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.
MORPETH TERRITORIALS IN BATTLE
When the local Territorials entrained at Blyth on the 19th and 20th April, for France amid much excitement and enthusiasm, there were naturally many aching hearts among their friends left behind, but the cheery postcard or letter received announcing their safe arrival and high spirits were indeed consoling to many parents and wives.
This comfort, however, was short lived, as the newspapers of April 30th announced a very fierce battle at Ypres, in which the Northumberland and Durham Territorials were suddenly called upon to take part. It was another of the shock attacks of the German hordes to break through the British lines to get to Calais at any cost, being urged on, it is said, by the Kaiser and Von Hindenburg. The Northumberland and Durham Territorials were rushed into the fighting line (which included the Morpeth company of the 7th Northumberland Fusiliers), and they went into the battle with great dash, without a quiver or waver, that won the highest praise of their comrades. They had to pass through a perfect hail of shells and shrapnel to get to their cover, and they lost heavily, but they did a great deal to stop the advance of the enemy.
The following are the casualties of the Morpeth contingent:—
Drummer John E. Harrison.
Captain Jas. Flint
Captain I. Wright
Pte. F. Thompson
Pte. Stanley Burn
Pte. John Hall
Pte. Major Ogilvie
Sergt. W. Robson
Pte. Jas. Watson
Corp. John Miller
Pte. W. Robson
Pte. S. Futers
Pte. Jos. Carman
Pte. T. Lothian
Pte. T. Routledge
Pte. B. Waterston
Pte. J. Hudson
Pte. A.J. Robson
Sergt. T. Robson
Pte. Jos. Waters
Pte. Geo. Jackson
L.-Corpl. R. Sharp
Pte. J. Thompson
Corpl. John Potts
Pte. J.W. Hall
Pte. James O’Hare
Pte. Selby Lee
We understand that the Morpeth wounded are progressing favourably, with the exception of Private Waterston, who is seriously wounded, and is now lying in a hospital in Boulogne; and Sergt.-Major Macallister, who is badly wounded and is in hospital at Dundee.
Regular Army officers writing to friends in the North describe the conduct of the Northumberland and Durham Territorials in action at the Battle of Ypres as “simply splendid.” Their eagerness for the fray, their steadiness under fire, their determination, and their resource are alike commended by experienced officers, who express unbounded admiration of their fighting qualities.
MORPETH MAN KILLED IN ACTION
Mr John Harrison, Bridge Street, Morpeth, has received the following letter from Captain H.R. Smail, 7th N.F.:—
“I am exceedingly sorry to have to inform you that your son, Drummer J.E. Harrison, No.1 Coy., 7th N.F., was killed in action on 26th April. I always found him a good soldier, and regret his loss very much. Please accept my warmest sympathy.”
DEATHS: HARRISON.— Killed in action on the 26th April, 1915, Drummer John Edward Harrison, aged 19 years, Seventh Northumberland Fusiliers, dearly beloved son of Margaret and John Harrison, Wansbeck Cafe, Morpeth.
NAMES OF LOCAL MEN KILLED AND WOUNDED
The following is a list of the local casualties at the Front:—
Second-Lieut. E.C. Fenwick-Clennell, 7th Batt. N.F. (T.F)
Lieut. F. Merivale, 7th Batt. N.F. (T.F)
Lieut. J.J,W. Merivale, 7th Batt. N.F. (T.F)
Lieut. Hon. W.J.M. Watson-Armstrong, 7th Batt. N.F. (T.F)
Captain N.I. Wright, 7th Batt. N.F. (T.F)
Second-Lieut. A.D. Adams, 7th Batt. N.F.
