In this feature to commemorate the First World War, we will bring you the news as it happened in 1914, 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 MORPETH MAN AT THE FRONT
We have received the following letter from Mr Amlett, who, it will be remembered, left Morpeth on August 2nd to join his regiment in France at the outbreak of the war. This is the second letter we have received from Mr Amlett.
Dear Sir,— You will excuse me writing these few lines with a pencil, but it must do, having no other means.
My intention is to describe to you roughly the battles that have been taking place these last few days.
The Germans, so far, have tried only to enter places that are called “open places.” This was easily done, the troopers being away from them. Unfortunately they thought that they were going to Paris like to a parade until they arrived somewhat too far. They met the French troops near Bethon, where battle was delivered. Very quickly they saw or felt their mistake, as they had a determined opposition, so strong, in fact, that they had to fall back with losses towards Esternay.
Here at Esternay the place is somewhat hilly, therefore more suitable for them. The troops were placed into position, and the artillery protecting the infantry — 75 guns — quickly showed its prominence over the German artillery. The battle lasted one day, the Germans falling back all along the lines, leaving over 600 dead and wounded.
But, unhappily, they had robbed all the inhabitants, and destroyed everything they could lay hands on. Their rage was transferred now to such an extent that they burned places as they were falling back, and this they did quickly towards Chateau Berfere, where another battle, of short duration, took place. Always protected by the excellence of the French artillery, the infantry took its formation in the woods. The guns commenced their work, and so correct was their aim that the Germans were falling right and left, the infantry in the meantime doing its work to great perfection and daring to such an extent that they were only about 100 yards from the Germans, who, fearing very much the charge of the bayonet, took quickly to their heels, and withdrew towards Rheims. Here the Germans had already erected some forts, but to no avail, the pursuit being too great, and the spirit of the soldiers too brave.
So in to Rheims, the town in Champagne, we entered on Sunday. I could not go into details, but the dead and wounded on both sides was somewhat great. It is estimated that the dead, wounded, and prisoners would be, during the ten days, about 40,000.
The spirit of the French troops is excellent, and here I am writing while the shells are flying. While saying this I must also make mention of the English, who are doing splendidly in Coulomiers. An English officer, when consoling the French women, who were flying in every direction, said, “We shall avenge you,” and they did, with terrible results to the Germans.
As I am writing a shell fell 15 yards from me, killing seven people.
I am writing to you standing, and now I must go, as the Germans are bombarding Rheims, but we are going to meet them.
Goodbye, Mr Mackay.
OUR OWN COLUMN
SIR JOHN FRENCH, THE BRITISH MAN-OF-THE-HOUR
Monday is the natal day of Field Marshal Sir John Denton Pinkstone French, General in command of the British Expeditionary Force, now gallantly fighting our own and, indeed, the world’s cause on the Continent.
The British people the world over will wish him many “happy returns of the day.” He keeps his birthday this year on the battlefield. He has done that before in South Africa and in the Soudan, but never under such unparalleled conditions as today.
Notwithstanding his somewhat retiring nature, he is not unknown to the British public, who are perhaps well acquainted by now with the salient points of his career. Nor is he unknown in Northumberland and this immediate neighbourhood, for when some years ago he was in command in the northern district, he had his home at the High House, Morpeth.
Our present British hero will be 62 on Monday. Let us all, with the war well finished, wish him a very happy return twelve months hence, and many more to follow.
MR BURT ON THE WAR
I am not a peace-at-any-price man. Peace in this instance would have been at the cost of honour.
Such was the comment of Mr Thomas Burt, M.P, when interrogated by a Pressman this week.
Mr Burt said those who think with him did all they could to keep the nation out of the war. The International Arbitration League, which aims at the settlement of international differences by arbitration — and of which Mr Burt is president — issued some manifestoes, the object of which was to keep the nation out of the war, but in these it was always implied that if Belgian neutrality were violated, Britain must be involved, do what it might.
“This event, it was recognised, would justify our intervention, and we could not honourably keep out of the war,” said Mr Burt. “That is what took place. The present war was forced upon us, and we are quite justified in the line we have taken.”
