Boy Soldier

This is the remarkable story of a solider from Dalkeith called James Marchbank

Born on 14th June, 1900  James moved to Dalkeith at an early age and grew up in the High Street. In 1913 he was persuaded by his Scout master to enlist in the local territorial battalion of the Royal Scots, the 1/8th.

He was one of seven children, he readily took to the idea, and joined up. In July,1914 he went to Stobs Camp near Hawick for the annual TF camp., rumours of war were rife and all the men,and the boys, fully expected to go to war at any time.

Now, you may well be forgiven for thinking, surely a 14 year can't go to war? 

Well, yes and no. The regular Army would not take boys under 18 for active service, although many lied about their age and many a blind eye was turned.

However James was a Territorial soldier and they were allowed to have a small percenrage of their strength between the ages of 14 and 18. So when war was declared in August 1914, James was called up some 8 weeks after his 14th birthday.

The picture below was taken at Stobs Camp near Hawick where the 8th Royal Scots were on their annual training camp.

Note the ages of the lads who were on the strength as Drummers, James is in the centre of the shot, without a hat on.

The document you can see in the centre, is the actual embodiment notice, summoning James to Dalkeith on 4th August, 1914 and to bring fuel and rations for 24 hours. The image above is James' will written in his AB64 paybook.

Men from all over Midlothian made their way to Dalkeith including contingent who marched from Penicuik, accompanied by Penicuik Brass Band. The Euphonium player decided when he got to Dalkeith, he was not carrying his instrument back to Penicuik, some 8 miles away, and promptly enlisted. This picture below,  was taken by a lady from Bournemouth holidaying with relatives. Truly a moment in history captured.

Interview with James recorded in 1976 shortly before his death.

James moved to Haddington with the rest of the Battalion and in November, 1914 they set sail for France, making him one of the youngest soldiers on the continent. He was wounded at the Battle of Festubert and sent home to recover. He came back later in the summer of 1915 and served with the 8th until near the end of war. His dad was killed in a mining accident in 1917, during the Battle of Arras, he couldn't go home. In the spring of 1918 James was awarded the Military Medal and promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal, in the Autumn of 1918 in common with many people at that time, he contracted Spanish Flu and was again shipped home, this time to a hospital in Manchester where he remained until after the Armistice of November of 1918. On his recovery he was demobilised and sent home to Dalkeith, where he spent the rest of his days, dying in 1976.