In this feature to commemorate the First World War, we will bring you the news as it happened in 1916, 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.
Second-Lieut. Robert Oliver, elder son of Mr W.L. Oliver, of the firm Messrs R. Oliver and Sons, Morpeth, has been mentioned in a recent despatch from Sir John French for gallant and distinguished service in the field.
Second-Lieut. Oliver enlisted in the Public Schools Battalion as a private on September 15th, 1914, and was for the first three months at Epsom. He received his commission on 5th January, 1915, and was attached to the 12th Northumberland Fusiliers.
He went out with the 21st Division to France and immediately proceeded with his regiment to the firing line and took part in the great battle at Loos. He was last seen on the parapet of a German trench on Hill 70, and was officially reported missing on September 26th. Since then nothing more has been heard of him.
In a letter to Mrs Oliver the captain of his company states that Second-Lieutenant Oliver acted in a most cool and courageous manner in action, and that his platoon had been singled out for special praise by the Divisional General for the work they did.
Second-Lieut. Oliver was educated at the Morpeth Grammar School and Merchiston Castle, Edinburgh. He was a keen photographer, and two years ago won the challenge cup in connection with the Camera Club exhibition held under the auspices of the Young Men’s Christian Association at Morpeth. He was 20 years of age.
MENTIONED IN DESPATCHES
In a despatch published in the “London Gazette” on Saturday, Sir John French recommends the following local officers and men for gallant and distinguished conduct in the field:— Lieut.-Col. Henderson, D.L.I., Lieut. R. Oliver, N.F., Morpeth, Capt. Merivale, N.F., Broomhill, Sergt. R.B. Appleby, N.F., West High House, Morpeth, Sergt. D.B. Douglas, A.B.O.N.D., Morpeth.
GIFTS GREATLY APPRECIATED
The following has just been received by Mrs Tighe, of Waterford House, Morpeth:—
It is now my pleasant duty to acknowledge, on behalf of the Morpeth boys in our company, the receipt of your most welcome parcel containing cigarettes, tobacco, and sweets. They all expressed their warmest thanks to you for your kindness and thoughtfulness.
The parcel came on the 23rd December in the evening, just when nearly everyone found they had no smokes; so they were doubly pleased, and I assure you they are all delighted to have something from dear old Morpeth.
Again thanking you on their behalf. —Yours, etc.,
BART FOSTER, Sergt.
The committee and members of the Social Club, Market Place, Morpeth, have received the following letter:—
Gentlemen,— I beg to acknowledge the receipt of a parcel so kindly subscribed for and sent to me by the members of your club. Please convey to the subscribers my warmest thanks.
Words of mine can’t express how grateful I feel by being a recipient of their generosity. It would need them to be here in person to realise the amount of pleasure it gives to each and everyone of us when we receive our parcels from home. Could they be here when the postman arrive, I have no doubt they would feel amply repaid.
Everything in the parcel went down alright, except the candles. When I saw them I smiled. You see we are lucky enough to have electricity, but they will not be wasted, as I am having them sent to someone, who is not so fortunate. —Yours, etc.,
08581 Pte. PHILLIPSON, F. 318 Co. M.T.A.S.C.
Boulogne Base, France
Mrs Cookson desires, on behalf of the Northumberland Hussars, to thank the Stannington Working Party for the useful parcel of shirts, socks, body belts, mufflers, and mittens, which were sent by Lady Ridley.
Mrs Cookson cannot express how grateful the N.H.Y. are for the things sent.
Lance-Corporal Marshall, 5th N.F., York, desires to thank the people of Pegswood for the handsome present sent to him.
NEW YEAR CELEBRATIONS
The passing of the old and the coming of the New Year were quietly celebrated at Morpeth.
About the midnight hour a goodly number of people were in the streets, and after the stroke of twelve the old custom of “first-footing” was indulged in.
New Year’s Day witnessed the opening meet of the Morpeth Foxhounds. In spite of the stormy weather conditions, large crowds of the military and the general public assembled in the Castle Square, Morpeth to see the start. There was an unusually large field, many of the officers of the different regiments quartered in the town and neighbourhood joining in the hunt.
