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.
Mr and Mrs George Kay have just received a letter from their son, Sapper G.W. Kay, R.E., who has been at the front for over twelve months. After sympathetic reference to the death of Mr Carr, by whom he was educated and of whose sad end he read in the “Herald,” he continues:— ”We are back once more to the scene of operations, and I am pleased to say that although we are near the same position, it is much better in the advanced billets than in dug-outs.
“We are billeted in a town, which is, of course, devoid of any civil population, as it has been badly knocked about. It is plain the civilians have left in an awful hurry, as a great deal of furniture has been left behind, with the result that we are very comfortable indeed. I am sitting in a lovely oak chair with my writing pad on a fine mahogany table, so you will gather we are living in ‘some’ style. There is also a jolly fine table lamp, but no globe can I find.
“When we look round at the shattered ruins it is surprising that any things have been left in a complete condition. We are going out this afternoon souvenir hunting. We find so many interesting little articles — tiles, statuettes, etc., — amongst the debris.
“I have ‘clicked’ for a good job here. I am on staff-guard. The regularity of working hours reminds one very much of civilian life. We go out at a fixed time and return at a fixed time. Everything is well worked. In the way of food, meals are regular, and the grub is much better than many think. A sapper very often has responsible work to do. The British infantryman is absolutely the finest fighter and worker in the world.”
Sapper Kay expects to get his leave very shortly, and his many Morpeth friends will no doubt be glad to see him after his long spell at the front.
THE DAILY ROUTINE OF A SOLDIER’S LIFE AT REST
Told by a few well-known hymns (By A Morpeth Soldier.)
6.30.— Reveille: “Christians Awake,” or “Rise Soldiers, Rise.”
6.45.— Rouse Parade: “Art thou weary, art thou languid.”
7.00.— Breakfast: “Meekly wait and murmur not.”
8.45.— Manoeuvres: “Fight the Good Fight.”
11.45.— Swedish Drill: “Here we suffer grief and pain.”
1.00.— Dinner: “Come, ye thankful people, come.”
2.15.— Rifle Drill: “Go, labour on.”
3.15.— Lecture by Officer: “Tell me the old, old Story.”
4.30.— Dismiss: “Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.”
5.00.— Tea: “What means this eager, anxious throng.”
6.00.— Free for the night: “Oh, Lord, how happy we shall be.”
6.30.— Out of Bounds: “We may not know, we cannot tell.”
7.00.— Route March: “Onward, Christian Soldiers.”
10.00.— Last Post: “All are safely gathered in.”
10.15.— Lights Out: “Peace, perfect peace.”
10.30.— Inspection of Guard: “Sleep on, beloved.”
11.00.— Night Manoeuvres: “The day Thou gavest Lord, is over.”
Finish: “A few more years shall roll.”
This is the Daily Life of a British Soldier at Rest Somewhere in France.
PEGSWOOD SOLDIER’S REQUEST
Private A. Storey, 11,744, N.F. of Pegswood describes the great heat in France, and indicates that a hair-cutting machine would be a welcome gift as close hair-cutting is a luxury under the circumstances. Perhaps some reader will note this appeal and include a machine in their parcel of gifts.
THE KING’S CALL TO EVERY ABLE-BODIED MAN
The following message from His Majesty the King to his people is passed to the Press for publication:—
Buckingham Palace, May 25th, 1916.
To enable our country to organise more effectively its military resources in the present struggle for the cause of civilisation, I have, acting on the advice of my ministers, deemed it necessary to enrol every able-bodied man between the ages of 18 and 41.
I desire to take this opportunity of expressing to my people my recognition and appreciation of the splendid patriotism and self-sacrifice which they have displayed in raising by voluntary enlistment since the commencement of the war no less than 5,041,000 men, an effort far surpassing that of any other nation in similar circumstances recorded in history, and one which will be a lasting source of pride to future generations.
I am confident that the magnificent spirit which has hitherto sustained my people through the trials of this terrible war inspires them to endure the additional sacrifice now imposed upon them, and that it will, with God’s help, lead us and our Allies to a victory which shall achieve the liberation of Europe.
(Signed) GEORGE R.I.
ROLL OF HONOUR
Mrs Stanners, Clifton, has received information that her son Private James Stanners, Northumberland Fusiliers, has been wounded by shrapnel in France.
