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.
OPTIMISTIC LETTER FROM MR AMLETT
Since Mr Amlett left Morpeth to join his regiment in France, at the outbreak of war, his letters from the front have been read with great interest in the “Herald”. From another interesting letter, which he had sent to Mrs Amlett, we take the following extracts:—
“I am delighted to be able to write you these lines. They ought to be very precious, as they are written only about 100 yards from the German trenches, and while the shots are flying in every direction. I should like the troops to go somewhat faster and get the Germans out of their positions, but we have to follow a waiting attitude, which is not much to my liking. For 20 days we have been waiting, ready, but —
“Many things happening daily seems to have made us indifferent to almost anything, except patiently waiting to catch the Germans. War is always slightly regarded, but how terrible it is. We have many a doleful moment, yet our happy moments seem to make us forget the hard times.
“I don’t know if you have read in the newspapers any mention about me; if not, I may tell you that I am mentioned with highest distinction. I visited the German trenches to see what they were doing, etc., etc. So much amused was I that I could not but laugh at the faces the Germans made when I discovered them. I returned smiling, as if a good joke had been told. By running hard, I was quickly back to our lines. There was a good fusilade, but I was never struck. The reconnaisance was effected at five o’clock, in broad daylight, and I was mentioned in the despatches the next day. I was complimented by the other officers, who were surprised at my daring. I went amongst the Germans at night-time also.
“As I told you in my previous letters, I think that my chances are most favourable, having come through some awful corners — not once, but very often.
“Today, October 9, we are taking some rest. It being a glorious day after a cold, chilly night, you can readily understand that we enjoy these kind of days immensely. It is when such moments come that you can appreciate the sweetness of life. I do think that from now the war will be very soon finished and another chapter of my life closed. Glad I am to have it added to my history.
“Today, October 10, I am resting on a hill, surrounded by beautiful scenery. Peace seems to reign supreme; truly, shots are heard, but from a distance. When I left England I told you that I was leaving for three months. I do not think that I shall be far wrong, by what I see.
“My health has not suffered yet and I do not feel any the worse for my “holiday” here. Although my sufferings have been somewhat severe, possibly more than they ought to be, it is because I want to do my duty.
“I have the command of too many men to be careless, neither do I allow them to be indifferent to their lot.”
CAPTURE GERMAN FLAG
Lord Ridley has received a letter from Colonel Cookson, in command of the Northumberland Hussars Yeomanry, who are in Belgium.
The letter, dated October 19, states that the men are all well. They have had several scraps with the enemy, but have had no casualties, though a few horses have been killed. The men had succeeded in capturing a flag belonging to the Uhlans.
The horses had plenty of oats, but very little hay, and were suffering from cold. The troops had been billeted every night, and were all fit and happy.
The troop includes a number of Morpeth men and others belonging to the immediate neighbourhood.
WITH THE NAVAL
BRIGADE AT ANTWERP
The following letter has been received from a sister residing at Cathcart by Mrs Hoggart, who is on a visit to Mrs Laing at Mitford, Mrs Laing’s husband is at the front with the Northumberland Hussars Yeomanry. He was chauffeur to Mr Speke, of Pigdon. The letter states:—
I am pleased to tell you Robert dropped in yesterday about three o’clock, but you will see by the papers they are home. He is in the Clyde division of the Naval Brigade. What a sight he was, with a beard and as dirty as I don’t know what. He had not got his face washed for more than a week.
They were the very last to leave Antwerp, and half-an-hour after they left their trenches they were flattened with the big guns. They were just in a death-trap; big guns firing over them, and they had nothing but small rifles. If their big guns had arrived in time to have got them fixed Antwerp would never have fallen.
They were two days and nights in the trenches without a bite, and would have given anything for a drink of water. The first feed they got was horse flesh.
The bridge they crossed to get away was blown to atoms a quarter-of-an-hour after they had crossed it. There was a young chap about three yards from them who got his face blown off and was killed on the spot. They had just to work away till all was over and they got safe out.
