In this feature to commemorate the First World War, we will bring you the news as it happened in 1915, 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.
RED CROSS HOSPITAL AT MORPETH
Owing to the increased number of troops in the town, the V.A.D. has opened two extra wards in connection with the Red Cross Hospital in the Borough Hall, and a fully-trained nurse has been obtained to take charge of the hopsital.
The rooms over the Borough Hall are required for the matron and nurses, and this necessitates a good deal of new equipment, and the detachment will be most grateful if it could have things on loan for the furnishing of the extra rooms and for making the hospital efficient for the work.
The Mayor and Corporation have most generously given the use of the Borough Hall, and now that the hospital has been extended 34 beds have been established. Nearly 200 patients have been treated in the wards, as well as over 1,000 out-door cases.
Many kinds of gifts of game, rabbits, eggs, butter and vegetables, as well as regular supplies of puddings and tarts have been received and much appreciated.
The following articles are most urgently required: For Hospital.— A large cupboard for linen; trestle table, cushions, comfortable chairs, 4 dozen knives, 4 dozen spoons, 4 dozen tea-spoons, 4 dozen forks. Matron’s and Nurses’ Rooms.— Three single beds with mattresses, pillows, blankets, counterpanes, sheets, pillow-cases; chest of drawers, 2 dressing-tables, 2 wash-stands, fenders, fire-irons, coal-boxes, 2 tables, 2 carpets, rugs, chairs; furniture suitable for nurses’ sitting room.
Will donors please communicate with Mrs Philip, Bon Accord House, Morpeth, before sending furniture. Other gifts and equipment to be sent to Red Cross Hospital, care of matron.
ONE OF MORPETH’S SONS AT THE FRONT
Private Charlie McCarthy, belonging to Morpeth, of the Royal Field Artillery, serving at the front, sends the following letter to his brother Albert:—
January 23rd, 1915.
Dear Brother,— I got the “Herald” from our Jim, and I see that Private G. Hedley had a letter in about the bravery of our airmen. Well, we have an airman in our division — the bravest I have ever seen, for when the Germans start firing at him he “loops the loop.”
The first time I saw him I thought the Germans had brought him down, but he was only swanking, for when he looped the loop he came down a little way and then found out the enemy’s batteries. Afterwards he returns and gives us the tip and we start sending the Germans souvenirs from Angleterre. I daresay you have heard of him before. His name is Commander Samson. I think he has a heart of steel, and he knows not fear.
We are at present well away now, and are billeted in a colliery village. We are far enough away as not to see a shell or nothing, and if we stop here all through this engagement we won’t take any hurt.
But oh, that place in Belgium, Ypres they call it. We had a rough time of it there, but we managed to pull through all right with a struggle. One day they bombarded us out of our dug-outs. We had to fly with our horses and everything; it was raining too, and we were wet through. Everywhere we went they shelled us with coal-boxes and “Jack Johnsons.” To tell you the truth, I almost wished one would come and put me out of step, but now I’m glad it didn’t, as we now are as happy as kings. Only one thing spoils it, and that is we have no smokes, and I cannot expect to keep getting fags from you, as perhaps you won’t have any for yourself.
We are slowly creeping to Berlin now, as we have gained a good deal of ground this last week or two and have not lost many men. I daresay you will have read in the papers about that hill being captured at La B...e.
We have lately been drawing lots for a return home for 7 days, but I was one of the unlucky ones, so I will have to stay here till the war is finished before I get home.
I think this is all. I remain, your loving brother,
THE AIRCRAFT DANGER
We have received the following from the Lord Lieutenant re precautions to be observed by the inhabitants in the possible event of an attack by aircraft.
1.— On the 31st Dec. it was thought necessary to issue a Proclamation dealing with the possible bombardment of the coast of this county by the enemy’s fleet, and recent events show that the further question of an attack by aircraft should be provided against beforehand.
2.— Several of the points mentioned in the proclamation of the 31st Dec. apply to an aircraft attack, as for example: (a). The avoidance of people crowding together. (b) The great desirability of all persons remaining in their houses and not running out to the streets; further (c) If an enemy aircraft is seen or heard overhead, crowds should disperse, and all persons should, of possible, take shelter; the effects of a bomb falling on soft ground — ploughed fields, etc. — are usually small and local. (d) unexploded bombs should not be touched as they may burst if moved: the local Police or military authorities should be informed where they are as soon as this can be done safely.
