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.
THE CALL FOR MEN
Throughout the length and breadth of the land, Lord Kitchener’s appeal for recruits goes forth, and it is gratifying to find that the inhabitants of Morpeth are not behind other towns in answer to their country’s call.
To stimulate recruiting, an open-air meeting was held in the Market Place, Morpeth, on Saturday evening. All the speakers had a splendid reception, and the meeting was very enthusiastic.
Prior to the meeting the nurses of the Red Cross Society in motor cars and the local company of the Church Lads’ Brigade, headed by their band, paraded the main streets. St James’ Church choir rendered “Rule Britannia” and “Britannia, the pride of the ocean.”
The Mayor said: People of Morpeth, are we downhearted? From all sections of the crowd came the cry of “No,” and the Mayor responded by saying “God bless your brave hearts.” (Applause.) Continuing, he said: I am delighted to think that we in Morpeth can turn out in such numbers at such a grave time in our history. Everyone of you seem to grasp the seriousness of the situation. You know that we are fighting a nation which is second to — well, we are first here. (Applause.) We have looked upon the Germans as a third-rate power long enough and we will have to see that they finish a very bad last. (Loud applause.) Is everybody willing to serve their country? (Cries of ‘Hear, hear.’) “There’s a recruitment office inside,” added the Mayor, pointing in the direction of the Town Hall.
Proceeding, the Mayor said he would like to see more of the able-bodied men coming forward. They had got a splendid lot of men at present. They had the flower of the British Army fighting in Belgium and France. This war had been forced upon them by a nation of men out for blood; but they would not get it all their own way. (Applause.) He had sent a batch of men from here and he told them to take this message from him to the German Army: “Before you achieve your purpose you have got to walk over the body of every Englishman.” But before they can do that, added the Mayor, they will have to climb over a mountain of dead Germans. (Loud applause.)
“To you bonnie girls who have sweethearts,” remarked the Mayor, “don’t give them the glad eye until they go and ‘take the bob’.
“Now, men if you don’t do your best you will have the Germans coming along here doing the goose-step.” (Laughter and applause.)
Major Talbot, in the course of his able speech, showed that Germany was out for world-power, and the only power which Germany saw in her way was Great Britain. As a nation, Great Britain held one-fifth of the world, and Germany wanted it. Germany’s policy they could see perfectly plainly was France and Russia first, then take over Belgium and Holland, and then fight Britain. At such a grave crisis could they stand aside and see that done? (Cries of “No.”)
“Remember in this war we are fighting for our very existence as a nation, and that France, Russia, and Belgium have every able-bodied man called out in service. We have got the conviction that we are going to see the war through to a finish. It is not a question of fighting for gallant little Belgium, but for our very existence.” (Applause.)
Mr George Renwick said people were filled with enthusiasm because they were fighting a just war and they wanted to fight that war to conclusion. It could only be done in one way and that was by sending more men to the front. The Prime Minister, together with Mr Bonar-Law, had addressed a great meeting in London, and at that meeting Mr Asquith had sent a message to the people of this country. “We want men, more men, and still more men to fight this war to a successful conclusion.” (Applause.)
There was another message — a message from their gallant army fighting their battles on the soil of France. For three weeks they had been fighting there. They were exhausted, and they were appealing to them to help them. “Are you going to refuse to do so?” asked Mr Renwick. “I cannot believe you will. They sent that message because they want to carry out the traditions of the British Army. Their watchword is: ‘Forward to Victory’. Unfortunately, at present, they have been driven back day by day by superior numbers. They ask for your assistance — in fact, they demand it, and it must be given.”
Turning to the women, Mr Renwick said this war affected them vitally. They would see from the newspapers the awful scenes that had taken place in Belgium. They had read of husbands who had been shot in cold blood and before the eyes of their very children. They had also read of children being butchered, and of homes pulled down and the people driven through the streets with no place to lay their heads. That might have been their fate. What was it that had prevented them from being treated in that way. It was the Navy. (Loud applause.) They had mines laid within thirty miles of where they were standing. That showed how near they were.
