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.
IN THE TRENCHES
UNDER A HOT FIRE
Mrs Cookson, wife of Lieut.-Colonel P.B. Cookson, in command of the Northumberland Hussars Imperial Yeomanry, at the Front, has written to Lord Ridley. She quotes from a letter from her husband under date October 22.
Lieut.-Colonel Cookson writes as follows:
“I can safely say that the regiment is doing very well. Everyone is talking about them. We are worked off our legs. The General is very pleased with us. Thank goodness the French Regulars have arrived, as we are all stone cold, and we are to have a day of rest today.
“I have just had my second bath since we landed, but we all shave every day, as we carry razors on our horses. So outside appearance is good. What we most want are socks and handkerchiefs, sent by letter post.”
Colonel Cookson gives news of the following wounded:—
Major L. Johnston, severe, but doing well.
Lieutenant C.M. Laing, leg, slight.
Shoeing Smith Appleby (High House, Morpeth), bullet in thigh.
Trooper R. Siddle (West Stanley), bullet in arm.
Troper W.S. Dodds (Newcastle), bullet in arm, slight.
Trooper H. Taylor (Prudhoe), bullet in arm, slight.
Trooper J. Garson (Tynemouth), bullet in lungs.
MORPETH MAN WITH THE COLDSTREAM GUARDS
Writing to his brother Joe in Morpeth from the front, Private George Hedley, of the 2nd Batt. of the Coldstream Guards, says:—
“The Germans are about done now. They are still retiring yet, and we are advancing. We did 11 days’ retiring, but we have made up for it. We started at Mons to retire, and finished at a place called Meaux, then we advanced.”
Proceeding, the writer refers to a letter from a signaller to the “Morpeth Herald,” which he (Private Hedley) had read in the trenches. “The signaller,” he writes, “talks about our boys and the German shells flying over us. We don’t care about their fire: they are very poor shots. We get plenty of food out here, and all our boys are fit.”
In another epistle, Private Hedley writes: “It is very cold out here at night-time, and we each have a blanket to keep ourselves warm. I have seen some sights since I have been out here, but I cannot tell you anything till I get home.
“The papers know a lot more than we do, notwithstanding the fact that we are in the firing line day and night.”
In reminding his brother to write, Private Hedley says: “It is a good thing to have letters out here, as they cheer you up a bit.
“One of the men in our battalion says he is a brother of Cud. Robson, of the Earl Grey. He says he has never been in Morpeth, and I think they call him Tom.”
Another epistle, written on a postcard, stamped “passed by the censor,” shows how the warm garments being contributed by the folks in the old country are distributed and appreciated. He writes: “I got a fine jersey last night. We had to draw lots for it, and I won.”
The Mayoress of Morpeth (Mrs W.S. Sanderson) president of the Morpeth branch of Queen Mary’s Needlework Guild, had the pleasure of a large attendance at her sewing meeting in the Town Hall, yesterday afternoon.
She has carried them on for three months, and they are still to be continued under her presidency with the new Mayoress (Mrs T.W. Charlton) as vice-president.
The following garments have been made for the soldiers and sailors:—
Woollen shirts, 240; pairs of knitted socks, 410; night-shirts, 51; pyjamas, 6; bed-jackets, 27; pillow cases, 84; pocket handkerchiefs, 62; pairs of slippers, 12; bed socks, 15; pants, 30; vests, 28; helmets, 30; mufflers, 36; belts, 115; muffatees, 30; bandages, 50 — Total, 1,226.
New garments for Belgian refugees.— Women’s and children’s dresses, 25; petticoats, 70; stockings and socks, 24; trousers, 14; coats, 6; children’s night-dresses, 6; women’s and children’s under-garments, 45; large overcoat, 1; gloves, 6; hats, coats and two full sets of baby clothes, 24; complete outfit for child of one (articles), 6; jerseys, etc, 9; braces, 14; pinafores, 10 — Total, 260; a large quantity of used clothing; a patriotic mat has been made, and gifts of a table centre, a mirror, a picture, and an Airedale puppy have been turned into money for the cause.
