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.
AN IMPRESSIVE SIGHT
Morpeth has sent forth many of its sons to take part in the gigantic struggle on the Continent in the cause of freedom and right. Since the war began some of Morpeth’s sons have fallen, and Morpeth buried one of its soldier heroes last Sunday afternoon in the person of Private Bertram Waterston, of the 7th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers.
He was 18 years of age, and yet he had done his “little bit.”
He was accorded full military honours, and the funeral was altogether of a very solemn and impressive character. We have seen many military funerals in the borough, but the one last Sunday was certainly unique in every respect, as it was the interment of a soldier who had been wounded on the battlefield at Ypres, and had died in the Mother Country. We have no record of any soldier who has died from wounds in action being buried in his native town.
Hundreds of the townspeople turned out to witness the cortege pass on its way to the churchyard. The procession, which was a long and imposing one, was composed of the Northumberland Fusiliers, Northumberland Hussars, the Durham Light Infantry, the Northern Cyclists, and representatives of the Royal Garrison Artillery, Royal Field Artillery, and the Tyneside Scottish.
It was a gracious act on the part of the Mayor and members of the Corporation to attend. A large number of townsmen, among whom were many fathers who have sons at the front, joined in the procession.
It was truly impressive to see in the procession six of the deceased’s comrades, who were wounded with him in the battle around Ypres, and it was pathetic to witness some walking with assistance of sticks, and others with arms in slings.
Since the burial many have visited the grave of the youthful Fusilier, who laid down his life for his King and country. Perhaps the following verses from a poem written by the Rev H.J. Bulkeley, formerly rector of Morpeth, and which appears in a supplement to his book of poems entitled “With Courage,” may not be inappropriate at the present time. He says:
Our parish has a hero too,
A martyr for his country true
To death, a soldier through and through.
A boy, a youth, the strong desire
To serve his country, lit with fire
His life. For him no aim was higher.
It may not be out of place to mention one or two interesting facts concerning the Waterstons. They are an old Morpeth family, and for miles around are well known as builders. The fore-elders of the deceased soldier were plain, but hardworking and industrious folk, and were greatly respected.
About sixty years ago the grandfather, Mr George Waterston, started business as a builder in the borough in partnership with his brother, Mr James Waterston. They were noted for their workmanship, which was of the finest class, but they were best known as church builders, and in this connection it is interesting to note that Otterburn, Cramlington, Longhirst, and Mitford churches are lasting memorials of their skill and enterprise. In their day and generation they did much for the welfare of the community in which they lived.
Another branch of the Waterston family (Mr George Waterston, relieving officer), equally as well known as builders, were responsible for the erection of a number of fine country halls and mansions in this neighbourhood.
MORPETH SOLDIER’S FUNERAL
With full military honours the remains of the late Private Bertram Waterston, the eldest son of Mr George Waterston, jun., builder, of Dacre Street, Morpeth, were laid to rest in Morpeth Churchyard on Sunday afternoon.
The deceased, who was only 18 years of age, helped his father in the business as a mason. He joined the 7th Northumberland Fusiliers at Alnwick, shortly after war was declared. He was a promising young soldier, very popular with his mates, and recognised as one of the best signallers in No.1 company.
He left with his battalion for France on April 20th, and five days later he was severely wounded in one of the great battles round Ypres. For a time he was treated at a hospital in Boulogne, and was afterwards removed to Edmondton Hospital in London, where he died last Thursday. His remains were brought to Morpeth on Sunday morning.
The funeral procession was one of the largest ever witnessed in the borough. Besides the military, there was a full attendance of members of the Morpeth Town Council, and also a large following of prominent townspeople.
Shortly after three o’clock in the afternoon crowds of sympathisers gathered in the vicinity of Dacre Street and paid their last respects as the mournful procession passed on its way to the churchyard.
The cortege was headed by a firing party with arms reversed, in charge of Sergt. Major Harvey, and the band of the 7th Northumberland Fusiliers, playing the “Dead March,” followed by the Mayor (Councillor T.W. Charlton), Alderman J.R. Hood, Alderman S.W. Brown, and Alderman R.J. Carr, Councillors C. Grey, R.L. Fearby, Ed. Norman, J.R. Temple, I. Armstrong, J.H. Simpson, W. Duncan, R.N. Swinney, and G. Jackson, the Town Clerk (Mr Jas. Jardin), the borough surveyor (Mr J. Davison), and Mr F.W. Wood (mace bearer).
