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.
DISTRICT TRAINING LEAGUE
The first drill practice will be held on Monday, the 14th December, at 8 o’clock, in the Hall of the New County Council Schools, Castle Square, Morpeth.
The Morpeth Training League, which was successfully inaugurated at a patriotic meeting organised by Mr Allon Burn, last week, is making excellent progress.
The committee who have the arrangements in hand are leaving no stone unturned in order to establish the League on a sound basis. The success which has attended their efforts so far must be very gratifying to them.
We understand that 300 men have now joined the organisation, and we would draw attention to the fact that a meeting is to be held on Monday night first in the large hall of the Council Schools, when arrangements will be made for drilling and enrolling new members.
Recently I had occasion to note in this column that certain people found delight in naming their children after battlefields in France. I see by the Church Magazine for Morpeth Rural Deanery this month that other people are following suit.
No less than four babies have been named Louvain and one Mons.
These poor baby girls are not only thus associated with dolorous events, but the fond parents have caused them to carry with them an unfailing Mnemonic as to their age — a thing abhorred of (by ladies especially), when ladies arrive at an “uncertain age.”
MORPETH BOARD OF GUARDIANS
The monthly meeting of the Morpeth Board of Guardians was held on Wednesday. The Hon. and Rev. W.C. Ellis presided.
A deputation, consisting of Mr Ralph Crawford and Councillors Chas. Grey and R.N. Swinney, attended the meeting and made an application.
Mr Crawford said that they had come from the Chamber of Commerce, on behalf of the military committee of that institution, who had been getting up the Commercial Battalions in Newcastle. They were very anxious that one battalion should come to Morpeth, as the place was eminently suitable for training. They had been appointed as a committee to try and arrange for securing buildings in the town to billet the men.
Chairman: There are 1,300 men coming altogether.
Mr Crawford: Yes; I understand the scheme is that we should have half the workhouse. We have managed to get several of the schools and public halls in the town, and with half of the workhouse we think we will be able to accommodate the 1,300 soldiers.
Clerk: The letter says that you want to put 350 men here?
Mr Grey: That is the number that they have suggested for here, but one of the Army men will have to come down and sanction the scheme.
Chairman: You want 350 men here. What do you propose we should do with our inmates?
Mr Grey: I think Mr Robson explained to me yesterday that if you put some of your inmates out they will help you out of the fund from the Chamber of Commerce, and see that you incur no loss. The ordinary billeting fee is 3d. a man, and for 350 it would come to £4 7s a day, or £30 a week. The ordinary scale in the town is 1.5d. per man, but the military undertake to pay for the light and heating. In Rothbury they are only getting 1d. a man.
Clerk: The 1.5d. a day for each man is for floor space only?
Mr Grey: Yes.
Clerk: Some of the guardians want to know how many men you would put in here?
Mr Grey: They want 35 superficial feet for each man.
Clerk: There is the serious difficulty in arranging the male and female side in this place.
Mr Grey: Where you have to put 1,300 men in a town, you have a serious difficulty wherever you may go.
Chairman: But we want to know how to get over the difficulty.
Mr Swinney: There’s the infectious diseases hospital at the asylum, which has not been used for several years, and might be used now.
Mr Craigs: Whom do you suggest to use the hospital at the asylum?
Mr Swinney: Your infirm people. There are baths and washhouses up there.
Miss Nicholson: It is a question of administration. We would have to divide our servants.
Chairman (to the deputation): We have appointed a small committee to consider all the details after this meeting.
Mr Crawford, on behalf of the deputation, thanked the chairman and Guardians for having received them. Before coming they knew they would receive sympathetic treatment, and that the Guardians would not be behindhand in assisting the military authorities.
A GALLANT CHARGE
Councillor Geo. Jackson has received the following interesting letter from our brave townsman, Charles McCarthy, of the Royal Artillery, who is at the front in France:—
11th November, 1914.
