 27.10.1918)

  • Paton family

James Paton found work in the New Cumnock as an engine keeper (stationary) and along with Grace Gray moved there in 1870 along with their two children.  Together they had six more children born in New Cumnock, including Janet born in 1876 at Connelpark. It was here too that Janet gave birth to her son David Smith Paton 14th October 1898.

Young David was brought up by his grandmother Grace Gray, who following  James Paton’s death had set up home at Helen’s Cottage, Leggate, New Cumnock while his mother Janet found work as a dairymaid at Little Creoch farm.  On Christmas Day 1903 at Helen’s Cottage Janet married Alexander Hawthorn, coal miner who lived at Highhouse Rows, Auchinleck. Janet set up home there with her new husband and together they had several children.

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The Leggate in the distance from Connel Burn

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Connelburn and the Legate

At Helen’s Cottage on Christmas day 1903 Janet married Alexander Hawthorn, coal miner who lived at Highhouse Rows, Auchinleck.  The couple set up home at Auchinleck  and together they had several children. David continued to live with his grandmother Grace. She passed away on April, 1915, when David was 16 years old.

David is remembered on the Archangel Memorial and the New Cumnock War Memorial.

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Private William Collins (b. 21.12.1897, k. 11.11.1918)

  • Collins family

Kilmarnock-born John Collins found work as a coal-miner in the coalfield, probably at Patthead initially when he lived wih his parents at the Burn Brae, Mansfield.  On  31st December 1890 he married Agnes Paxton, farm servant at Crosshouse. Together they had 11 children (5 girls and 6 boys) all born in various locations in New Cumnock – Craigbank, Afton Bridgend, Bank Cottages, Bank Furnaces, and 42 Stable Row, Craigbank before settling at 3, The Crescent, Craigbank.

William Collins was the 5th child of John and Agnes born on 21st December 1897 at Bank Furnaces.

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Bank Furnaces, Craigbank and Bank Cottages at Post Office (P.O.)

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Craigbank with the Crescent

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William Collins was killed on Armistice Day and  is remembered on the Archangel Memorial and the New Cumnock War Memorial

William’s eldest brother David Collins served with the Cameron Highlanders in World War I and having emigrated to Australia he later served with Australian forces in World War II.

Private Samuel McWhirter (b. 31.12.1896, k. 22.02.1919)

  • McWhirter family

Samuel McWhirter was born on 31st December 1896 the first child of William McWhirter, ploughman and Annie Britton. The family later lived at Polquhirter Cottage where two more children were born before settling at Connelburn. Here William worked above ground at the pits as a boiler fireman while Samuel worked as a loco shunter.

In April 1918 Samuel enlisted in the General Service Corps and presumably joined the 2/10 Battalion Royal Scots.

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Samuel McWhirter was killed on 22nd February 1919 and is remembered on the Archangel Memorial and the New Cumnock War Memorial.

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Acknowledgments

National Library of Scotland

Scotland’s People

 

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