In this feature to commemorate the First World War, we will bring you the news as it happened in 1914, as reported by the Morpeth Herald. All material is published with kind permission of the Mackay family. We thank them for their support and generosity in allowing us access to their archive.
MORPETH MAYOR’S SCHEME OF DEFENCE
In a talk which a “Herald” representative had with the Mayor (Councillor W.S. Sanderson), this week, a most original and acceptable scheme for coast and inland defence was outlined.
It seems that his worship had received a letter from the military authorities, asking the Mayor’s co-operation in the work of recruiting.
It was this letter that prompted the Mayor to propound the scheme which we detail, and it is to be remembered that the Mayor had practical experience during the South African War, and that he knows what he is advocating will be a workable, and not a purely hypothetical scheme.
The Mayor’s proposal is that he will raise a detachment of five hundred foot and fifty mounted men, not to act as a civil guard and patrol the streets, but to do the work at present being done by the Territorials in the district. The men thus brought into service would be clothed as soldiers and receive soldiers’ pay. They should be taken to Cresswell, where they would encamp and work inland as well as along the coast. The benefit of this scheme lies in the fact that all the Territorials at present engaged in Morpeth and district would be released and rendered available for other purposes.
The men would enlist for home defence and service abroad. While doing the Territorials’ work they would be making themselves efficient in their drill and shooting, and so, when needed for more advanced duties, could be relieved by other detachments got up in the same way, by which time they would be fit to go, as the Territorials would already have gone, to fill up the gaps in the trenches at the front.
The detachments raised in the immediate neighbourhood of Morpeth might be called respectively “Morpeth’s Own” or “Ashington’s Own”, or the name most appropriate. They would work and fight for the honour and glory of the place to which they belonged, and at the end of the war the members would be to able to look back with credit upon the corps to which they had the honour to belong.
The class of men the Mayor looks to to support his scheme, and whom he feels sure he can get, are of the hardest specimens of Englishmen, namely the Northumbrian miners.
The Mayor’s reasons for these suggestions are that the men of each town want to fight together, and so, as we have often heard quoted by the miners, “Stand or fall together.”
A scheme without difficulties is not to be thought of, and naturally many have been pointed out to the Mayor. One is the fact that there is not enough khaki cloth available to make the uniforms. This difficulty has been got over, the Mayor having arranged with the proprietors of Otterburn Mills that sufficient cloth should be forthcoming, and the work of making up he proposes to divide out among the local tailors, thus at the same time relieving local distress by providing employment. One condition he asks for is that he will be allowed Government contract price for the outfits.
Another difficulty placed in his way is that there is not enough canvas for a camp. Here the Mayor has also got over the difficulty. There may not be enough bell tents, but he proposes to secure large marquees, in which the men could be billeted, and which are readily available.
The scheme, should it be accepted, might be followed by the Mayors in other towns, and there seems practically no limit to the extent to which the resources of the War Office could be augmented in the way indicated, whilst each locality would naturally watch with enthusiasm and pride the work of their own company, and feel that they had done something for their country’s service in having provided it.
ALIENS FAIL TO REGISTER
Frank Petersen, an Austrian, residing at Lennox Street, New Delaval, and Herman Schradder, a German, residing at 21, Cowpen Row, were charged that, being aliens and enemies, they had failed to comply with the Registration Act.
Frank Petersen, miner, was first charged.
Supt. Irving said Petersen was an Austrian subject. He had registered as an alien, but war was declared against Austria next day, and defendant was notified that a permit would be required. The superintendent remarked that he had waited until Friday, and defendant had not made any attempt to complete his registration, though he had sent Petersen notice.
Petersen stated that he had not understood. He had been 30 years in this country and was married.
Petersen said he could not read. He had been at work when the notice came, and he went straight down to the police station before he got his dinner even.
Supt. Irving said there would have been no difficulty for the man to have got his permit, but they had no end of trouble with such cases, and enormous work was entailed. The superintendent remarked that they were about tired of it.
Mr Young remarked that the bench could have fined him £100, but taking into consideration the times, he would be let off with a fine of £1 and costs, and defendant was warned to look after such matters in future.
Herman Schradder, the German subject, was charged with having neglected to register, he being an alien and an enemy.
Supt. Irving said defendant was a native of Hanover, and had lived at his present address since 1910, and was employed as a miner. He had been in the South American Navy.
Defendant had been told what he had to do in the way of registration, but he had failed to do so. Witness sent a policeman to defendant, who should have provided three photos of himself.
Defendant said he had been looking into the matter, and had consulted a solicitor with a view to taking out naturalisation papers.
The Clerk remarked that that would not have prevented defendant from carrying out the Act.
Defendant said the solicitor had told him it would be all right.
The Clerk: I am sorry for the solicitor. How long have you lived in England? – Defendant: Seventeen years.