Dear Mr Jackson,— Just a line to let you know that I received your letter and cigarettes, which were very welcome, as it is not many cigarettes we get to smoke out here. We get a fairly decent supply of pipe tobacco, but we cannot get any fag papers. We sometimes get the paper off the jam tins, and the sergeants are just the same as us all — share alike.
We had a very trying time of it last Sunday. The Germans broke through; the French could not hold them, and they got round behind our men, so you will know what we felt like. We got the order to retire, but our major said he would stick to it to the last minute; so we stuck to it, and drove them back again. But, oh! what a trying time we had.
Then, the Irish Guards made a charge, and regained our trenches again. I was glad when the suspense was over, as we were expecting a cavalry charge, but it did not come off, as our Life Guards went up and put an end to it all.
We had three killed that day with “coal boxes” — a driver, a shoeing smith and a gunner — also two horses. We got over that all right. We buried them at nine that night, and the next day we put crosses up for them.
I saw all the Morpeth boys together the other day. They were in the next field to us. It was the Yeomanry. They are attached to the 15th Hussars, so they told me.
Did you ever read about the charge the Lancers and Scots Greys made on the retirement from Mons? It was a beauty, I can tell you. The Lancers lined up for the charge, and made it, and what they missed the Scots Greys charged and finished off. When they came back they didn’t half get cheered.
We were all in bathing when the alarm came. There was not half a skelter, I can tell you, when the order came, “Get harnessed up and prepare for action.” But we finished up that day victorious.
I think this is all at present.— I remain, yours, etc.
THE CALL FOR MEN
A recruiting meeting was held in the Masonic Hall, Morpeth, on Monday evening, the principal speaker being Mr Grattan Doyle, of Newcastle. The Mayor (Councillor T.W. Charlton) presided.
The Mayor said that they were met that night for the purpose of finding men to meet Lord Kitchener’s demands. He asked them to remember that one volunteer was worth two conscripts. There were many able-bodied men in the country yet who could come forward and help their country in this hour of need. They would have to fight to the bitter end, but they would come out victorious in this great war.
Mr Grattan Doyle said that this was not the first time he had stood on this platform, but the other occasions were to defend other causes. That night they stood on the platform representing every shade and class of political and religious opinion.
This war, which had fallen upon this country like a thunderbolt, had had this result: throughout the length and breadth of the land today the voice of political dissension was stilled and hushed, and there was only one party in the State. (Applause.) The great national party stood shoulder to shoulder, determined in the great crisis which had come upon them that there should be no wavering or faltering, and that everything that had divided them up to the present should lie in acquiescence.
They were there to appeal for support for Kitchener’s Army, and those who lived in this part of the country had a considerable choice as to what particular branch of the Army they should join. They had on the platform a distinguished Morpeth resident, Mr Geo. Renwick. (Applause.) The Tyneside Commercial battalions, which now number three, and which were going on for a fourth, first derived the inception of the idea from the initiative and the patriotism of Mr Renwick. It was he, after the first blow in this great national disaster, that took the initiative in Newcastle in organising recruiting meetings for the King’s Army.
Then came the offer of a patriotic citizen of Newcastle, Mr Joseph Cowen, who provided a fund of £15,000, and made it possible that through private endeavour private battalions should be raised. As an outcome of that movement, they had on Tyneside three great organisations, Tyneside Commercials, Tyneside Scottish, and the Tyneside Irish. They made an appeal for those who were eligible and capable to join the National Army.
He pointed out the advantages which any prospective recruit would find in joining any one of the three private battalions in Newcastle. There was a committee representing each of those Tyneside battalions appointed to look after the interests, the comfort, and welfare of those who joined, and everyone who joined any one of those private battalions would find himself in a much more advantageous position than if he joined the Regular Army, because there was the fund which had to be spent in little comforts and necessities, and in providing for the welfare of the young men. (Applause.)
As a nation they were in the midst of the greatest war since the world began. They were fighting as much for their country and the lives of those who were near and dear to them, as if all the scenes of abomination and desolation that had taken place in Belgium and Flanders were taking place in Morpeth.
