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.
The Secretary of the War Office makes the following announcement. Thursday Afternoon.—
The air raid of last night on the North Eastern counties was apparently carried out by three Zeppelins.
The first one made an attack about 9.10pm. It was driven off by fire of anti-aircraft guns, after dropping five bombs, which caused no damage and no casualties. Numerous observers state that this Zeppelin was struck by gun-fire.
The second raider made another appearance in another locality about 10.15pm, and though he was in the neighbourhood for some time no bombs were dropped.
Another raider delivered an attack in a third locality during the night, but, although several bombs were dropped, only slight material damage was caused.
The total number of bombs dropped was 24 explosive and 24 incendiary, and the casualties at present reported are:— Killed: Child 1. Injured: Men 2; Woman 1; Children 5 — Total 8.
One of the Zeppelin raiders which visited the East Coast on Friday night was brought down by gunfire and sunk in the Thames, and the crew made prisoners. The Secretary of the Admiralty issued the following on Saturday:—
During the night a damaged Zeppelin was observed to come down off the Thames Estuary. On being approached by our patrol boats she surrendered. The crew were taken off her, and she was taken in tow, but she subsequently broke up and sank.
The Secretary of the War Office made the following announcement on Saturday evening:—
It has now been ascertained that the Zeppelins which carried out the air raid on Friday night were organised in two squadrons and one detached ship. The two squadrons made the Eastern Counties their objective, while the detached ship raided the North East coast.
So far as is known at present 54 explosive and incendiary bombs were dropped on the East Counties and 22 on the North-East coast.
The Zeppelin reported by the Admiralty to have fallen was the L 15. She was hit by gunfire while over the Eastern counties, the shell striking the upper part of the ship near the tail. After being hit she quickly dropped to a lower altitude, well down by the tail, and finally came down into the sea off the coast of Kent.
A machine-gun, some ammunition, a petrol tank riddled with shrapnel, and some machinery were dropped either by this vessel or by another of the raiders.
The casualties at present reported amount to:— Killed, 28; Injured, 44.
Details respecting a raid over a North East coast town show that several houses were more or less damaged. The whole of the damage was confined to one immediate area, and the Zeppelin, after making a circle of the vicinity disappeared in the direction of the sea. It was fired upon when first sighted.
The War Office announces that two airships approached the North East coast on Saturday night. Only one crossed the coast. Sixteen persons are reported killed, and about 100 injured. Eight dwelling-houses were demolished.
Reports of the Zeppelin raid on Saturday night on the North East coast state that 14 explosive and seven incendiary bombs were dropped. The total killed was 16, 26 were seriously wounded, and 80 slightly.
One bomb fell on a bed in which a man was sleeping, and another in a backyard between two tubs. One of the demolished houses was inhabited by five persons, and most remarkable to relate they scrambled, almost unscathed, from the debris. A dog in a kennel in a backyard had a wonderful escape. The kennel was completely smashed, but the dog was unhurt.
In a house in one of the damaged streets on Sunday morning a young girl was found dead. No one had any idea that she was on the premises.
The first bombs dropped wrecked a small cottage property; the first two falling where the damage was most severe, struck a tram-car, and practically converted it into match wood, at the same time killing a lady inspector and a male driver. A special constable, who was also a labour leader, was killed in the same vicinity.
One train driver who was on duty on Saturday night cannot be accounted for. Just before the Zeppelin went out to sea it dropped several bombs. In the garden of a house which was shattered an unbroken hen’s egg was found, and in another a whole china plate was extracted from the debris.
One gentleman had a considerable fright. He was passing a pawnbroker’s shop when something dropped in front of him, which he naturally took to be a bomb. It did not explode, and, realising his position, he saw that it was one of the pawnbroker’s sign balls.
A baby had a marvellous escape. The little one was found under a overturned bed, sound asleep, and clasping the family cat in its little hands. A mother left her home to spend the weekend with relatives, leaving the children at home. The children decided to sleep in the mother’s bed, and to this they owe their lives. The bed they usually occupy was shattered to fragments.
A young woman employed as a collector on the Corporation cars had a foot blown off, and another young woman who was an assistant in a greengrocer’s shop was blown clean through the plate-glass window into the street and killed. A man and his wife, between whom a child was sleeping, were both killed, and the child escaped unhurt.
One the victims of the raid was a special constable, who was called on duty when instructions were received that a raid was expected. A man who was shaving received such a shock that he inflicted a nasty wound on his throat.
The Secretary of the War Office makes the following announcement:—
The total casualties reported as a result of the Zeppelin raid on the night of March 31st and April 1st now amount to — Killed 43, injured 66. Nearly 200 explosive and incendiary bombs were dropped.
A Baptist, three dwelling houses, and two cottages were demolished; and a town hall, four dwelling houses, 35 cottages, and a tramcar shed partially wrecked, but no military damage was caused.