Second-Lieut. T.O. Donkin, 7th Batt. N.F. (T.F)
Capt. H.E. English, 9th Batt. D.L.I. (T.F)
Capt. J.A. Flint, 7th Batt. N.F. (T.F)
Lieut. C.M. Joicey, 4th Batt. N.F. (T.F)
Capt. and Adjutant H.W. Archer, 1st Batt. N.F., attached 7th Batt. N.F. (T.F)
Lieut. T.L. Bainbridge, 5th Batt. N.F., attached Northumbrian Signal Company, R.E. (T.F)
Second-Lieut. A.W. Kent, 7th Batt. N.F. (T.F)
Private James Goodfellow, 7th Batt., Alnwick (shot by sniper).
Private Fred Kears, whose parents reside in 9th Row, Ashington, killed in action whilst serving with the Canadians. Kears emigrated to Canada two years ago, and enlisted with the first batch of Canadians. His brother is lying wounded.
Private Andrew Grey, Alnwick.
Private Charles Wood, Shortridge.
Private John Johnson, Alnwick.
Private R. Green, Alnwick.
Private Wilfrid Carson, Alnwick.
Private Michael Quinn, Alnwick.
Private John Dover, Alnwick.
Private Andrew Allcorn, Alnwick.
Private Charles Thompson, Alnwick.
Private Charles Blythe, Alnwick.
Private J.G. Leach, Alnwick.
Sergt. James Allison, Alnwick.
Lance-Corpl. James Wood, Shortridge, Alnwick.
Private G.E. Darling, Alnwick.
Private R. Darling, Alnwick.
Private John James, Alnwick.
Private George Wake, Alnwick Moor.
Private A. Henderson, Branton.
Private W. Calvert, Alnwick.
Private G.S. Taylor, Alnwick.
Drummer J. Adamson, Alnwick.
Private Wm. Thompson, Ashington.
Private Andrew Hay, Hirst.
Private T. Vosper, Hirst.
Private James Thain, 9th Row, Ashington.
Private J. Lovelle, Ashington.
Private Andrew Forrest, Newbiggin Colliery.
Private Thompson, Broomhill.
Private Robert Robson, Pegswood.
Private James Green, Clifton Crossings.
Private J.W. Reay, Bedlington.
Private Alf. Goodall, Ashington.
Private Ed. Knox, Broomhill.
Private Lawrence McGowan, Amble.
Mr and Mrs E. Francis, of Seaton Burn, have received an intimation that their eldest son, Lance-Corporal E. Francis, of Princess Patricia’s Canadian L.I., has been wounded, and is in hospital at Norwich. Lance-Corpl. Francis went through the Boer War and afterwards settled in Canada. At the outbreak of war he joined the Canadian contingent, and took part in the fight around Ypres, where he was wounded. Mr and Mrs Francis have also two other sons serving with the colours.
Mr and Mrs Moody, of 7 Office Row, Barrington, received word last Friday that their son, Private W. Moody, of the 7th N.F., was wounded and in hospital, and have since received word that he is in Netley hospital suffering from a shrapnel wound in the left hand.
Information has reached Shankhouse that Private Thomas Roughead, 5th Battalion N.F., was wounded at the Battle of Ypres on April 28th. He is now in the base hospital. Signaller James Mean (Blyth) and Private Jas. B. McNally (Walker) have also been wounded.
Corporal T.W. Hedley, 7th Battalion N.F., has sent a postcard to his mother, Mrs G. Hedley, of 24 Ridley Street, Blyth, intimating that he has been wounded and is in hospital. He belongs to Cambois.
Private T. Stewart, of Kitty Brewster, has been wounded whilst engaged with the 7th Northumberland Fusiliers, near Ypres.
Mrs G. Noble, of 56 Woodhorn Road, Hirst, has received a letter from her son, Pte. W. Noble, 7th Batt. N.F., saying that he has been wounded in the leg by shrapnel. Pte. Noble was employed as a butcher at the Co-operative Stores, Ashington, and formerly lived at Shieldfield, Newcastle.
Private J. Schofield, 7th N.F., of Bedlington, who is wounded in France, writes to his parents:— “I hope — is working hard at Armstrong’s making shells for the boys out here, for we want to make a few presents to the Germans. Do not fret about me at all, for I can take care of myself, and will do for a long time yet.”