“Anybody who has carefully read the White Paper, and who heard Sir Edward Grey’s speech in the House of Commons, must realise, unless he is very strongly prejudiced, that everything was done that was possible to maintain the peace of Europe — not only to keep us out of it, but to prevent a European war.
“So that, personally,” proceeded Mr Burt, “I feel very differently towards this war from what I did to the Boer War. Of course that is only important to oneself, but it is important to oneself to have one’s conscience satisfied. In the Boer War I thought the diplomatic part was very badly managed, and also that it was our interference with the liberty of a small nation. Here it is the protection of a small nation.
He feels, as everybody must feel, a great sorrow at the terrible slaughter that is going on, and a strong desire to have it brought to an end, and to have peace established on a proper and satisfactory basis. At the same time he has to recognise that it does not look as if peace will come speedily — rather it looks as if it will be a very long war.
“Peace overtures are out of the question at the present time,” said Mr Burt. “I feel now that when we are fairly into it the war lords and those who really seem to delight in the war for its own sake should be checked or crushed if possible. One’s hope is that we may get, ultimately, into a more rational method of settling our international differences.
“I do not see any signs of peace. It is only apparently in America that there have been any hints about peace being brought about immediately, and I do not see any signs on the part of those who are at war of a desire to end the war. There will have to be much more decisive results before there is a chance of getting anything like a permanent and satisfactory peace.”
“Do you expect good to come out of the war?”
“Well, we have not entered into this war with any selfish object at all. It has been very disinterested so far as we are concerned, and I hope that spirit will be maintained. I do not expect we will do more than administer a much-needed lesson to Germany and to the military party,” declared the member for Morpeth.
He desired to make it clear that, when referring to Germany, he was speaking of the military party in Germany, just as in any other great military nation, Russia, for instance. Of course the Russians are our allies now, and we wanted to say nice things about them, but Mr Burt is not in any sense anti-German. So far as the mass of German people are concerned, he entertains a very friendly feeling towards them.
Now that the war has commenced, Mr Burt recognised it appears to be rather a popular war in Germany.
“You can readily arouse the fighting spirit in any nation,” he observed. “We are all fighting animals.”
War once started, the racial feelings carried it along. We are all affected by that feeling. In this country we were never so unanimous, probably, upon any subject as we are at the present time in regard to this war.
Mr Burt distinctly remembers the Crimean War. There was a much greater difference of opinion in our country than there is in respect to the present war. That also was the case in the Boer War.
The reason of our present war is partly racial, but largely, Mr Burt is convinced, the reason is in moral causes. We feel that our quarrel is a just one, and that we could not honourably have avoided it.
The members of Mopreth Y.M.C.A. have not been backward in answering the call to arms. Close on 40 have become connected with some branch of the army and are now on service.
THE REV. H.J. BULKELEY
The Rev. H.J. Bulkeley, late rector of Morpeth, and now of Coddington Rectory, Ledbury, who, whilst he was in Morpeth, not infrequently published poems in the parish magazine and other journals, has attuned his poetic lyre to the martial strain. Here are his lines, which appeared in the “Ledbury Reporter,” under the heading of “The Dragon.”
Comrades, there is a dragon in our way,
In our highway of love and peace. His fold
On fold of greed and iron, blood and gold,
Are close compacted. Those who give him nay
Are crushed to ruin. Though his feet be clay
His scales of steel are hideous to behold, His
mouths belch flame. Who is so rashly bold
His rage to face, his rapine to gainsay?
Like our St George, we lay our lance in rest,
Tighten our stirrups, close our visor, then—
First praying God to help the cause that’s best,
Charge, fight, and never rest until all men,
The Germans too, in his defeat are blest,
sore, wounded, beaten backward to his den.
ENTERTAINMENT IN AID OF PRINCE OF WALES’ FUND
A most enjoyable entertainment was given in the hall of the Primitive Methodist Church, Morpeth, last Friday evening, in aid of the Prince of Wales’ Fund. It took the form of a concert and waxwork show, in which the children and members of the church took part. The Mayor (Councillor W.S. Sanderson), who was accompanied by the Mayoress, presided.
The Mayor said he was greatly indebted to the committee who had organised the entertainment on behalf of the Prince of Wales’ Fund. They would no doubt have read in the “Herald” the letter which he had received from the Prince of Wales, thanking him and the people of Morpeth for their kind support to the fund.