The number of bales sent to the following were as follows:— To H.M. The Queen, St James’ Palace (large), 2 bales; H.M. The Queen, Royal Naval Hospital, Southend-on-Sea (large), 1; Admiralty, Rosyth Base (large), 1; Lady French (large), 1; Hounslow Barracks (small), 1; Northumberland Fusiliers (per Lieut. Flint, G. Jobling and Kunz), 3; Northumberland Territorial Hospital, Newcastle, 1; Devonshire House (Lord Kitchener’s appeal for socks and belts), 300 pairs of socks, belts 2; 6th Hospital Train, Expeditionary Force (per Sister Eva Schofield), 1; Belgian Refugees (large), 5 — Total, 18.
At 8 of the meetings, teas were given by Morpeth Communicants’ Union (Senior), Mrs Maxwell, The Mayoress, Mrs Duncan, Mrs Frank Brumell, Mrs Renwick, Mrs G.W. Purdy; Mr Charles Alderson.
FLAG DAY TO BE HELD AT MORPETH
A very representative meeting was held in the Council Chamber, Morpeth, on Monday evening for the purpose of organising a flag day in aid of the Belgian Relief Fund. There were 70 ladies and gentlemen present, and Mr G.D. Dakyns, chairman of the local relief committee, presided. He referred to the worthy object they had in view, and said that he felt sure that it would appeal to everyone.
Wednesday first, Fair Day, was chosen as the most suitable date for the holding of Flag Day in the town. All the arrangements have been left in the hands of Councillor R.N. Swinney.
There will be a procession through the main streets, in which the Boys’ Brigade and the Grammar School Cadets, headed by the local Highland Pipe Band, will take part. If the permission of the commanding officer is obtained, the Territorials stationed in the town will also join in the procession.
Many ladies have volunteered to make flags and find purchasers for them.
In the procession, as many novelties as possible will be introduced. Among the novelties will be a miniature torpedo boat and fort with soldiers. The Mayor’s (Councillor W.S. Sanderson) two little boys, dressed in khaki, will take part.
After the procession is over the united choirs from the schools will sing the four National Anthems in the Market Place.
Sir,— Having heard that some Morpethians and people of the district are needlessly concerned about my nationality, thinking that I am a German, I hereby wish to make known to all concerned that I am not a German but an Englishman. I was born in London, and have lived in England all my life. Those who wish to concern themselves further in this matter may make diligent enquiries as to the truth of these facts. People who circulate false statements may be reminded that such statements are libellous and actionable.
The Castle, Morpeth.
BAYONET CHARGES ON ENEMY’S POSITIONS
The latest communication which we have received from Mr A. Amlett, of Morpeth, who is an adjutant in a French regiment, will be read with great interest:—
Limogee, H. Vienne, France.
Sir,— I am writing to you another short letter to let you have a small insight as to the progress effected by the centre of the French troops. From Reims to Berry-au-Bac it was only a pursuit, intercepted now and again by battles of short duration.
The Germans on leaving Reims went in a northerly direction towards Laon, hotly pursued by the French. Arriving at Merfy, a very hilly place; the Germans, occupying a very good position, delivered battle.
Their mitrailleuses mowed down the Frenchmen, but their retreat being made in too great a hurry had permitted the Frenchmen to take part of the position at the point of the bayonet.
Twice rejected and with great slaughter, the command was given to make a third assault. Enraged at the sight of their many comrades already wounded and dead, the Zouaves went with desperation, stopping only when they had with great difficulty reached the top of the hill. The loss was great so also was the victory. Merfy was soon back to the French, and it, being of great strategical value, was necessary to them.
The Germans retreated and only stopped when they had reached the roads near Roucy. There the infantry opened fire, while the artillery took up position to the rear of Roucy. Their stay was of short duration. The French Artillery, communicating the good positions won, very soon were landing their shells in such quantity and with such effect that the Germans had to go back still further.
I may say that from the top of the hill behind Roucy, I was able to follow the whole battle. It was splendid. The same night the Germans had gone back as far as Berry-au-Bac and Ville-au-Bole and Craonne. Those positions were of great value to the Germans, and had been chosen by a German officer, who had been living for many years at Pont-a-Vert, near Roucy. Gradually, the French, in concert with the English, who are on the left wing, moved slightly forward, and have done so to this day.