Mr Young remarked that defendant should have taken steps to become naturalised. The war might be over before defendant would be able to become naturalised. It was a worse case than the previous one. Defendant would be fined three guineas and costs.
BEDLINGTON TOWN GUARDS
Strenuous efforts are being made at Bedlington to have the town’s guard movement recognised by the military authority.
Dr Morris, who was locally responsible with other prominent townsmen for the movement, has had an interview with Lord Ridley, and the latter has seen Earl Grey on the subject. The outcome is that Earl Grey has proceeded to London with the object of making representations to Lord Kitchener and other military chiefs.
GERMAN CARTRIDGES FOUND
A sensational discovery of Mauser ammunition was made at Blyth on Saturday.
Whilst seeking mussels for fishing bait, a local man named Robert Thornton has his attention drawn to a small piece of brass shining amongst the mud and water near a gangway leading from the coaling staithes to the quayside at the Nos, 1, 2, 3, and 4 spouts. He picked it up, and found it to be a Mauser rifle cartridge. This led him to dig about amongst the mud with his hands.
He speedily hauled up a sack composed of bass matting, partly filled with other cartridges, all of the well-known German manufacture. The weight of the ammunition had burst a hole in the bottom of the sack, and further investigation by the authorities revealed the fact that Mauser cartridges were lying about in rather embarrassing profusion.
The haul was extraordinarily prolific. Cartirdges were picked up here, there, and everywhere, until the rising tide put a stop to further operations. By that time 753 rounds had been recovered in the immediate neighbourhood.
The mystery attaching to the singular discovery had not been elucidated during the forenoon. Various theories were evolved.
A German cargo steamer was lying at the No 1 and No 2 spouts when war broke out, and that vessel is now moored in the Import Dock at Blyth, along with other Government war prizes. Her officers and crew are prisoners of war. The vessel’s proximity to the hidden arsenal of German ammunition may, of course, only have been a coincidence, and it is understood that the authorities do not attach any special significance to that aspect of the affair.
More importance is placed on the view that someone, in removing the ammunition from a ship in the harbour to the town, may have been in danger of being intercepted while on the gangway, and for safety may have dropped the stuff into the water.
At any rate, the discovery has led to the belief that attempts have been made to store German ammunition in the town, and, of course, the present mystery surrounding it is being officially investigated.
INTERESTING COMMUNICATION FROM MR T. BURT, M.P.
We have received the following communication from Mr Thomas Burt, M.P.:–
I know and hold in high esteem some Germans who have lived in Newcastle for many years. They are in every respect worthy, well-conducted citizens, and they are no more responsible for the war, or for the way it has been conducted, than I am, or than our own countrymen.
Our Government have imposed severe restrictions upon all Germans who live in this country. They are compelled to register and to report themselves from time to time. Spies, and those aliens who have laid themselves open to suspicion of hostility to us, will rightly be dealt with most drastically, and such persons may well be left in the hands of the proper authorities.
Justice, fairplay, common humanity dictate that we should deal kindly with those well-behaved Germans resident among us, whose position in the present terrible crisis is painful and unfortunate enough without our adding to their difficulties by harshness and ill-will.
It will be seen that I am not objecting to the punishment of the wrong-doer, but I do strongly protest against showing indiscriminate hostility to persons because of their birthplace or their accent. To do that is undemocratic, and worse still, it is unjust, inhuman, and utterly disgraceful.
There is another consideration, which, though it may perhaps be placed upon a somewhat lower plane, is yet not unimportant. Many of our own countrymen have made their home in Germany. We desire that they should be treated with kindness and consideration in the land of their adoption. If we ill-treat Germans here, we certainly increase the risk of bringing reprisals upon our countrymen and countrywomen on the other side of the North Sea.
No exhortation of this nature is needed, so far as the great majority of our people are concerned, but in some instances more restraint and a greater sense of fairplay are evidently required.
I am, yours truly,
August 22nd, 1914.
The Morpeth detachment of the British Red Cross Society lost no time in providing a hospital for the sick and injured among the Territorials and others on duty in the town and neighbourhood, and for the wounded in war should any such arrive.
The detachment had just finished a weekend encampment at Longhirst, under the Hon. Mrs Arthur Joicey, commandant, when war broke out.
Favoured by the Town Council of Morpeth, the Borough Hall, Wellway, recently the Corporation Infant School, was placed at their service. The commandant’s appeal for furnishings suitable for a hospital was promptly responded to, and the hall was opened on the 13th inst, with 12 beds ready for use. The hospital was visited and inspected on Sunday by Mr C.B. Palmer, county director of the British Red Cross Society. He returned on Monday with the news that the institution had been recognised as a hospital affiliated with the Royal Army Medical Corps. The only other of the same standing in the north-east of England is at Hartlepool.