The pack was in charge of Huntsman F. Scott. Among those mounted were Mr Geo. Renwick, Springhill; Dr. Arthur Brumell, Mr W.C. Sample, Bothal; Colonel Verdin, Major Egerton, Mrs Barnett, Whalton; Miss Atkinson, Gallowhill; Miss F. Cooper, Lieut. W.S. Sanderson, Lieut. Fergusson, Lieut. Blakeby, Mr Summerbell, Underwood; Lieut. Parkins, Lieut. Cooper, Mr R. Anderson, Gubeon; Lieut. Mosely, and Mr and Master Moore, Wellhill.
On New Year’s night the men at the Soldiers’ Institute were entertained to light refreshments. The men also received cigarettes and apples and oranges. The good things were much appreciated.
Sir.— I am of the opinion our Council have erred on the side of moderation in asking for six obscured lamps for Morpeth streets; 6 times 6 would be nearer the mark.
Pedestrians who have to be out after 5 o’clock run great risks that need not be in a place like Morpeth.
I am told that places nearer the coast are better lighted, therefore I would suggest a few more obscured lamps at other dangerous points in the streets which would be a great boon to those who have to be out at nights; more especially when we are without a moon.
I am tempted to write those few lines to you, Mr Editor, seeing that there are more stringent measures to be taken shortly. —Yours etc.,
Through the kindness of Mr George Renwick there is on view at the Soldiers’ Institute, Morpeth, a framed collection of over 200 regimental badges. All those who take an interest in these badges should make a point of seeing this most interesting collection.
ROLL OF HONOUR
News has been received at Blyth, that Private Edward Bateman, of the Northumberland Fusiliers, has been killed in France.
Trooper J. Miller, of the 14th Hussars, belonging to Morpeth, was killed in action in the Persian Gulf on the 8th December.
Mr and Mrs W.A. Avery, of Reivers’ Well, Cragside, Rothbury, have received information that their son, Private R.G. Avery, 9480, 2nd D.L.I., was killed in action on December 20th.
After being wounded in the left foot, Private Robert Allison, 14496, 10th Northumberland Fusiliers, a native of Bedlington, is now suffering from an illness. He is also well known at Ashington.
COUNTY CHIEF CONSTABLE HONOURED
Among the few honours that have come our way, as officially announced, is that of a medal which has been awarded to Captain Fullarton James, who has been Chief Constable of Northumberland since 1900.
It is gratifying that he has received Royal recognition for having well maintained the important force under his control in a high state of efficiency, and has otherwise rendered valuable services in this part of the East Coast since the outbreak of hostilities.
This week the Chief Constable was congratulated by the members of the Standing Joint Committee on the honour conferred upon him in receiving a medal. We also off him our heartiest congratulations.
CROSS-COUNTRY RUN AT MORPETH
Sir,— It has been arranged to bring the Military Cross-Country run, open to all units of the Tyne garrison, which includes the troops stationed from Berwick to Seaham Harbour, to Morpeth on Saturday, the 22nd January.
This race has already been held at Blyth, Hexham, South Shields, and Sunderland, and these places entertained the men taking part in the race to tea. We have been asked if Morpeth would do the same, and we feel sure that the people of Morpeth would be glad to do so.
It is expected that between 600 and 800 men will enter. The run will begin and finish at Morpeth. We have been kindly granted the use of the Soldiers’ Institute and St James’s Infant School, and a committee of ladies has agreed to make all the necessary arrangements.
Of course a fairly large sum will be required to provide for so many men, but we feel sure that Morpeth will be only too pleased to provide the men with an afternoon’s outing as the other places have done.
I have agreed to act as hon. treasurer, and shall be very glad to receive any donations, either of large or small sums, as we are very anxious that everyone should be able to feel that they had contributed to give the men a good time when they come to Morpeth. Donations may be sent either to the undersigned or to Mr T.B. Waters, Soldiers’ Institute. —Yours, etc.,
(Rev.) FRANK C. HARDY.
The changes that have been brought about in the administrative work of public bodies since the war commenced have been varied and manifold, and this is the case in connection with councils generally, in order to meet the new demands of the times.
The Morpeth Guardians have decided to make a change, which will mean that the Guardians will only have one meeting to attend in a month instead of two. The meetings of the Relief Committee which take fortnightly will, after the February meeting, be held on the same day as the ordinary meeting of Guardians.
