Capt. Jack Denniston (King’s Own Scottish Borderers) reports that a letter from fellow Old Dragon, Naomi Haldane (Lord Haldane’s niece), was of no help in getting him out of a spot of bother!
“You will be shocked to hear that I was arrested as a spy last night. It was great fun. I had to take a working party of 150 men up to the trenches to work. They were divided into three sections. I went with one section myself and left the other two to the sergeants. After settling up my own section and visiting one of the other two, I went to look for the third.
They were working in a rather obscure and unimportant little trench and I wondered about for some time, unable to find them. After wandering about a bit, I wondered into a keep. The sentry challenged me. I answered him and he said he didn’t know my name and seemed embarrassed. So to console him, I suggested that he should arrest me and take me to the officer commanding the keep. He said there was no officer but a corporal in charge. The corporal emerged from the dug-out and I abused him for being (apparently) asleep.
The sentry began timidly, ‘Corporal, this gentleman…’
‘Here, none of that!’ I interrupted. ‘You’ve got to tell him that you consider me a suspicious character and have therefore arrested me.’
He obeyed, rather coyly, and I then explained my position to the corporal, who seemed quite satisfied and let me go, without, however, being able to direct me to my destination.
Wondering on, I met a Scottish officer with another working party. I asked him to direct me, but he couldn’t. Then I said, ‘What’s the number of this trench?’
He then said he must detain me until I could prove my identity. I assented cordially…
‘Let’s see,’ I said. ‘I wonder if I have any letters on me, or anything which would convince you.’ I felt in my pockets, but could find nothing but the inside of a letter from Naomi Haldane.
‘I have a letter,’ said I, ‘from a friend of mine, but as she is the niece of the notorious Germanophile, Lord Haldane, I suppose it only makes things worse. He took this quite seriously and agreed that the letter was not satisfactory… He said he was sorry to detain me, but two German officers had been caught recently, wearing British uniform and that he had to be careful.”
Eventually Jack was recognised by one of the men in the machine-gun section of his company and all was well.