REV. JAS. A. DRYSDALE
On Sunday evening the Rev. Jas. A. Drysdale of Rangoon (son of Dr Drysdale), conducted the services in St George’s Presbyterian Church, Morpeth. Mr. Drysdale is on a short furlough in England.
After the service Dr Drysdale held a brief intercessory service for the Morpeth men and women now engaged in the great war, more especially the young men and young women belonging the congregation. There was a good attendance of fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, wives and friends, and the service was very comforting.
The session intends holding these services monthly.
Sir,— I beg to publicly thank Miss M Jones, Angerton Hall, Morpeth, for the many parcels of comforts we have received from her hands, the parcels having contained mouth organs, cigarettes, sweets, cakes, and magazines, which are regarded as great luxuries out here.
All the lads who have partaken of her generous gifts desire me to publicly thank her for her kindness, as we have many happy recollections of the time when we were passing through our early training in the town, when the inhabitants studied our welfare with generous thought and kindness.
Miss Jones is an example of the many ladies in England who are doing their best to make life tolerable in the trenches. We trust that the spirit in which she has given will be rewarded by the knowledge that we appreciate her kindness, and hope that fortune’s good smiles will leave her with health, wealth and prosperity in future years.— Yours. etc.,
PTE. THOS. McNAIR, N.F.
NORTHERN SHOP ASSISTANTS
A number of the branches of the National Union of Shop Assistants, Warehousemen, and Clerks in the district again record success in enrolling women.
The local committees have had under consideration the action of one or two employers keeping their shops open later as a result of their competitors threatening to do the same. The shorter hours which have thus prevailed for some considerable time seem in danger of being lost.
The fact, too, that the action of certain firms coincides with the adoption of the Summer Time Act is causing the officials much concern. Mr H.G. Baskett, the organiser, has been instructed to interview a number of firms on the matter. The National Education Committee, too, are watching the matter.
There is a suspicion among some of the male members who are being called to the Colours that advantage is being taken of their going away, and they are anxious that privileges that have been obtained will not be taken away and themselves placed in a worse position when they return from the front.
Evidence of the dangers to women going into the grocery trade is accumulating at the Union headquarters. Sickness claims are coming in, whilst strains due to lifting are being dealt with under the Workmen’s Compensation Act.
WHIT WEEK HOLIDAYS
The great war has brought about so many changes in the lives of the people of this country that one more change will not cause any surprise.
The question of the postponement of the Whitsuntide holidays has been prominently discussed in all quarters. Mr Asquith in the House of Commons on Wednesday stated that the Whitsuntide Bank Holiday must be postponed till August.
At a representative conference of employers and trade unions, held at Newcastle, it was unanimously agreed to recommend that the Whitsuntide and Race Week holidays be postponed till the week beginning with the August Bank Holiday, on the understanding that the postponement be general, and include all collieries, iron works, and other allied industries, and the general public in the North East Coast district.
It is to be hoped that all will fall into line with the proposal as recommended and let “business as usual” be their motto.
TIMEKEEPING IN MINES
The question of absenteeism and its bearing upon the national output of coal was fully discussed at a meeting of Northumberland coalowners and representatives of the Mines’ Association, held at the Coal Trade Offices, Newcastle, on Saturday, under the presidency of Mr T. Taylor.
It was resolved to set up a central committee of coalowners and men, and to recommend the appointment of local joint committees throughout Northumberland.
The duties of the local committees will include the investigation of complaints regarding men who absent themselves from work without reasonable cause. It is not intended to have a committee at every colliery, but to have a committee for selected groups of pits, the details to be arranged at pits.
MINERS AND ABSENTEEISM
The collieries of Northumberland have been grouped under the new arrangement investigating cases of absenteeism among workmen at the pits, and local committees are now being appointed to work in conjunction with the central committee of representatives of the Northumberland Coal Owners’ Association and the Miners’ Association.
The groups have been made up as follows:—
Group 1: Broomhill, Newburgh, Chevington Drift, Widdrington, Linton, and Ellington.
Group 2: Pegswood, Ashington, Woodhorn, Newbiggin, North Seaton and Cambois.
Group 3: Choppington, Bomarsund, Barrington, and West Sleekburn.
Group 4: Bebside, Cowpen, Hartford, New Delaval, Netherton, and Bedlington.
Group 5: Seaton Delaval, Hartley, Cramlington, Seghill, and East Holywell.
Group 6: Backworth, Burradon, Dudley, Dinnington, and Seaton Burn.
Group 7: Wallsend, Backworth, Walker, and Preston.
