In this feature to commemorate the First World War, we will bring you the news as it happened in 1916, 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.
We have received the following interesting communication from Lance-Corporal Johnson, of Morpeth, who is serving with the Royal Fusiliers in France. He writes:—
“I am writing to let you know that I am still in the land of the living, or, perhaps I should say, close to the land of the living. Up to the present we are having a fairly quiet time, and have opportunities of reading some of our English papers. I am glad to say they have, to a certain extent, given up the idea of persuading the people at home that we having an enjoyable time out here.
“At first when I came out I saw in some of the pictorial papers photographs or sketches of the fine trenches we were holding out here. I may point out that at that time we were more or less mud-larks. Not that we minded, for we quite expected it, but our people at home reading these glorious tales, and at the same time reading our letters, which gave quite a contradictory take, may have the impression that we were getting downhearted with our job out here. Far from it, but what we are downhearted about is the way things are going on at home.
“I can tell you it’s anything but comforting news to see in the papers that such things as strikes are still going on in the Clydes district. Surely they realise that their safety depends as much upon themselves as upon us out here, for we cannot get on without them.
“It makes one suggest that these strikes are all for a purpose, to prolong the war and at the same time keep on earning the highest wage possible. Let us hope that this is not true, and that they are British enough to think of their country and the men fighting for their country, wives, and children.
“Let them remember that the men out here are not conscripts, but men who came out to assist their country in getting the war finished as soon as possible for the benefit of their country, themselves, and the people at home. When we lose friends out here who we have known for years we cannot help but look upon these actions as low-down, cowardly, and selfish.
“Let us hope that we have heard the last of these affairs so that everything may go on in an honourable way and help to bring this horrible war to a finish as soon as possible.”
ST GEORGE’S DAY AT THE FRONT
Sergeant T.S. Carmen, of the Northumberland Fusiliers, another Morpeth man, also sends us an interesting letter. He states:—
“Allow me a space in your valuable paper to let you know how we spent St George’s Day in the trenches.
“In the evening we had a lecture by Sergeant J. Brown, who hails from Barrington. To occupy the men’s minds a little he gave a lecture on ‘We want deeds not words at this momentous period.’ An interesting feature was that not only Northumberland Fusiliers but several other regiments were present, namely, Yorks, Lincolns, etc. The lecture interested the men so much that Sergt. Brown, who had only got up to speak for 20 minutes, found that he had to go on for about two hours on account of the numerous questions that were asked, and so ably answered by our young friend, who is a great favourite with the N.F., and well known as a speaker.
“The boys out here are eagerly awaiting the ‘Morpeth Herald’ with Sergt. Brown’s letter on conscientious objectors, who by their own conduct have shown themselves below the par of man; something after the nature of a parasite, or not to use so harsh a term, of a Micawberian instinct, that is to say, always waiting for something to turn up before making a move.
“Can any of these so-called conscientious objectors honestly say they are conscientious objectors, or is it the parting, touched with a bit of fear? Why is the text put in the Book, ‘Sell thy shirt and buy a sword’? If it wasn’t meant for some purpose, do any one of them think it was put there for nothing? Certainly not. It was put there for a man to defend his honour and integrity, and, last but not least, his soul. There is a hymn that might appeal to some of them, and that is ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers,’ especially the fourth verse.
“Will these people remain content to be parasites, or take courage and come out here and act as men? Let us hope and trust so for the sake of their King and country, also their homes. Our cry out here is: ‘Will they never come out and help us?’ That is what we want, not a wailing about conscience.”
THE LATE MR AMLETT
Mrs Amlett, of Morpeth, received a notice yesterday from the French Consul at Newcastle stating that her husband’s death took place in France on 14th December, 1914.
The annual vestry meeting of the Four-and-Twenty was held in the vestry of St Mary’s Church, Morpeth, on Easter Monday. The Rector (Canon Davies) presided.
The Mission Room has during the winter been in the occupation of the officers of the 3/6 Northumberland Fusiliers as a mess-room, by arrangement with the Rector and churchwardens, and for which a nominal rent was charged. It is now vacant and available for church uses.
The question of insurance against damage by air raids received serious consideration, but in view of the high cost of properly covering the churches and their contents, and the want of sufficient funds to meet such additional charges, the church wardens were unable to take action in the matter.