The hospital is well provided with all necessary appliances, and has 50 beds elsewhere in reserve. Up to the middle of this week 12 patients had been admitted, all from the detachment of the Northern Cyclists’ Battalion, stationed on duty in the town, whose quarters were last week moved from St James’ National Schools to the Grammar School, with the Masonic Hall as their mess-room.
ASHINGTON CO-OPERators and relief
The Committee of the Ashington Industrial Co-operative Society has agreed to recommend that £100 be given to the Prince of Wales Relief Fund.
It has also been agreed to by this committee that all food stuffs after Monday first be sold at cost price, plus working expenses. All other departments, with the exception of boot and shoe repairing and watch repairing, will allow a special discount of 2/- in the £ for cash.
MINERS AND THE NEW ARMY
The agents of the Northumberland Miners’ Association on Tuesday issued to the secretaries and committees of the colliery lodges a letter in reference to the scheme of county recruiting announced by Earl Grey and Lord Howick.
Briefly, the scheme is in connection with the raising of the second army of Lord Kitchener, who stated to Earl Grey that the value at which past experience had led him to estimate the Northumberland Fusiliers made him very anxious to draw men from the district.
Committees are therefore being formed among the older men of 45 years or more, who will not be called on to enlist themselves, but who undertake to collect written promises from men between 19 and 30 to join the colours whenever called upon.
It is proposed that men signing this declaration should, when called upon, go in a body from the same district and thus have the advantage of being drafted together into the same unit and of serving with their friends.
The letter to the miners, signed by Messrs J. Cairns, W. Hogg, and W. Straker, is in the following terms:—
“Fellow workmen, — We are informed that Lord Grey and others are convening meetings in a number of colliery centres in our county with a view to getting volunteers for Lord Kitchener’s Second Army of 100,000 men, and we have been approached by Lord Howick to ask our local committees to co-operate with the military authorities to make these meetings a success.
“We therefore are in duty bound to inform you of what these authorities desire you to do.”
EARL GREY AT SLEEKBURN
A largely-attended meeting of miners from the Bedlington district was held on Monday night at Sleekburn, in support of Lord Kitchener’s second army.
Earl Grey, who had a cordial reception, said he hardly expected to see such a large crowd, as the meeting had been convened at short notice, but he could quite understand that everyone who took an interest in the well-being of the country desired to be there.
He had come to give them a message from Lord Kitchener. On Friday night Lord Kitchener said to him: “I want you to take a message to the Northumberland miners. Tell them from me that I have often had occasion to thank heaven that I had the Northumberland Fusiliers at my back. (Applause). Tell them from me that I have often relied upon the Northumberland Fusiliers in the past, and I know that I may do so again in the future —(cheers)— for I need their assistance; and those who give me their aid will have an opportunity of proving their worth.” (Applause).
The country, proceeded Earl Grey, was in a very grave crisis. Why was it, he asked, that their oversea kinsmen were so anxious to help the mother country? Why was it that in the United Kingdom people of all parties were only anxious to stand together and help in the war? It was because every one of them regarded it as a righteous war. As Sir Wilfrid Laurier said, it was a war of democracy against despotism. The German principle seemed to be “might is right”. The English principle was to stand up for civilisation, for the sanctity of treaties, and the freedom of independent nationalities.
They knew this war was a serious business, but they knew also that Lord Kitchener would get his new army of 100,000 men, another army of 100,000 men, and as many more as he needed, until they swept every German out of Belgium. (Applause). Then they could look forward to a new Europe — to a period when they would get rid of the system of militarism which had caused such heavy burdens to the people of the world. They could look forward to the democracies of Europe fraternising together, bound by mutual sympathy and goodwill, to promote the happiness of Europe, instead of having the rule of one nation for the whole of the Continent. (Applause).
Lord Howick explained that the second army was not to go to Belgium at once. The Northumberland men would be sent to Granton and trained probably for six months. The war was not only to prevent Germany getting into France. Unless they could drive the Germans into Germany and defeat them on their own ground, there could be no relief after the war from the enormous military and naval expenditure which had been forced upon the European countries by Germany.
He added that he had enlisted, and hoped to see many Northumbrians from that district when he got to Granton. (Applause).
A recruiting committee, composed of the leading residents, was afterwards formed.
BLYTH MAN’S FOOLISH ACT
At a special court at Blyth on Monday, George Thompson was charged with having been found on the enclosed premises of the Blyth Shipbuilding Yard, for an unlawful purpose.
The order was that Thompson had been seen by a sentry climbing over a wall at 3 o’clock in the morning. The sentry challenged Thompson, whose plea was that he was going to seek a place to sleep in. He was put in the guard-room, and detained until 9am, when he was handed over to the police.
Mr Young said Thompson had done a very foolish thing in war time. He might have been shot. Thompson was allowed to go.