Group 8: Hazelrigg, North Elswick, South Elswick, and Benwell.
Group 9: Montagu, North Walbottle, and Throckley.
Group 10: Mickley, Prudhoe, West Wylam, and West Mickley.
Group 11: Tynedale.
WORKERS AND WAGES
At a conference of members of trades unions at the Manor House, Newcastle, on Wednesday, some strong remarks were made regarding workmen’s demands.
Mr H. Crossling, of the Waste Prevention Committee, said extravagance was the mother of waste, and waste bred selfishness It was disheartening to note that men were asking for time and a half for Whit Monday work. (Hear, hear.)
“Blood-money,” said Mr Crossling. “The men at the front are not asking for time and a half. I do not like to say this, but I feel I ought to say it.”
Mr J.N. Bell said no new demand had been made. There was an offer made and accepted, and there the matter rested. He had just left a conference where the workers were asking for more money with which to pay the increased cost of living. That fact would indicate the difficulties of the working classes. His own union (the NAUI) was considering the question of imposing a small compulsory levy. This would help their organisation and if invested in War Certificates would help the Government.
Mr Crossling said that he had not read the statement he had given. It was not his desire to create a wrong spirit, but it was for the workers to put the matter right.
One speaker declared there must be conscription for wealth — to take not only the surplus wealth, but the minerals and way leaves, the shipping and other forms of wealth. Appeals might be sent to the Duke of Northumberland or to Lord Londonderry, but to the authorities in London they must suggest conscription of wealth. In the richest country in the world, another speaker declared, we ought not to come down to collecting jam jars.
Mr John Cairns said there might be a place to advocate that their two friends were talking about, but that was not the place to do it. (Hear, hear.) We were in the war. He would tell his people that the war savings was a magnificent investment, but apart from that, we had got to win this war. He regretted that representative of Labour should belittle the collection of jam jars, and he hoped the voice of that meeting would go forth against waste.
AN APPEAL FOR FUNDS
In our issue last week we published in extenso the appeal which is being made by the Duke of Northumberland for contributions towards the County Fund which has been promoted under the naval and Military War Pensions Act. His Grace has headed the first subscription list with a donation of £5,000.
The Act provides for the appointment in each county of a local committee, and the committee appointed for this county will only deal with Northumberland men. The scheme covers the whole county, exclusive of Newcastle, Tynemouth, and Wallsend, which places will have committees and funds of their own.
From the particulars furnished we gather that the committee will, after the 30th June, take over work hitherto done by the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Families Association and the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Help Society, and the Prince of Wales’s Fund, which has hitherto contributed the main portion of the requirements of these two associations, has intimated that no further funds will be available for their use after the date above mentioned. All contributions hitherto made to that fund should, therefore, now be made to the county fund.
We feel sure that the people of Northumberland will see that the needs of our soldiers and sailors and their families and dependents are amply provided for by a liberal and ready response to the appeal being made.
MILITARY BALL AT MORPETH
A successful ball, organised by the warrant officers, staff-sergeants, and non-commissioned officers of the 2/1 Cheshire Yeomanry, was held in the Masonic Hall, Morpeth, on Wednesday evening. There was a very large company, and thanks to the splendid arrangements made for the comfort of the dancers, all present enjoyed themselves immensely.
The hall was gaily decorated for the occasion, and when the dance was in full swing a very animated scene was presented.
Among those present were Lieut.-Colonel R.N.H. Verdin, Capt. Dewhirst, Capt. Barnston, Lieut. Cross, Lieut. Perkins, Major Sir Philip Greg-Egerton, Lieut. Moseley, Lieut. Garvin, Lieut. Edghill, Lieut. Cooper, Lieut. Webster, Lieut. Ferguson, Lieut. Cowie, Capt. Mayhew (D.H.Y.), Lieut. Bushell, Lieut. Royds, Lieut. Somers.
An excellent programme of dance and music was rendered by Mr W. Barker’s band, and the duties of M.C.s were courteously and efficiently discharged by R.S.M. Taylor, R.R.M.S. Mellor, S.S.M. Potter, S.S.M. Yarwood, and Sergeant Platt. The catering was in the capable hands of Messrs R. Oliver and Sons.
THE SOLDIERS’ INSTITUTE, MORPETH
Since the opening of the Soldiers’ Institute, Morpeth, many enjoyable evenings have been spent there, but the whist drive and dance, given as a “send-off” to the Cheshire Yeomanry, which took place on Tuesday night last, eclipsed all previous forms of entertainment.