While all this was taking place, a force composed of about 500 Germans was holding the fort at Beaumont, and the village of Bethny, about 7 miles from Reims, was held by some reserve. Some regiments were detached to dislodge them. This was done about 15 days later, many Germans being killed, wounded and taken prisoners.
Awaiting the command, the French are holding strong positions near Ville-au-Bois, Ferme du Cholera, and Berry-au-Bac. Although strong fusilades and bombardments are taking place daily, neither side is willing to abandon the positions held, which will have to be done very shortly, and the battle will be a ferocious one. We are 7 miles from Craonne.
A. AMLETT, Adjutant.
110 B. Infanterie.
MORPETH LADY’S GIFT TO COMMERCIAL
Mrs George Renwick, of Springhill, has presented both Tyneside Battalions (Commercials) with a set of drums and fifes. The gift is a highly valued one, and will be very much appreciated by the men of the battalions.
AN APPEAL FOR EXTRA COMFORTS
Bovington Camp, Wool, Dorset.
Sir,— I write on behalf of the 9th Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers. This regiment is now quartered under canvas at the above station, amidst surroundings and doing work entirely new to the men. Many of them have left homes of considerable comfort, and have made, and are making, great financial sacrifices in order to serve their country in the present time of stress.
They draw the ordinary field ration, which is ample, but does not lend itself to variety and it is most desirable to make some arrangement under which they may be provided with small luxuries in order to soften the sudden change from their usual surroundings to their new ones. The extra articles are, under ordinary circumstances, provided out of funds existing in regiments, but, being newly formed, there are no such funds in the Battalion.
I am anxious to provide the men with milk, butter, and other extras occasionally, and these must be paid for; and I would welcome any gifts of money which would enable me to meet the expense of providing them. The more money I can get, the more the men will benefit both physically and morally. The estimated amount is £3 10s daily for 1,100 men.
Will Northumbrians, who are willing to subscribe send their contributions to the Adjutant, 9th Northumberland Fusiliers at the above camp.
H.ST.G. THOMAS, Colonel,
Commanding 9th (Service) Batt. Northumberland Fusiliers.
October 25th, 1914.
AMBLE AND THE WAR
Recruiting goes on without intermission, and on a scale which reflects credit on the young men of Amble, and indeed the district, which includes Radcliffe, Broomhill, and Chevington Drift.
The lads were somewhat diffident at the beginning of the war, but certainly they are now making up for any past laxity in that respect. The Naval Brigade is a very popular service with them and a good many men have joined that section; but Kitchener’s, Naval Reserve, and the Guards get their full mead of recruits.
Although many hundreds of thousands have already joined, thousands more are wanted, and it goes without saying that every able-bodied young man in the town and district, who have no responsibilities of family life, should join the ranks in defence of their country and take part in the great fight for liberty and against despotism and militarism.
The German method of sowing mines on the high seas is still making the navigation of the North Sea somewhat difficult and dangerous. Some of the fishermen at Hauxley saw a mine explode some seven miles straight out to sea. The explosion was followed by a huge column of water and smoke thrown violently into the air. There is, however, no record of what caused the explosion, or whether a ship or life had been lost. But it brings the danger of the mines very near to us.
The Citizen Training League is still to the fore, and some twenty of its members put in a regular attendance. A still further effort is to be made to increase its membership. It started with 140 members, but some eighty or ninety of these have enlisted, which at once demonstrates the utility of such a league. The Swedish drill and rifle practices are proving very popular, and if only the membership could be increased to about a hundred, the league would prove of some value, and should it ever come that it had recognition from the War Office it could be used for many useful purposes.
As we stated in this column last week, the war overshadows everything. Not even a place did the prospects of a municipal contest in the Borough find in the thoughts of many of those ratepayers who can be said to take more than a passing interest in the doings of our “city fathers.”
The fact that five nominations were received for the four vacant seats on the Council almost passed unnoticed. In these war-like times it is, perhaps, better that the people, who have sufficient to think about, should not be troubled with electioneering matters. Withdrawing his name and letting the retiring members, two of whom are serving their King and Country, have a “walk-over” was undoubtedly the right course for Mr Jobson to adopt.
A REQUEST FOR OLD NEWSPAPERS
Sir,— May I draw the attention of the public to an easy way of assisting the Distress Funds and also at the same time of aiding home industry.