From the outset of this grave crisis the Prince of Wales, though quite a young man, foresaw the evils that were going to fall upon the whole of the classes of this country, and thereupon set afoot what was well known to them all as the National Relief Fund. In Morpeth they had subscribed £800.
The Mayor stated that the people who thought the war would soon be over, and that there was no need to subscribe further to the fund, were wrong. After the Germans were driven out of France and Belgium, the Allies would have to fight them on their own territory, and undoubtedly there would be a stubborn resistance offered all the time.
The Rev. J.C. Sutcliffe, in expressing his thanks to everyone who had made the entertainment, alluded to the attendance of the Mayor. He had been told that Mr Sanderson had been one of the best Mayors Morpeth had ever had. (Applause.)
The Mayor said that all he could say was that he had not done half what he should have done. He would have liked to have seen certain reforms carried out, but his year of office was slipping away too quickly.
Although he had accepted a commission in the Durham Light Infantry, he did not expect to spend all his days in Belgium, France, or Germany. When he returned to Morpeth he hoped to be able to take up his civic duties again, and see reforms carried out.
THE MAYORESS’ SEWING PARTY
Since our last announcement, the Mayoress has sent to Lady French 25 shirts and 25 pairs of socks; to this contribution was added, by the kindness of Mr Jas. Whittle, vaseline and foot powder. The recruits at Houndslow Barracks received 1 doz. shirts; and a large bale of clothing was sent for the Belgian refugees, and another bale to the 1st Northern Territorial Hospital, Newcastle.
Thursday’s meeting was again very successful.
Mr N. Cook, of Church Avenue, Scotland Gate, Choppington, has received the following letter from her husband, who is in the Coldstream Guards:—
“I am still in good health and spirits. Our draft joined the battalion on September 8. During an engagement the battalion had several casualties. They captured 8 Maxim guns and took several prisoners. The Germans are retreating to the frontier, being defeated all along the line. We are having a rest today, but we may get word to move any moment.”
On the back of the letter is neatly written in French, part of what is evidently a religious play, and at the side he writes: “I picked this up beside a house which the Germans had raided.”
BLYTH PRISONERS’ FARE
One hears much in these days of prisoners of war and their treatment. We have three German ships at Blyth and some prisoners, and this is how we feed them:— Breakfast, tea or coffee, with ham; dinner, beef, a pound for each person, potatoes, vegetables, and puddings; tea, eggs and preserves; supper, porridge and milk. Surely none can say this is fare to grumble at. Would that the lusty lads who have left the town this week to join the colours had any such fare.
Chief Inspector S.T. Robinson, of the Northumberland and North Durham Society for the Protection of Animals, on behalf of the lady and gentlemen subscribers, placed in charge of Veterinary-Major Elphick a powerful carthorse, a “Lingfield Humane Horse Ambulance,” with slings and blocks complete, for use at the base hospital for horses in Newcastle until the end of the war.
Mr Robinson remarked that the ambulance was a particularly clever contrivance for the removal of sick or injured animals, the first of its kind in use in the North of England, and it was hoped that it would be the means of saving many valuable horses.
Mahor Elphick expressed his appreciation of the action, remarking upon the great need for a horse ambulance.
APPEAL TO LORD KITCHENER
Delay in the payment of the wives and families of recruits and reservists who have joined the colours has been the cause of serious complaint in these parts. There are some cases where no money has been received for four and five weeks. The Blyth Relief Committee has forwarded a strong appeal to Lord Kitchener, which may doubtless have the effect of having speedy payment made of the money due, and so badly needed in the homes of the men fighting for their country.
BLYTH RELIEF FUND
When Lord Ridley subscribed to the Northumberland Lord Lieutenant’s Fund he was not then aware that Blyth was raising a separate fund, or that they were acting independently. It now transpires that a cheque for £1,000 has been received by the Chairman of the Council and Relief Committee from the Executive Council of the Lord Lieutenant’s Fund, this being the amount desired by Lord Ridley to be transferred or allocated to the Blyth Fund.
