In this feature to commemorate the First World War, we will bring you the news as it happened in 1915, as reported by the Morpeth Herald. All material is published with kind permission of the Mackay family. We thank them for their support and generosity in allowing us access to their archive.
OUR OWN COLUMN
THE MORPETH TERRITORIALS
The past week has been an anxious one to the parents and friends of the Morpeth Territorials who have not written home since the great battle of Ypres.
Official intimations, however, have been received that Sergeant R. Hedley, Lance-Corporal R. Sharp, and Lance-Corporal Ed. Green have been killed, which, with Drummer J.E. Harrison, announced last week, make four killed out of the Morpeth Company.
There has also been reported wounded, Private B. Brady, Private R. Nivens, and Private J. Elliott.
The death of Sergeant Hedley is unusually sad. He was a postman at Morpeth, and well known and respected. About 12 months ago his wife died, leaving him with two young children, who are now orphans.
Lance-Corporal Ed. Green, who was wounded on April 26th, died in Boulogne hospital on May 4th. The deceased was only 22 years of age and a good shot. Last year he won Mr George Renwick’s Coronation Cup, which was competed for on the range on the Common. Just before leaving for France Lance-Corp. Green was presented with the miniature cup.
Mr and Mrs Murphy, of Lloyd’s Bank House, Morpeth, have received from the Canadian Record Office, official notification that their son, Geoffrey Franklin, was killed in action on the 9th, inst. He was in Vancouver when war broke out, and he joined the Canadian Engineers and came to this country with the first contingent. He was home on leave at Christmas. He was educated at the Morpeth Grammar School, and the North-Eastern Counties School, Barnard Castle. He was 20 years of age.
We extend our sympathy to the relatives of the men who have lost their lives in fighting for their King and country.
MORPETH TOWN COUNCIL QUARTERLY MEETING
OUR GALLANT SOLDIERS
The quarterly meeting of the Morpeth Town Council was held on Tuesday evening. The Mayor (Councillor T.W. Charlton) presided.
At the outset the Mayor expressed, on behalf of the members, their admiration for the splendid way in which the local soldiers had conducted themselves in the fighting line.
They all regretted, he said, that two or three of their gallant lads had lost their lives.
“We feel proud,” declared the Mayor, “of these men who have been fighting for their King and country. There are still many men in the town who are quite able to go and take their places in the ranks. It is bad form for them not to go.
“I beg to move that the Town Clerk be instructed to send a letter expressing our deepest sympathy with the relatives of the local men who have laid down their lives.”
The motion was carried.
ROLL OF HONOUR
LOCAL MEN KILLED AND WOUNDED
Appended is a list of the local casualties at the front.
News has reached Blyth that Private S. Waters has been killed in action during the fighting in Flanders. Private Waters emigrated from Blyth to Canada, and was in the first British Columbia Regiment. He also went through the Boer War.
Private Leslie Hardy, 7th Northumberland Fusiliers, has been wounded in action. He is a son of Mr Foster Hardy, of the firm of Messrs Hardy Brothers, Alnwick. He was struck in the head by a bullet, which has necessitated the extraction of one eye. He is in hospital in Boulogne.
Private George Murray, Cragside Place, Blyth, of the 7th Northumberland Fusiliers, has been wounded.
Private J. Elliott, of the 7th Northumberland Fusiliers, of 3 Pretoria Avenue, Morpeth, formerly of Wooler, is wounded and in hospital in Dundee.
Mrs Statton, of Albion Row, Shankhouse, has received a letter from one of the hospitals in France stating that her son, Lance-Corporal James Statton, of the 7th Northumberland Fusiliers, was wounded, and was also suffering from the effects of gas.
Private D. Routledge, 7th N.F., of Morpeth, has been wounded.
Mr and Mrs Edward Hunter, of Wentworth, Gosforth, had two sons killed in action on April 26th, near Ypres – Captain George Edward Hunter and Captain Tomlin Hunter. The former was 28, and the latter 26 years of age. Both were in the 6th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers.
Mrs Gardner, Chestnut Street, Hirst, has been notified by the Captain of his company that her husband, Corporal J.W. Gardner, 1st Field Company Royal Engineers, has been killed by shrapnel. He leaves three children. The deceased served in the South African War, for which he had two medals, and was a well-known resident of the Ashington district.
News has been received that Privates J. Cunningham and A. Atkinson, of Hirst North Council Schools, are prisoners of war.
Lance-Corporal J. Wilson, of Hirst South Council, is a prisoner and wounded.
Private J. Patterson, of Bedlington Council Schools, is missing, but is believed to be also a prisoner.
The above were all members of the Bede College Company of the 8th Durham Light Infantry, which they rejoined on the outbreak of war.
