When Britain entered the First World War on August 4, 1914, the men of Morpeth were quick to respond, with dozens marching off for service to their country. Many would not return.
This is how the Morpeth Herald reported the scene.
Archive material is supplied with kind permission of the MacKay family.
Morpeth Territorials And Yeomanry Leaving The Town
On Tuesday evening, shortly after seven o’clock, great excitement was in Morpeth, when it became known that the Territorials and Yeomanry had received orders to mobilise. The streets soon became thronged, as the men in full war uniform were making their way to the Drill Hall in Copper Chare, and it was expected that they would leave the town at a late hour at night. Later, it became known that the force would not leave until mid-day next day.
From an early hour on Wednesday morning, the streets in Morpeth were full of life, and many men in uniform were seen making their to the head-quarters in Copper Chare. At half-past twelve noon, the force, under Major Jas. J. Gillespie, and Captain J.E.N. Thompson, left the head-quarters, proceeding down Newgate Street to the Market Square. Here a halt was made in front of a rolley, upon which were the Mayor (Councillor W.S. Sanderson), Ald R.J. Carr, and the Rector of Morpeth (Canon Davies), and surrounded by a large and enthusiastic crowd.
The Mayor said: “Officers and men of the Territorial Section of the Northumberland Fusiliers, and Imperial Yeomanry: I am here today on behalf of the town to extend to you a hearty send off. (Cheers). In all dark days when Britain has been surrounded by hostile forces, Northumberland has played no small part on former occasions, and I hope the same successes may be extended to you during this crisis as has heretofore crowned the same Fusiliers and Yeomanry with honour and glory. (Cheers). And when we have again bestowed upon us the blessings of peace, I hope that the glory of the Northumberland Fusiliers and Yeomanry will be greater than ever. (Cheers). There are a few lines I would like to quote to you, which I think are very appropriate for an occasion like this:-
He would leave the desk or shop to volunteer,
He would say good-bye to those he loves so dear.
Once we used to sneer him,
Now we want to cheer him.
Still your Country is very grateful, Volunteer.
All he asks is just to get the word to go;
All he wants is just the chance to face the foe.
With a cry he will march away, eager for the fray,
We are proud of him today.—Volunteers.
Personally, I know that a soldier has but a few minutes to himself on active service, and I do hope that you will at least have a few minutes to ask Almighty God for His help and support during your trials, for we are all thoroughly convinced of this: that the army in this struggle who have God on their side is the only side which will win. (Cheers). Again, on behalf of the town, I wish you God-speed, a safe and victorious return. Good-bye and God bless you. And when you get there, don’t forget to “slip it across them” (Loud cheers.)
The Rector said he had great pleasure in associating himself with the words of the Mayor. He believed from the bottom of his heart that England today was responding to the call of duty, and he believed that the call of duty was always the call of God. When they responded to the call of God, they could rest satisfied that God’s presence would accompany them in whatever trials that lay before them. He again joined with the Mayor in wishing them God-speed and a safe return. (Loud applause).
Major Gillespie said on behalf of the men he thanked them.
The order for marching was then given, and the men proceeded down Bridge Street, across the Bridge to the railway station, amidst great enthusiasm, and ringing of the town bells.
• See this week’s Morpeth Herald on Thursday for more reports.