With regard to insurance against damage by air raids, Mr Harper, in reply to a question, stated that £44 would cover the insurance of both churches.
The Rector remarked that it would be a serious matter if anything happened to their churches when the buildings were not insured. There was a movement promoted by municipal authorities of the country to make this a national obligation.
Mr Wright said as one of the auditors he had very strongly advised that the churches be insured against aircraft. It was an expensive matter, but it was absolutely necessary that both the churches should be insured at once.
Mr Gillespie also thought it very desirable that it should be done.
Mr Wright: Could not the cost of the premium be taken out of the Church Fabric Fund?
Rector: We might make a special appeal to the parishioners. It would be a pity to break into that fund. In addition to the appeal they might also devote one Sunday’s offertories towards the amount required for the insurance. Realising the importance of this, the people will respond.
Mr Wright: I agree with you, but I think we should insure today.
In reply to Mr James, the Rector said that the two churches would cost at least £22,000 to replace.
Mr Wright: We cannot take any risks in these times. We must prepare for the worst.
Mr Gillespie: And hope for the best.
Mr Wright moved that the church wardens be instructed to have the insurance against aircraft done at once, and that steps be taken to raise a special fund for the purpose.
The motion was unanimously agreed to.
The Morpeth Branch of the Vegetable Products Committee wish to thank all those who have been good enough to send them vegetables, fruit and money for our sailors, and hope they will be able to continue helping. Mrs L. Fenwick and Mrs R. Spencer will be at the Town Hall, Morpeth, from 9 to 12, on Wednesday, May 3rd and June 10th, and will be very grateful for any fruit, vegetables (with the exception of potatoes), or money that may be given them. One cabbage, an orange, or a turnip will be gratefully received.
Several letters of thanks have been received from the different ships who have had vegetables and fruit sent them by the Morpeth Branch, to say how much they have been appreciated, and sending thanks to the donors.
As Mr Balfour, our first Sea Lord of the Admiralty said:—
“We may not easily feel how much we owe to our sailors at this moment. We may find it difficult to realise the lives they lead or the work they do. The world has yet to know, and it does not yet know, how much it owes to the British Fleet, and how the assured victory which is coming to us in the future is coming at least as much the gift of the British Navy as it is of the splendid valour of the Allied troops, whether British or foreign.”
We import nearly three-quarters of the food we consume. Were our imports cut off we should starve, and in an amazingly short time, too; but the British Navy has swept all enemy warships from the High Seas and left us free to trade with all parts of the world.
Some weeks elapsed before the Naval Medical Staff began to realise that a fresh vegetable ration was a serious necessity to the health of the ships’ companies. This problem to the Admiralty authorities was fortunately quickly solved by voluntary effort, for “Jack” occupies a warm corner in every Britisher’s heart, and his fighting fitness must be secured at all costs if the grand traditions of our Navy are to be upheld.
To meet this need, the Vegetable Products Committee was organised and has now became an important factor in supplying the Navy with fresh fruit and vegetables; and, moreover, its work has been warmly endorsed by the Admiralty and its work has been described as “one of the finest bits of organisation this war has produced, and it is impossible to over-rate the benefit it has conferred on the Navy.”
WAR AGRICULTURAL WORK
A meeting of great interest to all connected with farms and gardens for the production of food for the country will be held in the Town Hall, Morpeth on Wednesday, May 10th, at 2.30 in the afternoon.
Professor Gilchrist, of the Agricultural College, Newcastle, has kindly consented to give an address and to explain the nature of and the necessity for the war agricultural work. He will be glad to answer questions, and hopes to have a large number of all classes of the community present.
We are sure that when workers, potential workers, and employers have heard Professor Gilchrist they will all loyally respond to the call made on them. This scheme has worked very successfully in other counties, and it is hoped will do so in Northumberland also.
DISABLED SAILORS’ AND SOLDIERS’ FUND
As will be noticed from our advertising columns, there is to be a flag day in Morpeth on Wednesday first (the Fair Day), and in connection with this there will be a sale of work at the house of Mrs Chris. Taylor, 61 Newgate Street, Moropeth, which will be opened by his Worship the Mayor (Ald. E. Norman) at 1pm.
The flag day will be similar to what has already been held here. Several ladies will have stalls in the streets, at which there will be helpers, and it is hoped that every house in the borough will be called upon as well as the houses in the villages round about.