He appealed to the young men who had not enlisted to do so at once. Let them make their way to the recruiting office, and in the days to come they would always feel they had the courage to go and do their best to help their country. (Loud applause.)
County Councillor R. Nicholson said they had the finest record of any nation; they had done more for humanity than any other nation; they had done it, not to make this country great, but to spread glorious liberty all over the world. (Applause.) They were not fighting for England alone, but for a liberty loving people who wanted to conduct their affairs in their own way. (Applause.)
Councillor Wm. Duncan, who is in the National Reserves, said that he came there at the request of Colonel Scott, of the 7th Northumberland Fusiliers to obtain men to volunteer for foreign service. Colonel Scott and 700 men had offered their services to go abroad. They wanted another 350 men.
“I say young men come forward and take your place in the ranks. You have heard the call, and in the words of Tommy Atkins, I say: “Damn it all. Don’t you hear the bugle call.” (Applause.)
Canon Davies said they were fighting for many things, but certainly they were fighting for freedom, for liberty, and for independence, and he believed that they as a nation were fighting for their own national existence. Germany must not win, but if she was not going to win it would rest with the power and endurance and self-sacrificing efforts of hundreds of thousands of young Englishmen. He appealed to all who were capable of bearing arms to respond to their county’s call. (Applause.)
Major Crawford said that the Watch Tower had stood for over 800 years looking down upon them, and they stood within a stone’s throw of the home of the great Lord Collingwood. (Applause.) Were the men of Morpeth not going to do their share, and so prevent this country and other countries from being trampled beneath the iron heel of Germany? This war would not be won by singing patriotic songs, but by every young man taking his place in the ranks and doing their duty. (Applause.) Let it not be said that the little town of Morpeth was behind other towns in doing its best to bring this war to a triumphant conclusion. (Applause.) Before dispersing, the huge crowd of people gave ringing cheers for the Army and Navy, and also sang with great lustiness: “God Save the King.”
This week three sons of Mr James Watson, blacksmith, Morpeth, have joined the colours and volunteered for service at the front. At the commencement of the war his eldest son, who is a farrier in the Northumberland Hussars Yeomanry, was called out.
THE MAYOR’S CAMP ON MORPETH COMMON
The Mayor of Morpeth (Councillor W.S. Sanderson), who was on active service in the South African War, has been very energetic in enlisting men for Lord Kitchener’s Army, and up to last Friday he had secured no fewer than 58 very eligible young men as recruits willing to go to the front.
In accordance with his well-known cherished idea, he had tents erected on Morpeth Common, and started quite a model little camp, all complete with cooking apparatus, and put his men under canvas. The camp life was very enjoyable to the men.
He got some of the military officers staying in the town to come and put the camp under discipline and in order, and also to drill the men, and they were making splendid progress.
On Tuesday morning, however, the Mayor received a message to bring his recruits to Newcastle Barracks, which was the War Office orders. With great disappointment and deep regret he struck the camp on the Common and took the men to Newcastle. Owing to the great lack of non-commissioned officers to drill and train the recruits, the men were given the choice to remain in Newcastle or go to their homes until they were sent for. Half of them decided to go home and the other to remain, the Mayor managing to get them into very comfortable quarters.
The Mayor was profusely thanked by the chief recruiting officer for what he had done in assisting the recruiting. At the present time they were very much in need of non-commissioned officers, and he had no doubt, when they overcame that difficulty, Morpeth Common would be utilised as a camp and training ground.