Then came the hearse. The coffin was covered with the Union Jack, and on the top were some beautiful floral tributes. Behind the hearse were three mourning coaches containing the relatives and friends of the deceased as follows: Mr George Waterston (father), Mr Robert Snowdon, Miss M. Waterston, Master Robin Waterston (brother), Mrs Gilboy, Mrs Fairnington, Miss Fairnington, Mrs Wilson, Misses Gilboy, Mrs Mawson, Mr G. Waterston (an ex-Mayor), and Mrs Waterston and Mrs Brown.
Next followed a large detachment of the 7th Northumberland Fusiliers under Major Gillespie, and Captain Thompson; the 6th Durham Light Infantry, under Major Petherwick, and a large turn-out of the Morpeth Company of the Boys’ Brigade, in charge of Captain Johnson. The deceased was formerly a staff sergeant in the Boys’ Brigade.
There was also in the procession, which was a very impressive one, representatives of the Northumberland Hussars, Royal Garrison Artillery, Northern Cyclists, Royal Field Artillery, and Tyneside Scottish; also six of the deceased’s comrades who were wounded in the same battle, namely: Sergt. Major James McAllister, Sergt. W. Robson, Private Robson, Private Ellison, Private Dodds, and Private Futers.
Among others present were Mr F.E. Schofield and Mr G.W. Purdy (ex-Mayors of Morpeth), Mr Jas. Jobling, Mr Jos. Simpson, Mr Thomas Clark, Mr F. Turner, Mr W. Simpson, Mr J.S. Mackay, Mr Sadler, Mr H. Stevens, Mr G.D. Smith, Mr F. Tinsley, Mr Maudlin, Mr Jas. Harbottle, and Mr W. Macnicol.
The cortege proceeded by way of Manchester Street, Newgate Street, Bridge Street, over the bridge and up the station bank to the High Church. Many people lined the streets enroute to witness the passing of the cortege. On arrival at the High Church the coffin was borne on the shoulders of six soldiers up the path and reverently carried into the sacred edifice and placed in front of the chancel. There was a large congregation, the service being conducted by the Rev. F.C. Hardy.
The coffin was then borne to its last resting place. The soldiers formed up near the grave where the burial service was of a very impressive character. The Rector (Canon Davies) officiated at the graveside, and after the committal prayers were said the firing party lined up and fired three volleys over the grave, and “The Last Post” was sounded.
A large number of beautiful wreaths, placed on the newly-made grave, were sent by the following:— Father and Mother; Uncle, Aunt, and Family; Uncle and Aunt (Jim and May); Uncle Bob; Violet; Nell; Auntie Jinnie; Maggie and Robbin; Aunt Bessie; Issie Burn; Miss M. Brooks; Madge and Ella Morgan; Mayor and Mayoress and family; M.E. Brown, Hepscott; Wm. Burn and Sons; Mr and Mrs G. Gilboy; Mr and Mrs J.T. Daglish and Family; Mr and Mrs J.H. Woodhead.
Other floral tributes were from: “With deepest sympathy from a Comrade, Private Gordon Harrison, 3rd Border Regiment”; from the N.C.O.’s and Men, A Company, machine gun section and motor drivers, 1st Northern Cyclists’ Battalion, Morpeth; from the Ladies’ Committee of the 1st Morpeth Company Boys’ Brigade; from the members of the Morpeth Constitutional Club; from his comrades, 1st Morpeth Company Boys’ Brigade.
The underbearers were: Corpl. Green (in charge), Pte. Haig, Pte. Harbottle, Pte. Chirnside, Pte. Simpson, Pte. Wilson, and Pte. Black. The funeral arrangements were carried out by Messrs Wm. Burn and Sons, undertakers, Morpeth.
ROLL OF HONOUR
Private R.W. Smith, 5th Northumberland Fusiliers, and son of Mr and Mrs J.R. Smith, of Western Terrace, Dudley, has been wounded and gassed, and is in hospital at Southport.
