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.
Mr Sproat, residing at the Nag’s Head Yard, Morpeth, has received the following letter, dated October 23rd, from Captain H.R. Smail, 8th N.F., announcing the death of his son, Private W. Sproat.
The Captain writes:– “I very must regret to have to inform you that your son, No.2324, Private W. Sproat was killed this morning between the lines. He went out with another man without permission, to look for shell and caps and a German patrol shot him. As he fell he remarked ‘They have done for me,’ and only lived a few seconds. I should mention that this happened at 7.15am during a dense mist.
“A number of men went out to try and recover his body, but could not get him owing to the German fire. One non-commissioned officer received no less than five wounds in the attempt and was fortunate not to be killed.
“We very much regret the loss of your son; though young, he was very plucky and was always willing to go out on patrol. We will make every endeavour to recover his body tonight. Sympathising with you in your loss.”
MILITARY FUNERAL AT MORPETH
The remains of the late Robert Thompson aged 23 years, were laid to rest in Morpeth Churchyard on Tuesday. The deceased, prior to his illness eighteen months ago, was a member of the Morpeth Territorials. He lived in the Earl Grey Yard.
The cortege was headed by the band of the 7th Northumberland Fusiliers, under Bandmaster C. Johnson, followed by a firing party of B Coy., 7th N.F., in charge of Sergt. J. Bower. The whole of the firing party was composed of men who had been wounded at the Front.
Behind the hearse followed the relatives and friends of the deceased. The Rev. F.C. Hardy conducted the service in the church and also said the committal prayers at the graveside. Three volleys were fired over the grave and the “Last Post” sounded. Numerous wreaths were laid on the grave.
THRILLING STORY BY A MORPETH SOLDIER
We had a most thrilling scene enacted in the skies yesterday afternoon, in full view of all — an air duel (writes Private Jeffrey James, son of Mr J.J. James, printer, Morpeth from “Somewhere in France”).
One of our ‘planes went away over the German lines, escaping all the anti-aircraft fire. He was attacked by a German monoplane, and then the fun started. Both machines got their machine guns going, and then they circled round and round each other in vertical circles, and then, whenever the opportunity occurred, ratatatat went the machine guns.
A more lovely exhibition of flying couldn’t be wished for. Round and round each other they circled, each trying to get above the other, wide circles and narrow circles, sometimes banked so high that they were circling on their edges, and all the time came the ratatatat from the Maxims.
How long this duel lasted I cannot tell; everybody was so interested that all count of time was lost. Still they turned and twisted, and then above them appeared a third machine — a big German biplane. So fas as I could see, this third machine took no active part in the fight, but seemed content to “wait on” like a huge hawk, and ready to give assistance if need be.
At this time the fight was taking place well up in the heavens, but now it could be seen that both British and German machines were slowly descending in circles, still peppering away at each other. At length it was evident that our machine was now unable to rise, but was striving to gain all the advantage of position that he could by widening circles.
Still lower and lower and lower they dropped, always with the German at the higher altitude, till it was evident that our machine either could not or would not fight or fly away. They were very close to the ground now, and tree tops were almost hiding our ‘plane from view, but still we could see that he was slowly and steadily descending to earth — within the German lines. At the same time as our ‘plane descended so did the German, and then, when fairly close to the ground he seemed to dip and crash to the earth, and the duel was over, with the loss of both machines, British and German.
Even this did not finish our exhibition of aeronautics for the day. ‘Planes seemed plentiful — both ours and theirs — and the sky was studded from end to end with the smoke clouds from the anti-aircraft guns. Thousands of shells were burst, some of them bursting into smoke rings, which floated for minutes together before they gradually disappeared.
It was nearly sunset now, and slowly into the mists on the horizon the great flaming orb of the sun sank. Blood-red it was, and the fleecy clouds above were dyed and stained with blood. Although below the horizon from us poor mortals on the earth, yet still the sun shone on the airmen in the skies, and as they turned the rays caught the planes and turned them into living flaming bars of gold and silver. Each spar stood out as if on fire and then, turning again, the light passed, and the machine showed brown against the sky.
Again and again they shone like stars under the rays of the even-receding sun until at last the dusk fell, and ‘planes disappeared, and in the heavens all was still; but not upon the earth, for even as the gloom increased the air became more and more resonant with the spiteful, wicked cracks of rifle fire, and the vivid star shells shot up and displayed the earth, and then falling, left the earth wrapt in a darkness which was yet more intense than before, and yet, as the night wore on, the rifle cracks grew less and less, till at last the world was left in comparative darkness and quietude.
