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.
Writing from “Somewhere in France,” Sergt. W. Toshack, of St James’s Terrace, Morpeth, states: “A few days ago while on a visit to a friend of mine, a warrant officer in a battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers — a battalion which the people of Morpeth will be delighted, but not in the least surprised, to hear has a splendid name out here — he pointed out to me a most remarkable coincidence.
“Just behind his billet are two graves where the remains of two of our gallant heroes of the early days of the war are buried. The graves are within the same little plot, about 10 feet by 7 feet, and each with its little wooden cross and metal inscription plate. The inscription on one reads: No. 14682, Pte. C.H.P. Randall, 1st Wilts, 13th October, 1914. The other one reads: No. 14682, Pte. Wm. Evans, 4th Middlesex Regiment, 13th October, 1914.
“As will be noticed, the regimental numbers in both cases are the same, and it is all the more remarkable when one considers that there are five figures in each. They were both killed on the same day, probably by the same shell.
“If this should catch the eye of any relatives of the departed heroes I shall be pleased to think that I have been instrumental in conveying to them information respecting their dear ones which is sure to be welcome.”
“SUNDAY NIGHT AT —”
A Sabbath night, the sky alight
With countless hosts of distant flares,
Which shoot like rockets to a height—
Descending slowly in a glare.
Each glare of cold and searching light
Sheds ghastly hues on ruins bare.
The distant boom — like surf on sand—
Is heard afar from Flanders’ plain;
The subdued sound, majestic, grand.
Brings pain and misery in its train.
The lurid gun flash lights the land,
Now deep in flood from recent rain.
Along the winding river bank,
Whose mud-stained waters slowly flow,
Where trees of tall and stately rank
Stand stiff, precise, in faultless row,
There sounds the tramp and steady clank
Of Khaki troops who trenchward go.
The shrill wind wails a weary tune,
Accompanied by machine gun’s round,
And stern faced to the gates of doom
The trooping phantoms cover ground
With cautious tread through sheltering gloom,
With nerves alert for hostile sound.
CORPORAL H. JACKSON,
NORTHUMBERLAND GUILD OF WAR AGRICULTURAL HELPERS
A number of experienced women have registered for work on the land and farmers who desire to employ women either for regular or occasional labour are requested to apply to Miss H. McDowall, East Collingwood, Morpeth.
REGIMENTAL SPORTS ON ACTIVE SERVICE
Tuesday, May 16th, 1916, will long be remembered by the members of a battalion of Northumberland Fusiliers who are on active service. By permission of the Brigadier-General, the whole day was set apart for battalion sports, the heats of the events being disposed of in the morning, and the finals in the afternoon and a memorable open air concert fitly brought the day’s proceedings to a close.
The sports field, situated only a few miles behind the firing line, was kindly lent for the occasion by a battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment, and the ground was laid out for the various events under the direction of Lieutenant and Q.M.R. Neville.
The day was a glorious one, a warm sun, tempered by a gentle breeze, making conditions exceptionally pleasant. In the afternoon a very large crowd, composed almost entirely of soldiers, witnessed some excellent sport, and the keenness of the running and jumping bore eloquent testimony to the fit condition of the men.
At the close of the proceedings prizes were presented by a major-general.
During the afternoon music was discoursed by the band of the Suffolks, and various humorous entertainments were provided by a party consisting of C.Q.M. Sergts. Cutter and Snaith, Sergts. Donohoe and Dodds, and Ptes. Johnson, Howey, Gordon, and Watson.
The concert in the evening, arranged by R.S.M. Casey, commenced at 8 o’clock. The officers of the battalion were present. There was a very large attendance of soldiers, and the whole of the circumstances surrounding the concert tended to make it worthy of remembrance.
The platform was erected at the entrance to the hutment camp occupied by the battalion, and faced the camp. Overhead was a full moon; and not many miles away, the British front line, from whence the sounds of firing mingled with the items on the programme, and the laughter or applause which they provoked, and there could easily be seen the flare lights used to make visible the dark spots in “No Man’s Land.”
The audience and the singers entered into their respective parts of the programme with wonderful zest. The choruses received wholehearted treatment — no point of the songs was missed, and, from beginning to end, everything went with a vigour and enthusiasm which would have amazed and probably alarmed our greatest foe.