Mrs Wilson, of Bridge Street, Seaton Burn, has received information from her husband Private G.W. Wilson, 5th Northumberland Fusiliers, that he is in hospital in France, suffering from the effects of poisonous gas.
Mrs Appleby, of Coquet Street, Dudley, has just received information from her brother Lance-Corporal G.W. Potts, 5th Northumberland Fusiliers, that he is hospital in France suffering from the effects of gas poisoning.
Mrs A Blacklock, of South View, Hazelrigg, has just received a letter from C.O.P. Gibson, 2nd Lieut., O.C. 16th Platoon, D. Coy., 4th Northumberland Fusiliers, conveying the sad news of her son Alf’s death.
Mrs Bennett, of Low Cross Row, Seaton Burn, has received an intimation that her husband, Private A.J. Bennett, 5th Northumberland Fusiliers, is in hospital at Rochester.
Sergeant H. Cademy, of Burradon, 5th Northumberland Fusiliers, is in hospital at Stockport, suffering from the effects of gas poisoning.
Mrs Lumsden, of Seaton Burn, has just received intimation from her husband, Corporal G. Lumsden, 6th Northumberland Fusiliers, that he is suffering from the effects of gas poisoning, and is in hospital at Chatham.
Private H. Gray, 5th Northumberland Fusiliers, in a communication to his parents, Mr and Mrs R. Gray, of Seaton Burn, writes to say that he has been gassed, and is in hospital in France.
Mrs Allan, of Blagdon Terrace, Seaton Burn, has received word from her son, Pte. James Allan, 5th Northumberland Fusiliers, that he is in hospital in Exeter, suffering from the effects of gas poisoning.
From the sister in charge of a hospital in France, Mr and Mrs Wm. Hanton, Roxburgh Place, Alnwick, have received information that their son, Drummer Andrew Hanton, 7th Northumberland Fusiliers, has died from wounds.
Pte. J.R. Oliver, Alnwick Moor; Pte. Wm. Carr, Railway Station, Glanton; Pte. Wm. Hogg, Howick Street, Alnwick, of the 7th N.F., have been wounded in action.
Mr Edward Irving, of 3 Field Street, Gosforth, has received word that his brother, Corporal F. Irving, was killed in action on May 9. Mr Irving had the misfortune to lose a second brother early on in the war on one of His Majesty’s ships.
Lance-Corporal Thomas Blagburn, of Chapel Lane, Alnwick, is reported wounded.
Mrs Taylor, widow, Pottergate, Alnwick, has received an intimation that her only son, Pte. Richard Taylor, York and Lancaster Regiment, had died on the 11th May from wounds received in action.
Pte. Wm. D. Baker, R.N.D., of Ashington, has died of wounds received in action in the Dardanelles.
News has reached his friends at Amble that David B. Murray has been wounded in action in the Dardanelles.
Pte. J.L. Gibson, 25 Millfield Lane, Newburn, was killed on April 26th. Private Gibson was a deputy-overman at Blucher Pit, Walbottle, and held two mining certificates. When he left home he left a wife and four children, but one of these has died since.
Mr John Wood, 19 Hastings Street, Klondyke, Cramlington, has received news that his son, Pte. Leslie Wood has been gassed severely. Pte. Wood is well known as an athlete and as a competitor in local handicaps. He was born at Seaton Burn Colliery.
Pte. Joe Thompson, of Coxlodge, has been wounded in the hand.
Mrs Bell, 39 Oswin Avenue, Forest Hall, has been informed that her son, Pte. Wm. Bell, 5th N.F., has been seriously wounded and is in hospital in Rouen, France.
Pte. E. Lamb, of Blyth, has been slightly wounded in the neck and is now in hospital.
Mr Robert Grieves, surveyor to the Blyth Urban District Council, has received news to the effect that his son, Lance-Cpl. Robert Grieves, of the 5th Batt. Northumberland Fusiliers, has been wounded in action. He was struck by a piece of shrapnel in the left arm, and was also slightly gassed. Lance-Corporal Grieves is now in hospital near Boulogne, and in a letter to his parents he says he was lucky enough to get his respirator on just in time.
