In this feature to commemorate the First World War, we will bring you the news as it happened in 1917, 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 few days ago when His Majesty visited France a great honour was conferred upon a well-known and esteemed local man from Widdrington in the person of Sergt.-Major F.E. Dann, he being decorated with the M.V.O. (Member of the Victorian Order).
Some time ago Sergt.-Major Dann was mentioned in Sir Douglas Haig’s dispatches for exceptionally clever and brave work. Needless to say his many friends at Widdrington and Durham will be highly elated by the success of Mr Dann.
After being laid up in hospital for some time with his wounds, he was patched up to be decorated personally and presented by the King.
LOCAL DOCTOR WINS THE MILITARY CROSS
The many friends of Dr W.G.T Hepplewhite, R.A.M.C., in Morpeth and Bedlington, will be glad to learn that he was last week decorated at Buckingham Palace with the Military Cross.
Dr Hepplewhite was a nephew of the late Mr T.R Davison, chemist, of Bedlington and Morpeth. He was educated at Morpeth Grammar School. After qualifying as a chemist and druggist he pursued his studies at the Durham College of Medicine, where he obtained, after a most successful career, the degree of M.B., B.S., subsequently obtaining his M.D. and D.P.H. and B.Hy.
For a while he was an assistant with Dr Dickie of Morpeth, and afterwards took up a practice at Wallsend.
PRESENTATION TO A WIDDRINGTON HERO
A special evening was held in the Old Schools, Widdrington Colliery, last week for the purpose of presenting a gold wristlet watch to Signalman Fred Reed, who has been awarded the D.S.M. for distinguished service.
Councillor H. Annett occupied the chair. He said that this was an honour conferred not only upon Signaller Reed but on the township of Widdrington.
Mr W. English, of Ferneybeds said it gave him the greatest pleasure to present to Signaller Reed the watch as subscribed for by the inhabitants of Widdrington on account of his distinguished and meritorious service, and hoped that he would long be spared to wear it.
The musical programme was delightfully carried through by Lance-Corporal Abbott, W. Wilson, J. McKay, J. Cairney, and J.W. Redpath. Mr D. Williamson moved a vote of thanks to the chairman and Mr W. English, and also to the singers, which was carried with acclamation.
The watch bears the following inscription: “Presented to Signaller Fred Reed, D.S.M., in recognition of his distinguished service, by the people of Widdrington, July 18th, 1917.”
SOLDIERS AT CRESSWELL HALL
On Saturday last a party of soldiers who had returned from the Front, having been wounded on the battlefield but now at Armstrong College, Newcastle, were most kindly received at Cresswell Hall by Lady Ravensworth, who had them conveyed in brakes from Widdrington Station to Cresswell.
On arrival they were supplied with light refreshments in the Entrance Hall, after which they assembled on the spacious and beautiful lawn, where tennis and croquet were indulged in to their hearts’ content.
Tea was partaken of by the soldier heroes, who were waited upon by many of the guests, in the colonade leading to the well-filled conservatory, which was replete with plants and choice flowers.
The visitors were favoured with perfect weather, and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
The good sergeant in charge of the company, before leaving for Newcastle, in a brief speech, thanked their hostess for entertaining them so charmingly. Afterwards hearty cheers were given for the Countess of Ravensworth, and the soldiers left Cresswell in brakes on their journey homewards.
No effort is being spared by those in command of the Morpeth Company to perfect the local organisation.
The attendances at drills, which take place in the open, are very satisfactory. During the past few days a number of recruits have been enrolled, and efforts are being made to enlist more men over military age.
At present musketry instruction, including bayonet fighting, is a special feature of the work given, and in this work useful service is being rendered by instructors from the Cheshires.
A large number of men have already expressed their intention of attending the August Bank Holiday camp.
It is interesting to note that E Company, 5th Battalion, Northumberland Volunteer Force, with headquarters at Rothbury, and comprising detachments at Rothbury, Harbottle, Longframlington and Felton, continues to make good progress.
In connection with the company a drumhead service will be conducted by Lord Armstrong in Cragside Park on Sunday first. Music will be discoursed by a band under the leadership of Mr Jas. Johnstone. The men will be under the command of the Rev. W. Gibson Smith of Thropton.
It is anticipated that a large number of men will attend the camp on August Bank Holiday.