ARMY CHRISTMAS PUDDING FUND
For the second year in succession a fund raised in connection with “The Daily News” is undertaking the supply of the armies at the front with a half-pound portion of Christmas pudding for every man. Last year the fund amounted to £8,300, and over £500,000 men were supplied. This year the number to be supplied is about four times as great. This includes the troops in France and Flanders, in the Dardanelles, Egypt, and the Mediterranean.
Last year the fund undertook the supply of special consignments to particular regiments and other units at the instance of private donors and local subscriptions. This year, at the desire of the War Office, it has limited itself to the simple plan of presenting to the Army, as a whole, its Christmas pudding as a whole.
In this way all overlapping and confusion will be avoided, and the task of the Army transport and distributing departments — vast enough in itself — will not be confused by overlapping and duplicated supplies and special addresses.
The Army Council has for the second time given the scheme its fullest sanction and benediction. The puddings are all to be made by contractors approved by the War Office; medical inspectors and the War Office will inspect the factories, the ingredients, the process of manufacture, and the completed puddings, which, delivered from the makers to the Army in hermetically sealed tins, will reach the man at the front with the utmost guarantee of wholesomeness.
The War Office will convey the pudding free of charge from the manufacturer to the front.
That the puddings will be British Christmas puddings of the best is guaranteed by the fact that the contractors’ sample puddings on which the contracts are placed are adjudicated upon by no less an expert than M. Escoffier, of the Carlton Hotel, who is the acknowledged authority on the British Christmas pudding.
Points to remember
Every man must have his half-pound share.
All must be in the hands of the Army authorities by the end of November.
Every sum, however, small, will help a man to a helping.
Sixpence supplies one man, 2s. 6d. six, £1 50, 30s. a platoon, £3 an artillery battery, £5 a company, £9 an artillery brigade, £12 a cavalry regiment, £20 a battalion of infantry.
He gives twice who gives quickly. There is not a moment to lose.
Nothing is so “Christmassy” as Christmas pudding.
By no other means can every man at the front receive his message from home on Christmas Day so surely as by this.
The task is great, but it will be easily accomplished by united effort. The Mayoress of Morpeth (Mrs T.W. Charlton), Carlisle House, High Church, Morpeth, has decided to open a local subscription list in support of the movement, so that all in the district may have the opportunity of feeling that they have sent their own men their share of pudding — a gift from the home to the man, from the nation to the Army.
Subscriptions should be sent to the Mayoress of Morpeth. Cheques and postal orders should be made payable to the Mayoress of Morpeth and crossed. Collecting lists are also at Lloyds Bank, North Eastern Bank, London and Joint Stock Bank, Barclay’s Bank, and the “Herald” Office, where subscriptions will be received.
OUR OWN COLUMN
Last Christmas a fund, organised by the “Daily News,” and much assisted by friends throughout the country, supplied the whole British Army at the Western front, in Egypt, and the Mediterranean stations with Christmas pudding. In all, more than half a million men received this tribute of affection from the nation, and at the close Sir John French sent a message that “no present could be more welcome.” This year the number to be provided for in the Army is four times as great.
We have much pleasure in co-operating with “Daily News” in its great effort to raise sufficient funds to carry out the object it has in view, and the Mayoress of Morpeth has expressed her willingness to take the lead of the scheme for Morpeth and district.
It is interesting to note that sixpence will amply provide for one man, £1 10s. will supply an infantry platoon, £3 a cavalry squadron or artillery battery, £5 an infantry company, and £20 an infantry battalion. The forces it is proposed to supply are the soldiers in France, Flanders, Gallipoli, Egypt, and the Mediterranean.
It is only nine weeks to Christmas Day, and what are our readers going to do to help to send Christmas puddings to the gallant lads at the Front?
Hundreds of men from Morpeth and the surrounding districts are serving in various regiments, and we can fully imagine what their delight will be on receiving their portion of plum pudding on Christmas Day. We feel sure that there will be a ready and generous response on the part of the public generally to the appeal.
THE KING’S APPEAL
At this grave moment in the struggle between my people and a highly organised enemy who has transgressed the Laws of Nations and changed the ordinance that binds civilised Europe together, I appeal to you.
I rejoice in my Empire’s efforts, and I feel pride in the voluntary response from my Subjects all over the world who have sacrificed home, fortune, and life itself, in order that another may not inherit the free Empire which their ancestors and mine have built.
I ask you to make good these sacrifices.