ROLL OF HONOUR
Green.– On May 4th, at No.2 British General Hospital, Boulogne Base, from shrapnel wounds received on April 25th, Lance-Corporal Edward Palmer (Ted) Green, 7th Northumberland Fusiliers, the dearly loved husband of Beatrice Green, of Maple Street, Hirst, Ashington, and second beloved son of the late David Green and of Mrs Green, Keewatin, Ont. Canada (late of Bullers Green, Morpeth).
Sharp.– On the 5th inst. died of wounds received in action, Pte. R. Sharp, 7th N.F., beloved son of William and Mary Sharp, Percy Court, Morpeth, aged 20 years. Deeply mourned by all who knew him.
MORPETH TOWN COUNCIL COMMITTEE BUSINESS
The usual meeting of the Morpeth Town Council in committee to transact the business, prior to the ordinary monthly meeting was held in the Council Chamber last Friday evening. The Mayor (Councillor T.W. Charlton) presided.
The Surveyor stated that in connection with the Common there had been a number of people making inquiries as to the letting of the Common for grazing. He told them that it would be let as usual, but some arrangement would have to be made for the protection of the stock.
The Town Clerk stated that he had written as requested to Colonel Crawford intimating that the Council were considering the question of stinting the Common, and that he (Colonel Crawford) had stated on a former occasion that there was no reason why the Council should not let the grazing, as it would not interfere with the shooting. He asked the Colonel if he had changed his mind on the matter. He also mentioned to him that he had received a claim from Mr Potts for a ewe (in lamb) killed.
The Town Clerk read the following letter which he had received from Colonel Crawford:–
“The rifle range will be in constant use during the period of the war, but I see no reason why you should not let the grazing of the Common. There is ample room to drive the stock to the side during practice, and the range wardens could be held responsible that this will be done before each practice begins.
“Will you instruct Mr Potts to communicate with me and I will take the matter up as to the loss of the ewe (in lamb). Thanking you for your valuable assistance for the smooth working of this range.”
The date fixed for grazing the Common was June 1st.
SIR JOHN FRENCH’S TRIBUTE TO THE NORTHUMBERLAND INFANTRY BRIGADE
The following is a copy of Sir John French’s address to the Northumberland Infantry Brigade, as received from a member of the brigade staff to his brother in Newcastle:–
“Officers, non-commissioned officers, and men of the Northumberland Infantry Brigade, I want to say a few words to you this morning to tell you how much I appreciate the splendid work you have done these last ten days in the fighting at Ypres.
“When the Northumbrian Division came out here in the ordinary course to settle down at Cassel, it expected to have some little time to pull itself together, as every large unit which comes to this country is obliged to have, but we had this treacherous attack under cover of asphyxiating gases, which no soldiers have used yet, and men who use them are not worthy of the name of soldiers.
“We had this villainous proceeding and I was obliged to send you up to reinforce the troops there. That would have been a high trial for any body of troops, even for a Regular division with years of training at Aldershot – troops that had been fighting before – the highest trial.
“You met that call upon you splendidly, and the Northumberland Infantry Brigade particularly distinguished themselves under the leadership of Brigadier-General Riddell, whose loss we all deplore so much.
“He fell at the head of his brigade while leading you to attack the village of St Julien, and though you established yourselves in the position, you had to retire afterwards, as you were not supported. Why, it is not for us to say. Even as it was you occupied a line of trenches in advance of those that you left, so you always took important ground yourselves.
“Well, I think you deserve the greatest praise for this, and I wish every officer, N.C.O., and man to accept the warmest thanks of the commander in charge of these forces for the part he took. I deeply deplore the loss of one of the most gallant officers that ever lived, and one of the best leaders.
“In the special circumstances under which you were called up it was particularly magnificent, and I think that the front that you all possess is quite extraordinary after all you have gone through. How you have paraded, showing a smart, soldier-like front, and apparently perfectly ready to go into action this afternoon if required, and for the whole of this I can only most heartily congratulate you, and express my warmest appreciation of this conduct.
“When I am speaking to Territorials I am always reminded of the large body of Territorials who have shown such glorious and patriotic conduct as they have.
“You took service in the Territorial Force for home defence, and immediately on coming out here you are called upon in time of danger and emergency to take the place of trained troops in the breach. It is the highest example of patriotism. I must again say that I heartily congratulate you for all you have done, and I am certain that if ever the Northumberland Brigade is called upon again they will acquit themselves in the same glorious manner as they have done during the last ten days.”
THE RECTOR OF MORPETH’S APPEAL
My son, who with eleven other officers, joined the 6th N.F. in France last week, writes to me as follows:–
“A good, or rather, a light and portable periscope is a great asset. We expect a lot of trench work, and if you could persuade people that periscopes (light and portable) may be the saving of the men we have left, they might club together and send me one or two. Our numbers of periscopes are very limited.”
There is something very pathetic about the words “saving of the MEN WE HAVE LEFT.” Nothing, should be wanting on the part of those at home to try and secure this – “the saving of the men we have left.” These men are facing death on behalf of those of us who are at home. Let us respond to every appeal they make to us to help them.