Captain H. Barnes, County Adjutant, writes as follows:— “I am in receipt of the following letter from the clerk to the Castle Ward Union: ‘Your letter of the 11th inst. was considered by Board, and a resolution was passed supporting your appeal to employers to grant leave of absence to such of their employees as are members of the Volunteer Force from Saturday morning, 4th, to Tuesday, the 7th August.’ It is hoped that all local authorities will take similar action.”
VEGETABLES FOR THE NORTH SEA FLEET
THE Morpeth Branch Depot is now open every Wednesday from 9.30am till noon, when gifts of fresh fruit and vegetables will be gratefully received at the Town Hall.
NORTHUMBERLAND VOLUNTEER FORCE AUGUST BANK HOLIDAY CAMPS
Camps will be held at the following places, from 6pm, Friday, the 3rd August, to 6pm, Tuesday, 7th August:—
1st Battalion ... Ponteland Musketry Camp.
2nd Battalion ... Whitley Bay Musketry Camp.
3rd Battalion ... Briardene.
4th Battalion ... Hexham.
Vol. Engineer Corps Ponteland.
County Motor Vols. Ponteland.
Vol. Garr. Artillery Briardene.
5th Battalion, Aug. 4th to Aug. 11th, Berwick.
The Whitley Bay Camp will continue as the Regimental Camp from Tuesday night the 7th inst. the Sunday night the 12th inst. Members of other units than the 3rd Battalion may attend this camp at the expiration of their Battalion Camp.
Special publicity is given to this notice so that members of the Volunteer Force may at once make arrangements to attend these camps.
Employers are particularly asked to co-operate in the work of home defence by allowing their employees to attend camp from the 3rd to the 7th Aug.
Capt. and County Adjutant,
For County Commandant.
Northumberland Volunteer Force.
6 Eldon Square, Newcastle-on-Tyne,
25th July, 1917.
MORPETH GRAMMAR SCHOOL
The annual distribution of prizes took place yesterday afternoon at Morpeth Grammar School. The interesting ceremony, on account of the delightfully fine weather, took place on the lawn, and the prizes were distributed by Professor D.A. Gilchrist, Armstrong College, Newcastle, who gave the customary address.
Mr N.I. Wright, chairman of the governors, presided.
At the outset the Chairman said they had met that afternoon under rather different circumstances to what they were accustomed to. One could not keep away from the war just now. On the school roll they had well up to 200 names of old scholars who were fighting or had been fighting in this war. (Applause.)
Some of them had gained honourable mention and distinction in the war, but, alas! many of these had paid the supreme sacrifice. Up to the present moment thirty brave fellows had paid the penalty.
He thought, although it was a very sorrowful thing, that to a certain extent it reflected great credit on the education received at the school. It testified to him that they had not forgotten the precepts that were put into them in the school — to do their duty no matter what they were called upon to do. Those poor lads had done their duty.
He thought it would be extremely proper to the memory of those gallant lads, who had fallen, if he asked the cadets at the rear to salute, and the ladies and gentlemen to rise for a moment. This was reverently carried out by all present.
Proceeding, the Chairman said they had passed through a year of trial. The school had a record attendance, but that attendance would certainly have been higher had it not been in many cases directly influenced by the war. Boys were taken away from the school before their ordinary and usual time, which has also affected the high mark of distinction at the top of the school.
As to the staff, they had also had difficulties. They had unfortunately lost some of the staff permanently. He referred to the death at the Front of Mr A.S. Wright, who was one of their masters — a man of considerable distinction in his particular art. His death was greatly regretted by the governors, members of staff, and all who knew him.
They had endeavoured to fill up the vacant posts. They could not get men, but he was not sure that they could have done any better if they could have got men. They were fortunate to get lady assistants, and from reports he did know they had given general satisfaction. (Applause.)
He trusted that the lessons from the severe scourging they were getting from this dreadful conflict was going to teach them lessons from the top to the bottom of society. He noticed particularly if they went to the top of society that they were not now attempting to stuff round men into square holes, but were endeavouring to appoint experts to almost every branch of Government departments.
Mr G.D. Dakyne said that their numbers had kept up wonderfully well. Ever since the war began, their school, in common with secondary schools all over the country, had risen in numbers, and it spoke very well for the parents of the country that no sooner had the war begun then they commenced to realise the importance of their children to carry on their education.