A number of our aeroplanes went up to attack the raiders. Lieut. Brandon, R.F.C., on rising to 6,000 feet at 9.45pm saw a Zeppelin about 3,000 feet above him. At 9,000 feet he got over it and attacked, dropping several bombs, three of which, he believes, took effect.
At 10pm he got over the airship again and let off two more bombs over her nose. His own machine was hit many times with machine gun bullets. This may have been the Zeppelin which dropped the machine gun, ammunition, petrol tank, and machinery, or possibly that which came down off the Thames estuary.
Monday. The Secretary of the War Office makes the following announcement:—
A Zeppelin raid took place last night when the coast of Scotland and the Northern and South Eastern Counties of England were attacked. Bombs were dropped at various places.
Respecting Sunday night’s Zeppelin raid the Secretary of the War Office on Monday made the following announcement:—
It appears that altogether six Zeppelins took part in the raid of Sunday night. Three of them raided the South East counties of Scotland, and one the North East coast of England, and the remaining two the Eastern counties of England.
The Zeppelins which raided Scotland apparently crossed the coast at 9pm, 9.45pm, and 10.15pm respectively, and cruised over the South Eastern counties of Scotland until about 1.10am. Their course gave no indication of any special locality of attack. In all 36 explosive and 17 incendiary bombs were dropped at various places, damaging some hotels and dwelling houses.
The following are the casualties which have been reported up to the present in Scotland:— Killed.— Men, 7; Children, 3 — Total, 10. Injured.— Men, 5; Women, 2; Children, 4 — Total, 11.
One vessel visited the North East coast and dropped 22 explosive and 15 incendiary bombs.
The two remaining ships crossed the coast at about 10.15pm and cruised over the Eastern Counties until about 1am. They were both engaged at various times by anti-aircraft artillery, and appear to have been prevented by this means in selecting any definite locality as their objective. Thirty-three explosive and 65 incendiary bombs were dropped by these two vessels.
PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, MORPETH
In consequence of the military occupying the above church, the services will be held in the school, Cottingwood Lane, on Sunday, first. Morning service, 10.30. Evening service, 6.
“There are the times that try men’s souls,” wrote a poet many years ago. We realise the truth of the saying today when our people have given their husbands, sons, and brothers to take up arms to prevent the long-aimed blow and smite the tyrant as they rend his chains.
There are doubtless pitiful exceptions, but the nation has reason to be proud of its spirit. Even the old miners in their cottage homes, where they had hoped to live their remaining days in peace and tranquillity after a life of sturt and struggle and peril, have, in many cases, offered their services to do what work they could at the pit to “keep the home fires burning.”
Not only these — for they are only a very, very small proportion of the miners who have retired from work — for, to the credit of the managers of the coal pits of Northumberland, there are at every colliery considerable numbers of hale old men who are allowed to continue their residence in the colliery houses, and many of them have gone back to work in order to release men who are able to undertake more arduous duties fort he good of the nation.
Mr J.G. Weeks presided at a meeting of the Bedlington Tribunal on Friday last. Major Jobling, military representative, was present.
Mr Swinburne G. Wilson, solicitor, appeared on behalf of a slaughterman employed by the Pegswood Co-operative Society, and his brother employed as a fruit salesman by another co-operative society.
Mr Wilson stated that the applicants objected to military service on conscientious grounds. They objected to taking life, but were not unwilling to serve their country in what they regarded as real service.
The case of the greengrocer was taken first.
Mr Weeks: You are 24 years of age and have a conscientious objection to combatant service. What have you to say in regard to these points? Applicant: I have an objection to taking life. Mr Weeks: How long have you had these views? Applicant: Ever since I knew right from wrong. Mr Weeks: Have you ever taken a bird’s nest in your life? Applicant: Not that I am aware of.
Mr Hemsted: You say you are a fruit salesman. You deliver goods to customers’ doors? Applicant: Yes. Mr Lester (clerk): Your occupation is to sell goods? Applicant: Yes. Mr Hempsted: You are not a manager? Applicant: No.
Major Jobling: You have made three claims. I take it you are relying on the conscientious objection; that is the principal claim that you rely upon to get exemption? Applicant: Yes. Major Jobling: Your employer is not present to appeal, therefore you will not be essential to his business. Applicant: No.
Mr Weeks: You say you give 36/- a week to your parents and if you lost that what would your father do? Has he any other means of existence?— No; he has not. Mr Weeks: Does your brother give the same money to his parents?— Yes. Is your father in receipt of compensation?— He has 7/6 a week; that is all the money he receives.
Rev. Campbell Fraser: Has your father a conscientious objection also? Applicant: I don’t know; but we have all been brought up in the church. Mr Fraser: Has your father the same objection to taking life as you have? Applicant: I expect so.
