Dornoch Historylinks Image Library

Postcard from Pte James Innes to Mrs Hewlet
Postcard from Pte James Innes to Mrs Hewlet

Colour photograph of the address and message side of a post card made by R R Johnston, Dornoch bearing a green half penny George V stamp, postmarked Bedford. The card was written by 642 Private James Innes, A Company 2/5 Seaforth Highlanders at the Borough Isolation Hospital, London Road Bedford, dated 2 April 1914, addressed to Mrs Hewlet at 18 Salisbury Street, Bedford. A side note to the effect "This is my home in Scotland" infers that the picture side of the card showed a view of Dornoch. Reference to "best respects to Mr Hewlet and all the household" suggests James Innes might have been a member of the household.
Picture added on 14 October 2011 at 10:29
This is a very interesting and illuminating document for a number of reasons:
1) One of the key episodes during the Highland Division's occupation of Bedford was the outbreak of disease which swept through the ranks in the winter of 1914-15. This is often referred to as, 'the measles epidemic', but in truth a number of contagious diseases were present - e.g. diphteria, scarlet fever etc. Many of the men from the more remote parts of the Highlands and Islands had never been exposed to these diseases and so had no immunity to them. Furthermore, the effects of these diseases are often more severe when they are contracted in adulthood. The entire 1/8th Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders spent the winter under canvas in an isolation camp on the outskirts of Bedford (in the grounds of Howbury Hall).Such was the extent of the problem that the authorities (civil and military) felt compelled to issue a public statement in order to allay concerns that the situation was under control and that the sick men in the Division were receiving adequate and appropriate care. It's estimated that 135 Highland Division men died of disease and associated complications during that winter in Bedford. Innes was one of the men who survived.
2) Innes should have dated his card - 1915, not 1914, but we must forgive a sick man such an oversight!
3) Innes would have been billeted with the Hewlets. Salisbury Street is within the 'Black Tom' area of Bedford which was very much 5th Seaforth territory. It was the norm for soldiers billeted with local householders to be treated as part of the family and the bonds that were established were often very strong and enduring. Bearing in mind he was in isolation, before the days of telecommunications and e-mails, this postcard was the only way he had of letting the Hewlett's know how he was faring. They would have been worried about him, no doubt.
4) Innes signs himself as a member 2/5th Seaforth Highlanders indicating that the 2nd line (reserve) Battalion (or elements of it, at least) was already established in Bedford just prior to the 1st line battalion's departure for France on 2 May 1915.

Many thanks for your informative comment - Administrator
Added by Richard Galley on 23 June 2012
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