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.
A public meeting was held at Coates’ Endowed School, Ponteland, to organise a reading and writing room and a canteen at the Bungalow for soldiers stationed at Ponteland during the winter months. There was a very good attendance and enthusiastic support was forthcoming.
A ladies’ committee to manage the canteen, and a gentlemen’s committee to assist at the reading and writing room were formed. Several subscriptions, donations, and supplies of illustrated papers, etc., were promised. An appeal for further support in this direction will be made. Subscriptions should be sent to the hon. secretary, Mr H.W. Tustin, Bell Villas, Ponteland, and provisions, etc., to the Bungalow.
The band of lady workers who did so much last year are again busy making up material to provide useful articles of clothing for our soldiers and sailors on active service, and a sum of £3 18s. has been collected for this purpose.
The work performed by the Y.M.C.A. throughout the nation during the present war has been magnificent, and will have done more to attach to it the admirations and support of the people – old and young – than work hitherto done by that excellent body, which may well be emulated by others.
Just now there is outward and visible evidence of such work in the spacious erection which is being built by that association here in Bridge Street for the accommodation and comfort of soldiers who have their winter quarters here.
When one receives letters from every front where the deadly battles are now waging and finds pathetic messages written on Y.M.C.A. notepaper, it is some slight indication of the real, practical, and good work that must be adoing by this splendid movement everywhere.
IN A PROHIBITED AREA
He was a very dilapidated specimen of humanity who appeared in the dock at Morpeth court, charged with having been in a prohibited area, he being an alien American.
His appearance did not suggest that he was anything beyond the “Weary Willie” type, or what they call in his own country a “Sundowner”; but Supt. Marshall is very thorough in all he does and takes as few risks as possible, and it would have been well for our country and worse for the German Intelligence Department if from the commencement of the war prompt and effective treatment had been meted out to aliens whether travelling by motor car, or “shank’s nag” and land them fast. As a nation, it has been proved that we are more trustful than prudent.
NORTHERN MINERS AND WAR WORK
Into the most thrilling enterprises of the war enters the heroic figure of the man with the pick and shovel — sapping and tunnelling from his own to the enemy trenches; burrowing silently underground, racing against the counter-spa of the enemy, stopping to listen intently for his approach, and sometimes digging a tomb in the tunnel he drives. Many silent tragedies have occurred among the earthmen; many sensational escapes from death on this underground are recorded.
Information has just been received that a party of Northumberland miners, tunnelling toward the German lines, were undermined by the enemy, who exploded their charge underneath them. Our men were buried, and were missing for three days, when, to the amazement of the company to which they were attached, they reported themselves for duty again.
The tunnel they had been in was destroyed behind them, and they were imprisoned — the return cut off. But they dug laboriously to the light, and exhausted and enfeebled returned after they had been given up as lost.
The special miners are usually attached to the Royal Engineers, and Northumberland and Durham have contributed more than their share of volunteers for the perilous work.
The miner takes naturally to it. It is work he is accustomed to — timbering up the roof and sides, and preventing the tunnel from closing. And it is amazing how he gets down to it in compressing himself into an aperture which any other man of his size would fail to enter, much less to work in. That is one of the questionable advantages of a training in the pit. A 6ft. man, 15 or 16 stones in weight, has no difficulty in working in a seam 3ft. high. He twists and tortures, and finally inserts himself into it in a most astonishing fashion, and, hewing here through his shift, is able to make the county average.
The physical contortions which the conditions and place of his employment have imposed upon him fit him admirably for the duties he has volunteered for as a special miner. He gets straight to the task as to the manner born, and is the most skilful and daring of the earthmen out there.
It is thrilling work. There may be a tunnel alongside or an enemy squad driving to meet him. Sometimes he is beaten, but generally he has his explosive aid, and has rushed back into safety before the enemy sapper has completed his tunnel. The blasting charges that are laid are of earthquaking force. The reader may have noticed in a recent dispatch from the Trentino that the Italians tunnelled under the principal peak of the Col di Lana, and laid dynamite mines which blew up the entire mountain top and wrecked the defence works, which were filled with Austrian dead to the number of 2,000. The operations on our Western front include similar enterprises.
Private Alfred Baker, of Woodhorn, a special miner who has been invalided home, states that he assisted to mine a hill in France, and put in five tons of explosives. This lends itself to an interesting calculation. A pound of ordinary powder would probably bring away about two tons of earth. Five tons of explosives, of 11,200 pounds, would bring down 22,400 tons, which would fill 2,240 10-ton trucks, each 12 ft. long, representing over five miles of trucks. The calculations assists one to comprehend something of the terrific forces which are employed in modern warfare, and something of the hazardous work that the special miner is engaged upon.
