In this feature to commemorate the First World War, we will bring you the news as it happened in 1915, 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 SOLDIERS’ INSTITUTE
The Soldiers’ Institute — the large pavilion built in 15 days off Bridge Street — will be opened by the Mayoress (Mrs Charlton) on Saturday afternoon, at 3pm.
Mr George Renwick, Springhill, will preside over the ceremony, and will be supported by the Mayor of Morpeth (Councillor T.W. Charlton), Ald. G.B. Bainbridge, the officers commanding the F,usilier Cyclists’ Corps, and the Scottish Horse, members of the Corporation, and the subscribers. The proceedings cannot fail to be very interesting.
THE ARRIVAL OF THE “COMMERCIALS”
Morpeth has become the centre of great military activity since the coming of the “Commercial” battalion into our midst.
The men have now got comfortably settled down in their respective quarters, and have entered upon the work of soldiering in earnest in order to prepare themselves for the day when they will take their places amongst their heroic comrades-in-arms in the fighting line.
On the parade ground — Cottingwood — and on the march the men present a very smart appearance.
Special efforts are being made for the entertaining of the troops whilst stationed in the town. Places for recreation have been provided, and the Pavilion which the local entertainment committee is having erected in Bell’s yard, and by now is receiving the finishing touches, will be formally opened on Saturday afternoon. It should prove an ideal entertainment hall for the soldiers.
One cannot move about anywhere without being struck by the smart, healthy appearance and good deportment of the young soldiers in training.
Hereabout there are vast numbers of Northumbrian men whose dialect is to be heard in their cheery chaff or song from the platoons as they await their trains or march with swinging stride along the lanes of the countryside.
The thought that strikes me is the marvellous organising power of our military leaders, who, in so short a period have armed, equipped and trained men to such a degree of excellence.
As time goes on the work of organisation and training becomes easier, and consequently more congenial to the young soldiers, who, with few exceptions, go through their daily duties with an alacrity which is grand to witness. They are most amenable to discipline, and although a few months ago, coming from the pits mostly, they had small knowledge of discipline or of the task they have embraced with such unostentation and very real enthusiasm, many of these lads have frequently expressed the desire to stick to the army though the end of the war should come soon.
PRESENTATION AT MORPETH
An exceptionally interesting gathering took place in the George and Dragon Hotel, Morpeth, on Wednesday evening, when Lieut.-Colonel Henderson, of the 9th Service Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, was made the recipient of a handsome testimonial from his old school-fellows and friends.
The presentation which consisted of a silver tea and coffee service had the following inscription on the tea-pot:— “Presented to Lieut.-Colonel Andrew Henderson, T.D., by old school-fellows and friends in the borough of Morpeth, as a mark of esteem and congratulation on being appointed to command the 9th Service Battalion Durham Light Infantry.”
The Mayor (Councillor T.W. Charlton) presided and was supported by the guest of the evening, Major R. Crawford, Mr R.C. Oliver, and Councillor Wm. Duncan (who organised the testimonial). Others present were: Messrs. James Jobling, Thos. Rutherford, F. Heath, Walter Burn, Jas. Burn, Geo. Mitchell, W. Mitchell, H. Lumsden, Wm. Brown, Jas.E. Johnson, H. Burn, and W. Burn.
The Mayor said that they had met to honour Lieut.-Colonel Henderson, of whom Morpeth was proud. He had risen from the ranks to the high position of Colonel. The Mayor went on to say that his father had attended the school of which Colonel Henderson’s father was school master, and for that reason alone it gave him the greatest pleasure to preside over the gathering. (Applause.)
Before making the presentation, Major Crawford said that this was a meeting which would be unique in all their experience. Colonel Henderson held a position of which any man might be proud to hold at this crisis in their history, but he owed it entirely to his own merits and to no extraneous influence whatever. Their guest had always been most zealous in all things connected with military service.