3. LIGHTS. — Arrangements have now been made throughout the whole of Northumberland, by which, should any warning of the approach of enemy aircraft at night be received, all the Town Lighting (and outside the area served by the Newcastle and Gateshead Gas Company — all the Private Lighting as well) will be turned off. This would necessarily be done without the possibility of communicating with the inhabitants. (This paragraph refers to Gas and Electric Lighting.)
4.— Should the measures referred to in the above paragraph have to be taken, inhabitants are Warned: (a.) To immediately turn off the gas at their meters and gas cocks to prevent escape of gas when the gas supply is again turned on; (b.) To provide themselves with candles or lamps as the gas almost certainly, and the electric light probably, will not be turned on again till the following morning.
5.— The possibility of outbreaks of fire in such emergencies must be provided for by the brigades throughout the county.
6.— The County Constabulary and Special Constables have already received their orders and it is most desirable that the inhabitants carry out any instructions that may be received from them.
29th January, 1915.
1ST MORPETH COMPANY, B.B.
The Boys’ Brigade Gazette for February contains a list of officers and boys of the B.B. who are now “on active service.” This list is made up to January 11th, and it is interesting to note that the 1st Morpeth Company holds the fourth place in point of numbers, among all the Companies in the three kingdoms.
The Company “Roll of Honour” now contains the names of 126 past or present members of the Company who are serving their country.
THE TYNESIDE SCOTTISH
The officers and men of the 20th Service Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers, known as the 1st Tyneside Scottish, left Newcastle on Friday to march to Morpeth, en route for their new hutments at Alnwick. Colonel Innes-Hopkins was in command. At the head of the battalion were the pipers.
The first halt was made near Seaton Burn, where the inhabitants greeted the troops with rousing cheers, and also with gifts during the rest. A hot meal and other refreshments were served out to the men in generous quantities.
Three-quarters of an hour later the long line took to the road again. A large and interested crowd welcomed the battalion as it marched into Morpeth about 4 o’clock in the afternoon. At the Market Square the men were dismissed to their billets for the night. At eight o’clock on Saturday morning the men paraded, and half an hour later resumed their march to the encampment at Alnwick.
A newspaper representative, who had a chat on Sunday with a gentleman who accompanied the battalion the while journey, said the welcome and hospitality of the people en route was most marked.
At Morpeth, where a halt was made over-night on Friday, the residents turned out en masse and cheered the soldiers again and again. The men, he said, had the time of their lives at Morpeth, and their behaviour was exemplary. The superintendent of police in the borough said the men had behaved splendidly, and that there had been no need to speak to even one of them.
On Saturday morning, when the battalion moved out of Morpeth for Felton, there was another demonstration of patriotism. Flags were fully displayed, and young girls trotted up and down the ranks offering cigarettes to the soldiers. If the men had been going direct to the front, they could not have been accorded a more spirited and kindly send-off.
On the road to Felton people seemed to spring out of the earth, so sudden was their appearance at road ends, and where spectators were least likely to be expected. But there they were. Having heard of the coming of the Tyneside Scottish, they hurried across country and along by-paths to get a glimpse of the regiment and cheer it on its way.
Arrived at Felton, the men were refreshed with sandwiches and lemonade and beer, and the good people of the village supplemented the rations by eatables of different kinds and cans of hot tea. The man that was looking after the ambulance car was dragged off to a good dame’s house and had a rare meal. In fact, the Feltonians hardly knew what to do to make the regiment happy.
True Northumbrian hospitality as it obtains in the country districts at its best were showered on his Majesty’s recruits from Tyneside. The officers lunched at one of the inns in the village, and there also was the greatest kindness shown. The generous enthusiasm of the Felton people was beyond all praise, being spontaneous and with genuine good British spirit.
After leaving Felton the regiment was as happy as it had been on the earlier part of the march. Mouth organs were kept merrily going, and when the “instrumentalists” were indulging in a spell of rest, fresh choruses were struck up, and so the men went swing along, knocking off mile after mile in the most rollicking fashion. Over the entire 34 miles there was sustained jollity, and never once did the high spirits flag.