A GALLANT PIPER
One of the proudest men in the Army today is Piper Daniel Laidlaw of the 7th King’s Own Scottish Borders, who won the Victoria Cross for most conspicuous bravely prior to the assault on the German trenches near Loos.
With absolute coolness and disregard of danger he mounted the parapet, marched up and down, and played his company out of the trench. The effect of his splendid example was immediate, and his company dashed out to the assault.
The gallant piper of Loos, who belongs to Winwick, near Swinton, Berwickshire, is a brother-in-law of Mr Joshua Harvie, who is a warder at the County Asylum Morpeth. Mr Robt. Henry, of Olympia Gardens, and a linotype operator in our employ, is also related to the hero. When he leaves the hospital at Warrington it is expected that he will break his journey at Morpeth, and we hear it is the intention of his soldier friends to give him a royal reception on his arrival.
THE ARMY CHRISTMAS PUDDING FUND
We acknowledge with thanks the following sums received towards the “Daily News” Army Christmas Pudding Fund:— Miss Nicholson, 1/-; H. and J., 1/-; Mrs J.N. Fulleson, 6d.; Mrs N.E. Wright, 2/6. Last week the ex-Mayoress (Mrs Charlton) sent a cheque to the Editor of the “Daily News” for the Army Christmas Pudding Fund for £7 7s. 9d., and we sent a cheque for £10 3s. 6d. — £17 11s. 3d — which has been duly acknowledged.
The Editor says: “Morpeth has done well for the Army Christmas Pudding Fund.”
Further subscriptions will be received by Mrs Charlton and ourselves up to the 30th November, when the fund will be closed.
THE EMPLOYMENT OF WOMEN
The monthly meeting of the Morpeth Rural District Council was held on Wednesday. The Hon. and Rev. W.C. Ellis presided.
The Clerk read a circular from the Rural Councils’ Association calling attention to the Home Secretary’s recommendation with regard to the employment of women instead of men, whenever possible, during the war.
In reply to the Chairman, Mr Adams stated that all the men on the road in his district were above military age.
Mr Walker said that he has two men of military age in his district.
Mr Young: They will be dealt with under Lord Derby’s recruiting scheme.
The Clerk read a memorial from the Committee on War Damage in London, and asking the Council to adopt the following resolution: “That in the opinion of this meeting the Government scheme for insuring against loss or damage by aircraft or bombardment, which has made individual citizens responsible for war damage inflicted on them by the enemy, is manifestly unjust, and it is hereby agreed to present a memorial to the Prime Minister urging the abandonment of the scheme, and (1) the adoption of an Act recognising national responsibility somewhat on the lines of the Riot (Damage) Act 1886, or (2) revert to the policy adopted in connection with Zeppelin raids on the East Coast and the bombardment of Scarborough and Hartlepool prior to the introduction of the insurance scheme, and compensate sufferers out of the national funds, the conditions of the withdrawal being that the premiums already paid under the scheme should be returned.”
Mr Young seconded. Mr Hine proposed that no action be taken. Mr Hudson seconded.
On a vote being taken it was agreed to support the resolution.
Mr Hudson: I am satisfied that whatever action is taken we shall never get the premiums back.
A Member: Because the Government will need all their millions.
THE BELGIAN ARMY
Sir, I have been requested to appeal for funds to provide comforts for the Belgian Army who are keeping the trenches in the bleak plains of Flanders. These brave and long-enduring men have few, if any, friends who are in a position to send them the comforts which in the winter campaign they require.
A quick response is urgently asked for. The fund is being raised under the auspices of the Prime Minster and Minister of War for Belgium and other eminent people. – Yours, etc.
JOHN J. DAVIES,
Rector of Morpeth
ROLL OF HONOUR
Sergt. A. Hart, of East Cramlington, missing.
Sergt. R. Paul, of Blyth, who was wounded in September in action, has died of his wounds.
Corporal Lancelot Hedley, 8th East Yorks, of Annitsford, is reported wounded and a prisoner of war.
Official intimation has been received by his relatives that Private Ed. Johnson, of the 8th Somersetshire Light Infantry, of Paradise Street, Cramlington Village, has been killed in action.
Mr George Miller, of 20 King Edward Street, Amble, has received word from the War Office that his only son, Private Henry J. Miller, 8th N.F., was killed in action at the Dardanelles on August 7th.