I want all the good folk of Morpeth to save their old newspapers and clean waste paper of all sorts, and I will arrange for members of the 1st Morpeth Company of the Boys’ Brigade to collect it in due course.
The money obtained by the sale will be entirely given to Distress Funds, and the paper so obtained will be most useful at the present moment to help in keeping our English paper mills going.
I may say that the B.B., C.L.B., and other Boys’ Organisations in London have been the means of raising over £1000 in this manner, and I trust we here will do as well in proportion to our population.
JAMES E. JOHNSON, Captain.
8 Olympia Gardens, Morpeth.
MILITARY WEDDING AT MORPETH
St Mary’s Church, Morpeth, was the scene of a pretty military wedding on Sunday last, the parties being Private Athol Ernest Nichol, of the 7th Northumberland Fusiliers, and Miss Isabella Thorpe, of Morpeth.
The ceremony, which was performed by the Rev. F.C. Hardy, was attended by a large number of the Territorials at present stationed in Morpeth and members of the bridegroom’s battalion, who were home on leave. Miss Elizabeth Nichol, sister of the bridegroom, acted as bridesmaid, and Private Jack Potter as groomsman, and the ladies wore the badges of the Fusiliers in place of flowers.
On the completion of the ceremony the Territorials lined up outside the church and formed an archway of bayonets, through which the party passed. Private Nichol, who has volunteered for foreign service, rejoined his regiment later in the day.
EXPERIENCES OF AISNE
Signaller G. Clifford, of the Durham Light Infantry, who as a reservist rejoined the colours when mobilisation was ordered, returned to his home on Wednesday last at Hartford, having been wounded on Sept 20th at the battle of the Aisne.
Whilst engaged in the trenches he was shot by a bullet in the jaw and a piece of shrapnel entered the wound. He was operated upon in a Paris hospital, where the bullet was removed, but the fragment of shrapnel remains, which will necessitate another operation. Clifford purposes, so soon as he has recruited his strength, to enter the Royal Infirmary to undergo the operation.
Interrogated by a “Herald” representative on Sunday, Clifford said the fight on the Aisne was one of close grips and a terrific character. The fighting is incessant, the opposing forces being frequently entrenched not more than 400 yards apart.
“The rifle fire,” remarked the soldier, “is incessant and continuous, but it is nothing compared to the terrific work of the maxims and shrapnel. It is simply hell to endure.”
He described how a soldier mate from Hartford, Hamilton, was killed 100 yards from him by a rifle bullet on the same day he himself was wounded. Asked how the wounded were cared for, Clifford said, “Wonderfully well.” He said he could not tell how long he lay when he was wounded, but he awoke to consciousness in the cares, which are temporary hospitals, where the wounded lie on straw, and they receive medical attention until they can be removed to permanent hospitals.
Asked about the treatment shown them by the French, he said nothing could exceed their kindness to Britishers. He and other wounded men were taken by a gentleman in his private car to a Paris hospital, which is a distance of 150 miles from the scene of action.
The hospital is an auxillary one, the Claudges Hotel, in the Champs Elysees, which is run by suffragettes. The two lady doctors are Miss Flora Furray and Miss Anderson. Clifford speaks in high praise of the treatment he received, and of the good work which is being done for the soldiers by these ladies.
He said that there was no lack of good, sound food for the soldiers in action, though frequently, through the vicissitudes of war, it could not be got up, but the fighting men made no complaint, and made the least of that and other hardships which fell to the lot of the soldiers on the field.
He remarked that the spirit of British troops was good. He fought amongst local men, and their comradeship inspired them with courage and activity in the direst dangers of the field.
In addition to his wounded face, Clifford suffers in the right leg, which causes him to limp badly, but how he came by that injury he cannot tell. He thinks it would probably be caused by the fall when he was wounded.
Signaller Clifford is a typical British soldier — quiet, reserved, and almost taciturn, albeit cheerful and disposed to reply with alacrity and intelligence to the queries of an interviewer.
YEOMANRY IN ACTION
The Northumberland Hussars, who left for the front a few weeks ago, have been quickly into action and have acquitted themselves splendidly.