They, as old school-fellows and friends, rejoiced with Colonel Henderson, and congratulated him on his promotion. It sent a thrill of pride through their hearts to feel that an old school-fellow of theirs had been called upon to occupy such a high position. They could not help thinking at this time of Colonel Henderson’s father — a man with the highest ideals, who fought the battle of life with brave courage and in a way that some of them never realised influenced their characters for good. (Applause.)
Turning to Colonel Henderson, he said: “On behalf of your old school-fellows and friends, I present you this silver tea and coffee service. I am sure it will be treasured by you and will become an heirloom in your family.
“You go to discharge very important duties in the stress and struggle which awaits you. In these arduous duties I do not say that you require any incentive for that stern work which lies before you. I do think it will in these days of trial cheer and encourage you to feel that your old friends and school-fellows will watch your career and your doings with friendly eyes and that you carry away with you all their good wishes for your safe return covered, as I believe you will be, with honour. (Loud applause.)
Mr R.C. Oliver said that speaking of the school, conducted by Colonel Henderson’s father, they would all agree that it was a happy school. He was a sympathetic master who inspired his pupils with regard and respect and never with anything of the nature of fear. They could look back on the years they had spent in Henderson’s school as the pleasantest years of their boyhood.
Passing to Colonel Henderson he said that they, as a country, owed an infinite debt of gratitude to men like Colonel Henderson, who had sacrificed their leisure and thrown themselves heart and soul into the organisation of an armed force for defence of this country at home and abroad. It was very gratifying to them, as old pupils, to know that their old school-mate had attained such a high position in the army. They had perfect confidence that the trust that had been reposed in him would be fulfilled, as far as it was humanly possible, and that they could only re-echo the wish of Major Crawford that Colonel Henderson might be spared to come out of this campaign victorious and with fresh laurels to himself. (Applause.)
Colonel Henderson, in acknowledging the gift, said that there were some present whom he had not seen for thirty years. It was a glorious night for him to meet them all again. Since he had left the town 31 years ago he had always tried to get back now and again. If he got safely through this war he had an idea that he would like to come back here and live. (Applause.)
Within the last twelve months he had spoken to his commanding officer about leaving the battalion as he thought it was time he made way for a younger man. He was glad he had not gone out, and he could say the 30 years he had served in the volunteer and Territorial forces had not been wasted.
He then thanked them for their handsome gift and their kind expressions, and also for the kindly references to his late father. (Applause.)
Councillor William Duncan said he had the highest admiration for Colonel Henderson as a soldier. They were at one time in the ranks together. They were both sergeants. He was one who sevred, like himself, as plain “Tommy Atkins.” He then alluded to old scholars of Henderson’s school, who had risen to eminent positions. He felt sure that it was a matter of great gratification to Colonel Henderson to know that his father has assisted many boys to become highly-respected and useful citizens.
He went on to say that Colonel Henderson had taken every possible degree that was open to a Volunteer or Territorial officer. (Applause.) Colonel Henderson had not to wait for his battalion to go on active service. He had been called upon to go and shortly take the place of a regular officer in the trenches in order to allow that officer to come home for a rest. That was the greatest compliment that could be paid to any Territorial officer. (Applause.)
Mr James Jobling said he was proud at being connected with his old school-fellows on this interesting occasion. There was no man he had had a higher respect for than Colonel Henderson’s father. His influence as a schoolmaster was of the very best. (Applause.)
During the proceedings songs were rendered by Messrs. James Jobling and Alf. Rowe, Mr T. Payne rendered pieces on the violin, and Colonel Henderson gave a recitation. Mr Spoors presided at the piano.
COMMISSION FOR A MORPETH SOLDIER
Many friends will be glad to hear that Mr John L. Armstrong, son of Councillor Isaac Armstrong, of Morpeth, has been offered, and has accepted, a commission in the 15th Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers.
A FUSILIER’S COMPLAINT
Sir,— When the 19th Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers arrived in your respected town we were pleased with the arrangements that had been made for us to have the use of the Y.M.C.A., St James’ Hall, and the Wesleyan School-room.
The second night I was here I went into the Wesleyan school-room and spent an enjoyable evening, but when I went back I saw a poster: “For N.C.O.’s only.” Why this class distinction; are the privates not cultured enough to enter the Wesleyan School-room?