If they could once get a grip on that one central and concrete fact that we were fighting for our existence as a nation, there would be no need to hold recruiting meetings, because every man with a spark of patriotism and with human sympathy and sentiment would spring up at once to arms, and say, “It lies upon me to defend not only the national integrity of this country, but to defend the national traditions of this country of which we are so justly proud, and our women and children, and our hearths and homes.” (Applause.)
We were fighting as an Empire and a nation for every principle that civilised nations, in all their history, had held dear. We were fighting for the preservation of international contracts and our pledged word, which was a bond. (Applause.) We were fighting for the preservation of the neutrality of small States and the liberty to live and thrive of every section of the community. (Applause.) We were fighting for the principle of right against might, to smash and pulverise for all time that awful system of military despotism which was the greatest enemy to freedom and progress and civilisation. (Applause.)
He went on to say that the war was inevitable. This was Germany’s war. Germany struck when Germany thought she was ready. We could have kept out of this war at a price — the price of national dishonour.
He then appealed to every eligible young man to come forward and join the colours.
Canon Davies said he believed it was true that almost immediately after Germany launched Europe into this terrible catastrophe, and prepared to mobilise her vast resources of trained men, running into several millions, she received volunteers to the number of one-and-a-half millions. They had been fighting as Englishmen had never fought before, but with a small army, and they could see this war, unless things changed very rapidly, go on for a long time.
At the end of four months, the Prime Minister, speaking in the House of Commons the other week, said that only 800,000 men had joined the new army. Not one million of the young men of Great Britain had offered themselves for so great a cause. There was never a greater cause than this which they were defending in this great world war.
“More men are needed,” added the rector, “and if I was a layman, under 45, I do not think I could hold my head up in any part of Great Britain if I did not offer my services to King and country. Again, I would have been ashamed if my only boy had not been eager to offer himself for so great a cause.” (Applause.) Mr George Renwick appealed to the women to do nothing by word or by deed to prevent the young men from doing their duty. They were all proud of the Regular Army, who had fought for four months in the trenches.
They sent a message to them, and it was this: “We have done our little bit. Come and help us.” (Applause.)
The Rev. Father Kershaw said he considered it his duty to be present to show that he sympathised with the object of the meeting. He believed in all the methods employed for recruiting young men. It was a principle of Catholic theology that a man might always fight, and ought to fight, in a just cause, and all Catholic superiors who had spoken on the war had said that if ever there was a just war, this war was. There was never a war that was more just, and in which any Englishman could with greater right and greater pride take up arms and do his very best for success. (Applause.)
Mr Crawford said that, as secretary of the Morpeth division of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Families’ Association, he could assure all young men who joined the colours that their wives and children would be well looked after.
EVENING CLASSES FOR SOLDIERS
Sir,— I shall be obliged if you will extend to me the hospitality of your columns for the purpose of inviting volunteers to assist a good cause and the Northumberland Education Committee by conducting evening classes for the soldiers now in training in different parts of Northumberland.
We want to arrange courses of simple lessons in (a) French; (b) German; (c) The geography of Western Europe; (d) first-aid in the treatment of wounds, fractures, etc.; (e) plain field cooking. We should also like to be in a position to arrange a few popular lectures on any subject of general interest.
The places where we desire to organise this instruction are Alnwick, Berwick-on-Tweed, Blyth, Gosforth, Morpeth, Newburn, Ponteland, Rothbury, Whitley Bay, and Monkseaton.
If those who are willing to help will write to me or to the secretary of the Education Committee, Moot Hall, Newcastle-on-Tyne, stating what they are able to do, and the time they are willing to give to the work, the Education Committee will be grateful.— Yours, etc.,
Chairman of the Northumberland Education Committee.
THE GALLANT NORTHUMBERLAND HUSSARS
Sergt.-Major Halliday, of the C Squadron, Northumberland Hussars, who is on a visit home for a few days from the front, handed in the following letter. He said the Morpeth men were well and were doing well.
“C” Squadron, Northumberland Hussars, (VII. Division),
5th December, 1914.