It will be pleasing to Northumbrians to learn that a report has been received that Captain Grey, who is cousin to Sir Edward Grey, and Earl Grey, and a member of the Royal Flying Corps, has been decorated with the Legion of Honour for distinguished services in the field.
Anyone affected by the war can have cabbage plants for their gardens free of charge by applying to J.H. Simpson, Bridge Street, Morpeth.
AN APPEAL TO
Sir,— The warm response to my appeal for field glasses emboldens me, in this time of emergency, to suggest another way in which sportsmen can render practical assistance. The supply of saddles is, for the moment, deficient, and the training of our reserve cavalry regiments is impeded and delayed. I appeal to owners of saddles to send them to the Chief Ordnance Officer, Woolwich Dockyard. The names and addresses of those who send saddles will be given to me, and each generous donor will receive a personal letter of thanks from me. Those who adopt this suggestion will be rendering a very real service to their country. The War Office need gentlemen’s hunting or colonial saddles, in good repair, with fair-sized seats, complete, if possible, with girths and stirrups, also bridles and bits. Polo or pony saddles are not suitable.
One hundred and thirty recruits left Blyth on Tuesday. Blyth district previously sent over 1,000 men in response to Kitchener’s call.
A grand patriotic concert, in aid of Queen Mary’s Fund, Morpeth branch, will be held in the above hall on Friday, 9th October, 1914, under the patronage of his Worship the Mayor of Morpeth (Councillor W.S. Sanderson) and Lieut.-Col A. Collis, and officers of the Northern Cyclist Battalion.
BLYTH EDUCATION COMMITTEE
The monthly meeting was held last evening.
A letter was read from the Board of Education, deprecating the employment of school children in making garments for soldiers as being likely to interfere with the work of women.
The Chairman thought it was very brave and nice for children offering to do work, and they should be encouraged to do something useful. Mr Hunter said they had no women likely to be thrown out of work by such a movement. Mr Nicholson said at Gateshead the children’s work had been stopped. Mr Dunn remarked that the soldiers might have something to say about the goods supplied from the children’s work. (Laughter.) Mr Nicholson advocated allowing the matter to drop. That was agreed to.
The quarterly meeting of the Radcliffe Equitable Co-operative Society was held on Friday night last.
When war was declared the committee decided that all stocks held should be sold to the members at the old prices. Sugar has been sold at the old rate of prices, and only slightly raised during the past week. All our other stocks, except those bought at higher figures, stand exactly the same as they did before the war commenced. Several articles retailed for small sums the cost price has been raised, and we continue to sell them as before; of course this will affect our general profit when we come to square up at the end of the year.
May we again urge members to allow their capital to remain on the books, and not to withdraw more than they really want for their weekly requirements. The following quotation is from the C.W.S. bank manager: “Although the crisis in regard to currency has happily passed, there is still need for continual watchfulness and firmness in regard to the paying out of capital in any but small amounts, and then only for reasonable and actual needs.”
“First, do not purchase more goods from the stores than will suffice for one week’s requirements. There is food and clothing in the country for all. Let all have an equal chance. Secondly, do not draw from the stores or hoard up one penny more in cash than will meet your reasonable needs. Two million co-operative members withdrawing from the stores or holding in hand only £2 of extra cash which they do not actually require, take out of the movement and from the general currency the huge sum of £4,000,000 sterling. This creates a shortage of coin for ordinary circulation, putting thousands of people to considerable inconvenience and loss, and weakening the country’s effective response.”
PRINCE OF WALES’
A retiring collection was taken at the Morpeth Congregational Church on Sunday last, on behalf of the Prince of Wales’ Relief Fund, when the sum of £7 2s 6d was raised.
Sir,— It is inevitable that this society will have to deal with practically all cases of disablement, distress, and unemployment, amongst all those now called up, on their return to their homes, as it will take months, and even years, to settle such a large mass of men back into civil life. Surely a proportion of the money now being lavished on various schemes should be retained to assist the actual men who will have borne the heat and burden of the day, and who will naturally expect recognition and assistance when they come back. This will be at a time when enthusiasm will have died down, little or no funds will be forthcoming, and we shall hardly know where to turn to obtain for them the assistance they will so badly need.