Most of the N.C.O.’s are men who have been in the Regular Army or the Territorial Army previous to the war, and men who have a better knowledge of drill than the privates. There are privates who have refused promotion, who could not conscientiously accept it owing to their lack of knowledge of Army matters, but there are privates who have left good situations to join the army during the present crisis and men of good intellect and to know how to conduct themselves in any place, and get back to their billets in their sober senses, and yet these men have been refused admittance into the Wesleyan School-room.
Surely there must be a reason for it, and I would like any member of the Wesleyan Church to explain it, as the above treatment of the private soldier will not do much to forward the cause of Wesleyism among privates.
We as privates are very thankful to the Y.M.C.A. and St James’ Church for not debarring us the use of their respective places, and trust that they will have no cause to complain of our conduct during our stay in Morpeth.
A PRIVATE SOLDIER
CLUBS AND THE WAR
The war, which has had disastrous effects upon many institutions, is having a very palpable ill effect on social clubs.
The membership is as a rule greatly affected by the number of men who have enlisted, and has reduced very considerably their resources. The early closing also has very considerably curtailed the revenue.
It is not unlikely that many clubs will have to close. There are, however, much more serious things to endure than this result, as the number of clubs in many places have been in excess of the real needs of those for whose use they were called into existence.
WAR AIR DANGER
The visit of German aircraft to Yarmouth and its vicinity under the cover of night, to bring death and destruction to defenceless people will give some food for thought by those people who have been opposed to the abolition of public lighting for the greater security of the people.
The subject is one which has been much discussed on local councils, and in regard to which there have been varied views expressed.
It is pretty evident that those nocturnal raids of the enemy are but in their initial stage, and, emboldened by what they regard as the success of their diabolical efforts, it follows that all possible precautions should be taken to guard against loss of life and damage to property by such raids.
MORPETH MOOR COLLIERY
Employment at Northumberland collieries continues to show improvement, although one more pit is to be temporarily stopped working, This is Morpeth Moor Colliery, the workmen at which have been given notice to terminate their hiring on the 23rd inst. There are about 200 men affected.
As against this stoppage, however, it is reported that the pits in the Ashington and Backworth districts are doing much better, and that a number of underground men are required.
It is believed that men out of employment can, without much difficulty, find work at the pits which are increasing their output.
ASHINGTON AMBULANCE CORPS
Twenty members of the Ashington Coal Company Corps of the St John Ambulance Brigade have been accepted for the new field ambulance being organised for the Royal Naval Division, for which 700 are required from the whole of the brigade.
To fill the position of corps superintendent, vacant by the appointment of Mr F.L. Booth as district superintendent for Northumberland, Corps Supt. H.S. Hunter, of Ellington, has been promoted to the position.
CONCERT AT MELDON PARK
A successful concert was held at Meldon Park (the room being kindly lent for the occasion by Mrs Cookson). A committee of local gentlemen, with Mr R. Robson, of North Side, as secretary, were responsible for the arrangements. The artistes gave their services free.
The proceeds, after expenses had been paid, amounted to £9 17s 6d, which was made up to £10 by the committee. This sum has been forwarded to the Lord Lieutenant’s War Distress Fund, with the stipulation that it is to be used for the alleviation of distress in Morpeth and district.
ENTERTAINMENT AT ULGHAM
An enjoyable concert was given at Ulgham School, in aid of the new King George Hospital for the Wounded, London.
The programme was provided by Miss Leila Gregory, and the Rev. A.R. Gregory presided. Amongst those who gave their services were the Stobswood Boy Scouts, under Mr Crowther, scoutmaster, Ulgham; and Ulgham schoolgirls, under Miss L. Gregory and Mr H. Coller.
A humorous sketch, ‘Make Believe,’ was given by Miss L. Gregory and Mr Crowther, with Mr J. Heslo and Miss Hogg, of Stobswood.
The entertainment was repeated at Stobswood, and as the result of the two efforts the sum of £8 will be forwarded to the funds of the hospital.