We hope the townspeople and also the country people will support this effort, as it is for one of the most deserving objects, and that the ladies will support Mrs Taylor and the Mayor at 1 o’clock, so that there may be a record sale.
NURSE CAVELL MEMORIAL
In aid of the Nurse Cavell Memorial, arrangements have been made to hold a grand concert in the Soldiers’ Institute, Morpeth, on Thursday afternoon next, commencing at 2.30. A first-class programme has been arranged for the occasion.
Tickets for the concert can be had at the “Herald” Office and 98 Newgate Street, Morpeth.
GRAMMAR SCHOOL STUDENT’S DISTINCTION
Captain Francis Aidan Robinson, M.B., R.A.M.C., whose name, among others, was mentioned recently in Sir John Nixon’s despatch, and whose name also appeared in the list of the King’s Awards on April 17th, as having been awarded the Military Cross, is the son of the Rev. Geo. Robinson, vicar of Holme-on-Spalding, and formerly vicar of Ulgham and Ashington, and is an old Morpeth Grammar School boy.
He went through his medical studies at the Durham University School of Medicine in Newcastle, and held appointments in Newcastle Infirmary before going into the R.A.M.C.
Captain Robinson went from India to Mesopotamia in January, 1915, and won his distinction in the battle of Nasiriyah.
ROLL OF HONOUR
News has now been received concerning Private Wm. Smith, 1225, 7th Northumberland Fusiliers, of Bedlington Station, who has been missing since 29th April, 1915. He is now presumed to be dead.
THE LOCAL BRANCH OF THE CENTRAL MEDICAL WAR COMMITTEE
Beg to inform the public that great demands are being made on the medical profession of this locality by the Military Authorities.
Several medical men have already enlisted and others are doing military work at home; also several other doctors will shortly leave this district to join the R.A.M.C. The first of these is Dr Vanderwert, assistant to Dr Gallacher, who leaves on 3rd May next to join up at York.
Consequently, the public are kindly requested to help the medical profession by sending in their messages not later than 10am whenever possible, and to do as much as they can by abstaining from sending for frivolous cases.
Dr Gallacher will not be able to attend to all his patients at Blyth after Dr Vanderwert leaves, and Drs McLachlan and Gordon will attend to Dr Gallacher’s Panel and Club Patients.
In addition to these patients mentioned above, Dr McLachlan will attend Dr Gallacher’s Poor Law cases. Dr Gallacher will still attend to his private patients at Blyth and also carry on his appointment as Public Vaccinator.
Signed on behalf of the Local Medical War Committee of the Blyth Division of the British Medical Association.
Chairman and Secretary
HAND GRENADE EXPLOSION
A soldier named Matthew William Harrison, of the 28th Service Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers, received serious injuries on Good Friday whilst handling a charged hand grenade.
The young man, who belongs to Newbiggin Road, Hirst, was home on leave. He brought with him a hand grenade, which he showed to his mother and grandmother, telling them it was quite harmless. He then started to take it to pieces, and while doing so it exploded in his hands, inflicting serious wounds in his left arm and right leg.
His mother and grandmother were cut about the face with fragments of the explosive.
Harrison was attended by Dr Gunn, and afterwards removed on the ambulance to the Newcastle Infirmary.
There was a large number of visitors to the town for the Easter holidays. The day was showery and cold.
Many of the officers and men of the D.L.I. paraded to the Parish Church, led by the battalion band of the 3/9th D.L.I., under the leadership of Bugle-Major A. Jones.
Several of the officers and soldiers paraded to the Congregational Church at Rothbury, and to the Presbyterian and Catholic Churches at Thropton.
On Easter Sunday similar Church parades were held.
NEWBIGGIN AGED PEOPLE’S TREAT
Through the generosity of the trades unions, Co-operative Society and social clubs in Newbiggin the aged people in the seaside village were entertained to tea and a concert on Easter Monday. The gathering took place in the Wesleyan Hall and was a great success. About 120 old people were entertained.
Mr Charles Fenwick, who had a splendid reception, thanked the committee, who had organised the treat, for the compliment they had paid him by asking him to preside on that occasion. He was glad that he had been able to keep his engagement with them.