Several men belonging to the Rothbury district are reported to have been wounded, including Sergt. Best; Corpl. W. Bell, son of Mr T. Bell, grocer, of Rothbury; Privates J. Soulsby, F. Hood (Rothbury), Foreman (Alwinton), Jos. Moffitt (Rothbury).
Driver Thomas Crystal, A.SS.C., of Dudley, has been wounded.
Mr James Lovelle, of Ashington, has received a report stating that his son, Corpl. J. Lovelle, has been wounded. Corpl. Lovelle is in the 6th N.F., and went to the Front a fortnight ago. He was only married a few weeks ago.
Private Coates Robson, Blyth, now in hospital, has injuries to arm, wrist and neck.
Corporal Collins, of Ashington, is lying wounded in a base hospital.
Private Andrew Forster, Newbiggin Colliery, wounded.
Corporal A.F. Taylor, of Shiremoor, is wounded in the foot.
BRIGADIER-GENERAL J.F. RIDDELL KILLED IN ACTION
News was received at Lesbury House, near Alnwick, on Thursday last, that Brigadier-General J.F. Riddell, commanding the Northumberland Territorial Infantry Brigade, had been killed in action in France.
Brigadier-General Riddell was married to a daughter of the late Sir Henry H. Scott, Hipsburn, and resided at Lesbury House. Brigadier Riddell succeeded Colonel W.E. Sturges in command of the Northumberland Infantry Brigade, consisting of the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th Battalions Northumberland Fusiliers, in May, 1911, and he left the district for the Front just recently.
General Riddell, who was well known in North Northumberland, had a long service with the “Fighting Fifth.” He joined the regiment in 1880, and served in the Hazara Expedition, 1888, for which he received the medal and clasp; and also in the South African War, from 1900 to 1902. He held the Queen’s Medal and three clasps for the latter campaign.
A keen soldier and strict disciplinarian, he worked hard to advance the efficiency of the Territorials whom he has commanded for the past four years, and of whom he was in charge when he met his death. For some time he was in command of the 3rd Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers, which was disbanded several years ago, and whose colours now hang in St Nicholas’ Cathedral, Newcastle.
Much sympathy will be felt with Mrs Riddell in the great loss she has sustained by the death of her husband. Mrs Riddell has taken a close sympathetic interest in the Territorial Brigade, and has done much to secure comforts for its members on active service.
FORMER MORPETH LAD WOUNDED
Private John Shotton Hudson, of Broomhill, of the 7th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers, was wounded in action at the battle of Ypres.
Private Hudson was born at Morpeth, where he served his apprenticeship with Mr Bates, blacksmith, and when the old volunteer system of service was in existence he served as bandsman in the Morpeth company.
Seven years ago he removed to Broomhill and joined the colliery brass band, and worked at Broomhill until his re-enlistment when war broke out.
He has had military ambition all his life, and all who know him will regret to hear he has been wounded and also wish for his speedy recovery.
Lieut. the Hon. William John Montagu Watson-Armstrong, N.F., who is reported wounded, is the only son of Lord Armstrong.
Lieut. Watson-Armstrong was born in Oct., 1892, was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, and joined the 7th (Alnwick) Battalion of the N.F. in 1913 as a second lieutenant, getting his lieutenancy last August.
Sapper John Orr, Cowpen Village, of the Royal Engineers, who has been wounded in action, is at Rochester, Kent, where he is in hospital.
He gives an account of the rough experiences of sapping and mining. He and others were buried in debris caused by German gun-fire.
He is injured in the back and leg, but hopes he will soon be fit for action again.
THE DEPARTURE OF THE SOLDIERS
It was with general regret that the Morpeth people saw the soldiers leave the town on Tuesday forenoon.
The assembling of the battalion in the Market Square, with their new brass band, was witnessed by a large number of townspeople who gave the men a hearty send-off.