Since the outbreak of hostilities they had had a satisfactory entry of new boys, and their numbers, though they had had great losses, were higher than they had ever been. They should have been much higher if a large number of boys had not been withdrawn, for reasons directly or indirectly connected with the war, before their time.
It was a great pity to see a boy who could stay at school till he was 16 removed at 15, and a boy who could stay till he was 17 removed at 16, but it was a greater pity to see a boy who could stay till he was 18 taken away at 17. The year between 16 and 17 was worth two previous years, and the year between 17 and 18 was worth four years. They had lost at least 30 boys prematurely.
Some of the boys were anxious to do something for their country. They did not need to leave school to do something for their country. A boy who was staying at school was doing the best for his country because he was making a better man of himself. (Applause.) The proof was to be found in their old boys.
He noticed, roughly speaking, during those terrible three years that the boys who had done the best in the Army were the boys who had been a good long time in Morpeth Grammar School. Those who had been four or five years in the school were the boys who had risen the quickest in the Army.
It was worth some sacrifice for parents to keep their boys at school as long as they possibly could.
The headmaster next referred to one of their soldier heroes. The lad rose to the rank of senior captain of his battalion, and when writing to his father he said: “I hope I shall not get any higher, which meant getting his majority, because my best friend would have to be knocked out first. I trust I will remain senior captain.”
The lad’s father, in mentioning the matter to him, said: “That is the spirit of Morpeth Grammar School.” (Applause.)
He referred to Captain John Armstrong, whose death removed from them one of the finest lads who had ever entered the school. He had a magnificent career before him in the profession he has chosen.
Then there was Surgeon-Probationer Pratt, one of the noblest lads that passed through the school. He was a very cheerful lad, and it was refreshing to get a letter from him. He could have done exceedingly well in his profession. He lost his life at sea, his ship being mined.
He also referred to his esteemed colleague, Mr S.A. Wright, who met his death at the Front. Only those in the school could fully appreciate his work, whether it was in teaching special subjects or music. He knew his place would be hard to fill.
They had helped in this war, 200 old boys serving. There were five names in the Military Honours list.
Lieut.-Colonel N.I. Wright, D.S.O.
Lieut. R.H. Wharrier, Military Cross.
Captain J.H.C. Swinney, Military Cross.
Lieut. A.T. Dudley, Military Cross.
Sergt. N. Carmichael, Military Medal.
He had got another name to add to the list. It only arrived last night, Sergeant-Major Dann, D.L.I., who has been awarded the M.V.O.
The school boys were going to help their country during the next fortnight. The National Department called for volunteers for farm work during the summer holidays, and within a few minutes he got over 50 names.
They had succeeded in forming a camp at Kirkwhlepington for a fortnight, where they were sending 25 boys, under Lieut. Kennedy for work on the land.
The Army was providing all the camp equipment and the boys would be under military discipline.
That was helping the country at this time. (Applause.)
MORPETH GRAMMER SCHOOL’S SACRIFICE 1914-1917
Capt. J.N. Armstrong, 8th N.F.; Private Baker, 29th R.F.; Corporal J.C. Bell, 54th Can. I.B.; Signaller H. Brown, R.E.; Capt. G.F.H. Charlton, 10th S.W.B.; Trooper G.C. Crake, 1st Australian L.H.; Sergt. R. Dunn, 11th R.I.F.; Private T.A. Dunn, A. and S.H.; Lieut. O. Earnshaw, R.E.; Sergt. B. Foster, 7th N.F.; Private J. Forbes, 20th N.F.; Lieut. J. Gibson, R.F.C.; Sergt. J. Graham, 2nd Can. I.B.; Lieut. J.I. Grey, 7th N.F.; Private E. Ineson, 18th N.F.; Petty Officer J. Loughran, Collingwood Battalion; Private G.F. Murphy, Can. Eng.; Lieut. P.W. MacLagan, 5th Border Regt.; Lieut. R. Oliver; Surgeon Probationer R.F. Pratt, R.N.; Lieut. N.A. Swinney, 15th N.F.; Sergt. T.C. Smyth, 19th N.F.; Private H. Smyth, 16th N.F.; Lieut. M.L. Studdy, 15th N.F.; Private W. Reay, 7th N.F.; Sergt. H. Tait, 8th D.L.I.; Captain J.N. Treble, 4th O. and B.L.I.; Private W.J. Wearherley, 8th R.F.; Sergt. S.A. Wright, Scots Guards.