Mr Weeks: Do you object to serve in any shape or form?— I don’t believe in any form of service for war. Mr Robinson: You are not prepared to do anything for your country? Applicant: I don’t believe in war or strikes.
Mr Wilson explained that the applicant was willing to do non-combatant service. Both applicants were of the same belief and objected to take life but were willing to do what they regarded as real service to their country.
Mr Jobling: That clears the way a bit. (To applicant:) Are you a member of a religious persuasion? Are you a Quaker?— No; I was brought up a Wesleyan. Mr Fraser: You are willing to do non-combatant service? Applicant: Yes.
The case of the slaughterman was next taken. He said he was in a reserved occupation, and his removal would mean hardship. He was a slaughterman employed by the Pegswood Co-operative Society and had a conscientious objection to military service.
Mr Weeks: What is your objection to military service and taking life when you are taking life every day? Applicant: There is a difference to taking human life and the killing of animals. Mr Weeks: You have heard Germans spoken of as pigs? You have no objection to killing pigs? Applicant: I think there is a deal of difference between Germans and pigs. Mr Hemsted: Do you not think all life emanates from one great source? Applicant did not reply.
Major Jobling: How old are you?— I am 19. How long have you held these views?— Ever since I knew the difference between right from wrong. When did you first know right from wrong?— That is a curious question.— Yes; it is a poser, but a reply will give me an idea when you got your conscientious objection.— When the canvassers came round I gave them my reasons for objection.— Oh! you just discovered it then! Mr Weeks: You discovered it when you were first called up? Applicant: No sir.
Major Jobling: Have you any objection to go on non-combatant service? Applicant: No.— You are willing to serve in any form necessary?— Yes. Mr Weeks: When you make up your mind as to what is right, do you always do it? Applicant: Yes.— And when you find a thing is wrong do you cease doing it?— If I can do so.
Major Jobling: Conscience makes cowards of us all. Mr Wilson said he did not agree with that at all. It was a saying and, like many sayings, was quite wrong. Mr Weeks remarked that there were people who did not appreciate Shakespeare.
Addressing the applicant, he asked if he was a Wesleyan? Applicant: Yes. Mr Weeks: The Wesleyans do not, as a rule, hold the views you have expressed, although, of course, you have every right for your opinion. Applicant: I went to the Sunday School for four years, but I am not a Church member. Mr Robinson: Then you are not a Wesleyan.
Mr Hemsted suggested that applicant might change his occupation seeing that he was opposed to taking human life. Mr Wilson rejoined that doubtless the applicants would both turn vegetarians after the injunctions of Mr Hemsted. (Laughter.)
Mr Wilson urged that the applicants had made a good claim out for non-combatant service.— The decision was in favour of granting non-combatant service to both parties.
CHILDREN’S CONCERT AT PEGSWOOD
An enjoyable concert was given by girls of Morpeth Council School at Pegswood in aid of the Red Cross Society and Soldiers’ Sewing meeting.
The programme, was of a varied and interesting character. Mr Charlton presided. The proceeds amounted to £2 14s.
The employment of children in agricultural work and on the surface at the mines has been receiving the serious attention of the Northumberland Education Committee.
The decision come to is that in districts where in connection with the agricultural and mining industries there is a bona-fide deficiency of labour owing to the war, and efforts made to supply the deficiency by other means have failed, the committee will consider each application for temporary child labour on its merits.
It was pointed out at the last meeting that the only alternative, should the Education Authority not see its way to relax the school attendance regulations, was female labour, and one of the members, connected with one of the local collieries, remarked, “a good many of us don’t want that.”
As the taking away of a child from school, particularly in its last year, has an unsettling effect, it is to be hoped that the committee will not grant licenses to employers unless in very exceptional cases. The committee had made it clearly understood that a license given for the employment of a boy or girl for the period stipulated will be immediately withdrawn if the system is abused in any way.
SOLDIERS AND STRIKES
Local soldiers who have returned from France recently bring hopeful messages as to the position of our men and their Allies.
There was never a time when more confident declarations were indulged in by our lads in regard to the hopeless efforts of the enemy. The Allies grow in force, skill, and resource as the forces of the enemy decline.
In the course of a conversation I had this week with some of our soldiers who are home on furlough, they condemn with indignation the action of those workers who hearken to the advice of those who in these times encourage strife and stoppings in the ranks of industrial workers.
Happily we have little of that in our part of the country.
THE MAYORESS OF MORPETH’S SEWING MEETING
The Committee have to thank Mr W. Fred Heron, Newminster Lodge, for tea on Thursday, 6th April, which realised £1 18s 1d; also a donation of £1 1s from Miss Kate Hopper, and 5/- from Miss King, Bella Vista. Socks from Mrs Charlton, Mrs R. J. Carr, and Miss Harbottle, King’s Avenue.
Thursday, the 13th April will be last sewing meeting until futher notice.