Every item was well received and, whether serious or gay, listened to with rapt attention. The commandant addressed a few stirring words to the men, which provoked intense enthusiasm, and the conduct and bearing of the men the whole day through justified the prophecy that, when the rest period is ended and they are called upon again to face the common foe, they will maintain, aye, and even add lustre to, the glorious traditions of the magnificent regiment of which they form no insignificant part.
The business transacted at Morpeth Town Council on Tuesday evening was mostly of a routine character.
A rather novel proposal, standing in the name of Councillor Armstrong, appeared on the list. It was to the effect that in view of encouraging thrift amongst the Council’s workmen and assisting war funds each of the workmen be offered an increase of sixpence in his weekly wage on condition that he pays that sum and another sixpence from his present wage to the surveyor for investment in war bonds.
There is an old saying “that every little helps,” but the decision of the committee, who had had the matter under consideration, was the best one to adopt under all the circumstances — that the proposal stand over till next meeting, and in the meantime the surveyor take the feeling of the workmen on the matter.
The Town Clerk read a letter from Miss McDowall asking the Council’s assistance in reference to the provision of facilities for enabling women to take up employment on the land. The committee recommended that the Mayor, Councillors Charlton, Swinney, and Temple be the committee to deal with the matter.
A letter having been considered from James Dixon, a soldier in training away from Morpeth, asking whether his stint money would be paid this year irrespective of non-residence the committee recommended that it be paid as usual to soldiers absent on national service. This was agreed to.
It was decided that the Surveyor be instructed to try a month’s experiment in collecting refuse paper for sale as an item in war economy.
SOLDIERS AND LIQUOR
Colonel P. Broome Giles, C.B., Commandant of the Convalescent Camps at Alnwick wishes to impress upon people in private residences that under no conditions must they give intoxicating liquor of any kind to convalescent soldiers, for under the Defence of the Realm Act, this is a serious and punishable offence.
BOARD OF GUARDIANS
The monthly meeting of the Morpeth Board of Guardians was held on Wednesday. The Hon. and Rev. W.C. Ellis presided.
A letter was received from the Local Government Board increasing the allowances to children of interned aliens from 1/0 to 2/6.
MORPETH CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH
On Sunday last the morning service at the above church was of a unique character, both in regard to its occasion and character. A large congregation, composed of members and adherents of the church and friends from other communions assembled to pay their tribute of respect to the memory of three young men, namely Robert Oliver, W.R. Soulsby, and Norman A. Swinney, who were formerly closely connected and active in their fellowship with the church, and who have made the great sacrifice for their King and country and for liberty and righteousness and the kingdom of God.
The service commenced with the singing of one verse of the National Anthem, and the hymns included Our God, our help in ages past, Our Blest Redeemer, When our heads are bowed in woe, and When our day of toil is done, and the chant chosen for the occasion was The Lord is my shepherd. The music was of a very high order, and although exceedingly pathetic in its conception, and rendering, it was calculated to stimulate and beget hope and peace.
The Rev. J. Miller took for this text the words: “Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15-13), and preached a very appropriate and hopeful sermon on the subject “The Great Sacrifice.” He described the famous war picture of that title, and showed that those — particularly could he speak for their young brothers named above — who had laid down their lives in the righteous cause of freedom and justice, in a word, Christianity, had allied themselves to Christ and gone all the way to the Cross.
We were liable to think that their lives had been taken from them, whereas they had been given. “They died for us,” said the preacher. There was the tendency also to think that their lives had been cut short. He sympathised with those who had given their sons and brothers and friends — especially those whose morning was so full of promise — who would have become good citizens and churchmen; but what could they have accomplished in the course of a long life as compared to what they had done in a few months or even in a few moments of time?
They should learn to look to look at the matter from the standpoint of their loved ones, who had entered into a larger and fuller life and were rendering more glorious service in the presence of Christ which for them was far better than anything those remaining could have provided, or which for those who had gone.
The preacher also showed that Christ was with the mourners in all their sorrow, sharing it, bearing it, and that out of all such crucifixion came the resurrection from the dead. By general consent the service in its entirety was most beautiful and inspiring.
