Diary of James Lawson Cairns

These two diaries of James Lawson Cairns, transcribed by his niece Margaret Donaldson, cover the period 23 February 1915, the day the battalion left Edinburgh for France, to 2 December 1915, in the Somme valley. In particular they cover the Second battle of Ypres, where Cairns won his Distinguished Conduct Medal, and their time at Armentières.

Cairns was originally in No.5 Platoon, B Company; but on 22 March 1915 he joined the medical staff under Captain John Bowie, Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC).

Sergeant James Lawson Cairns DCM, 9th Royal Scots

Link to pdf: Diary of James Lawson Cairns

These diaries belong to, and were transcribed by Margaret Donaldson, and are published here with permission. I am grateful to nhclark at the Great War Forum for information on Nurse Trotter, and John Crawford of Langholm Academy for telling me about the Common Riding.

Medical Staff

The medical staff are not all identified. The medical officers were:

  1. John Macaulay Bowie, aged 40, from arrival 24.2.15 – 26.4.15 when wounded at Second Ypres. He later served in Malta and Salonika. Frederick Lucas, a regimental officer and doctor, stood in for the Bowie in Ypres 4.4.15.
  2. ?
  3. ‘old man’ for one day 4-5.6.15
  4. John McIntyre Falkiner 6.6.15-7.7.15 when transferred to Indian Corps
  5. J.T Dickson 8.7.15~4.8.15. Cairns later tells us ‘Dr Dixon’ was with the ‘Royal Irish’
  6. David Alexander Ross Haddon 5.8.15 (his memoir states 20.7.15). A regimental officer wounded at Second Ypres, he was transferred to the RAMC and rejoined the Ninth as MO. He was later awarded the Military Cross for operating his dressing station under heavy shell fire, and was wounded three times during the course of the war. He was MO until November 1916.
  7. Alexander Church Brodie McMurtrie was the Medical Officer by March 1918

When Cairns joined the staff, he was under Ambulance Sergeant William Sime Millikin, who died of wounds following the shelling at Second Ypres. In July 1915 the staff consisted of four men:

  1. James Lawson Cairns
  2. Brown, who went to the Divisional Band. This may have been Drummer Robert Brown
  3. Alfred Charles Trotter, a dental student, commissioned 30.10.15
  4. Connolly the ‘doctor’s servant’, probably Drummer Robert Connolly; though references to ‘the boy’ would only fit if in jest, for he was in his 40s

The assistant who ‘had his leg blown off’ 9.5.15 may have been David Sydney Moore, a dental student, who died of wounds. The doctor in Edinburgh was John Cumming, who had been the original Surgeon-Lieutenant of the battalion in 1900. L/Cpl Cameron was the doctor’s orderly at the depot.

The Pioneer Sergeant may have been Peter Grant.