Many of the Northumberland Yeomanry belong to Newcastle, and the rest were drawn from different parts of the country, and therefore in many homes there will be satisfaction at news of the regiment’s doings at the front, and particularly as they are reported to have done so well in their first encounter with the enemy.
Lord Ridley received the following telegram from Capt. Kennard, the Adjutant of the regiment:—
Major Johnston, Major Clayton, Capt. Sidney, Lieut. Pease, Lieut. Laing, and Capt. Kennard wounded. All going on well. Regiment did splendidly.
The regiment, it will be remembered, left Gosforth Park about five weeks ago, and underwent training in Hampshire.
There it was attached to a Cavalry Division, and subsequently went to the front.
The Mayoress of Morpeth (Mrs W.S. Sanderson) has received the following communication from the Duke of Devonshire, chairman of committee in connection with the Princess Mary’s Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Christmas Fund, and also an appeal made by Princess Mary. The letter from the Duke of Devonshire reads as follows:—
Madam, — You will probably have seen from the Press that The Princess Mary wishes to provide a Christmas present from the nation to our sailors afloat and our soldiers at the front. I enclose a copy of her Royal Highness’s appeal
The Princess is anxious that subscriptions for this fund should come from all parts, and I hope that you will feel inclined to support her Royal Highness in her wish, by forming a small committee in your town, with an active honorary secretary, who would raise funds on behalf of the Princess’s appeal.
Subscriptions should be sent direct to her Royal Highness, The Princess Mary, Buckingham Palace.
Chairman of her Royal Highness’s Committee.
To the Mayoress, Morpeth.
Princess Mary’s appeal is as follows:—
For many weeks, we have all been greatly concerned for the welfare of the sailors and soldiers who are so gallantly fighting our battles by sea and land. Our first consideration has been to meet their more pressing needs, and I have delayed making known a wish that has long been in my heart for fear of encroaching on other funds, the claims of which have been more urgent. I want you all now to help me to send a Christmas present from the whole nation to every sailor afloat and every soldier at the front. On Christmas Eve, when, like the shepherds of old, they keep their watch, doubtless their thoughts will turn to home and to the loved ones left behind, and perhaps, too, they will recall the days when, as children themselves, they were wont to hang out their stockings, wondering what the morrow had in store.
I am sure that we should all be the happier to feel that we had helped to send our little token of love and sympathy on Christmas morning, something that would be useful and of permanent value, and the making of which may be the means of providing employment in trades adversely affected by the war. Could there be anything more likely to hearten them in their struggle than a present received straight from home on Christmas Day?
Please will you help me?
All donations for the above fund will be gratefully received by Mrs Sanderson at her residence in Chantry Place.
MR C. FENWICK, M.P., AND GERMAN ESPIONAGE
At a well attended recruiting meeting, held at Shankhouse, on Thursday of last week, Mr Charles Fenwick, M.P., said he wished at the present time that they had a little less football and a little more soldiering. The crisis the country had gone through during the last 11 weeks was calculated to test the fibre of the nation, both morally and physically. Great Britain had found it her duty to join in the fight against blatant Prussianism.
With regard to German espionage, Mr Fenwick said he had held all along that the Government treated the Germans in this country too leniently. He trusted they were now alive to their duty. He agreed with the Labour Party manifesto, that a victory for the Germans would be the end of democracy in Europe, and that this country would be brought under the heel of the Huns, and made to suffer as the German democracy suffered.
In order to prevent that, those who could fight must turn out to fight; and those who could not fight must see to it that those left behind were well provided for. (Applause).
Writing to a friend at Blyth, Bandsman Bird, stretcher-bearer with an infantry brigade of the British Expeditionary Force, says:—
“Not so many shells flying about Blyth as there are here. I am writing this letter in a van, waiting for orders. We are getting about four shells every two or three minutes. All the roof is beginning to fall in, bits of spare shells and all kinds of things flying about in the air.
“We have been very lucky since we started at Mons. I have been nearly all over France and Belgium. We have just left the river Aisne, near Soissons. We had to go higher up the country. We were travelling all day and night for four days. Just as we got to Bethune we had to start again straight away, so you can see we are having a hard time.
“We are with the French soldiers at Present. We have to go out and collect wounded every night, and through the day, if possible, under fire all the ay to the trenches and back to the hospital.
“Play up, Spartans!”