The relief to needy persons will be dispersed by the relieving officers as before over the longer period, and the cases will come under review once a month when the Board meets.
This change was more of a suggestion of the Local Government Board, and it should prove a welcome one to those members who often at considerable sacrifice made a form of attending regularly the meetings of the Board.
A QUIET NEW YEAR
Many of the old customs which are usually associated with the passing of the old and the coming of the new year were conspicuous for their absence when the year 1916 was ushered in. In Morpeth and the surrounding districts the occasion was very quietly celebrated.
More than one reason may be assigned for the changed state of affairs, and probably the chief one is to be found in the fact that people are more concerned about the war and the loved ones who are on active service.
Then again the early closing of public houses and the darkened streets all helped to make it a quiet New Year’s Eve. A prominent feature of the holiday season was the orderliness and sobriety of the people generally, which all goes to show that the general public realise fully the gravity of the times in which we are passing through.
MR STRAKER ON COMPULSION
Mr W. Straker, secretary of the Northumberland Miners’ Association, in the course of an interview with reference to compulsory military service, on Wednesday, said: “My opinion is that the conscriptionist party squeezed the anti-conscriptionists in the Government bit by bit, until they have agreed now to bring in a modified form of conscription. By and by they will squeeze a bit further. We will get an amending Bill, and this will go on until there is conscription for everybody.”
5,000 D.C.M.’S AND 100 V.C.’S
In the House of Commons on Wednesday Mr Tennant, in reply to Mr Clough, said that about 5,000 Distinguished Conduct Medals and 100 Victoria Crosses had been awarded.
He did not think it necessary to examine the proportion won by married and unmarried men. Single men were not preferred as soldiers because they were better soldiers than married men, but because the latter generally had more responsibilities.
Mr Snowdon: It means that the War Office desire single men because they make cheaper soldiers.
FOR PONTELAND SOLDIERS
A social evening was held in Coates’ Endowed School, Ponteland, the proceeds being used to provide each soldier at the front from the village of Ponteland and the immediate neighbourhood with a parcel of goods during the festive season.
There was a large company present, and a very enjoyable evening was spent.
The sum of £15 10s. was realised and a parcel has been despatched to each local soldier.
RED CROSS HOSPITAL, MORPETH
The Commandant of Morpeth Red Cross Hospital wishes to acknowledge with thanks the following gifts:— Lieut. Green, books; Mr Duncan, cake; Mrs Simpson, scones; Miss Soulsby, cigarettes; Mrs Harding, two plum puddings, and oranges; Mrs Jennings, fruit; Mrs Speke, rabbits; Mr and Mrs Tinsley, butter, eggs, cigarettes; Mrs Brittain, apples, Mrs Lockey, duck.
BRITISH FARMERS’ RED CROSS FUND
Sir,— During the past year over 190 agricultural jumble sales have been held on behalf of the above Fund, and we wish to thank all those who have helped to make them such a success.
Although this Fund has now reached the splendid total of £150,000, the money for the sick and wounded is still urgently wanted, and all offers of assistance for the arrangement of further sales during the New Year will be gratefully received by the Secretary, Room 5, Tower Bridge Flour Mills, Shad Thames, Bermondsey, S.E. —Yours etc.,
WALTER G. VANN,
Northumberland.— 49th List.— From Tenants on Lieut.-Col. Cookson’s Estate (in lieu of Rent Dinner) per L. Waulace, Esq., £7 15s; previous total, £2,098 19s 9d— Total, £2,106 14s 9d.
MORPETH’S SEWING MEETING FOR THE SOLDIERS
The above sewing meetings will be resumed in the Soldiers’ Institute, Bell’s Yard, on Thursday, January 13th, at 2pm. Tea will be given by his Worship the Mayor of Morpeth.
VOLUNTARY AID HOSPITAL, MORPETH
We would draw attention to a high-class concert which is to be given in the Playhouse, Morpeth, in aid of the above hospital, on Thursday afternoon next. The concert, which is timed to commence at 2.30pm, is to be under the patronage of the Hon. Mrs Joicey, Longhirst Hall, the General Officer Commanding, and officers of the 2nd Line Welsh Border Mounted Brigade, and Mr George Renwick of Springhill.