The battalion has been billeted in Morpeth for four months for training purposes, and it has been a real pleasure to have them. The inhabitants enjoyed seeing them marching through the main streets, listening to the music of the band on Thursday evenings, and attending their impromptu concerts at the Soldiers’ Institute.
The Morpeth people did much to make the lot of the men comfortable and happy during the dreary winter months. Besides entertaining some privately, the reading rooms and institutes in the town were thrown open to the soldiers in the evenings, where newspapers, magazines, games, and refreshments were supplied at a cheap rate, all of which the men greatly enjoyed and appreciated.
The fortunes of the battalion we are sure will be followed by the Morpeth people with great interest.
MORPETH TRAINING LEAGUE
Sir,— In your notes recently you asked the question, “What is the matter with the Training League?” The only answer is: lack of energy and interest of the majority of those who enrolled on the formation of the League.
We had plenty of material to work upon, and in the initial stages there was a certain amount of enthusiasm shown, which gradually died away like a new toy in the hands of a child, owing to lack of interest.
This is not the spirit to show at a time like the present. There are dozens of men in Morpeth who are too busy keeping up the corners and shop-doors to afford the time to put in one and a half hours two nights per week drilling with the League. We had to cut out the Sunday morning “march out” owing to the poor attendance.
The question has been raised, “What use will we ever be?” Was not the Volunteer Force of 1860 raised under similar circumstances? And might the Training League not have been a fine nucleus for the formation of a similar corps? For forty years the same question was asked of them, but in 1900 they justified their training, and service companies showed that they could hold their own alongside of regular troops in South Africa. The splendid force of Territorials today is the outcome of these early efforts, and the very fact that these men have gone to risk their lives in the cause of liberty should be sufficient to spur the most obstinate.
These men gave their time often at considerable expense to make themselves efficient, and now that they are risking their lives for their country it is the duty of every able-bodied man to prepare himself so that he may help to fill the places of those who took upon themselves those responsibilities and responded so bravely to the call.
If we shirk these duties we may have a rude awakening at the hands of a callous foe. Let us hope that we may be ready if “the day” comes to step into the breach and show that Morpeth can still lead the way. In the words of the late Col.-Sergt. Carse, “Here comes the men.”
7TH BATTALION NORTHUMBERLAND FUSILIERS
As reported in our columns last week, this Battalion, after several months training at Whitley, Gosforth, and Cambois, has at last been in action in France and has borne its part right nobly in this great war.
There have been many losses, both in killed and wounded, and their places have already been filled by officers and men drawn from the 2nd line. There are now a number of vacancies for imperial service men in the 2nd Line at Alnwick. We are sure that those men who have not hitherto come forward will do so at once in order to help their brothers at the Front.
Men can enlist at Alnwick at any time, and should write to the depot, 7th Northumberland Fusiliers, at Alnwick, for a free railway ticket.
The recent recruiting march in the North of Northumberland resulted in a large increase of strength. It is proposed on Saturday first to hold a recruiting march in the Ashington district. Men in that district may enlist locally by applying to Sergeant Geo. Montrose, 13 Station Road, Ashington, who is the special recruiting officer for the battalion.
The only qualifications for recruits are good health, age between 18 and 38, and height not under 5ft. 1in.
TEACHERS ON ACTIVE SERVICE
A meeting of the Northumberland Education Committee was held at the Moothall, Newcastle, on Thursday, last week. Sir Francis D. Blake, Bart., presided.
The chairman called attention to a paragraph in the report to the Council, which stated: “Educational work in the county has of necessity been somewhat seriously effected by the war. In the first place a considerable number of teachers have enlisted, and up to March 31st last, out of a total of 221 teachers under 38 years of age, employed in elementary schools, 59, viz., 27 per cent, had joined the colours. Three assistant masters in maintained secondary schools, three school attendance officers, and two school health visitors are also absent on military duty.
