Today’s object is a carved pipe belonging to Corporal, later Sergeant, Charles Forman, which he picked up during the Battle of Loos, 25th September – 15th October 1915. Charles Forman has left us an interesting account concerning his time with the 8th Battalion Black Watch, from which this text below, concerning his enlistment, comes:
“Things were very bad around 1914. I was out of work. On August 4th war was declared, and on November 5th I joined the Regular Army. I asked my eldest brother, Jim, who was later killed in France in 1918, what regiment I should join. He told me ‘join the Black Watch! You’ll see some fighting with that lot,’ He was quite right, I did.
I volunteered for 7-5 [seven years five month’s service] in the Black Watch at the Army Recruiting Office in the High Street. I happened to know the officer in charge, and when I told him the regiment I wished to join he said ‘You’re not a Scot.’ I said ‘You know I’m not’ – he replied ‘Oh yes you are, born in Glasgow – sign here.’ That was how I was able to join the Black Watch.
The Orderly Sergeant said, ‘Fall in outside, and we will march to the station.’ There were about ten of us. ‘Let us walk there on our own,’ I suggested. ‘You do as you’re told, you’re in the army now.’ He never said a truer word. And so I started my great adventure.
First, to Lichfield Barracks, and from there I was sent to Perth, in the north of Scotland. I was the only one going north- all the others went down south. I arrived at Perth after midnight. It had been the longest distance I had ever travelled – other journeys I had made were work trips, or to the seaside. In Perth heavy snow was falling. My dress; low shoes, blue suit, stand-up collar and white shirt, cloth cap, and I had about two shillings in my pocket.
I arrived at the barrack gate and they rang the bell-one clang- I should say they could hear it all over Perth. I waited awhile- and then footsteps, a creaking bolt being drawn, and a voice: ‘What yer wanting?’ ‘I’ve come to join up.’ ‘Come with me to the guardroom.’ There was a guard lying on the floor covered with a blanket. Over the door of the cell a sign read ‘Prisoners.’ The sergeant threw a couple of blankets to me and said ‘This way.’ He led me into the barracks, up two flights of stairs – no lights. He said ‘You had better sleep here’ on the concrete. He told me what time reveille was, and went. Well, it didn’t break my heart. It would take more than that in those days – I was very fit.
Fall in, on the Parade Square – 7-5s in the front, Duration of War in the rear; three of us in the front, and about 80 in the rear. Then we were detailed for fatigues. We three were detailed to the Sergeants Mess. Arriving there I was given six spittoons which had been in use the night before, and told to clean them. That was my first job in the British army for King and Country. I little thought then that I should be using them myself two years later as a Sergeant in the Mess!
I stayed about three days in Perth, getting my khaki, etc and then I moved down to Aldershot to join the 8th Battalion Black Watch – the first of the first 100,000, Kitchener’s New Army. Maida Barracks was our HQ there. We then moved to Alton, Hampshire, where I was to become an NCO Lance Corporal, one stripe, on 9th May 1915. I was an Orderly in the Officer’s Mess there, and I received orders to pack my kit, and proceed to the front: France, via Southampton to Le Havre, under Major D A Stewart, for whom I was batman.”