The programme will be provided by talented artistes, including star artistes from the Newcastle halls. Tickets may be obtained from Mr James, stationer, Newgate Street and the “Herald” Office, Morpeth, and the 2/6 seats can be booked at the shop of Mr James on and after Saturday, Jan. 8th. For further details see posters.
SHOOTING HOMING PIGEONS
The War Office draws attention to the fact that a large number of carrier or homing pigeons are being utilised for naval and military purposes, and that recently many of these birds have been shot at and killed or wounded when homing to their lofts. The public are warned that persons convicted of wilfully shooting such birds are liable to prosecution.
Persons who are unable to distinguish with certainty carrier or homing pigeons on the wing from wood pigeons, doves, and the like, should refrain from firing at any birds of these species.
AMBLE INTERCESSION SERVICES
Intercession services were held at the various places of worship on Sunday last. There were large congregations at all the churches, and each of the ministers preached appropriate sermons.
Each of the ministers read over the Roll of Honour of all those who had gone to fight for their King and country, and sympathetic references were made to those who had laid down their lives for freedom and civilisation. Special hymns were sung. The services were most impressive.
CHRISTMAS AT THE FRONT
One of the men of D Company, 5th Northumberland Fusiliers, has sent us the following communications from “Somewhere in France.”
He says:— ”I am just writing to let you know how the lads from Tyneside spent their Christmas. It happened that it was our turn to fall back from the first line into the reserve for a rest. We were in a better position to enjoy ourselves in the huts than the boys in the line. We had church parade in the morning. Selections were given by the band of the 7th D.L.I. in the afternoon. At night each hut provided its own amusement.
The N.C.O.’s of D Company held a sing-song, which went off splendidly. It commenced with the singing of carols by the company. Next followed songs — ”Always,” by Corporal J. Bennett; “Casey Jones,” G. Cook (Coy. Ord.); “Where the River Shannon flows,” T.L. Fannan (Coy. Ord,); “Sing me to sleep,” Sergt. Fawley; parody on “Sing me to sleep,” Sergt. Thomas; “A Picture Postcard,” Sergeant Gallon. “Thora” was ably rendered by Sergt. Willis, who was encored. He then gave “You ask me to forget you.” The evening was brought to a close by a toast to King and country.
We wish to thank all who were responsible for the Christmas puddings, of which we had an ample share. We are now having as much rest as possible before taking our turn in the line again.”
THE PIPER LAIDLAW, V.C. FUND
The friends and admirers on the Borders of Piper Daniel Laidlaw, V.C., the hero of Loos, are raising a testimonial fund for his benefit. Through a concert and cinema entertainment held at Alnwick. the Soldiers’ Recreation Committee will hand over the net proceeds, amounting to £16 to the fund.
SPECIAL SERVICES AT MORPETH
Solemn services of intercession on behalf of the nation and the Empire were held at the different places of worship in Morpeth on Sunday last.
The Mayor (Ald. Ed. Norman) and members and officials of the Town Council attended the morning service at St James’s Church in their official capacity. Those who joined in the procession from the Council Chambers to the church were: The Mayor in his robes of office, Alderman R.J. Carr, Councillors W. Duncan, R.N. Swinney, Chas. Grey, J.R. Temple, I. Armstrong, R.L. Fearby, Geo Jackson, James Elliott, Mr Jas. Jardin (Town Clerk), Mr J. Davison (borough surveyor), Mr George Middlemas (rate collector), Mr N.I. Wright, Mr G.D. Dakyns, M.A., Mr F. Brumell, Mr J.E. Whittle, and Mr J.C. Moore of Sunderland.
The service, which was of an impressive character, was conducted by the Rector (Canon Davies). The lessons were read by Mr N.L. Wright. At the commencement the choir and congregation joined in singing the National Anthem. Mr Alfred Armstrong ably presided at the organ.
The Rector took his text from the 11th chapter of St Matthew, versus 28-29: “Come unto Me, all ye than labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” He said it seemed to him that those words of our Lord expressed admirably and perfectly the purpose of that day’s special service.
They would remember that they had entered upon their great national intercession on the first Sunday of last year in an uncertain, if not in a perplexed state of heart and mind. This country had not sought the war. They were proud of the motives that had driven them into the great conflict. They has responded to the call of honour, answered the summons of duty, and so answered the call of God. The element of penitence seemed to many somewhat unnecessary and out of place.