“A total of 35 elementary school buildings designed to accommodate 13,504 children, have been used for the billeting of troops, and while, in the majority of cases it has been possible for arrangements to be made for the education of the children to be partially continued, the regular work of the teachers has been seriously dislocated.
“The secondary schools at Blyth, Rothbury (Sharp’s Endowed), and Alnwick (Duchess) have also been required for military purposes. Further, it has been necessary to suspend where possible, the erection of new schools, and the extension or improvement of existing premises, and to endeavour to effect some economies in school equipment.”
NEW PASTOR’S EXPERIENCES IN HAMBURG
The following is taken from an article entitled “Hamburg in Peace and War,” contributed to “The British Congregationalist,” by the Rev. Joseph Miller, the new pastor of Morpeth Congregational Church, who has been for two years minister in Hamburg:—
Imagine our disappointment and grief when, during the week between the 2nd and 9th of August it was thought wise to close our church. But this awful war did not lessen our work; it was increased, and we began to realise that there were many people in and about Hamburg whom we had not hitherto reached, but who, at our home and the American Consulate, we were destined to serve our fellows in a manner undreamt of before.
All plans and calculations regarding our ordinary work were torn to shreds by this terrible crisis. But we were face to face with a large number of our countrymen whose needs were soon to become, if they were not already, great. Variety artistes, governesses, clerks, sailors, and others were in the vast majority of instances, dismissed on the spot.
Teachers lost their pupils, men representing English firms found business at a standstill, and those in business for themselves were more or less affected for the worse, and quite naturally their first thought was for home.
Such was the crowd that assembled at the American Consulate during the greater part of August that, from the point of view of “tongues,” we were reminded of Pentecost, or rather, Babel, for it was not like the spirit of a sound mind that possessed the people, but one of agitation and apprehension. In many cases the question was not only how to get to England and friends, but also “if we are not allowed to go, how shall we exist?” People on holiday who had means at home, and others with plenty of money in banks had not access to it, and what was to be done? Who could answer the question?
Imagine the scene in which Mr H.H. Morgan, the American Consul-General, tells a crowd of eager listeners that he has received word from the German authorities that several ships will be allowed to sail and carry the refugees home — the jubilation, the tears of joy as dear ones cling to each other. And imagine the cancelling of this order within half-an-hour.
We were witnesses to similar doings on three or four occasions — permission to leave Hamburg given and cancelled in half-an-hour so many times that the people who were in most trying circumstances began to feel that the German authorities were either childish or fiendish.
In the meantime we were giving pecuniary assistance out of money deposited with the Consul-General by the British Friendly Society, together with donations from private individuals and fees received for passports at the Consulate.
The number of distressed British subjects increased. Nor could we wonder at this, for our countrymen were being drafted from the provinces to the large centres, and the savings of even the thrifty were diminishing, and pressure was being brought to bear upon them from every side, there being no consideration shown to a Britisher.
Rents and taxes must be paid at once, and it was necessary that each should have a little food. Very fortunately the British Government came to our aid, and sent us money in the name of the British Emergency Relief Fund, through the American Embassy in Berlin, and from the early days of September onward Mr H.H. Morgan, Mr C.F. Just (Trades Commissioner for Canada and Secretary and Treasurer of the British Friendly Society in Hamburg), Mrs Miller and myself became the appointed committee for the Government to distribute the fund.
At the beginning of September we were giving out some £35 to £40 a week, and this very soon increased to £75 per week, in spite of the fact that when we found that women and children were being permitted to cross the frontier with ordinary passes, we helped them to do so in small batches, and they thus ceased to receive further relief.
We continued to work in this manner until November 11th, when we commenced our journey home. Doctors and ministers were granted this privilege, and our work was practically finished. Women and children, including males under seventeen years of age, and men over 55, had received official permission to leave the country in the latter days of October, and the men between 17 and 25 had since been interned.
It is worthy of note also that no single individual, whatever his position or station in life, escaped, except a few British Colonials, and these were made because Germans were not interned in British Colonies, while it was supposed that all Germans in England were in concentration camps and being badly treated.