At Alnwick there was another cordial welcome for the men, and on proceeding to their hutments they found their accommodation satisfactory, and it will improve as the equipment can be completed. All ranks arrived very fit, and the success of the march was a very encouraging augury for the future training of the regiment.
MORPETH CITIZENS’ TRAINING LEAGUE
A public meeting in support of the above will be held in St George’s Schoolroom, Cottingwood Lane, on Tuesday night, February 16th.
Chair will be taken by his Worship the Mayor at 8 o’clock, and Major Temperley and G. Renwick, Esq., will address the meeting.
It is hoped that the members of the above League will attend, and all townspeople interested in this movement. It is very desirous that the League be put on a sound basis, and all men over military age should make a point of doing something to defend their homes and country.
SOLDIERS’ INSTITUTE AT MORPETH
The institute at Morpeth is very popular with the soldiers stationed in the town and neighbourhood.
On Thursday night last week, a very interesting lecture was given by Ald. G.B. Bainbridge. His subject was entitled “Deer Stalking in the Highlands.” Mr C.F. Murphy presided over a large attendance. The lecture, which was greatly appreciated, was beautifully illustrated, the photographs having been taken by Ald. Bainbridge himself. Mr Cuthbert Bainbridge skilfully manipulated the lantern.
A sacred concert was given in the hall on Sunday evening. Mr N.I. Wright, chairman of the Entertainment Committee, presided. Suitable hymns were sung, and solos were rendered by Mrs R.N. Swinney and Mr Ralph Marshall. The accompanists were Miss Gladys Willis and Corpl Luke, of A. Company.
The concert given by the Y.M.C.A. Male Voice Choir on Tuesday evening proved most enjoyable. Mr Geo. Renwick, Springhill, presided over a large attendance. The numbers rendered by the choir were loudly applauded. Others who contributed to the excellent programme were Mr Alf. Rowe, tenor; Mr W. Moor, Newbiggin, elocutionist; Mr A.B. Platts, musical selections on the piano; and Pte. Coltman, selections on the bones.
MEALS FOR SCHOOL CHILDREN
In the early stages of the war the Northumberland Education Committee found it necessary, owing to the lack of employment particularly in colliery centres, to make provision for supplying meals to necessitous school children.
It was pointed out at last Thursday’s meeting that during one week in November the meals supplied totalled 6,333. Since then the numbers having to be supplied with breakfasts and dinner have been gradually reduced, owing to working conditions in the county improving.
Of course, one can never tell what may happen before the war is over, but it is gratifying to learn that there is no need to continue the feeding of children at present.
MORPETH BOARD OF GUARDIANS
A communication was received from the National Poor Law Officers’ Association with regard to Guardians’ employees serving with the naval or military forces, and asking the Board to adopt the following resolutions:—
(1) That the posts of Guardians’ employees serving with the naval or military forces be kept open until their return from service, and that such service shall count for superannuation and for increment of salary; (2) that in the event of any such employee becoming disabled whilst serving the naval or military forces, so as to be permanently incapacitated from discharging the duties of his office under the Guardians with efficiency, his superannuation allowance shall be calculated on the salary and emoluments he would have been receiving from the Guardians had he not gone to serve with the naval or military forces.
Mr Barker moved that the Guardian adopt the resolutions. Mr Reavley seconded the motion, which was agreed to.
Mrs Tighe, of Waterford House, Morpeth, has received the following for the above fund:— Skins — Mr Atkinson, Gallowhill; Mr Price, Ulgham.
WHIST DRIVE AT BELSAY
A successful whist drive was held at Belsay in aid of the Belgian Relief Fund. The prizes and supper were provided by several ladies and gentlemen. The ladies’ prizes were taken by Misses Hudson and Valentine, and the gentlemen’s by Messrs. Turnbull and Walton. The sum of £8 10s will be handed over to the Belgians.
THE NAVY AND FRESH FRUIT AND VEGETABLES
It may be of interest to know that the Cramlington Floral and Horticultural Society has formed itself into a collecting depot for fresh fruit and vegetables, and every week a large consignment is forwarded to one or other of the many naval bases so that our brave sailors may taste the luxury of fresh fruit and vegetables when ashore, a thing they cannot do when at sea, as these things are not included in their rations.