Official notice has been received by Mr John Dunn, 11 Double Row, Seaton Delaval, of the death of Sapper W.J. Dunn, Royal Engineers. Sapper Dunn was killed in France on May 12th.
Mrs E. Malone, of 3 Laurel Walk, Gosforth, has received word that her son, Lance-Corporal J. Waters, has been gassed, and is now in the Third Southern Hospital, Oxford.
Mrs Deed, of 6 Lee Street, Annitsford, received intimation on Thursday that her husband, Private Frank Deed, 5th Battalion N.F., has been gassed.
Mrs Gibson, Cros Row, Seghill Colliery, has received intimation that her son, Private J.W. Gibson, 5th N.F., has been wounded in action.
Private Frank Brodie, of Blyth, has arrived from the front wounded.
ROLL OF HONOUR
EMBLETON.— Killed in action at the Dardanelles on Whit Sunday, May 23rd, aged 25, George W. Embleton, R.N.D., only and dearly-loved son of Matthew and Elizabeth Embleton, Cresswell. At Rest.
SWAIN.— News has been received by Mrs Rogers, 6 West Close, East Cottingwood, of the loss of her brother, Maurice Edward Swain, on the H.M. “Goliath” in the Dardanelles.
Mr and Mrs George Waterston, jun., and family, beg to thank all those who showed them sympathy in their recent sad bereavement, and also those who sent wreaths.
Mrs J. Coltman, Totteridge Road, High Wycombe, Bucks, and her sister wish to thank all their friends who have sent such kind letters of sympathy to them in the sad loss of their dear brother, Coy. S.M.R. Hedley, 7th Northumberland Fusiliers.
Great joy and satisfaction was expressed in the borough last weekend when it became known, through the columns of the “Herald” that two of our fellow townsmen, Privates G. Burrell and C. Martin, members of the 7th Northumberland Fusiliers, had been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for conspicuous bravery on the battlefield.
The courageous deed which earned for both these men this much-coveted decoration makes one marvel how they managed to come through such a trying ordeal scatheless. Unsupported, the two men carried a box of ammunition to the trenches, for over a mile they had to cover ground which was swept with artillery and machine-gun fire. It was a perilous undertaking, but their safe arrival in the trench with the ammunition was the signal for ringing cheers from the occupants.
It is interesting to note that only three men in the 7th Battalion have so far received the D.C.M., the other recipient being a Berwick man, but all belong to the same company.
Morpeth is justly proud of its gallant townsmen and the honourable part they are taking in this campaign, and we heartily congratulate Private Burrell and Martin on their heroic achievement.
THE KING’S BIRTHDAY
Thursday, June 3rd, was his Majesty King George’s 50th birthday. The town flag was flying from the old clock tower, but owing to the war the bells were not rung.
PORTMANTEAU SOLD ON MAY 26th FOR 7th N.F.
Sir,— Through the medium of your paper I wish to inform those who supported me and were the means of realising the handsome sum of £6 for the above, that the first box has been sent off to Lance-Corporal Andrew Davison, of the 7th Northumberland Fusiliers, and it contained 12 dozen bars of chocolate, tins of black bullets, thirst quenchers, oxo cubes, tins of prepared coffee, sugar and milk, tins of Nestle’s Swiss milk, oatmeal soap, boric powder, safety matches, 1,000 gold flake and woodbine cigarettes, tin openers, etc. I am sending another big box in a fortnight’s time.— Yours, etc.
St James’s Terrace, Morpeth.
The annual meeting of the Northumberland Education Committee was held last Thursday at the Moothall, Newcastle. Sir F.D. Blake, Bart., was unanimously re-elected chairman for the ensuing year.
It was reported that the Elementary Education Sub-Committee had considered the proposal that the managers of schools be invited to prepare lists of old pupils who were serving in the army and navy during the present war. The lists to be hung in the schools, and to contain as far as possible particulars of honours and promotions and a record of those who were killed or wounded in action.
It was suggested that at the present time the lists should be of a temporary character and that the question of some permanent memorial should be considered later.
