Disease Strikes

Disease Strikes

During their time training in Bedford the men were exposed to a number of diseases common at that time. Cases of scarlet fever, diphtheria and measles were reported amongst the troops.  Most survived but there were some fatalities.

Between August 1914 and January 1915 there were 39 deaths recorded amongst the soldiers at Bedford.

Scarlet Fever 3 Diphtheria 3 Measles 27

Pneumonia 3 Uraemia 1 Violence 2

Those whose cases proved fatal (2.2%) were either returned to Scotland for burial or interred in the military section of the Foster Hill Cemetery in Bedford.

Of the 1,000 men in the 8th Battalion A&SH, 101 succumbed to measles and 4 died of the disease. Private Hugh McArthur from Kildalton on the Isle of Islay had measles at this time and was nursed back to health at Clapham Hospital in Bedford.

The outbreak of disease resulted in a quarantine camp being created at Howbury to accommodate the men from the 8th Battalion. The men were under canvas during autumn and winter 1914/15.

It has been asserted that the men of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were from rural and remote parts of Scotland and that they had not been exposed to these types of diseases before so were more susceptible to them. There is a newspaper report in the Campbeltown Courier of an outbreak of scarlet fever at one of the schools which seems to dispel this theory.

Isolation camp at Howbury, Bedford
Isolation camp at Howbury, Bedford - image courtesy of Bedforshire Archives Service.