Pte. Ernest Woodhall, 16844, 1st N.F., has been reported missing since June 16th.
Mrs T. Kelly, of 96 Vicarage Terrace, Wideopen, has just received an official intimation that her husband Drummer Thos. Kelly, of the 8th East Yorks Regiment, was killed in France, on 26th September.
Pte. Alfred York, son of John Thomas York, of Sycamore Street, Hirst, and late of Blyth, Somerset Light Infantry, died at No. 2 Casualty Ward on Tuesday from wounds received on Saturday night, November 13th, caused by a bomb exploding in a trench thrown from the enemy’s trenches. His body was buried at Loos Cemetery on Wednesday.
News has been received by Mrs Paul of Dalmatia Terrace, Blyth, that her son, Sergt. Royal Paul, of the East Yorks regiment, who was reported wounded on Sept. 29th, died of his wounds a few days later.
ROLL OF HONOUR
NICHOL – Killed in action, April 26th, 1915, Private Athol E. Nicholson, 1881, 1/7 Northumberland Fusiliers, the beloved husband of Isabella Nichol, 13 Bridge Street, Morpeth. Deeply mourned by his loving wife.
JOHNSON – Killed in action in France, 19th November, 1915, aged 41 years. Edward James, son of the late William and Margaret Johnson, of Shankhouse. – Ever remembered by his sister, brother, and Nephew, Willie.
NAIRN – Private William Nairn, 2786. N.F., killed in action in France, on April 26th, 1915, dearly beloved son of Peter and Mary Ann Nairn, of Radcliffe, and loved grandson of Jane and the late William Mordue of Amble, and the late George and Ellen Nairn, of Ashington.
NORTH SEATON SOLDIERS’ DEATH
The death of Private D. Atchison of North Seaton is thus described by Private W.H. Hall in a letter to Mrs Allen, Widdrington:— “I am writing these few lines hoping it will relieve your mind about the death of your poor brother Dave. There had been a charge and there was a lot of wounded and killed and we were having a busy time of it. Dave was coming along the top of a trench carrying a wounded man on his back when he put him down a minute to get his wind. Alas! A bullet struck him in the back and killed him. He never spoke. He died a noble death doing his duty to the last.
“We are heartily sorry, as he was a fine fellow and liked by all. We buried him that night in a properly dug grave. The doctor read the burial service; and we put a cross on his grave with his name, regiment and how he died. I send the deepest sympathy of the doctor, myself, and all the staff.”
LOCAL NURSE’S DEATH AT CAIRO
News has been received at Wallsend that Nurse Syliva Stephenson, eldest daughter of Mrs M. Stephenson and the late Alderman Chris Stephenson, of The Green, Wallsend, has died of dysentery at a miliary hospital in Cairo.
The deceased young lady volunteered as a nurse when the war broke out, and was trained at the Jesmond Road Voluntary Hospital and the Royal Infirmary. She proceeded to Cairo some little time ago to take up her duties.
Information of her death has caused great sorrow at Wallsend, as she was well known as a young lady of exceptional merit and charming manner, and one who will be very much missed for her good works in the district. Two brothers of the deceased lady are serving with the Forces in France.
NEWSHAM SOLDIER’S DEATH
Much sympathy is felt at Newsham and locality for the parents of Pte. J. Taylor, of the Somerset Light Infantry, who has been killed by a shell at the Front. He would have been 19 on New Year’s Eve. That the deceased soldier was held in great esteem by officers and men is demonstrated by the following letters received by the parents of the dead soldier:—
Second Lieut. Stubbs writes:— “It is with a very heavy heart that I sit down to write these lines to tell you that your son was killed on the 12th, when a shell burst in the middle of my section, for he was such a good little chap. He always worked hard and was very keen in his work and very popular with all the other fellows.
“My sympathy and thoughts are so much with you for I realise what a terrible blow it is to you. I feel it so deeply when the men who are in my care are wounded, for they seem to me to be almost my own brothers, and anyhow my friends, and very great friends too, for they are the very best of men, and my whole heart goes out to you in your great sorrow.”
A REQUEST FROM THE TENCHES
Sir,— As we have been in the trench for a good long time, and are now out for a rest, we would be much obliged if someone would kindly send us a football to pass the time away. We are having some good sport in the way of boxing, but the boys would like a football for a change. Yours, etc.,
24482 PTE. J. MORALEE,
13th Platoon, D Company,
10th Battalion N.F.,
British Expeditionary Force,