Sir,— Through the medium of your valuable paper I desire on behalf of myself and the men of the Morpeth Troop, Northumberland Hussars, to express to the ex-Mayoress (Mrs W.S. Sanderson) and the members of the Sewing Party our sincere thanks for their kind gifts.
The articles sent will be most useful and are much appreciated, as are also the good wishes which accompany them,— Yours, etc.,
Sir,— As one of the men over 45 who are not likely to be called upon to serve except in the last extremity, I would like to bring to your notice the movement which is on foot to induce Lord Kitchener to accept a battalion or more of picked men over that age.
Men who want to join should send to Mr E.S. Day, Rowlands Castle, Hants, a post-card bearing nothing but their name and address and the words “Over 45,” and he will then send them a form to fill up.— Yours, etc.,
12 West Terrace, Stakeford.
CHRISTMAS GIFTS FROM U.S.A
The Northumberland branch of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Families Association has been requested to obtain the names and addresses of the children of non-commissioned officers and men who have been, or who are at the present time, serving abroad, resident in the area of Northumberland, other than the city of Newcastle, the boroughs of Berwick, Morpeth, Tynemouth, and Wallsend, and the urban districts of Ashington and Blyth.
In the case of girls, to the age of 16, and of boys to the age of 14. Names, ages, etc., should be forwarded at once to Mr J.T. Gibbons, secretary, Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Families’ Association, 28 Sandhill, Newcastle.
These gifts are only intended for the children of soldiers or sailors who are at present abroad. It is especially requested that the names of orphan children (caused by the present war) should be forwarded at once, stating particulars.
Mrs Nelson, of 6 Station Road, Cramlington, has received official information that her husband, Lance-Corpl. Jas. Nelson, of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, has been killed in action.
Nelson, who was a reservist, was called up for active service at the beginning of the war.
CRAMLINGTON SOLDIER WOUNDED
Mrs White, of 2 Station Road, Cramlington, has received information that her husband Pte. T. White, of the Northumberland Fusiliers, a reservist, who was called up at the beginning of the war, has been wounded in action. Pte. White served through the Boer War.
GALLANT CAPTAIN’S DEATH
Concerning a distinguished member of a well-known Blyth family who was killed in action near Ypres, the “Bedfordshire Standard” says:—
“We regret to announce the death of another Bedfordian, Capt. Edwin Wright. The deceased officer who belonged to the 3rd Dragoon Guards, was killed in action near Ypres on November 18th.
Capt. Wright was born in India, and came to Bedford when four years of age. After leaving school he became Second-Lieutenant in the Royal Marine Artillery in 1897, and obtained his captaincy in 1904. He was placed on half-pay in 1909, and in January, 1911, joined the 3rd Dragoon Guards. From February, 1909, to December, 1910, he served as A.D.C. to the Governor of South Australia. We understand Capt. Wright was married a short time before the war broke out.”
The “Daily Express” says:— “A tribute to the bravery of Capt. Wright, 3rd Dragoon Guards, is paid by Private W. O’Brien, of the same regiment, who writes to his family from the Casino Hospital, Boulogne:
“I saw several instances of bravery. One in particular was by Capt. Wright, of my squadron, who crept out under a heavy artillery and rifle fire, to bring in two wounded men. He succeeded in bringing the first (Jack Lavery) and then Lance Corpl. Fraser, whose head was badly hurt. Capt. Wright bandaged the wound and afterwards brought him into a place of safety. We would follow Capt. Wright anywhere!”
The heroic capt. was the grandson of the late Mr James Wright, timber merchant, of Blyth, who built the first house at that end of Bridge Street, where he lived and died.
BEDLINGTON SOLDIERS “LAST AND BEST”
A cheery letter has come from H. Herbert Middlemiss, of the gallant Coldstream Guards. He was one of the very first (if not actually the first) from the district to enlist after men were so badly needed in France. After only 11 weeks’ service he volunteered for the front.
His letter home states:— “Just a line hoping everybody is keeping well and not worrying about me, because I am champion, although we are in the thick of the fighting just now.