The Duke of Northumberland has issued an appeal under the Naval and Military War Pensions, etc., Act, 1915.
“On the 1st July next,” his Grace writes, “the Statutory Committee appointed under the above Act will take over its duties in accordance therewith.
“The Act provides for the appointment in each county of a local committee, who will assume the work and responsibilities set out under the Act, which are, inter alia, as follows:— To supplement pensions already granted to disabled men, and to widows and dependents of those who have fallen, according to their needs; to make advances on account of separation allowances to wives and dependents of those serving, and to supplement the same if, or, as their needs require, so as to include rent, sick allowances, etc.; to make suitable arrangements for the admission to sanatoriums, or convalescent homes of discharged soldiers and sailors, also to deal with the transfer of health insurance cards from naval and military authorities to approved societies, or to the Post Office; and to provide suitable employment for men who would benefit by training for such employment as they may be capable to undertake, including the education of the blind.
“It is expected by this means that each county will not only make itself responsible for the general welfare and comfort of those within its area, but will also find the greater portion, if not all, of the funds necessary to meet the demands made upon it.
“The local committee, as prescribed by the Act, has just been appointed by the Northumberland County Council, and consists to a large extent of those who have hitherto voluntarily carried on the work which will now be taken over by the committee. The necessity now arises for providing the funds essential in order that the committee may carry out the responsible and arduous duties which will be placed in its hands, and I venture, therefore, to make a special appeal for this purpose.
“The amount to be raised must necessarily be large, as the demands on the fund will continue for many years to come, and our appreciation of the splendid services rendered and sacrifices made by the men of Northumberland cannot be better shown than by contributing liberally towards the welfare of men who have so loyally responded in the hour of the nation’s need, and of the wives and families of those who have laid down their lives for their country.
“I have already publicly expressed my satisfaction at the reception my appeal on behalf of the County Relief Fund met with, alike by private individuals, industrial organisations, and workmen throughout Northumberland, engaged in mining and other industries and in making this fresh appeal at a time when both employers and employed are enjoying a considerable degree of prosperity, I feel confident that the patriotic spirit of Northumberland will again be shown by our determination that the needs of our soldiers and sailors and their families and dependents are fully provided for.
“Contributions may be made either by the promise of annual subscriptions to the fund, or by periodical contributions from workmen engaged in the various industries in the county, and may be transmitted direct to me, at Alnwick Castle, or to any of the banks in the county or in Newcastle, to the credit of the Northumberland War Pensions Committee, or to the hon. treasurer, Mr W.H. Lloyd, Moot Hall, Newcastle.”
Empire Day, which was inaugurated in 1904 to commemorate the late Queen Victoria’s birthday was celebrated on Wednesday at the Council Schools and the Girls’ High School, Morpeth. The Union Jack was hoisted on the Clock Tower.
In the forenoon, the Mayor (Ald. Ed. Norman), who was accompanied by Mrs Capt. Thompson, visited the Council Schools. County Councillor R. Nicholson, one of the School managers, and Mrs J.D. Oliver were also present.
The boys were lined up in the playground, under the direction of Mr G.D. Smith, and the Union Jack was unfurled amidst the rousing cheers of the boys.
Addressing the children on the duties and responsibilities of citizenship and Empire the Mayor said it gave him great pleasure to come there to celebrate Empire Day. They had never celebrated Empire Day with the same feeling as they did on that occasion. Empire Day never meant so much to the people of England as it did that day. They had passed through wonderful experiences and they had got to appreciate more and more that they were all members of the British Empire, and he wanted them to take more interest than ever in the Empire to which they belonged.
Referring to the great war, the Mayor paid a glowing tribute to the way in which the Colonies had come forward to help the Motherland. He also referred to the noble part our allies were taking in the gigantic struggle for freedom and liberty. He asked them all to remember that they were true patriots of the Empire.
The boys then gave three ringing cheers for the Mayor.
After singing the anthems of the allies, the scholars marched past and saluted the flag.
The Mayor then congratulated the boys on their smart appearance and the patriotism they had displayed. He mentioned that the flag which they had saluted bore the following inscription:— ”From the boys, Morpeth, New South Wales, to the boys Morpeth, England, 1911.”
