Somewhere in France: Letters from the Front

This month, to mark Armistice Day, we have a WW1 themed exhibition in our searchroom. The exhibition features letters and postcards sent back to Dundee from soldiers at the Front. The largest section of letters in the exhibition are from David Kidd of Broughty Ferry.

David joined the Black Watch in January 1915 at the young age of 17. The son of David Kidd and Betsy Lorimer, David was born on 13th November 1897 at 3 Westfield Avenue, Dundee. His father was a fish dealer and trawler man. His eldest sister Annie was a Dressmaker and he also had two younger sisters Mary and Beatrice.

Cambridge Postcard
A postcard sent by David Kidd to his parents after spending time in hospital at Cambridge.

We don’t know when he was first sent to France, but was presumably kept away from the front until after he was 18. We know that he was treated at the First Eastern General Hospital Cambridge in early 1917. The cause of his hospitalisation is not known. He was transferred to the Red Cross Hospital in Cottenham in April, when he sent back a postcard to his parents.

He returned to France in June 1917. His first letter is from 20th May 1918. After suffering the effects of a gas attack, he’s been sent to a convalescent camp in Boulogne. He’s after some cigarettes and money to make the most of his time before he goes “up the line”. His next letter was written only 4 days later – he’s clearly bored! Here he first mentions his watch. In his next letter , of 10th June, we learn why he is so determined to get his watch fixed. It turns out that as he stopped to pick it up, a shell whizzed over his head and landed just 5 feet away from him. Had he not stopped for the watch he would have been killed.

Annie, his sister has written to him regarding the Rennie family’s worries about their son David who was missing. David Kidd seems convinced that he has been taken prisoner of War. He says that if he was gassed they would have heard about it by now. David Rennie was David Sturrock Rennie of Panmure Street, Monifieth, also in the 4/5th of the Black Watch. The family advertised for further information about their son in the People’s Journal on 20th July 1918. He was noted as being missing since 21st May. Sadly he wasn’t taken prisoner, he was killed in action on 3rd May 1918. He is commemorated at Tyne Cot.

David Kidd’s final letter is dated 26th July 1918. He notes that he’s now been transferred from the 4/5th to the 1/6th Battalion. He’s still after more cigarettes. We don’t know if he ever wrote to his Aunt or sent a postcard to his sister. 2 days later David died during a gas attack at the Battle of the Marne, the start of the Allies final push into German territory. He is buried at Chambrecy British Cemetery. A temporary cross was used as a grave marker (see top picture). A permanent stone replaced the cross in 1924 with an extra inscription at his mother’s request:

David Kidd Grave
“He Died that we might Live”.

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