For the whist drive there was nearly 200 players. During the game cigarettes were handed round to the soldiers, given by the kindness of Mr Geo. Renwick, Springhill, Morpeth.
The supper was dispensed by the ladies.
Among those present at the dance, which continued with great animation until about 2am, were Lieut. Colonel R.N.H. Verdin, Colonel Orton, Major Sir Philip B. Grey-Egerton, Capt. Duehurst, Capt. Crass, Lieut. Perkins, Lieut. Mosley, Lieut. Garvin, Lieut Webster, Lieut. Yates.
Excellent dance music was provided by Messrs R. Luke and Proudlock, Morpeth.
The hall was tastefully arranged by Mr T.B. Waters, assisted by several men of the Cheshire Yeomanry. The plants were lent for the occasion by Mr T. Matheson, and floor polish was given by Mr Jas. Whittle.
At the above tribunal on Wednesday of last week, Mr J. Goulding presided, Colonel Jobling, military representative also being present.
“You know female labour is necessary at the present time” was the comment of Colonel Jobling in a case where Mr Bately, house agent and accountant, claimed exemption for a son in his office.
The other son, he said, had been an invalid for twelve years. Mr Bately said his daughters’ health would not permit of them going into the office. He further urged that it required a training of four years for the work, and it was a position of trust.
In reply to Mr Clark, applicant said insurance would not be given by guarantee societies.— A month’s exemption was granted.
Mr S.K. Young, draper, applied for exemption for his son, assistant secretary. It was urged that he had had special training which took some years to acquire. He had no one to take the position and no prospect of getting one. He was 69 years of age.— Six months’ exemption was granted.
Application on behalf of R. Rutherford and Sons for exemption for a manager of a boot shop at Morpeth, a business that had been established 14 years, was made. They had three ladies at the Morpeth shop, and nothing but lads and applicant, Mr R. Rutherford at Blyth.
In reply to a question, applicant said his father took only a little part in the business.
In reply to Col. Jobling, applicant said there was no woman experienced enough to take the management of the Morpeth shop, and he could not supervise both shops.— A month’s exemption was granted.
Mr Lawson, a dentist, applied for exemption for a dental mechanic at Blyth. Applicant said he himself was just recovering from a severe attack of rheumatic fever. All his single men had joined the Army. He had only one married man at each branch.
The Chairman remarked that it was their business to get men, and people must be prepared to make sacrifices.— Two months’ exemption was granted.
Mr Atkinson, saddler, asked exemption for an assistant, 21 years of age. He was the only worker, and was indispensable.
Col. Jobling asked if he had tried to get men. Applicant replied that he had applied to the societies. He had three sons doing duty. He admitted he had not advertised.
Col. Jobling remarked that if he wanted men his society would not procure them for him.— A month’s exemption was granted, and applicant was recommended to advertise.
James Cairns applied for exemption for a man in his employ engaged as a baker.
In reply to questions, applicant said a woman could not do the work, as there was a rough class of customers. It was not a fit job for a woman.
Col. Jobling said that apparently applicant did not want a woman to do the work.— Exemption for a month was granted.
Walter Chapple, baker, applied for an exemption for a man without whom, he urged, it was impossible to carry on the trade, which was a certified one. He had lost two men and had only one left. His father was not of any use to him in the business. Women could not manage the machines.
Col. Jobling remarked that hundreds and thousands of women were attending to machines shell-making and other work.— Two months’ exemption was granted.
Mr Parsons, jun., applied for exemption for himself. His father had a claim also sent in, but was not present, as he was away on business. The claim was that he was the only person in the office with his father, and had to make out specifications, and for eleven years had had the management of the house and estate business, collecting rents for proprietors, etc. He had been passed for military service at home.
Col. Jobling asked what serious hardship would arise if he went away. Applicant referred to this father’s difficulties in carrying on the business without him.
Mr Summers suggested that it would not take an experienced man to gather rents. Applicant replied that the difficulty was with the tenants, who requested to be supplied with houses. The Chairman remarked that he could do the specification.— Mr Summers, and I can gather the rents. (Laughter.)
Applicant said he also had a wife and two children. Mr Summers replied that there were many men who had gone to the Army who had seven and eight children.
The Chairman remarked that it was true that many men put on home service would be doing the best for their country being at their own employment. He cited the case of teachers.— Exemption for a month was granted.