The saddest sight of all was when they went through Belgium, to meet the people streaming out in thousands leaving their homes in Antwerp; old men and women and young mothers with little babies.
They got an awful welcome when they landed; all the people round them giving them wine and all sorts of things. He has lost all his clothes. They were in a church and it was set on flames. They lost a lot of their men and a good number killed and wounded, so I ought to be thankful they have to get medals for their bravery. They would not leave till they got every woman and child out before them. He will never forget the kindness of the Belgian people.
TERRITORIALS AT MORPETH COMMON
A visitor in the proximity of Morpeth Common during the last day or two could be excused if he heard something that forced thoughts of German invasion.
A large number of Territorials have been using the range, and all day long the firing of rifles can be heard. The “Terriers” are certainly being put through their paces. They leave the Market Place about eight o’clock in the morning, and spend the time until five o’clock at night on the Common, either shooting or going through manoeuvres. The discipline is pretty strict, too, and a squad doing pack drill has not been an uncommon sight.
Speaking of the “Terriers” reminds me of a story at Gosforth Park. A private, not altogether steady on his feet, approached the guard tent. “Halt, who goes there?” came the challenge. Steadying himself up, the incomer replied, “Jist a canny Ashington lad wi’ a few bottles o’ Bass.” The sentry looked at the object of his challenge for a while, then rapped out, “Pass canny Ashington lad; halt bottles of Bass.”
HARTFORD MAN KILLED
Hartford Colliery on Tuesday sent another batch of ten recruits to Newcastle, to be despatched to various companies of His Majesty’s regiments. Hartford Colliery has now got considerably over 100 men either in actual combat or in training, and, rather singular, the numbers are about equally divided between married and single men.
Word arrived at Hartford on Friday last that John Hamilton, whose father went to the colliery some ten years ago from South Shields, but formerly belonged to Newsham, was killed in action on September 20, but no particulars can be got except that some very severe engagements took place on the banks of the Aisne, and it is supposed he has fallen during some of the encounters at that time. He was a lance-corporal in the West Riding Regiment.
A MORPETH DOCTOR’S APPEAL
Sir,— I have an urgent appeal from my son for underclothing, shirts and socks, and also second-hand trousers for the men in the 14th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers, Kitchener’s Army (Regulars), at present in camp at Tring. The uniforms have not been served out yet, and the trousers which the men wore on enlistment are now almost worn out.
I have already received a few of these requisites from friends, but I want the general public to know of the needs of the lads who are more particularly going to represent our county at the front.
H. De Dreux Kunz.
Dunedin House, Morpeth.
Widespread curiosity was aroused at Blyth on Tuesday evening by the appearance of a strange light in the sky. It was first seen shortly after eight o’clock, and for nearly three-quarters of an hour lights were exhibited at intervals of three to ten minutes. Almost the entire population of the town turned into the streets to see what they could of the mysterious visitor, and the general opinion was that the light was being carried by some type of aircraft. The night was dark, and the flying machine was far too high to enable one to ascertain whether it was of the aeroplane or airship type.
It hung about the vicinity of the town for over half an hour, and apparently manoeuvred in a circle. People were curious, and strained their eyes and craned their necks in endeavours to elucidate the mystery, while many cracked jokes regarding the threatened Zeppelin raid from Germany. Eventually, the light disappeared, and the town soon assumed its normal conditions.
Subsequent enquiries in official quarters went to show that the visit of the mysterious aircraft was totally unexpected, and there was a disposition to view the circumstance as being suspicious.
A very successful whist drive and dance were held on Friday evening last, when the sum of £6 5s. was forwarded on to Devonshire House, London, for the benefit of the soldiers at the front.