In the meantime, through our 12,000 representatives in each village we are organising on behalf of the Admiralty, War Office, and Red Cross, all offers of convalescent homes or from private persons to take as guests one, two, or three convalescents. This work is enormous, and though we have had to add to our expenditure, we are receiving no extra funds.
The large number of men disabled on active service in other campaigns, who are now employed in our workshops in London, Brookwood, Edinburgh, and Dublin, must receive their wages each week, as though our trade in the useful articles they turn out has practically ceased, it is obvious that we cannot discharge them, and yet we are receiving no orders or payment for new goods, and have no capital to fall back on.
J. George Gibson
Ebchester Rectory, Newcastle.
21st September, 1914.
Several rate defaulters were summoned. It was intimated that if the defaulters could prove that they were unable to pay owing to the war, directly or indirectly, the bench had power to adjourn the cases. One woman pleaded that her youngest son, who kept the house, had gone to Egypt, and the case was adjourned for six months.
ALIENS FAILING TO REGISTER
Annie Kwasney (54), Portland Hotel, was charged with being an alien enemy and failing to register herself as such.
Inspector Culley said on the 7th of September he went to the Portland Hotel, where the defendant was employed as cook. He asked her of what nationality she was. She replied she was English. He asked her if it was true that she had been married to an Austrian, and she replied yes, but that he had died about four years ago. On being asked why she did not register, she replied she did not know it was necessary.
The Clerk said when the husband died it did not mean that defendant became an Englishman again. To be such she would require to take out nationalisation papers.
An inclusive fine of 5s. was imposed.
A similar penalty was imposed for like offences on the following:— Alfred August Johannson, 17, Wood Row, North Seaton, miner, a Swede, who said he had been in England 11 years; Olaf Hendricks (52), 98, Second Single Row, North Seaton, miner, a Norwegian, who said he had been in the country since he was 16 years of age; and Clay M. Hopkins (30), electrician, Woodhorn Grange, near Ashington, an American.
NORTHUMBERLAND YEOMANRY IN CAMP
A Newcastle gentleman, who has two sons with the Northumberland Yeomanry in Hampshire, has received letters from them, in which they are loud in their praises of the beauties of the New Forest and of the fine bodies of regular troops encamped near them.
One of the sons writes:— “For sheer unspoiled beauty, the scenery is almost indescribable, and makes you say old England is worth all the fighting for. The troops here are the finest lot of men you ever saw. The work is hard, and if the grub is not of the best, we are very fit on it. A more happy-go-lucky troop than ours would be hard to find.”
The other brother writes:— “By jove, you should see the infantry regiments! There could be nothing finer. The regulars have formed a very good opinion of us as a Territorial regiment. We are easily the best mounted Territorial regiment they say they have seen. The fact is all our officers know where to get them. Is there a pair of field-glasses in the house anywhere? I would like a pair; they are very necessary for my job.”
TERRITORIALS FOR HOME SERVICE
An Army Order, published on Monday night, authorises the County Associations to form a Home Service unit for each unit of the Territorial Force which has been accepted for Imperial service. The Home Service unit will take the place of the Imperial Service unit when the latter is ordered abroad, and act as a feeder to replace wastage. It will be composed of men of the Imperial service unit who cannot go abroad and recruits enlisted for Imperial and home service.
Sir,— After sending upwards of 5,000 of its members to join the colours, the offer of the Church Lads’ Brigade to raise and train a special C.L.B. Battalion of members and ex-members for the new army, has been accepted by the War Office. Details are now completed, and enlistment is taking place throughout the country. As the C.L.B. Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifles it will form part of that distinguished regiment.
While the Church Lads’ Brigade exists first of all for a religious object, its excellent military method is proving a national asset today, and the lessons of religion and patriotism, so unselfishly taught for 23 years are now bearing valuable fruit.
I would ask you to publish this letter in order that any ex-members not aware of the formation of this C.L.B. Battalion, may send their names without delay to the secretary, Church Lads’ Brigade Headquarters, Aldwych House, Catherine Street, Strand, W.C.
At present over 1,600 applications to join this battalion have been received at headquarters, and since it can only be 1,100 strong, the possibility of a second battalion is being considered.
Grenfell, F.M. Governor and Commandant.