CONCERT AT PONTELAND
A successful concert was held in Coates Endowed Schools, Ponteland, by the children of Ponteland and District in aid of the war relief funds.
The vicar (the Rev. F.W. Lambton) presided over a crowded attendance.
The programme comprised the following:— Nursery rhyme tableaux, songs, recitations, pianoforte duets, and the plays of “Sleeping Beauty” and “Dick Whittington,” and the tableaux “Britannia,” which was given at the close of the concert, and represented Britain, together with the Allies.
Every credit is due to the following ladies who have had the training of the children;— Mrs Jas. Jameson, Mrs F.W. Langton, Mrs R. Charlton, Mrs Berkley, and Miss H. Laws. Miss Berkley was accompanist.
WHIST DRIVE AT LONGHORSLEY
A very successful whist drive and dance was held in the schoolroom at Longhorsley, organised by the following ladies:— Mrs Good, Mrs Jeffrey, Mrs G. Hall, Misses E. Green, M.C. Green, and S. Pallister, the committee of the War Relief Fund.
The proceeds are to be handed over to the Belgian Relief Fund.
THE USE OF GERMAN SHIPS
Two German steamers, the Hans Hemsoth and Ostpreussen, which have been detained at Blyth ever since the outbreak of war, are to be requisitioned in connection with the Government scheme for utilising interned enemy ships to relieve the shortage of tonnage in the costal trade. These vessels were this morning removed from the South Harbour to the Blyth shipyard for dry-docking purposes.
ST JOHN’S HOSPITAL FOR THE FRONT
Sir,— A hospital of 520 beds will be sent abroad shortly, staffed entirely by members of the St John Ambulance Brigade, and under command of the Chief Commissioner, Co. Sir Jas.R. Andrew Clark, Bart., C.B.
This hospital is sent out under the official sanction and assistance of the War Office, and with the approval and aid of the Joint Committee of the Order of St John of Jerusalem and the British Red Cross Society.
A ward of 25 beds will be allocated to the Northern District of the Brigade (Northumberland, Durham, and the North and East Ridings of Yorkshire) provided a sum of £2,500 is raised in the district to maintain the ward, a sum of £100 being necessary for each bed. The total sum necessary for the maintenance of the hospital for about a year is estimated to be £50,000.
I appeal to the public of the North of England to support a ward which will be so closely connected with this district. Contributions, however small, will be thankfully received. Any town, community, works, colliery, or private person raising the sum of £100 will be entitled to have a bed named after the donors. Other districts in England have already raised the necessary money for their own particular ward, and it is to be trusted that the North will not fail in this special appeal.
Some details of the work carried out by the Order of St John during the present war indicates the vast amount of work being done. One hundred and fifty hospitals and convalescent homes have been established under the auspices of the Order, and supplied with the necessary staff. Thirty doctors and 377 trained nurses have been sent to the front; 7,556 orderlies have been dispatched to the Expeditionary Force or distributed amongst the ships and naval and military hospitals. Over 1,000 cases and bales of medical stores and supplies, including 261,550 articles of clothing, have been sent to the sick and wounded.
Depots for the convenience of troops have been established all over the country, where they can obtain food and medical assistance day and night; 136 motor ambulances are being dispatched to carry wounded.
Contributions should be sent to me at the Cambridge Hall, Newcastle, and payable to the St John Ambulance Brigade Hospital, and cheques crossed London and Joint Stock Bank, Ltd. Collecting cards will be sent on application to any person desiring these.
CLAUDE B. PALMER
Deputy Commissioner No. VI. (Northern District) St John Ambulance Brigade.
Cambridge Hall, Newcastle, January 6.
AMBLE AND THE WAR
Not for many years has Amble been so quiet as it is at the present time. This, of course, is to be accounted for by the fact that Newburgh Colliery is laid in, and another very important factor is that a very large number of our young men and unmarried men are away on active service.