1ST MORPETH COY., BOYS’ BRIGADE.
Sir,— I would be glad if you will allow me, through the medium of your columns, to ask relatives of old B.B. Boys to be so good as to notify me in the event of any casualty.
My reason for so doing is two-fold: I want to keep as correct a record of B.B. Boys as possible, and in many cases may be able to arrange for any of our wounded to be visited. We have already been able to do this in some cases, and would gladly do so whenever possible.
I am already aware of the following members of this Company who have been wounded: Sergt. W. Robson, Lance-Corpl. J. Miller, Corpl. J. Potts, Corpl. T. Robson, Lance-Corpl. R. Sharp, Lance-Corpl. T. Lothian, Sergt. J. Potter, Privates G.S. Burn, J.W. Hall, J.H. Watson, M. Turnbull, B. Waterston, J. Bowman, J. Thompson, J. Carman, and Captain N.I. Wright.
I do trust the relatives of “our boys” will keep me informed of their condition.
I am, Sir,
JAMES E. JOHNSON,
8 Olympia Gardens,
5th May, 1915.
A FORMER MORPETH CURATE AND THE B.B.
Sir,— I have no doubt that many of the young men of Morpeth and its neighbourhood will remember me as one of the Assistant Priests of the parish for some years. Many of them I prepared for confirmation and with many I formed a strong friendship in connection with the work of the Boys’ Brigade.
I am very proud to hear that the old boys of the 1st Morpeth Company have set such a splendid example of patriotism. It will give me much pleasure to see any who are in training in or near London at any time. (The fare by tram from Victoria is 2 1/2d.)
It is possible also that some may lie wounded in our London hospitals from time to time. In that case I hope anxious relatives will write to me so that I may visit them.
I am, Sir,
S. Mildred’s Vicarage,
Lee, London, S.E.
4th May, 1915.
STANNINGTON CHURCH PARADE
The annual church parade of Tyneside cyclists on behalf of the local charities took place on Sunday morning in a picturesque corner of Blagdon Park by the kind permission of Lord Ridley.
In striking contrast to the long imposing processions of preceding years, the assembly was now chiefly composed of veterans, the younger wheelmen having all volunteered for service, either at home or abroad.
The “Old Guard,” who have stood loyally together in fulfilling their financial liabilities to the Fleming Memorial Hospital and other charitable institutions in the city and district for over twenty years was headed by Mr D.H. Allan (president).
The Rev C.F. Medd, of St Gabriel’s Church, Heaton, preached the sermon, taking for his text part of the 17th verse of the 6th chapter of Jeremiah: “Harken to the sound of the trumpet.” He stated that if the present war was to be carried through to a successful issue, it could only be done by every one of them doing their duty to their King, their country, and to God. They were confident they were fighting in a holy cause, and they must make some self-sacrifice. British rule had stood for the uplifting and elevation of the peoples of the world.
The choral portion of an interesting service was led by a choir of well-known choristers under the leadership of Mr E.J. Gibbon. The lesson was read by Mr W.D. Stephenson, and the collection taken at the service was substantially supplemented by the various clubs’ subscriptions.
Ideal weather conditions favoured the half-yearly hirings for single servants at Morpeth on Wednesday, and the result was that large numbers were attracted to the town from the country districts. The visitors spent a very enjoyable day, and Murphy’s roundabouts in the Market Place proved once again a strong attraction.
As was only to be expected, there was a shortage of men, and engagements were made at higher rates than usual.
During the day efforts were made to obtain recruits. The band of the 7th Northumberland Fusiliers paraded the town, and the recruiting sergeants had a chat with all the eligible young men they came across.
WAR BONUS FOR POLICE
The Northumberland Standing Joint Committee, at its meeting in Newcastle on Monday afternoon, decided to grant the policemen in the County Force a war bonus of 3/- per week. This applies to all ranks, except the superintendents.