Col-Sergt. Wm. Duncan, who was in charge of the National Reserve men, who volunteered for service abroad, has been appointed recruiting officer at Morpeth to the 7th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers for men for service abroad, and during the short time he has been at work he has secured a goodly number of very eligible recruits. The following are the names:—
National Reserve men mobilised on August 6th, 1914, for duty with the 7th Batt. Northumberland Fusiliers.— Col.-Sergt. Watson, Col.-Sergt. Harbottle, Sergt. Spencer, Sergt. Shepherd, Sergt. Arnott, Sergt. Mackay, Sergt. Haswell, Sergt, Matheson, Corpl. Lyons, Lance-Corpl. C. Haswell, Lance-Corpl. R. Robson, Pte. Waters, Pte. R.J. Carr, Pte. Jos. Price, and Col.-Sergt. Duncan.
Recruits sent to Alnwick, September 8th, for service abroad with 7th Batt. Northumberland Fusiliers.— J.G. Lamb, Wm. Norman, Wm. Lamb, S. Futers, G. Burn, A. Davidson, John Nicholson, G. Gill, J. Watson, M. Ogilvie, W. Reay, T. Lothian, J. O’Hare, H. Robertson, J. Shepherd, D. Carman, B. Waterston, A. Bowman, E. Stevenson, M. Robson, A.J. Robson, S. Haigh, Jos. Carman, J. Paton, G. Burrell, G. Martin, C.F. Lamb, R. Lowes, H. Morgan, G. Douglas.
The following men are at present on waiting list:— C. Boiston, G. James, A. Irwin, H. Shotton, Wm. Crabbe, F. Lyons, Jos. Grey, J. Elliott, G.H. Jackson, John Hall, T. Green, J. Green, Wm. Sproat, T. Stafford, F. Thompson, G.S. Lee, J. Tully, J. Brown, W.D. Thompson, J. Brown, Cecil Swinney, W. Sillence, and A. Nichol.
LETTER FROM THE FRONT
We have received the following communication from Mr A. Amlett, who left Morpeth for France at the commencement of the war to take up arms on behalf of his country. He states:—
“I am pleased to let you know some of the things that have been done during the days 23rd to 25th August. Although I am sending this letter by a friend, I don’t know if it is going to reach you.
For several days past previous to the dates mentioned there have been junctions effected with the French in the southern parts of Belgium and the English in the western part, the several movements being effected so as to net the Germans off, who have reached Tournai and advanced slightly near the French frontiers; spreading all over their passage fear and destruction. Those advances had been foreseen by the General Staff and are being allowed so as to cut off as many men as possible from their main corps in order to inflict upon them greater losses later on. Those results were achieved.
A battle was fought near Tournai. Many Germans were killed, and a general battle was going on along the whole line. From the aforesaid place to Mons and Namur, where many fell, the corpses are lying 2 yards high. In spite of all this slaughter there is only grim determination to slaughter more and more, knowing that this fight is proceeding either for life or death.
Many deeds of bravery are performed daily, and what the Frenchmen seem to like best is to charge with the bayonet, which the Germans are terribly afraid of.
As for our English comrades, they are fighting side by side and holding their ground like good soldiers. The best understanding exists between the General Staff of the Allies’ armies, and I may say there is no doubt of the ultimate success — Germany would fall. The price of victory will cost many lives — indeed, more than 100,000 have departed already. The sufferings the brave Belgians have had to undergo will have to be written in golden letters in the history of nations. The everlasting thanks of the whole of Europe will go towards those brave men.
CHARGE AGAINST A GERMAN AT BLYTH
BLYTH PETTY SESSIONS
Mathius Davisen, a German, was charged at Blyth, with having violated the Official Secrets Act by being in Blyth shipyard.
Supt. Irving said accused was a sailor, who had been working as a labourer in Blyth shipyard where he had opportunity of gaining knowledge which might be detrimental to this country. Davisen had been in this country five years.
The accused said that he had a wife and two children and there was not a bit of bread in the house, and he went to the shipyard to get work. He did not think he was doing any harm.
An admiralty vessel is being built in the shipyard.
Supt. Irving said he had communicated with the military authorities and asked for a remand for a week. That was agreed to.