The Sub-committee recommended that the proposal be adopted. This was agreed to.
A letter having been received from the managers of the Alnwick Duke’s Preparatory Boys’ School reporting the enlistment of the headmaster and recommending the temporary promotion of James Parrack as headmaster, the Elementary Education Sub-Committee recommended that the report be approved. This was agreed to.
On consideration of a letter from the County Director of Voluntary Aid Detachments asking the Education Committee to request all teachers in the county to send in their names if they wish to apply for service in a military hospital, in order that he may select those whom he considers necessary. The Elementary Education Sub-Committee recommended that the secretary reply that the Education Committee is prepared to consider applications from teachers who are already trained as nurses until other possible sources of supply are exhausted. The recommendation was adopted.
STANNINGTON RED CROSS
A meeting of Stannington Red Cross Voluntary Aid Detachment (Northumberland 31), was held under the presidency of the Commandant of the Men’s Section, Mr W.H. Banister.
The hon. secretary, Mr H.G. Germain, presented a satisfactory balance sheet, which showed that there was a credit balance of £9 1s 10d. It was decided to continue the lectures and classes, which will begin about the last week in September.
At the conclusion of the meeting, in response to an appeal for funds to provide a motor ambulance for the Northumberland Fusiliers, the sum of £8 16s was subscribed.
MORPETH ANNUAL HOLIDAY
Owing to the present crisis the committee of the above have not arranged an excursion this year, but have fixed the holiday for Thursday, the 8th of July.
WRECKAGE AT BLYTH
Captain Cheyne, of the small Scottish steamer Cairnie, which arrived at Blyth on Sunday morning, reported that between Blyth and Newbiggin he passed several bags of flour, cabin fittings, and other wreckage floating about. He picked up a lifebuoy bearing the name Minerva and brought it into port.
On Sunday afternoon quantities of wreckage and bags of flour were washed up on the beach at Cambois and Blyth, giving rise to the rumour that another vessel had been torpedoed off the port of Blyth. It is highly probable, however, that the wreckage was from the Minerva which was torpedoed off the Coquet over a week ago by a German submarine.
Along the coast between Newbiggin and Cresswell a large number of sacks of flour were washed ashore on Sunday. A peculiar thing about the sacks was that the contents were not wet throughout. The outside portion of the flour had caked to such an extent as to keep the interior intact.
Some of the villagers were lucky enough to share in the spoils of the day, but the majority of the sacks were confiscated by the local coastguards and the military authorities.
A HAIL OF LEAD
A letter received from a Northumberland Fusilier, who is now in the Derby Royal Infirmary, Derbyshire, tells of the journey of the battalion from Blyth to the firing line. The letter says:—
When we left Blyth it was champion seeing all the country. We were in France at ten o’clock the same night, where we had a three miles’ walk and then put up for the night. Then we set off the next morning for another long ride in cattle trucks. There were 47 in the truck I was in, so you could guess we would be packed, and when we landed we had to sleep behind a hedge all night.
We were off again the next morning, this time about eight miles, and that night slept in a barn. The next day we tramped to the front.
The Germans were shelling a town we went through, and it was champion, the shells bursting all over us. A lot of the 7th chaps were knocked out through it, but our lot got through it all right. There were houses and shops burning galore, and the smell from the dead horses was something awful.
There were some of our chaps killed on the Sunday, and it was lucky any of us got out that day. They trapped me on the Monday, and I think I am a lucky chap to get out. I hear — is still among the living. He is a very lucky fellow, but I would sooner be there than out in the trenches.
You have heard about hell? Well, I think I have been there. I have got a compound fracture in the leg from a bullet and one went through my shoulder. Fancy running facing a hail of lead. Our boys were dropping like corn being cut with a reaper.
I will be here for a bit, as I have to lie in bed about another month. We are visited every day, and the visitors bring all sorts of things. We get more tabs than we can smoke. It is a gentleman’s life here, and they are a lot of wounded and jolly chaps.
The return of school attendance for the past 12 months, presented at the meeting of the County Education Committee, shows a falling-off as compared with that of the previous year, which is chiefly the result of so many schools having been occupied by the soldiery.
