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.
Sapper Harry Wharton, Royal Engineers, Signal Service, who was formerly employed as a sorting clerk and telegraphist at the Post Office, Morpeth, has been awarded the military medal for bravery at Ypres.
Sapper Wharton, who is native of Wolsingham, Bishop Auckland, was a Territorial at the commencement of the war and joined up on mobilisation, subsequently transferring to the Royal Engineers.
The circumstances under which Sapper Wharton won his distinction were as follows:— ”He carried on his duties as telegraphist with great gallantry. When the position was being heavily shelled and most of his comrades were killed or wounded, he removed his telegraph instruments to a place of safety. He was under heavy fire all the time.”
Before proceeding to the Front, Mr Wharton married a daughter of Mr Woodhouse, of Northbourne Avenue, Morpeth.
It is interesting to note that one hundred per cent of the indoor male staff of the Morpeth Post Office have joined the colours since the break of war, which is a most commendable record.
SECOND-LIEUTENANT NORMAN A. SWINNEY KILLED IN ACTION
Second-Lieut. Norman Atkinson Swinney, eldest son of Mr James and Mrs Swinney of Northfield Villa, Morpeth, was killed in action on April 28th. The sad intelligence was received by his father from the War Office on Tuesday morning.
The deceased was educated at the Morpeth Grammar School and Armstrong College. After serving one year with Messrs Swinney Bros. Ltd., he joined the Officers’ Training Corps on August 6, 1914.
Six weeks later he went to Durham and enlisted in the Public Schools Battalion. He then proceeded to Epsom to train, and was there promoted to the rank of corporal. He got his commission in March, 1915, and was attached to the 3rd Northumberland Fusiliers. When he went to the Front in October, 1915, he was attached to the 13th Northumberland Fusiliers.
Six weeks ago this young officer was home on leave for a week, when he received a cordial welcome from his many friends.
Although only 20 years of age he was a man of splendid physique and delightful disposition. For three years he was organist of the Congregational Church, Morpeth, and had exceptional musical ability. He was well known in the town and very popular with his fellows, and his loss will be keenly felt by his wide circle of friends.
ADJUTANT AMLETT KILLED IN ACTION
The first intimation that Mrs Amlett received of her husband’s death, who before leaving this country at the outbreak of the war to join the French Army, carried on business in Bell’s Yard, Morpeth, was through the police authorities.
The French Consul at Newcastle sent the following letter to the Chief Constable:—
“I am requested by the military authorities in France to acquaint Mrs Amlett, residing at 9 Hood Street, Morpeth, that the death of her husband, Victor Arsene Julian Joan Amlett, of the 110 regiment of the line, was killed in action at Berry-au-Bac, on the 1st December, 1914. Not knowing anyone in Morpeth, and unwilling to give bad news direct by letter to Mrs Amlett, I am wondering whether it can in any way be broken gently, either through one of your detectives, or through a friend of hers.”
Mrs Amlett received a further communication direct from the French Consul at Newcastle:— ”I, the undersigned, French Consul for the Northern Counties of England, hereby certify that Victor Arsene Amlett of the 110 regiment of the infantry, French army, was killed in action at Berry-au-Bac, France, on 1st December, 1914.
“The official notification bears the mention: ‘Died for his country.’ In faith thereof, the present declaration has been given to his widow to serve and avail where needful.”
(Signed) J. de Rebabre,
Le Consul de France,
Newcastle-on-Tyne, 1st May, 1916
COMFORTS FOR THE N.F.
Sir,— Mrs Coldmen, of High Wycombe, Bucks, has kindly sent me 10/- to be spent in “comforts” for the Morpeth boys of the 7th N.F.
Mrs Coldmen writes me as follows:— ”I send you 10/- in place of the wreath which I wish I could have been able to put on my brother’s grave, Coy.-Sergt.-Major R.C. Hedley, who fell in action, April 27th, 1915.”— Yours, etc.,
THOS. B. WATERS.
St James’ Terrace, Morpeth.
SOLDIERS AT SPORT
In addition to being splendid soldiers the Northumberland Fusiliers are excellent sportsmen. This was testifed to by the manner in which the local battalions celebrated St George’s Day at the front. A semi-official account of the day’s doings has been received by the Military Committee of the Newcastle and Gateshead Chamber of Commerce.