One has only to think of the terrible time our sailors have had in keeping a silent and diligent watch during all these months, the terrible hardships they must have put up with, and yet without a grumble, except that they have had so few chances of matching themselves against our enemies.
Some short while ago, Lord Charles Beresford as president, with E. Jerome Dyer, Esq., as hon. secretary of the Central Society in London, approached us to use our endeavours to help their labours, and since then over three-quarters-of-a-ton of vegetables have been sent from Cramlington.
The secretary has now written thanking us for our very great help, and suggests that we might extend our efforts and solicit help through the columns of local newspapers from anyone who wishes to join us either in gifts of fruit and vegetables or in small sums of money to purchase the same through our depot.
We kindly ask if you will throw open your columns to our appeal, as perhaps not the least deserving of the many appeals brought to the notice of the public at the present time. Vegetables and fruit should be sent carriage paid to Cramlington Station, and sums of money to
Hon. Secretaries, Cramlington.
OFFICIAL RETURNS SHOW IMPROVED EMPLOYMENT
Official returns just compiled by the Northumberland Miners’ Association show that employment at the collieries in the county in January was better than it has been since the war began.
Among the steam coal pits there are four closed, and among the household coal pits two, and, leaving these out of the calculations, the number of days worked last month was nearly as large as in January, 1914.
The returns cover 46 steam coal pits and 22 household coal pits, and the great majority of these are now working normal time. Last month the steam coal pits worked 4,841 days per week, and the household coal pits 4,747 days, the total average being 4,806 days, or nearly five days a week, as compared with 4,318 days in December, and 4,889 days in January last year.
The sons of the late Mr John McBride, a veteran Annitsford miner, whose death occurred a few weeks ago, have all offered to serve with the colours, and four out of the five are now wearing khaki — Private C. McBride with the Seaforth Highlanders, and the others with the special battalions that have been raised on Tyneside. Their father, it is of interest to recall, served 15 years with the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders.
BEDLINGTON SOLDIER’S THRILLING EXPERIENCES
Private E. Golder, of Telephone Row, Bedlington, is at present at home, having been wounded in action at the Front, where he has been in the thick of the fighting with the Coldstream Guards. In reply to the interrogations of a reporter, the gallant soldier referred to thrilling experiences he has gone through.
He refers to an attack by the Germans upon the trenches of the Coldstreams, when the machine-guns of the latter decimated the enemy, after which the British soldiers charged through a wood and took the enemy’s trenches. The Germans came forward in dense numbers firing from the hip as they advanced. In regard to this mode of warfare, Golder says there is always a chance of some bullets having effect, but he describes it as a great waste of ammunition.
Golder describes a scene where, on his right the colour-sergeant had his head blown off by a shell and a private on his left was killed, but they kept peppering away and repulsed the enemy.
In one engagement he and three others were taken prisoners and placed under a single guard near a haystack. One of his mates said: “We are Coldstreams, mind, and we are not going to let one German guard us.” He thereupon took off his boot and when opportunity offered he dealt the German guard a blow on the head, and all four made away. In a few minutes the guard recovered his rifle and succeeded in shooting one of the fugitives in the thigh, but they all managed to reach their trenches.
Questioned as to the atrocities of the Germans, Golder says it is all too true, of which he had ample evidence. He described one incident, where a party of Coldstreams crept up to a house in which they found six German soldiers who had a young Belgian girl. Their conduct towards her they paid for with their lives, for they shot every man of them.
In another case the soldiers entered a farmhouse where they found three women, a man, a boy, and a young girl. One of the women said her husband, a civilian, had been shot by Germans, and it proved true for they found his dead body behind a haystack with his head shattered by bullets. The girl spoke good English and piteously asked if the Germans would come again. She seemed glad when told they would not so long as the English were in front of them.
On another occasion he was returning after carrying a despatch when he came across a wounded comrade and attempted to carry him to the trenches, but he was assailed by a shower of rifle shots, one of which went through the head of the wounded man killing him outright. Golder himself was wounded in both legs and arms, but managed to get back to the trenches. He was removed to an hospital in Boulogne, and afterwards brought to Cambridge. He has still a bullet to be extracted from his arm, but hopes to be soon fit again.