Nevertheless I am still happy. It is absolutely nothing, just a little bit of excitement, and with a bit of luck and plenty of time we shall be on the right side in the end.
There are a few bullets and shells knocking about here, and that makes it a bit more exciting.
We have a jolly time out here. Plenty of hard work, and at the same time any amount of tabs and tobacco, also the best of grub — beef, bread, jam, cheese, bacon, and biscuits. When I say plenty of tobacco you can bet there is plenty, as it takes a bit to serve me.
It is very cold at night lying in the trenches, but that is nothing, seeing we get some hot tea and sometimes coffee, with a little stimulant (rum, I mean) in it, and you are soon warm again.
I may tell you I am the youngest soldier in the Coldstream Guards out here. That is, I had only 11 weeks’ training when I came out to the front. I have seen and gone through something since coming out here, and I suppose you have read in the papers about the brilliant fighting of the Coldstream Guards. You should hear other regiments talk about the Guards — always in front wherever they go, and always in the thick of it.
My battalion has lost nearly all its officers and a good number of men. We are now being re-organised and re-equipped, ready once again for the fray. My last and best news now is that I have got my first stripe out here, so I am now lance-corporal, which is not so bad after all for a “Terrier” on the battlefield.
WARM CLOTHING FOR TROOPS
Captain the Hon. Jaspar Ridley, adjutant of the Northumberland Hussars, serving with the 7th Division in Belgium, says, in a letter to a friend:—
“We had a very busy time with the 7th Division in front of Ypres; perhaps the people of England will never realise what the infantry there succeeded in doing against very hot attacks. But anyone who realises even vaguely what the general position was must have the most intense admiration for them, as well as for the artillery, which shot off an inconceivable amount of ammunition day and night for several weeks.
It is at any rate satisfactory to feel that the Germans must have suffered losses infinitely larger than ours, and without succeeding in their objects.
All of you who have relations and friends serving at the front can be assured that the War Office are making a most generous issue of warm clothes to the troops — and winter has set in here most unpleasantly early.”
Lord Kitchener having made an appeal for sheepskins to be made into coats for the troops at the front, the Mayor (Coun. T.W. Charlton) has much pleasure in appealing to the farmers and other people in the neighbourhood to assist him in securing as many skins as possible to carry out Lord Kitchener’s idea. Mrs Martin Tighe, Waterford House, Morpeth, has kindly consented to receive and acknowledge through the “Herald” all skins sent to her.
BELGIAN RELIEF FUND
It has been decided by the Relief Committee to hold a sale by auction in the Corn Exchange Market, on Monday, December 21st, at 7 o’clock in the evening. Auctioneer, Mr B. Waters.
Contributions of Game, Rabbits, Chickens, Turkeys, Geese, or, in fact, anything will be gratefully received.
All goods to be sent to the Corn Market any time on Monday up till 5 o’clock at night.
The Committee hope that this time there will be a liberal response for so worthy an object.
(Signed) T.W. CHARLTON, Mayor,
G.D.DAKYNS, Chairman of the Relief Committee.
YEOMANRY ON PATROL WORK
Mr and Mrs A. Michie, Bondgate Within, Alnwick, have received a letter from their son Henry, who is at the front with the Northumberland Hussars. In a previous letter he made reference to the Hussars going again into the fighting line after a week’s rest. In this last letter he says:—
“We have been here now 14 days, and it seems as if we will be making our winter quarters here. Our work at present consists of patrol and guard duty.
There have been recently some good parcels of underclothing sent out to the regiments from some of the officers’ wives, and we all got something.
The butter you sent me was a great treat, and those who shared it with me said it reminded them of Alnwick. They never drink anything but black coffee, and seldom use sugar. We had rice and apples today, and because we mixed them together with milk the people were disgusted. When they use apples they spread them on a slice of bread.” Though the writer makes no allusion in his letter to his promotion, it is signed Corporal H. Michie. All previous letters were signed Trooper H. Michie.