They were living in strenuous times, and amidst all the stress and struggle and conflict which surrounded them, when nearly the whole of Europe was engaged in deadly conflict, it was something to find a quiet corner in God’s universe. There they had people moved by different feelings — feelings of generosity and brotherly kindness towards the aged and those upon whom the hand of time was sitting rather heavily. It was something in these times, as he had already said, for them to meet in a social way as they were doing that evening. (Applause.)
Proceeding, Mr Fenwick said that he had a conversation with one of the officials at the Treasury Office the other day. He told that official that there was a great demand for labour in the North of England, and that they had a number of men who were on the pension list who might still be utilised to do some light job or other if they would permit them to do it without depriving them of their old age pensions.
This was the reply he received, said Mr Fenwick: “You go on, Mr Fenwick, and encourage them to do such labour to increase their old age pensions. So long as it is not of a permanent character they shall be able to draw their pensions in addition to the little they receive for their labour. I thought that was very nice indeed, and I don’t mind if you act as missioners and spread the truth round about.
“Where a pensioner can earn a little by light labour to help augment his pension he is doing himself a good turn, and more than that her has the feeling, like others who cannot step into the trenches or handle a rifle with steadiness or precision, that he is doing something to help those who are there — in fact he is doing his bit — (applause) — in order to being this unhappy conflict to a successful issue.”
“I have avoided making anything in the nature of a political speech,” observed Mr Fenwick, “but there is one thing I do wish to say in conclusion, and it is to put you on your guard against those who are preaching the doctrine that we should secure peace with our opponents.
“I am a peace man and have been all my life, but in this war we are not the aggressors. It was forced upon us. To declare, after all the blood and treasure we have spent, that we are now stalemated and that it is a drawn battle would be disastrous. And we are to seek terms, as was stated in a debate in the House of Commons a short time ago, with our enemies. Indeed it was put, ‘make peace with them on terms and with guarantees.’
“Terms with whom?” asked Mr Fenwick. “With murderers of children and ravagers of women, with destroyers of hospital ships, with those who have been guilty of firing on Red Cross camps, and with using poisoned bullets and liquid fire? For my part, I say emphatically ‘No.’ (Loud applause.)
“From whom are we to take guarantees? From the men who do not know the meaning of a guarantee, from the men who regard all such solemn undertakings as merely so many scraps of paper to be cast aside whenever the opportunity serves their purpose? If you agree with me we will carry on.
“What compensation is it to declare this a drawn battle? What compensation is it to the mothers and wives who have sent to the front their noblest and best, and many of them will never come back again? What satisfaction is it to them to be told that they made all this sacrifice for naught? For their sake and for the sake of the Union and the great federation of nations of which we form a part. I hope the advice of those who are trying to secure peace at any price will be avoided by you all.” (Applause.)
RED CROSS HOSPITAL, MORPETH
The Commandant acknowledges with many thanks the following gifts:— Eggs, Mrs Cecil Perceval, Miss Jobling (Butterwell), Mr Whittle, Mrs J.J. James, Mrs Dakyns, Mr Reed, Miss Pringle (Tritlington); Easter eggs, Miss Simpson (Hepscott); cakes and buns, Mrs Moffit, Mrs Cranston, Mr Duncan, Mrs Jos. Simpson; fruit, Mrs Middlemiss (Holmeside), Mrs F. James; flowers and eggs, cigarettes and matches, Molly Slassor, Doris Robinson, Glennie Young, Maggie Waldie; cigarettes, Mrs Jobling (Howard Castle); chair, Miss G. Jones; books, Miss N. Turnbull; flowers, Mrs Leathart; milk, Mr Fredrichs; sponges, Mrs Elliott; flowers, Mrs F. James.
A local farmer, aged 46, who has sons with the Colours, this week received a surprise in the form of a military order to present himself for service.
ALNWICK RURAL TRIBUNAL
An application was heard at Alnwick Rural Tribunal last Thursday for the exemption of the gardener and motor-car driver of Bishop Ormsby, Archdeacon of Lindisfarne, Eglingham Vicarage.
Bishop Ormsby wrote that it was absolutely impossible for him to discharge his official duties without a motor-car driver — it would occasion serious hardship.
A similar application was made by the Rev. W.T. Thorp, Charlton Hall, Alnwick, for the exemption of his groom and chauffeur who had also to assist in hay time and harvest.
Exemption was granted in both cases until May 31st, in order to enable the reverend gentlemen to procure substitutes.