Despite his privations and sufferings, Golder says he looks upon his getting back into action as soon as possible not with any delight, but as a duty, and he added that it was a duty which many should realise.
PATRIOTIC BEDLINGTON FAMILY
Mr Robert Armstrong, an ex-county officer, now employed as an additional constable by the Bedlington Coal Company, has four sons, all of whom have joined the Army.
COMFORTS FOR OUR SOLDIERS AND SAILORS
The Stakeford, West Sleekburn and District Committee, in aid of our soldiers and sailors, by the energy displayed in raising money, and the kind help received by the ladies in the district, have been able to send a further consignment of goods to our soldiers and sailors; also the 1st Northern General Hospital, Newcastle.
The good sent to Lady Jellico are as follows:— 25 pairs stockings, 12 pairs mittens. Sent to Lady French:— 15 shirts, 11 pairs mittens, 61 pairs socks, 9 body belts, 32 mufflers, and 5 helmets. To 1st Northern General Hospital, Newcastle:— 20 shirts.
The committee wish to thank all who have so kindly helped towards the forwarding of parcels.
NO. 2 AMBULANCE TRAIN
Many of our readers have sent parcels for the comfort of patients upon this train to a local nursing sister, who for the last five months has been working upon it. The following particulars by Sir Frederick Treves, who personally visited it, are extracted from “The Times”. It was the first ambulance train which had the honour of being specially mentioned in despatches.
It is in the matter of transport that so much has been done for the comfort of the wounded, and the British Red Cross Society can never fail to be proud of the help it has afforded in this direction.
The society has some 900 motor ambulances on the roads in France. They are at every point upon the lines of communication at every base. They are ready at any time of the day or night, while the prompt manner in which the orderlies handle those in their charge has been repeatedly acknowledged with admiration and gratitude.
Transport of the wounded has always been one of the most formidable difficulties in the Army medical service, and in the present campaign, where casualties are so numerous, these difficulties have been much accentuated. The motor ambulance has gone far to solve the problem, while the experience gained has enabled progress to be made towards the production of a perfect carriage.
Both the War Office and the Red Cross Societies now have an adequate number of ambulance trains on the lines of communication. Some of these are new, and especially built for the purpose, embodying the latest refinements in hospital train construction. Others are improvised trains, but are admirable in their way.
Such an improvised train is the one known as No.2 in the charge of Major Myles, R.A.M.C., to whose genius for construction it bears sound testimony. It is a composite train, a railway miscellany, a train of samples and sorts; yet one can walk one end of it to the other as if it were a “train de luxe.” It can carry some hundreds.
The best carriage is a third-class P.L.M. coach, best by reason of its size, its good, honest strength, and steadiness. It has been gutted, and look as little like a railway carriage as a carriage could look. In the centre is the passage. On either side is a series of strong frameworks of iron, which carry stretchers in a double tier. This coach can be evacuated in less than 15 minutes through the great side doors with which these carriages are provided. It is perfectly heated, and at night well lit.
The next carriage is a restaurant car. It is now cleared of fittings from end to end, and provided, like the other coaches with iron racks for stretchers.
Then comes the familiar sleeping car. Its last conductor would not know it. The doors have gone, the very partitions between the adjoining compartments have vanished, the secret dark box that contained the lavatory has been slashed down to the level of the basin. Thus two compartments have been turned into one, and the lavatory basin stands out bare and unashamed, in the corridor, like a kind of excavated altar. The general sense is one of ruthless exposure ad violation of privacy. The beds are the same — an upper and a lower — and the carriage, as modified, can now take 18 stretcher cases, as well as a number of patients able to sit up. In loading and unloading the car, the stretchers are passed through the window without the least discomfort to the patient.
Carriages of other types will follow, and then comes a goods van turned into a kitchen, an excellent camp kitchen, capable of feeding three to four hundred men.
No matter how long the journey lasts, the wounded can be well looked after and provided with all they want. The train is completed by a number of third-class carriages, which accommodate the orderlies who belong to the convoy.