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Experiences of the Great War

Lance Corporal George Ramage

George Ramage (1882-1934) was the son of William Ramage, a gilder from Aberdeen. He was born at 15 Regent Terrace, Grangetown, Sunderland, on 14 April 1882.

At the age of eight he lived with two maiden aunts in Aberdeen. Later he attended the University of Aberdeen, being awarded a Master of Arts degree in 1904.

Teaching in Edinburgh

After university Ramage became a primary school teacher, serving first as an assistant teacher at Beith Academy in Ayrshire.

In 1906 he was at Roseburn Primary School, Edinburgh. He moved four years later to Gorgie Primary School, Edinburgh, and between 1910 and early 1915 was working in North Canongate Primary School and Sciennes Primary School, still in Edinburgh.

Gordon Highlanders in France

It is possible that Ramage joined the British Army in an administrative role when the Great War arrived. What is certain, however, is that he enlisted as a Lance Corporal with the 3rd Gordon Highlanders on 19 January 1915.

He trained with the 1st Gordon Highlanders at their barracks in Aberdeen. In April 1915 was sent to Flanders as part of a company largely composed of veterans who had already seen action with the British Expeditionary Force.

Experiences at the Western Front

Ramage's front-line war experiences lasted all of three months.

During that time, however, he experienced much of what any common soldier, from either side, must have had to put up with in the trenches:

  • Mud
  • Barbed wire
  • Machine guns
  • Bombs and shrapnel
  • Army discipline
  • Lack of provisions
  • Lice.

Ramage was one of the first soldiers to experience a German gas attack.

Wounded by a sniper

Ramage served as a trench grenadier until he was wounded, being shot by a sniper in the left hand in June 1915. After a series of operations he had to have his left hand and the lower part of his arm amputated.

In July 1915 he was sent to Roehampton Hospital in London. He must have been one of the first patients there, as the hospital had only started to accept patients on 20 June 1915. It had been established specifically to cater for the ever-increasing number of amputees returning from the Front.

Ramage remained in hospital until he was discharged in August 1916, at which point he returned to Scotland.

Back to teaching

We know that George Ramage returned to teaching at some point after the First World War.

He taught at Sciennes Primary School in Edinburgh. The clearest insight we have of him at this period comes from a contribution to the Sciennes School Centenary book, published in 1992. In it, a Mr James McLaren, who appears to have been at the school from 1920 to 1930, writes:

'Mr Ramage had only one hand but none of us mentioned it. He was a fine man and had a humanity that many others failed to display'.

Holidays and music

After the war he frequently visited Aberdeen, staying at a guest house run by a Mrs Davidson, first at Kintore Place and later at Mount Street. He also liked to holiday in Europe.

He was a keen musician, and the loss of a hand did not prevent him from playing the piano in an improvised fashion.

Little else is known about George Ramage's later years, and he died in Edinburgh on 4 March 1934, just short of his 52nd birthday.

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