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Scotland and the Scots, 1707-2007

Christian Auer

World War I

102. Lance Corporal Ramage, 1915

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1George Ramage (1882-1934) enlisted as a Lance Corporal with the 3rd Gordon Highlanders on 19 January 1915. In April 1915 he was sent to Flanders where he was wounded in the left hand. He had to have his hand and the lower part of his arm amputated. He was finally discharged in August 1916. Ramage’s diary is a vivid account of what life was like for an ordinary soldier in the front-line trenches during the Great War. The following is an extract of the third volume of his diary (four volumes altogether) in which Ramage tells about the incident when he was shot in the hand.

2George Ramage’s Diary, MS.946, p. 76-81 (National Library of Scotland).

18 June 1915

Had lovely sleep during first watch—wakened by sentry who wanted to see if it was time for relief—it was a delicious sleep—did that several times—was preparing to lie down again when was shot through left palm—was standing up slightly throwing my waterproof sheet round my shoulders—right hand, head and left hand were thus in line a little above trench and mercifully the bullet chose the left hand—about 7 a.m.—heard a violent crack of a bullet and found myself holding my left wrist and saying ‘Oh my hand’ s blown away’—vision was blurred and left hand had been drooping down—saw hole in back of hand with white sinew and helpless looking middle finger—did not see fourth finger—thought two had been shot off—had a feeling of surprise and chagrin that I should be hit—a Tommy always feels that he will escape and the other chap get it–and now I had got a little of what many a fellow Tommy had got worse—made me more human—thought of my piano and golf days being over—all this of course in an instant of time—“You might bandage up this”, I said to man next me—he took out his bandage and I heard the officer say he would bandage it–must have lost consciousness or gone adreaming for next I remember was a most overwhelming sensation which I felt was going to overpower me, worse than a dizzy sick feeling—felt I was being engulfed in a Maelstrom—battled against it and found myself at “full knees-bend” in the trench still holding my left wrist while the officer had nearly finished the bandaging—felt him shoving a loose finger into the bandaging—asked if I had fainted—he said “no”—fell on my back as I thought I might faint but was perfectly calm fully bandaged–thanked the officer who remarked the hand was badly shattered—he did not agree with me that six weeks in hospital would be enough, no iodine to put on it as my little bottle was broken—remembered I has a spare one I used it on the bandage—was shot thro’ carelessness—bullets were always pinging over our post and men and officers were always saying to incautious Tommies “keep your head down” (officer would not let me go down trench until night as I should have difficulty I climbing over sleeping men and my “napper” would be exposed all the time). Though hand is badly shattered, shot at sixty yards range and will require long time to heal with loss of bit of palm and some fingers, yet still philosophical–thought of home bucks me up perhaps—As day wore on the wound became damned painful and still kept bleeding—he 4 bombers at my post were all very kind—was somewhat helpless and my slightest request was attended to at once with great kindness and sympathy—they put on my puttees properly, tied sling, opened pack, lit cigs, filled pipe, gave me tea and part of their rations for I had had nothing for more than a day […]

Thus ends my active military experience of two months, enjoyable on the whole tho’ the feeling of the utter stupidity of war was ever present. Why then did I join the army? Was it following the mob, in other words, cowardice? For my own self-esteem let me say that was not the reason. Here it is. Tho’ war is a hellish travesty of humanity, yet as long as one nation is prepared by force of arms and by its consequent slaughter, disfigurement and devastation to overthrow the liberties and destroy the lives of other nations, each nation must be prepared and ready to resist to death.

© Presses universitaires de Strasbourg, 2013

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