The schools now, however, have been vacated by the soldiers and school work has resumed its normal aspect, much to the gratification of parents.
The following are records of the percentages of attendance at local schools:— Seaton Delaval, 91.1; Choppington, 90; Morpeth, 89.6; Newbiggin, 88.5; Backworth, 87.9; Bedlington, 86.3; Cramlington, 85.3.
This record dates up to the end of March, and in view of the exigencies which had to be dealt with by school managers is by no means bad.
RED CROSS HOSPITAL, MORPETH
The Commandant, No.6 V.A., begs to acknowledge with grateful thanks the following gifts for the use of the patients in the hospital:— Fruit and flowers, Mrs Brumell, Miss Ashton, Miss Hudson, The Mayoress; vegetables, Miss Webb, Miss Fenwick, Mrs Grey, Miss Reed, Mr Elliott, Miss Middleton, and Mrs Davies; magazines and books, Mrs Clayton, Miss Middleton, Miss Willis, Miss Dixon; eggs and milk, Mrs Rayne, Mrs Berkley; night-shirt, Miss Middleton; pillows, Mrs W. Oliver; cakes, Miss Mowat; eggs, butter and milk, Miss Reed; jelly, Mrs Brumell; also £8 from the boys’ brigade, per Capt. Johnston; and £7 16s 6d from Netherwitton Sports Committee, per Mrs Richardson.
COAL EXPORTING LICENCES
The Newcastle Chamber of Commerce, through its Advisory Committee, has been using all its influence in the last few weeks towards expediting the issue of export coal licences to neutral countries.
Those licences, aimed at preventing the re-exportation of coal to the enemy, and the delay in the issue of them, told heavily against North East coast ports.
Northumberland collieries have been hampered considerably, because about 80 per cent of the coal raised is exported, mostly to foreign countries.
Mr Herbert Shaw, the secretary of the chamber, has been in London for some days past, endeavouring to get an acceleration of the issue of the licences, and it will seem that his stay in the Metropolis is likely to be marked by a considerable measure of success.
He sent a telephone message from London to Newcastle, last night, which was of a cheering character to shipowners, coal owners and exporters, and the miners.
Mr Shaw intimated that he expects to be in a position to announce that the Coal Exports Committee has agreed to consider applications for licences without the name of either a definite steamer or a substitute. This will remove a very serious difficulty, and the change will be greatly welcomed.
As a result of the strong representations as to the delay in the granting of licences, the Committee informed Mr Shaw that arrangements had been made to expedite matters to such an extent that certain applications would be disposed of by 11am daily, instead of 3pm as at present.
FRESH FRUIT AND VEGETABLES FOR THE NAVY
Sir,— Will you kindly grant us space in your paper for another appeal to the people of the North for supplies of fruit or vegetables or donations to purchase the same so that our brave sailors may have an opportunity of enjoying what is not supplied to them by the Admiralty, but what is absolutely necessary for their health.
Since commencing this depot at Cramlington 16 weeks ago on the invitation of Lord Charles Beresford and his committee, we have been successful in sending nearly six tons of vegetables, and the letters of thanks we receive from the secretary of the London headquarters and the sailors incite us to further efforts to keep the depot going, which cannot be done unless the public respond to our appeal.
Now that gardens are full of the very vegetables (cabbages, lettuce, spring onions, radishes, turnips, rhubarb, etc) so much desired, we think this an opportune time to appeal for supplies to be sent to us at Cramlington station, where they will be properly labelled and despatched to the authorised destination. From those who cannot send fruit and vegetables we shall thankfully receive donations to buy them in their names.
We are, sir, your, etc,
F.H.HARDY, W.M. KELL
Joint Secretaries to the Cramlington Collecting Depot, 3 Blagdon Terrace, Cramlington.
FELTON FLOWER SHOW
At a general meeting of the members of Felton Flower Show, it was decided that no show be held this year. It was agreed to give a donation of £5 to the Red Cross Society, and a similar sum to the Armstrong College Hospital.
WAR BONUS GRANTED
The management committee of the Cramlington District Co-operative Society have decided to grant a war bonus of 3/- per week to those receiving less than 35/- per week and 2/6 per week to those above 35/- per week.