The end is not in sight. More men and yet more are wanted to keep my Armies in the field, and through them to secure Victory and enduring peace.
In ancient days the darkest moment has ever produced in men of our race than sternest resolve.
I ask you, men of all classes, to come forward voluntarily and take your share in the fight.
In freely responding to my appeal you will be giving your support to our brothers, who, for long months, have nobly upheld Britain’s past traditions, and the glory of her Arms.
THE MAYORESS OF MORPETH’S SEWING PARTY
There was a very large assemblage of ladies at the Soldier’s Institute on Thursday last when Miss Edith Robinson, lecturer for the War Office, gave a most eloquent and practical address on women’s work for the war, and the various ways in which women may help to bring the war to a conclusion satisfactory to our aims.
The lecturer was much impressed by the efforts made in Morpeth for the amelioration of the soldier’s lot, and the practical and far-reaching work done by the sewing and knitting parties of the town.
Mayoress (Mrs Charlton) presided, and was supported by Mrs Sanderson, ex-Mayoress. Tea was given my Mrs Hoey and Mrs Halls and realised £2 3s.
The hon. treasurer acknowledges with thanks donations from the Misses Arkless, 10s. and socks; Mrs Swinney, Woodside, 10s. (2nd donation); the large rug realised £3 5s. 6d. (Mrs Dickenson, Pegswood), the small one 18s. (Miss Emily Anderson, Morpeth).
MORPETH BOROUGH LIBERAL COUNCIL
The annual meeting of the Borough of Morpeth Liberal Council was held at Bedlington Station on Monday evening. The business was largely formal, nor was there any mention made of any movement to counter-check the Labour men by the provision of a potential Liberal candidate.
Mr Heatley, who presided, urged that the political truce should be strictly adhered to and every possible effort should be made to maintain harmony and united effort in the interest of the Empire in this tremendous crisis in our history.
THE RECRUITING COMMITTEE
On Wednesday the Central Committee in the Borough of Morpeth, formed with the object of carrying our Lord Derby’s scheme of recruiting, met, Mr T.C. Heatley presiding, and there were present representatives of the respective political parties, who are working in conjunction with Lord Derby’s scheme in a manner which is creditable to all concerned.
There are three local sub-committees — one at Blyth, one at Bedlington, and one at Morpeth, and it is from these sub-committees that the gentlemen will be chosen, whose not too pleasant duty it will be to go round people’s houses to discover where there is an available recruit and to get them enlisted — or know the reason why. These sub-committees have not yet been completed.
The new recruiting campaign under the direction of Lord Derby has now commenced, and strenuous efforts are being made in every available quarter to obtain a sufficient number of recruits to meet the great demands of our armies in the field.
Great things are expected under the new scheme of canvassing every eligible man of service, and everything points to gratifying results being obtained.
The King’s striking appeal, issued a few days ago, to men of all classes to come forward voluntarily and take their share in the fight has not been in vain. Young men who have held back for reasons best known to themselves, are now flocking to the Colours.
As the Royal messages states, “The end is not in sight,” and as time goes on more men and yet more will be wanted to secure victory worthy of the great and heroic sacrifices that have and are being made on land and sea.
FOR A GOOD CAUSE
Mrs W. Murphy’s switchback will be here from Friday until the Fair Day, and has offered to the Council the whole of the proceeds from the switchback on Monday night in aid of the Morpeth Red Cross and Cottage Hospital.
It needs no words of ours to say how much these institutions have done for the town and for the Army, and they are both in need of support. The Mayoress has kindly arranged to try and make this as successful as possible. She is having small tickets issued, and they will be offered to the public at the end of the week, when we hope there will be a good response.
The tickets will be one penny each, and will admit one for one round of the switchback on Monday night.
The best thanks of the town are due to Mrs Murphy for kindly offering this benefit again, as it is not the first time she had done this, and each time the benefits have been very successful.
FOR THE COMFORT OF OUR SOLDIERS
Alnwick Castle, 23rd Oct., 1915
Sir,— A circular has been addressed by the Director General of Voluntary Organisations, to Lords-Lieutenants, and others throughout England suggesting a system co-ordinating in each country the work undertaken by private voluntary associations or guilds engaged in providing clothing, comfort etc., either for hospitals or for soldiers at the seat of war, the idea being that a Central Committee should be formed, mainly from those who are interesting themselves in such associations or guilds, who would be touch with the Central Association representing the War Office, so as to avoid waste by advising from time to time as to the articles specially needed, and those for which there was for the time being less or no demand.