It is pleasing to record that a great deal of distress and suffering has been obviated owing to the generosity of the Broomhill Collieries, Ltd., who have not only allowed the wives of those who have joined the colours to remain rent free in their houses, but have also been good enough to supply them periodically with a load of coals. This certainly shows a spirit of true patriotism, and is cheering to know that there are hundreds of employers throughout the country who are following out this most laudable policy.
The anxiety of relatives about missing friends at the Front is being taken advantage of by certain persons to get money from people who cannot afford it, with the pretended object of searching for them.
These persons often claim to have official recognition which they do not possess, With a view to guarding against these imposters, the attention of the public is drawn to the following communique which the War Office issued a few days ago;
“Friends and relatives of prisoners are warned that they should take no steps beyond falling in with the postal regulations, which have been issued by the General Post Office, and based on information supplied by the War Office. In reference to inquiries which are being received, it is notified that the War Office has given no official authorisation to any agency to carry out searches for missing officers and men.”
COMFORTS FOR 7TH BATTALION NORTHUMBERLAND FUSILIERS
Mrs Scott, Newton House, Christon Bank, gratefully acknowledges the following articles for the 7th Batt. Northumberland Fusiliers:— Per Mrs G. Scott Jackson, 51 pairs socks, 4 mufflers, 6 body belts, 2 helmets; Mrs Allan (Aydon Gardens), 1 pair mittens, 2 pairs socks; Miss Bell (Ancroft), 1 pair socks, soap, cigarettes; Miss Cissy Gibson, 2 mufflers.
Mrs Weeks gratefully acknowledges the generous gifts of comforts for soldiers and sailors from the following:— Miss Jobling, Bebside Hall; Miss Douglas, West End; Mrs G Graeme, Bedlington Colliery; Miss Gillespie, Sleekburn; Miss L. Thompson, 15 Double Row, Barrington; Mrs Elliott and the Misses Elliott, Front Street; Mrs Hardy, Shiney Row (3rd contribution); Mrs Gastein, Pioneer Terrace; Mrs Campbell, Shiney Row; and she will be very glad to receive and forward any further contributions.
MONEY AND FLOUR
A meeting of the Blyth Relief Committee was held on Monday night, in the Council Chambers, Mr C. Hunter presiding.
It was announced that £200 had been received from the Central Committee, and that 200 sacks of flour (1,400 stones), part of the consignment from Canada, had been allotted to the committee for distribution locally.
It was suggested that the flour could be made up into loaves by the local bakers.
Mr Stock asked why it could not be meted out to the people, and they be allowed to do their own baking.
The Clerk (Mr T.R. Guthrie) said he was quite sure the local bakers could not deal with the flour. They were handicapped at present with their contracts for the soldiers.
Mr Clark said there were a few cases where the flour would come in very useful indeed in the Crofton Ward, and he thought North-country women could be treated with their own baking arrangements. At the same time, however, it ought to be clearly pointed out that the flour was the gift of the people of Canada.
Father Bamford asked if it was the intention to deduct money from a person’s allowance if flour was given.
The Chairman was understood to reply in the affirmative.
Mr Summers moved that the chairmen of the district committees be empowered to make arrangements for the distribution of the flour.
After further discussion it was agreed that the distribution of the flour be left in the hands of the district chairmen, and that necessitous cases other than those on the relief lists be entitled to supplies.
CRAMLINGTON SOLDIER’S NARROW ESCAPE
Private Thos. White, 3rd Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers, in a letter to his wife at Station Road, Cramlington, says:— “I have just come down from the firing line, where I have been for several weeks, and am now enjoying a brief rest.
“I can assure you we have gone ‘through the mill’. I had a very narrow escape. The weather has been somewhat serious in the trenches, but the Northumbrians can stick it well. I am quite well and fit.
“It would make the tears come down your cheeks if I were to tell you of the many sad scenes I have witnessed. I am writing this letter in an old barn, and the shrapnel shells are flying over my head, but we are quite used to them now.
“We were well looked after during Christmas, and were not forgotten by our friends in the old country, who sent us many dainty gifts — chocolate, tobacco, cigarettes, etc. I received Queen Mary’s gift of a pipe, two packets of cigarettes in a case, together with Christmas greetings.”