THE VICAR OF STANNINGTON
The Rev. A.G. Dodderidge, vicar of Stannington, hon. chaplain of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, Tyneside Division, has returned to his parochial work, after a month of active service in the Navy. He was appointed chaplain to a flagship at the beginning of the war, and has now been relieved by another volunteer chaplain.
THE MAYORESS OF MORPETH’S SEWING MEETINGS
The Mayoress has received the following letter in acknowledgment of the garments sent to London last week:—
Queen Mary’s Needlework Guild, Friary Court, St James’s Palace, S.W.
From Lady Lawley, Hon. Secretary.
I am commanded by Her Majesty to convey to you the expression of her high appreciation of the generosity with which you have responded to her appeal and to thank you for the splendid gift of clothing which you have been so good as to send to the Q.M.N.G.
Another successful sewing meeting was held yesterday.
SOCKS FOR MORPETH TERRITORIALS
Major J.J. Gillespie acknowledges with thanks the receipt of 44 pairs of socks from the knitting party held weekly at Mrs Wright’s, Beechfield. The socks to be given to the Morpeth Territorials who are going abroad.
FELTON MINIATURE RIFLE CLUB
A ball to raise money for the Lord Lieutenant’s Relief Fund was held at the Rifle Hall on Friday evening last. It was thought that, in addition to providing money for the above fund, the function would also act as a stimulus to young eligible recruits to rally to the colours and thus do their part in defending their country and empire. Evidently, this thought did not materialise, for judging by the sparse attendance of local youths it was apparent that either such men did not deem it advisable to attend a ball for this purpose, or otherwise prefer to wait a little before taking the step.
The attendance was highly satisfactory, for at nine o’clock the hall was comfortably filled. At the interval the Union Jack was spread across the centre of the floor, and the company placed thereon small contributions amounting to over 5/-. A sum of £3 7s 3d will be handed over to the Lord Lieutenant’s Fund.
MILITARY CYCLIST SHOT
Private George Marshall of the Northern Cyclists Battalion, was accidentally shot in the thigh on Whitley Road, Blyth, on Tuesday night. Several men of the battalion were standing in the roadway, and one of them was showing a revolver he possessed, when it went off. Marshall was removed to the Knight Memorial Hospital, where he was operated on by Dr Newstead.
FIRE AT NORTH SEATON
A tent cabin owned by N.E.R. Co., situate at North Seaton bridge, was destroyed by fire on Saturday night, but the damage is not heavy. The place was erected below the bridge for the use of the special railway constables who are keeping a strict watch at this particular bridge.
COUNTY INSURANCE COMMITTEE
A meeting of the Northumberland Insurance Committee was held at the Moothall, Newcastle, on Friday. The first business was the election of chairman, and Mr Gerald France, M.P., was unanimously re-elected.
Mr France said at present important matters were occupying their minds from day to day, but through all these exciting and eventful times he was sure that every member of the committee desired that the work entrusted to them should not suffer. (Applause.)
Mr G.G. Rea, in presenting the finance committee’s report, said that the Clerk had reported that several of his staff would probably volunteer for active service. The committee recommended that the full wages be paid to married men, less the Army pay, and half-salary to single men. The report was adopted.
The writer finished harvesting on the 15th of August of a very middling crop. There is, however, a great deal of harvesting yet to be done, especially in northern districts where the work has not yet begun. On account of the war troubles, from calling up the reserves and the commandeering of farm horses, many farmers have had immense trouble over the work, and many patriotic people, especially in towns, have volunteered to go out to farms and help, not with any intention of earning pay, but to help to save the crops as a national service.
This is a praise-worthy spirit, of course, but there is extreme difficulty in carrying it out, and the vast majority of farmers will prefer to work away with such men and horses as they have rather than take the risk and trouble of having amateurs about them.
Time was when almost every able-bodied man, artisans and workmen of all kinds used to bargain with their masters for a month off their regular work to go harvesting, for the high wages given, the healthy, plain fare, and the open air work was a welcome change. Villages have grown into towns now, however, and every class of workmen has become more and more divorced from the land, so that now the townsman of every grade is completely ignorant of the ordinary methods of farm work.