It is difficult without knowing how many of these associations there are in the county of Northumberland, their names and addresses, and their nature and the special objects they have in view, to form an opinion as to the best way of giving effect to the proposed suggestion, and in order to assist me in this matter, I shall be greatly obliged if the secretary or some other person taking a leading interest in any such association would be good enough to forward to me the following information:—
1. Name and address of society or guild.
2. Name and address of the secretary or treasure or other manager of its affairs.
3. Class of work undertaken.
4. If devoted to any special institution or regiment.
5. Approximate monthly value or work or goods sent out.
With such information before me, properly classified, I shall be in a position to ascertain whether and in what manner such a scheme of co-ordination would be carried into effect in this country with advantage to the associations and their clients.
Her Majesty’s Lieutenant for the County of Northumberland
CONSTITUTION OF THE COURTS
The Local Government Board last night issued a circular to Town Councils, Metropolitan Borough Councils, and Urban and Rural District Council in connection with the new effort which is being made to recruit men for the Army, appealing to them to do everything in their power to assist the work of the local recruiting committees.
It is pointed out that with a view of disturbing as little as possible the essential industries of the country men have been starred, that is, barred from enlistment, but that it will probably be found on investigation that some of these men can be spared. At the same time there are a certain number of men not starred who are indispensable to trades and undertaking in which they are employed.
With regard to both these classes of men questions may arise in individual cases and it is described that there should be established a local tribunal to which these questions can be referred for decision.
The circular urges the constitution of a committee by each Council to act as local tribunal for the district. The committee should generally not consist of more than five members, and need not be confined to members of the Council. The recruiting officer in each district should be present at the hearing of all cases, and will have the right to appeal against any decision to a higher tribunal. It is proposed that the appeal should lie with the district tribunal, of which a few will be appointed for the country.
The whole work will be under the direction of a central committee.
ROLL OF HONOUR
Pte. R. Dixon, of Newham, missing.
Pte. L. Dodd, of Ashington, wounded.
Pte. George Rose, 8th Northumberland Fusiliers, of Hirst, wounded.
Pte. A Lumsden, 12th Northumberland Fusiliers, of Hirst, wounded.
Pte. James Lumsden, 6th East Yorks, of Choppington, wounded.
Sapper Morrison, Royal Engineers, of Blyth, wounded.
Pte. Peter Russell, 8th Northumberland Fusiliers, of Choppington wounded.
Corpl. A. Johnson, 10th Yorks, of Blyth, wounded.
Pte. John Hare, 12th Northumberland Fusiliers, of Choppington, killed.
Pte. G. Harris, East Yorks Regiment, of New Hatley, wounded.
Pte. Henry Collins, 8th Northumberland Fusiliers, of Ashington, missing.
Pte. Timothy Duxfield, of Newsham, has been killed.
Pte. J. T. Finley, No.2574, 9th D.L.I., of South Gosforth has been wounded.
Driver J. Chrisp, Royal Field Artillery, of Bedlington, wounded.
News is to hand of the death of a Hirst soldier in France on October 4th — Pte. Thos. Lockyer.
Private Alfred Errington, 8th N.F., son of Mr And Mrs Errington, Ashington, has died from wounds.
Private John Taylor, 13th Northumberland Fusiliers, 32 Dandsfield Place, Radcliffe, has been wounded.
Private Thomas Allan, 5th Northumberland Fusiliers, of Middle Row, Burradon, Colliery, has been wounded.
Lance-Corpl. Henry Hewish, 13th N.F., son of Mr W. and Mrs Hewish, of 8 Turner’s Street, West Allotment, has been killed in action.
Information has been received by his parents at 59, Orwin Avenue, Forest Hall, that John McGee, 10th (D.L.I.), has died from wounds.
Robert Dawson, of Palmersville, Forest Hall, as received official news that his son, Robert Dawson, an A.B. serving with the Hawke Battalion, has been wounded.
Mr J.W. Norris, Dudley, has received information that his son, Private Richard Norris, 13th Northumberland Fusiliers, was wounded on September 27th.
Mrs T. Kelly, of Vicarage Terrace, Wideopen, has received an official intimation that her husband, Drummer Thomas Kelly, 8th East Yorks, has been wounded in France.
Pte. Thomas Rolfe, 12th Northumberland Fusiliers, of Kitty Brewster, who was killed in action on September 27th was a well known sporting man.
Lance-Corporal J.T. Bickerton, 8th N.F., has been wounded and missing since 19th August. Any information will be gladly received by his sister, Mrs T. Cook, 2 Sixth Row, Ashington.