I will send my boy the “one or two” periscopes he asks for; but I write in the hope that those who read these words will help me to make the “one or two” into half a dozen or more. A light and portable periscope costs, I believe, about 12/6.
Should Morpeth people desire to help and wish their gifts to go to the 7th N.F. I will see that that is done, and whatever is sent to me in answer to this appeal will be acknowledged in the “Morpeth Herald.” Whatever is done should be done quickly.
JOHN J. DAVIES.
The Rectory, Morpeth,
May 13th, 1915.
MORPETH SOLDIER’S EXPERIENCES
Lance-Corporal J. Waters, Morpeth, of the 7th Northumberland Fusiliers, gives an interesting account of his experiences at the front in the following letter. He states:–
It seems hard to believe that I am back in England again, as in the short time which has passed since I left Cambois I have been through North France and well into Belgium.
We landed at Boulogne at 3am one morning, and after resting till 7 in the evening we proceeded to a place called –. There we had a long railway journey in closed-in meat vans, about 40 men in each. It was pitch dark in these vans, and we could neither sit nor lie down, so it was scarcely a pleasant journey.
After four hours of this we got to a place called –. We got out here and a stiff march brought us to a village where we billeted for the night. Our platoon fell in for a farmer’s barn, and spent a good night. We were now nearing the battle line, and could plainly hear the roar of the guns and see them lighting up the sky at night.
Next morning we got on the march again, and we passed a constant stream of refugees. First you would see a family with a horse and cart packed with their household goods, and a kiddie stuck in here and there, and perhaps a cow tied on at the back. Others worse off would be carrying all they possessed in a bundle.
The next place we came to was a good-sized town and a military base. We passed through here and camped in a wood nearby. We were now in the fighting zone, and the roar and rattle of the guns that night was terrific. There was one of our big guns in action on the edge of this wood, and every time it fired it nearly made you “stott.”
Next morning we moved forward and marched through the ruined city of Ypres. We had just got into the city when the enemy started shelling us. This place is already in ruins; the Germans shell it every day and night, especially at night, when they think troops are moving through.
Ypres must have been a fine place once, but now there is scarcely a whole house left. In a big square there was a fine cathedral with half its steeple blown away and flames leaping from it. On the other side a big row of houses were burning fiercely and lighting up all the city, at the same time shells were banging overhead and occasionally dropping in the streets, where they made a hole in which you could bury a horse and cart.
In marching through Ypres our division lost a good few men, but we at last reached the firing line just before daybreak on Sunday, May 2nd. We at once went into action and were at it the whole day long. At night we were withdrawn, and had a short rest in a field where we slept on the ground.
Monday morning we had breakfast with shells dropping round about. Immediately after breakfast our whole army moved forward at the double to attack; the shell fire and machine guns was terrible, and our men dropped every yard. This was early in the morning, and all that day we fought on.
It was about eight o’clock in the evening that I was hit, a shell bursting near, and four pieces going into my leg. This was at the famous Hill 60, where the Canadians lost so many men with the poisonous gases.
I am now in Crumpsall Infirmary, Manchester, where I am quite comfortable, and well looked after.
In a subsequent letter Lance-Corporal Waters says he has one of the pieces of shrapnel taken from his leg.
He is progressing favourably, and he wishes to thank his many friends in Morpeth who have so kindly inquired after him lately.
FEARED LOSS OF A YOUNG LADY
It is feared that Miss Annie Robson, daughter of Mr and Mrs J.F. Robson, of North Row, Seaton Burn, is one of the victims of the Lusitania, which was torpedoed off the coast of Ireland on Friday last.
Miss Robson, who has been in service in America for four or five years, was on a visit to this country.
As her name does not appear amongst the list of survivors the worst fears are entertained. Naturally, her parents and friends are greatly upset, under the sad circumstances.
“POUND” DAY AT MORPETH
In common with a large number of the Mayoresses throughout the Kingdom the Mayoress of Morpeth issued an appeal to the people of the borough to contribute to a very deserving object – the Belgian Soldiers’ Fund – and she and Mrs R.J. Carr attended at the Council Chamber on Thursday to receive the contributions.
A very large and varied assortment of provisions were sent, and as a result two very large barrels, which were carefully packed by Mr Jackson, of Messrs, Jno. Proctor, were despatched to London.
The Mayoress of Morpeth has received the following letter of thanks:– “We are most grateful for the splendid consignment of groceries you have collected for us on pound day. Your help in organising the pound day in your locality has been invaluable to us, and we fully realise that the success of the scheme has been in a large measure due to your efforts.
“We thank you in the name of the Belgian soldiers in the trenches, field hospitals, and convalescent homes. May we ask you kindly to convey our thanks to all those who have helped you in the work of organising and collection, and to those who have so generously contributed to your consignment. The increased supplies which you have made it possible for us to send out, will do much to comfort and cheer the men who have suffered so many hardships during these terrible months of warfare.”