In 2014 the centenary of the outbreak of World War One, the newly formed Cumnock History Group has been researching the names on the War Memorial plus other men with Cumnock connections mentioned on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission or in Cumnock Chronicle of the time. The research is not limited to those who died but also to men and women who served, using family history information.

The group would like to appeal to individuals with knowledge of family members for photographs of the soldier, either in uniform or not, and photos of medals or other memorabilia eg letters sent home from the Front. If you would be prepared to share these on this site, please email the web manager cumnockhistory [at] The group is willing to share any copies of documents found with the soldier's descendants.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Letters from the Front

2 letters written by Robert "Ticky" Orr to his friend Robert Samson of Townhead St.


Transcribed by Kay McMeekin for Cumnock History Group
Original letters accession E12/28 viewed 7 Nov 2018 at the Burns Monument Centre, Kilmarnock. Punctuation added for clarity.

He mentions several local men and describes the tragic death of Robert Gilmour  
Sgt Robert Gilmour


Pte R Orr C Comp
6th RSF
Expeditionary Force

Dear Robert
Just a few lines to say I am well, hoping you are all the same. I was expecting to write sooner but Robert it is better later than never. We come out of the trenches tomorrow night. We have been in for seventeen days so I think we deserve a rest. We have had a good few casualties since we came in. Big Robert Gilmour got wounded on Saturday so I heard last night he was dead.  It was hard lines in how it happened. This is the worst turn we have had yet, Rab. You are speaking to a mate just now and the next thing you hear he is either wounded or killed as it were. Their few lines they are shelling our boys pretty heavy up the trenches. They killed one of our captains and wounded another in B Company. You know Robert, when they are doing that to us we are laying in to them too. All the Cumnock boys is getting on fine except that about poor Rab Gilmour. Big Hugh Lorimer[1] was taken away badly (next page)

this week to the hospital. I dont know what is wrong with him. I fell in with Commie[2] just before  we came to the trenches. He is getting on all right. He was telling me the trenches we left was where poor Wull Lamont[3] was killed. I was expecting to meet poor Wull out here. How is their ones getting on? I was always expecting to drop Mrs Lamont a few lines but Robert you feel seeing how she is left as she was a cheery one but there are many left in the same footing through this B war. The week before we came into the trenches we was out on a working party making a new trench and we was just lousing[4] when they sent over two whizz bangs[5] killing one and wounded other three beside me. You would be fexed[6] for the one that was killed. He left six of a family. He was a Glasgow man.

I see our boys is getting it pretty rough at the Dardanelles. That is where your good brother is at. How is the Jims getting on? Have you him ever down, tell him I was asking for him. I wish to God, Rab, it was all over and us all back home again but we will have to beat them. I see our 7th Battalion is out here; that is Doc Murray and Jock Logans[7] lot. I would like fine to meet them. I see the Cumnock boys is going to have a good team this year. How is all the Townhead ones getting on? Tell them I was asking for them and also William Anderson and hope he won the Cairnhill cup. I wish I was going with him again to play at Kilmaurs the same as last season. I think I will close. Sending you my best wishes from your old pal R Orr
turn over
Tell the wife and the boys I was asking for them and also the old man and your good sister. I was to tell you that Duncan Ferguson[8] was asking for you he has a rare[9] job now.[10] He does not seem to go much to the trenches.

LETTER 2   19/8/15  (thirteen days after the previous letter)

Pte R Orr
12288 C Comp
6th RSF
Expeditionary Force

Dear Robert
Just a few lines to say that I am well glad to hear you are all the same. I received your parcel all right, Robert, and it was a welcome one and I dont know how to thank you for it. Well, we are out of the trenches a week now for a rest and we was needing it as we was in for seventeen days so it is a pretty good spell and never having your boots off.
We lost big Robert Gilmour[11] that time. It was hard lines in how he got it he was out in a reconnoitring patrol and was returning  back in to the trenches again when they got the wordhaltso they answered, “C Companybut the fellow that was on sentry had lost his head and fired. It struck Gilmour and wounded the man behind him on the arm. Poor Robert got a hard one. It struck him on the chin. He never spoke after it but was conscious all the time and lived for four days after it. He shaked hands with the Cumnock ones before he left for he knew he was (next page) dying. He was the best shot in the battalion and was sergeant of our platoon. He was one of the gamest men in the company. There was some bits of the trench that was pretty tight and he came of[12] their back and walk it when he was going out of the trench to the hospital.
Big Hugh Lorimer went out of the trenches to the hospital badly. It is blood poison in the arm. He was pretty bad. I dont know how he is keeping.
I see you have got a good team this year again. We have a big game here tomorrow. Robert, when we are out of the trenches you would think there is no war going on at all. I think we was lucky that was sent out here as the boys is catching it at the Dardanelles but they will not be long with the Turks. How is your good Brother getting on? He will have seen many a sad sight. Well Robert we will have to beat them. When we was in the trench the last time we knew Warsaw had fell as the Germans cheered for about one hour and they gave us some rapid fire and rifle grenades, but we laid into them too.
How is the Jims getting on? I hope he is keeping out of big Jimmie rode.[13] Tell him I was asking for him. How is his Brother Tom? How is the boys getting on?  Is Robert away to the school yet? Tell your ones I was asking for them and also tell Wm Anderson sorry about him losing in the finals but better luck next time.  I see James McCall[14] gone and  got married. Have you had a crack[15] with him yet? Jimmie has seen a good bit of this. He deserves a rest. I think this is all at present. from your old pal Ticky.

More about Robert Orr

[1] survived the war. 2 Hugh Lorimers from Cumnock served.
[2] presumably a nickname
[3] died 1 May 1915 lived in the Strand married to Joan McNab
[4] lousing = finishing
[5] whizz bangs – shells, the sound of them
[6] vexed, upset
[7] John Logan was killed in 1918
[8] also killed
[9] rare = fine
[10] he was picked out for special training as a signaler (his obituary)
[11] died 2 Aug 1915
[12] off  He was being carried on the back of a man and got off and walked where it was too tight in the trenches
[13]  out of big Jimmie’s road /way.
[14] James McCall coal miner Waterside Place married Marion Young 14 May 1915
[15] a chat

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