After the singing of the National Anthem the proceedings ended.
The Mayor afterwards proceeded to the Girls’ High School, where Empire Day was loyally observed. Miss Morgan, the headmistress, in introducing the Mayor, said that Empire Day had been celebrated each year in the school since the Boer War.
The Mayor who had a cordial reception, gave a patriotic address. During the proceedings the pupils sang the national anthems of the Allies.
Miss Morgan proposed a vote of thanks to the Mayor for his services, which was carried by acclamation.
YEOMANRY BALL AT MORPETH
A most enjoyable ball, organised by the N.C.O.’s of B Squadron of the Cheshire Yeomanry, took place in the Masonic Hall, Morpeth, last night. The hall was artistically decorated for the occasion, and splendid arrangements having been made for the event, the seventy couples present enjoyed themselves immensely.
The dance was carried on with great zest till two in the morning.
THOSE WHO FELL
It is a subject for study and thought to note the manner in which the sad news of the death of our brave lads is received by their quondam friends and acquaintances. People have many acquaintances, but few friends; where friends first meet and part are sacred spots; but the way we see and hear the manner in which people receive the tragic news from the battlefield causes an observer to reflect how superficial is what is generally regarded as friendship.
Those whose grief is the most poignant at the news of the death our soldiers are the parents. To a parent when a son dies, the future dies, whereas to a child when his parent dies the past only dies.
ROLL OF HONOUR
ARMSTRONG.— Died of wounds in France, May 16th, 1916, aged 23 years, Pte. Robert Armstrong, No. 15774, N.F., dearly-beloved son of Robert and Catherine Armstrong, of Barrington Colliery.— When he in khaki left our home In the service of our land, On France’s plains and fields to roam, And bravely take his stand; Through all the trials of the battlefield Our God has served him well; The reason why He chose him now No-one on earth can tell. Loved was the one who was to us In grace and mercy given, Who served the King on earth below, Now serves the King of Heaven; Our tears and sorrow must depart, for, consoled by his work, We’re comforted to think that he’s “For ever with the Lord.”— Ever remembered and deeply mourned by his father, mother, sisters and brother.
Mr and Mrs Armstrong and family desire to thank all who have in any way helped their beloved son and all who have tendered their sympathies to them in this heavy and great bereavement.
DEATH OF A GUIDE POST SOLDIER
Much sympathy has been extended to Mr and Mrs J.E. Moore and family, 5 South Parade, Choppington, on the sad loss they have sustained through the death (by gas position received in action) of their third son, Private John Percy Moore, N.F. He lingered for about 18 weeks, and died quite suddenly at Trent Bridge Hospital, Nottingham, on Wednesday morning, May 17th.
He was brought to his home, 67 Headlam Street, Newcastle, and interred at Heaton Cemetery with full military honours on Monday afternoon last amidst a large assemblage of relatives, friends, and neighbours. The wreaths and flowers sent by sympathising friends completely filled a spacious brougham. The streets en route to the cemetery were densely packed by sympathetic spectators.
The deceased leaves a widow and three-year-old child, for whom much sympathy is felt.
A HERO’S DEATH
The death of Sergt. Andrew Lees Fenwick, D.C.M., of South Newsham, leaves a memory which will be felt here for many a year after the war is over. He was one of the bravest and died the death of a hero, and deserves to rank with those names which cannot die.
His last act was an effort to save his officer, who he believed was wounded, but who was really lying dead between the lines. He had reached the parapet of the trenches on his way back when he was shot dead by a sniper.
Deceased, who was in the employ of the Cowpen Coal Company before he joined the Army, was a tall athletic lad, 21 years of age and over six feet in height. He was an old scholar of the Forster School, Cowpen Quay, and on his revisiting his home for the last time he was thoughtful enough to visit his old school, and presented to Miss Chapple some interesting souvenirs of the war.
It must be with pride and sorrow that Miss Chapple and all his schoolmates remember him and mayhap at this season recall the words of Bryant:—
“The May sun sheds her amber light
On new leaved woods and lawns between,
But he who with a smile more bright
Welcomed and watched the spring green
Is in his grave
Low in his grave.”