We would draw the attention of our readers to an interesting entertainment which is to be given in the hall of the Primitive Methodist Church, Morpeth, next Friday evening in aid of the Prince of Wales’ Fund. It will take the form of a concert and waxwork show, and the children and members of the church will be responsible for the production.
COWPEN AMBULANCE BRIGADE IN HOSPITAL
The members of St John’s Ambulance Brigade, who at the outbreak of war were at once called for service, and are now at Canterbury Military Hospital, where they are finding scope for their services which few of them would ever think would fall to their lot when in the peaceful days of the past they acquired their proficiency in Ambulance work.
The ambulance men are drawn from all ranks of life, schoolmasters, artisans and clerks. There are at present 25 patients and a number of wounded have already passed through their hands and more are expected every day. This is not playing at soldiers, but the real thing, and the ambulance men have been congratulated publicly on their work and letters have been received from discharged patients expressing their thanks.
One of the wounded men from the front, who is longing to get back again, says the Germans are a bad lot and all England should be up and at them. The man says in Belgium he had seen Red Cross men lying with their hands cut off. The Canterbury Hospital has accommodation for 150 beds and 96 are now equipped and in readiness.
DISTRESS AT CHOPPINGTON
Owing to the pits not working at Choppington a great deal of distress exists. The local committees are doing their best to alleviate the same, but owing to the limited funds at their disposal their task is a hard one. A large number of young men have enlisted.
RECRUITING AT BLYTH
Blyth has shown great enthusiasm in the work of recruiting. Last week over 400 men were sent away, and on Wednesday, amid a scene of great enthusiasm, 197 left for Newcastle, and within an hour or two 33 more men had enrolled, making about 1,000 recruits sent from Blyth to go to the front.
On Wednesday the recruits, who seemed in the best of spirits, were accompanied from the Drill Hall to the Railway Station by the Cowpen Colliery Prize Band and the Boy Scouts’ Band.
An interesting incident occurred in Bridge Street. The outgoing recruits met a detachment of the smart 7th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers marching into the town to take up duty, and rousing cheers were raised as the two contingents passed.
Many thousands lined the streets and congregated at the railway station to give the volunteer soldiers a hearty send-off. Work at the shipyards was suspended, the men leaving the yard in a body to cheer comrades.
Flags and buntings were displayed, and on every hand there were signs of the public appreciation of the patriotism of the young able-bodied men, who had enlisted to fight their country’s battles.
MORE BEDLINGTON RECRUITS DEPART
Another contingent of recruits left Bedlington for Newcastle on Wednesday. There were 62 men, who marched behind the Netherton Colliery Band, followed by some thousands of people in which the ladies were in the great majority. The band played patriotic airs and amid rousing cheers the recruits’ train steamed south.
RECRUITING AT CRAMLINGTON
Recruiting for Lord Kitchener’s new army is going on apace in the Cramlington district. Altogether about 80 recruits have left to join the colours. Mr W.H. Bird, of Cramlington Colliery, is the recruiting officer, and a temporary recruiting office has been opened in the Council Chambers, Cramlington.
LOCAL WORKERS’ CONTRIBUTIONS
The shipyard workers at Blyth have decided to levy themselves at the rate of 3d in the £ from their earnings each week in support of the Prince of Wales’ War Fund. The foremen have decided to contribute at the rate of 2 1/2 per cent.
The New Delaval and Newsham Co-operative Society have decided to contribute £20 to the Prince of Wales’ National Relief Fund. Birtley Co-operative Society has agreed to contribute £200 to the Lord Lieutenant’s Fund, to be earmarked for Durham County.
The employees of the Newbiggin Industrial Co-operative Society, Ltd., have decided to subscribe to the Prince of Wales’ Fund at the following scale: Employees receiving up to 30s per week, 3d.; employees receiving 30s and over, 6d per week, to continue as long as the war lasts.