Mrs Arthur, of 8 Front Street, Annitsford, has received word that her husband, Private William Henry Arthur, 10th Yorkshire Regiment, has been wounded in the head. This is the second time that Private Arthur has been wounded.
Mrs Kennedy, of 10 Ivy Terrace, Burrdon Colliery, has been informed that her son, Drummer John Edward Kennedy, 14th Battalion N.F., has died in France of wounds received in action. He was 23 years of age, and leaves a widow and 2 children. Prior to joining the colours, Pte. Kennedy worked at Burradon Colliery.
A NEWSHAM HERO
A letter signed by Privates J.R. Scott, Newsham; J.W. Long, Newsham; S. Best, Hirst; W. Arkle, Hirst; and J. Johnson, Choppington, has been received from France by the parents of Private Charles Killington, Newsham, who has died from wounds.
There is also a letter from his lieutenant expressing the greatest admiration for the heroism of the dead soldier and sorrow for his death.
He was laid away respectfully in a little churchyard with a proper Christian burial.
Private Killington was wounded in the trenches whilst sticking heroically to his post.
AN HEROIC DEATH
News has been received of the death in France of Lance-Corporal James Evans, of the 7th Northumberland Fusiliers.
Volunteers were asked for to bring in a wounded man in a particularly dangerous position. Evans at once volunteered for the perilous task. He had just left the trench when he fell mortally wounded. He was struck by no fewer than five bullets.
Evans, who belonged to Berwick, was five feet eleven inches in height, and was much admired for his manly qualities. He was quartered at Cambois Camp for some time previous to going to the Front.
ROLL OF HONOUR
SMITH.— Died on the 5th day of October from wounds received in action at the Battle of Loos. Pte. Wm. Smith, eldest and dearly-loved son of Robert and Margaret Smith, of 80 Rosalind Street, Hirst.
Far away over the billows,
His aching head is at rest:
He fought and died a true soldier,
And is now in the land of the Blest.
Will never be forgotten.
HARDY.— Killed in action in France on October 1st. 1915. Pte. Gladstone Hardy No. 1509, 7th Batt. N.F., late of Chevington Drift, Broomhill, aged 19 years and 6 months.
No loved ones, stood around him
To bid him a last farewell:
No word of comfort could he leave
To those he loved so well,
He was so loving, kind, and true;
And faced the shot and shell;
Although his grave we cannot see,
He like a solider fell.
– Ever remembered by his sister, Lizzie.
LILLICO.— Killed in action in France, Sept. 27th. Pte. Thomas Lillico, Northumberland Fusiliers, aged 37.
— Deeply mourned by his mother and sisters at Broomhill.
WANTED for Mechanical Transport Section (Army Service Corps)
Qualified motor-car drivers and qualified motor mechanics. Men are urgently required. Pay 6/- a day and Separation Allowance. A Mechanical Transport Officer will interview applicants at No. 4 Room, The Barracks, Newcastle-on-Tyne, on the 1st November, and each Monday after till further notice. Men employed on munition work will not be accepted.
Trade References and Driving Licences must be produced.
God save the King!
IN AID OF THE RED CROSS SOCIETY
To the funds of the British Red Cross Society the sum of £371. 3s. has been given being the amount obtained from the sale of flags and cards at Alnwick on “Flag Day.” Mr J.H. Sanderson also gave £10 to the Red Cross Society, being the proceeds of a cinematograph entertainment in the Corn Exchange, Alnwick.
“Our Day” at Ponteland was a great success. The sum of £20 7s. 10d. was raised for Red Cross funds by a willing and energetic band of collectors, under the direction of Mrs Langton.
“Our Day” in connection with the British Red Cross Society was celebrated in Embleton with enthusiasm, and upwards, of £20 will be contributed to the funds.
Mrs Browne, of Brunton House and Harehope Hall, commandant of the local Women’s Detachment of the British Red Cross Society, ably assisted by a staff of helpers, was responsible for organising the arrangements, which consisted of a tea and entertainment in the Creighton Memorial Hall.
At the entertainment there was an excellent programme. The Rev. F.C. Paul presided. The performers consisted of a party from Alnwick, viz., Miss Kean, Miss Fairgrieve, Miss Mangin, Miss Tait, Mr Saisnbury, Mr C. Hindmarsh (pianist) assisted by Miss Craster, Bogie Hall, Craster.
A successful whist drive in aid of the Red Cross “Our Day” fund was held in Belsay School. The total proceeds — £14 18s — have been handed over to the society.