YEOMANRY CORPORAL INJURED
On Friday morning, whilst the Northumberland Hussars Yeomanry were manoeuvring in a field at Bebside Farm, Bedlington, Corporal Earnshaw, who was running alongside his horse, fell somewhat heavily to the ground, and broke his right leg below the knee. After being attended by Dr Morris, he was conveyed to Newcastle Infirmary.
The Hon. James A. Joicey
The Hon. James A. Joicey, of Longhirst Hall, has been given a commission as captain in the mobilised 7th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers (Territorials). He is a retired major of the 3rd Militia Battalion, and served in Malta during the South African war, for which he wears the medal.
THE NOTHUMBERLAND FUND
At a meeting of the Northumberland Lord Lieutenant’s War Relief Fund Committee, held at the Moothall on Tuesday, it was resolved unanimously that Sir Francis Blake should be requested to communicate with the Country branch of the Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Families’ Association with a view to a scheme being adopted as might be arranged in connection with the Lord Lieutenant’s War Relief Fund.
The Lord Lieutenant (the Duke of Northumberland) who presided, communicated the recommendation of the sub-committee that the relief granted should be in kind by tickets negotiable with local tradesmen, but that money might be given in exceptional cases.
After discussion, the recommendation was adopted by a large majority.
The question of drawing up a scale of relief was referred to a special sub-committee which was given power to act, and they were instructed to take into account the rent, the feeding of school children and similar matters.
QUEEN MARY’S APPEAL TO WOMEN FUND
On Monday evening, a largely-attended meeting was held in the schoolroom, Hepscott, in support of the above fund.
The Mayor of Morpeth said that in every town and hamlet in England, no matter how large or how small, the one topic was the war; and how could they as people of this country, assist in the smallest way, their flesh and blood that we had at the front.
He had heard that committees were making pyjamas and other comforts. These were all very good, but what he wanted was to see every cottage, whether it only be of one room, responsible for at least one pair of socks. His advice to those present was to make the articles big enough. He asked for no finery, but real substantial articles of the type worn by working men.
In looking round he saw there were many people of small means who had already been very hardly hit by the effect of this great crisis. He hoped, however, that there would be sufficient funds available in the small villages to provide the necessary material to engage the willing hands which he was absolutely certain there would be, judging by the number of women who had thought fit to attend that meeting.
Afterwards, a discussion took place as to the best means of raising funds. It was decided to open a subscription list on the spot and it was most cordially received.
Three young ladies hailing from Morpeth were living in the vicinity of a farm not a hundred miles from the boundaries of our ancient borough.
Their pin money perhaps did not amount to much, and although the Relief Fund appealed to their sympathies they were strong in spirit but weak in pocket. They were not daunted by this fact, however, and on learning that some labourers were being employed on the farm cutting thistles at the rate of one shilling per acre, they promptly undertook to clear a ten acre field.
What they lacked in experience they made up in enthusiasm, and the manner in which they got through the work was simply amazing. Their work done they received their ten shillings and handed it over as a donation to the Relief Fund. We raise our hats to the “thistle-cutters”.
TRAMP’S NARROW ESCAPE
A vagrant, tramping in the vicinity of Blyth, has had a narrow escape.
He was prowling about the beach when one of the sentries on duty challenged him, and as the man made no response a shot was fired at him, the bullet passing through his trousers leg without inflicting injury. When he had satisfied the authorities he was allowed to go.
Ordinary telegrams for places abroad and radio-telegrams, however addressed, can only be accepted at senders’ risk and if written in plain English or French. In the case of telegrams for Switzerland and Turkey, French only is allowed.
All telegrams will be subject to censorship and must bear the sender’s name at the end of the text; otherwise they are liable to be stopped until the name is notified by paid telegram.
Any words subsequently added by paid telegram must, as a matter of course, also be paid for at the relative foreign or colonial rate. Registered abbreviated addresses will not be accepted either as the addresses of telegrams or as the names of senders. Ordinary telegrams in code and cypher or without text are prohibited.
PARCELS FOR THE FRONT
The Press Bureau, in a communique issued, states that consignments outside the limits of the parcels post intended for the Expeditionary Force, should be securely packed and clearly addressed to the individual or unit for whom they are destined. “c/o Military Forwarding Officer, Southampton Docks.” They should not be addressed to any oversea destination.
Packages intended for troops generally should be addressed “Military Forwarding Officer, Southampton Docks.” The label should show the general contents of the package, and the name and address of the sender. No goods of a perishable nature, or likely to cause damage, should be sent. Packages containing liquors should be so marked.
WAR RELIEF FUND
A grand concert and entertainment in aid of the above, will be given in the Netherwitton Council School on Saturday, September 5th, 1914.
Doors open 7.30, concert to commence 8pm. Admission: 2s., 1s.