OUR HORSES AT THE FRONT
Mention was made in our columns last week of Brigadier-General J. Moore (a native of Longhirst), Director Veterinary Service with our Expeditionary Force, and attached to General French’s Hind Quarters. Brigadier Moore is responsible for keeping the horses of the force fit for duty, just as brigadiers of other departments have to see that they men are fed and rested, and so maintained in fighting vigour. “The Times,” in a recent special article, furnishes the following interesting remarks on the British horses and their management under the Brigadier:—
The French have an enormous admiration for our equipment. Sentiment no doubt enters very largely into the persistent way in which the French have kept to their brilliant red uniform, but they recognise the practical usefulness of our khaki and its “invisible” properties. The guns, and particularly the horses are the admiration of everyone.
No doubt the excellent condition of these animals is in large measure due to the services rendered by the Army Veterinary Corps. It is quite a new department, established after the Boer War, and it has already done wonders during the present campaign. I met one of its members yesterday, and he was bubbling over with information.
It is the particular care of the Veterinary Corps to collect wounded and abandoned horses belonging to both armies. These horses are examined; the less seriously wounded are operated on on the spot, while those who are badly wounded or are sick are sent away to a regular system of base hospitals. My informant himself was riding a fine charger, which had once belonged to a Uhlan. The horse had been found with a bullet in the shoulder. A captain of the corps extracted the ball under shell fire, with the result that after a few days’ nursing the British Army was richer by a fine horse.
FOR OUR BRAVE
SOLDIERS AT THE FRONT
Sir,— Kindly allow is to announce through your paper that we are collecting second-hand suits, overcoats, socks, mufflers, caps, underclothing, boots, etc. From various sources we find that the same will be very acceptable in the various hospitals at the front.
Any friends having such, and wishing to include same in the packages we are sending off, a p.c. to either of the undersigned will be attended to.
Thos. B. Waters, J.H. Simpson.
St James’ Terrace, Morpeth.
PROPOSAL TO POSTPONE COUNCIL MEETING
The branches of the Northumberland Miners’ Association have received a circular letter from the secretary, Mr W. Straker, regarding the half-yearly council meeting, which, in ordinary circumstances, falls due next month. The communication is as follows:—
“The 24th inst. is the last day on which resolutions for our half-yearly council meeting can be received. I am, however, instructed to say that in the opinion of the Executive Committee the meeting should not be held at the present time.
“Several large trade unions and associations are postponing such meetings, so that discussion of controversial questions, which tend to divide the people, or any section of the people, may be avoided at this time of national crisis. I have, therefore, to ask our branches to vote for or against the following resolution:—
“That our half-yearly council meeting be indefinitely postponed during the national crisis owing to the European War, in which the British nation is so tremendously involved.”
From Stobhill Hospital, Glasgow, Private John Welsh, of the 1st Northumberland Fusiliers, has written to his wife at Bedlington. He says:—
“We landed in England; crowds cheered us — an extra good one in Scotland. I get everything I want now. I was in the big battle at Mons and at Minche, and never got a scratch. I was wounded in the battle that is going on now, the battle of the Aisne, and I will never forget it.
“I was hit three times in the legs, and I said to myself: ‘Come on, you dogs. If I have got to die, I will die with the rifle, I hope.’ Blazing away at them, I ran short of cartridges, but I got some out of a dead man’s pouch beside me.The man belonged to Byker, Private Alexander, poor lad! He always stuck to me in the firing line and trenches.
“Five hours after I received other shrapnel wounds. I was bleeding fast then. The yells of the wounded Germans were like pigs going to the hammer.
“It was turning dark, and I started to pull myself away with my jack-knife. I saw something moving towards me, and saw it was a wounded German. He was wounded through the head and arms.
“He was moving faster than I was. I pulled myself behind a bush, and when he put his hand on the tree I put my jack-knife through it. That is the way I got shot of the German, and I was pleased, too. I crawled three miles to safety.”