He was right in saying that, today, things were different. They were still proud of the part they were determined to play, and rightly so, and the nature of the struggle was so clear that there seemed to be no doubt, if they were faithful, of the ultimate issue. They were beginning to understand that it had a meaning for them, deeper than the power of their vision a year ago.
They remembered the condition of England in the summer of 1914 before the war broke out, and they shuddered at the memory of the blindness that possessed them then. They were capable of better things, of a diviner mode of life. What they had done in the interval was demonstrated that day to the call of Christ bidding them to nobler living, to identify themselves with service and sacrifice, to accept His standard of value, that was to look upon life as it was in the spiritual and so to be expressed in terms of brotherhood, and not of mutual antagonism, and to apply those to all the relationships of life, industrial, social, civic etc. To all those they had turned a deaf, unheeding ear everywhere smothering the spiritual in great waves of materialism.
In the midst of their madness came the great catastrophe, and the seeming solid structure of their civilisation came crashing down in ruin around them, and they saw vast resources of godless materialism in the possession and exploitation of which they had foolishly come to think that life lay, and its satisfaction became the instruments of life’s destruction.
“But when Germany,” continued the Rector, “threw down the challenge of ‘right’ in overweening confidence upon the invincibility of ‘might,’ we were called to grasp something of what we had at stake, and we responded nobly as befitted a people with soul, a great soul, though we had allowed it to be covered over with the destructive form of mere material things, and in the method and process of our response we are discovering the key to the meaning which this great and terrible crisis has for us. We are in the midst of a process which is meant to be, and I think it is, the great process of regeneration.
“Some clearly, others dimly through the crash and tumult, through the knowledge and the suffering and the anguish of this great time, are at last hearing the voice of the Son of Man bidding all men ‘Come unto Him’, to find in Him and in the identification of their lives, that His is the only real and abiding fullness of life. This is the interpretation of it, and for us a time of great spiritual renewal. It is for us to answer to the call consciously and deliberately and henceforth to make God, revealed in Christ, the real Lord over all our life. Today then, if it is to achieve lasting good, is a day of spiritual renewal, a day of confession of past sin, and a day of reconsecration to the service of God.”
The offertories for the day, which were given to the British Red Cross, amounted to over £21.
NATIONAL INTERCESSION DAY
Sunday was Intercession Sunday, and throughout the length and breadth of the land large congregations assembled for common prayer and intercession for their country’s cause, and for those who are fighting her battles by land and sea. The services were similar in form to those which took place on the first Sunday of last year, which was also a day of national humiliation and intercession.
A special feature of this year’s services was that at many churches, in order to add to the solemnity of the occasion, the church bells were muffled in honour of the dead.
The King and Queen, Prince Albert, Princess Mary, Prince Henry and Prince George were present at a special service of intercession in Sandringham Church in the morning. It commenced with the hymn, “Lord in this Thy mercy’s day,” kneeling. The exhortation was said by the Right Rev. G. Forrest Browne, late Bishop of Bristol, and the intercessions by the rector, the Rev. Rowland Grant. The collection was for the British Red Cross Society.
At the afternoon service at St. Paul’s Cathedral, which was attended by the Lord Mayor, Sheriffs and members of the City Corporation, the Archbishop of Canterbury was the preacher.
“Whatever else this year of memorable things has done or left undone,” said the preacher, “it has, in a manner wholly new in the story of the English race, rallied the men, women, and children of the Empire to a strenuousness of united purpose whereof nobody has ever dreamt. In that, as in many other things, English life has undergone a change, which is irrevocable. It will endure. The new fellowship row set going among English folk can never, literally never, pass away.
“As the New Year opens we are poorer in half the homes of England by the loss of our very best and manliest. We know it. Thousands of the men to whom we looked confidently for discharging in the coming years the highest tasks, and fulfilling for the British Empire the noblest of her trusts and traditions, are today lying cold and stark in foreign soil. We know it. Every college and school knows it. Not one of us probably but has in vision at this moment some lithe, strong, clean-cut figure — the lad on whom we rested all these hopes. We thank God for him, we pray God for him here and now upon our Intercession Day. We are the poorer, but we are the richer, too.”