ANNITSFORD MAN WOUNDED
News has been received at Annitsford that Mr H. Mair, a reservist, who was called up about two months ago to join his regiment, the Seaforth Highlanders, has been injured and is now in hospital in France. Mr Mair is an enthusiastic football supporter and was chairman of the Annitsford United A.F.C.
A programme of all-round excellence is furnished at the Morpeth Avenue Theatre this week. Since Monday there have been large and appreciative houses. For the first three nights the special attraction in the picture line was the patriotic film, “Your Country Needs You.” For the remainder of the week the star film is entitled “The Terror of the Air.”
The chief novelty in dress effects is the use of patriotic colours, which are introduced in various ways. Gowns of dark blue, with red sashes and white collars, and black frocks with touches of yellow and red about them are instances of the new fashion.
Neck-bows made in triplet form, the bigger bow at the base being of dark blue satin, while posed on it are bows smaller in size and respectively of white and of red satin, are other patriotic novelties, together with pleated jabots of white silk muslin, bordered with red and tied at the tip with blue silk or satin and rosette knots of three little roses, composed of silk, velvet, or muslin, developed in the national colours and taking the place of brooches.
Millinery trimmed with patriotic ribbons is very much in evidence, a simple style being that of the black beaver or velvet banded with ribbon in red, white and blue colours. Striped ribbons in Belgian colours are also noticeable, and these, in a wide width, are sometimes used as collars and cuffs to coats.
Striped silk and cloth materials are also put to good use as wide hems to the under skirts of tunic dresses, the tunic curtailed to the correct length to display the hems to full advantage.
THE QUARTER SESSIONS
The Quarter Sessions for Northumberland opened at the Moot Hall, Newcastle, yesterday morning, before Mr G.D. Atkinson Clark, D.L., and other magistrates.
The Chairman said when they met a few months ago the horizon was clear, yet within a few weeks they were involved in the greatest war that the world had ever seen. He did not think that there had ever been a war in which there was such unanimity as to the justice of our cause. There had been conscientious men, so violently opposed to war, that they had been known as the party of peace at any price. But in this crisis many of them had shown that there was a price which they would not pay for peace, and that was national dishonour.
As Northumbrians, they all felt proud that it fell to their neighbour, Sir Edward Grey, in his official capacity, to conduct the diplomatic correspondence which preceded the declaration of War.
The call to arms went forth. They felt sure their gallant Northumbrians would maintain the reputation of their county, and that of the distinguished regiments connected with it. More men were still required, and he felt sure Northumberland would do its duty.
Many, from age or other reasons, were unable to take an active part in the war, but there was much for them to do elsewhere. Within a few days of the declaration of war, the Duke of Northumberland, following the example of Lord Grey in the South African War, made arrangements for the Lord Lieutenant’s Fund. There had been a splendid response to the appeal, and it was pleasing to see that the wage-earning population were contributing nobly after each pay-day.
The Chairman drew attention to what was being done to secure hospitality for the Belgian refugees. He need not refer to the gallant and heroic defence of the Belgians in the first few weeks of the war, and their continued heroic conduct. In Northumberland a committee had been formed for the assistance of the Belgians. Such an object, he was sure, was one which would commend itself to everyone in the county.
The war must bring its sufferings and its sacrifices, and we could not expect to go through it without some reverses. But such would only make us clinch our teeth and feel that we would have to see the war through to a finish. We believed in the righteousness of our cause, and trusted that the trials and sufferings of the present time might secure for our children’s children the blessings of peace.
BELGIAN REFUGEES AT
A large crowd assembled at Alnwick railway station on Thursday night last week to await the arrival of the last train from Newcastle, as news had got abroad that this train would bring several Belgian refugees.
Two ‘buses were at the station to convey them to temporary quarters at the White Swan Hotel. On the arrival of the train, about 10.40pm, the refugees were met by Sir Francis Walker and Miss Walker. The party comprised 5 men, 7 women, a boy, and two children carried in arms.
The Executive Committee of the Northumberland Miners’ Association have passed a resolution supporting the proposal made by leading members of the Labour Party that the Government should allow Soldiers’ wives £1 a week, £1 a week to the dependant mothers of unmarried soldiers, £1 a week to widows or dependants of soldiers killed in action, and £1 a week to soldiers totally disabled in action.
The Executive Council of the Boilermakers’ Society and other trade union organisations in the district have passed similar resolutions.
Major-General Burton, commanding the Northumbrian Division, Territorial Force, has issued the following order authorising the use of land for the training of the Northumbrian Division, made under the Defence of the Realm Regulations, 1914:—
The training area shall be within the boundaries of the following parishes: North of Tyne.—Parishes. Dinnington, Prestwick, Woolsington, West Brunton, East Brunton, North Gosforth, Fawdon, Kenton, South Gosforth, Coxlodge, Heaton, St Andrew’s, Fenham, Longbenton, Wallsend U.D., Willington, Backworth, Burradon, Seghill, Weetslade U.D., Mason, Brenkley, Ponteland, High Callerton, Black Callerton, East Heddon, Throckley, Walbottle, East Denton and Cramlington U.D.
The land which can be used for the purpose of training shall comprise all arable, pasture, fallow, and uncultivated land, parks, woods, and plantations within the said area, except dwelling houses, places of worship, schools, factories, workshops, stores, or premises used for the carrying on of any trade, business, or manufacture, farmyards, gardens, orchards, pleasure grounds or nursery grounds, burial grounds attached to any place of worship or school, and premises enclosed within the curtilage of or attached to any dwelling house, except such places as are marked “Out of Bounds”.
The troops engaged in training may pass over and encamp, construct military works not of a permanent nature, and execute military manoeuvres on any such land as aforesaid.
No earthworks, ruins, or other remains of antiquarian or historical interest, or picturesque or valuable timber, or other natural features of exceptional interest or beauty are to be interfered with.
All lands used for the purpose of training under the powers conferred by this order will be restored as soon and as far as practicable to their previous condition.
No persons belonging to the said troops shall trespass or do any damage to property.
Regulations will be issued for the guidance of the troops with a view to preventing damage to property.
BLYTH PETTY SESSIONS
“It’s hard lines if you are going to make a German of me now,” was the declaration of William Burns, of Bedlington Station, who was again before the bench in connection with a charge of not being registered, he being an alien enemy.
Mr Alderson: But you are a German.
The Clerk proceeded to criticise Burns for having told such a lot of lies, saying he had not been in Germany, and that he could not read or speak German, and then afterwards admitting he had been at school in Germany.
Burns called his mother, who spoke English badly. Curiously enough, she being married to an Englishman, is now a naturalised Englishwoman. She said her son was born in Liverpool when she had only been a few days in this country, and she took him back to Germany with her a few weeks later.
Burns said he regarded himself as English, and had offered to join the Naval Reserves. He had worked for many years in the pits here, and had two children. He wanted nothing to do with Germany.
Supt. Irving said Burns had been talked to and advised, but he had not tried to carry out the law.
The magistrates decided to fine defendant £3 and costs.
Burns remarked that it was hard lines: he had sailed under the British flag since he was “a bit laddie.”
Two Hirst Boy Scouts, Richard Robson (19), Juliet Street, and Wm. Thompson (18), Rosalind Street, were both charged with cycling without lights at Newbiggin, on October 15th.
P.C. Middlemas stated that he was in Front Street, Newbiggin, when he saw those two lads. He asked them why they were riding without lights, and they said that they were instructed to do so by Lieut. Jobling, who was in charge of the Territorials at Newbiggin.
Witness saw Lieut. Jobling three days later, and he said that he had never given any instructions to that effect and that he had nothing to do with the Boy Scouts.
Chairman: You Boy Scouts ought to know better and set an example to other people, and not say such things when Lieut. Jobling had nothing to do with you.
Fined 5s., including costs, in each case.