The day, it states was celebrated in true regimental style. It was a glorious day. The band reappeared, after a long silence, to further enhance the pleasure. The platoons looked gay as they marched along at distances of 200 yards, for each man wore his red and white roses. These had been sent out with gifts of tobacco and sweets by the Newcastle Chamber of Commerce Military Committee.
It was splendid to see these healthy, sturdy sons of Northumbria, spick and span, marching to the field of inspection. They were all cheery, and out for pleasure.
A short service was held in an orchard, the General Officer commanding arriving to take part. Then followed the inspection by a major-general, who addressed the men. He expressed his admiration of the splendid turnout, considering the dirty, but very necessary, work the men have to do. “The Fusiliers who fought in the Peninsula War, and in South Africa, would have been proud to have you brigaded with them.”
During the afternoon sports were held, wrestling, boxing, tug-of-war, despatch riders’ relay race on mules, and finally the officers played the sergeants at “soccer” on a waterlogged field. The game resulted in a draw — and a soaking! The General watched the sports, but was forced to leave just before the end.
Lieutenant-Colonel Daniell presented the prizes, and a voice in the rear called for three cheers for him. They were heartily given.
So with a short march back to the billets, a great St George’s Day ended. It was a splendid holiday, carried through with real Northumbrian gusto.
WAR AGRICULTURAL WORK
A question of vital importance nowadays is our food supplies, and great efforts are being made to stimulate an interest among the people generally in this all important topic.
In this connection we would call attention to the fact that under the auspices of the Northumberland War Agricultural Work Committee a meeting of exceptional interest to all connected with farms and gardens for the production of food will be held in the Town Hall, Morpeth, on Wednesday first, commencing at 2.30 in the afternoon.
The principal speaker will be Professor Gilchrist, well known as an expert on agricultural matters, who will proffer much useful advice to all who attend. It is also expected that Mr Mayhew will come and speak on horticulture.
It is also interesting to note that Mrs Straker, Prime Warden in Northumberland of the war agricultural work scheme, will preside and explain the objects it is hoped to attain and the methods to be employed. As we stated last week, the scheme has worked very successfully in other counties, and it is hoped will do so also in Northumberland.
GIFTS FOR THE TROOPS
Mr John Penoyre, of the Inner Temple, London, has received with grateful thanks, another generous parcel from Mrs Oliver of Bowmer Bank, Morpeth, for our troops in the field, containing sweaters, socks, mufflers, and other comforts.
DISABLED SOLDIERS’ AND SAILORS’ FUND
A very successful sale of work was held at the residence of Mrs Chris. Taylor, Newgate Street, Morpeth, in aid of the Disabled Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Fund.
The Mayor (Ald. Ed. Norman), in his opening remarks, said it was a great pleasure to come there to recognise the effort — the noble effort — on behalf of a splendid cause. They could not have met for a better object. Of the various duties a mayor had got to perform during his year of office, none was so pleasant as the duty he had to perform that day.
When they considered what the soldiers and sailors had done for them, how they sacrificed the best of their manhood on England’s behalf, it was as little as they could do to look after those who were disabled when they returned home. He was glad Morpeth had risen to the occasion.
The women of England had done much, and were doing more to alleviate the sufferings of those who had sacrificed so much. It was a most noble effort Mrs Taylor and her friends were making, and he hoped everybody would show their appreciation of that effort by buying the numerous and beautiful articles offered for sale.
The Mayor then declared the sale of work open.
Councillor J. Elliott, on behalf of Mrs Taylor, moved a vote of thanks to the Mayor for countenancing the sale of work.
The Mayor then thanked Councillor Elliott and moved a vote of thanks to Mrs Taylor and the Misses Burdon (3), which was carried by acclamation.
The stalls contained an excellent assortment of very tempting articles, and were presided over by Mrs C. Taylor and the Misses Burdon (2). During the afternoon and evening the sale of work was well patronised by numerous friends.
During the day a large number of ladies sold artificial pansies in the streets on behalf of the fund, and their efforts were entirely successful.
Tonight (Friday) Mrs Murphy will give a benefit night on the switchbacks in the Market Place in aid of the fund.
The twenty-fifth annual meeting of the Wansbeck Unionist Association was held at the Constitutional Club, Morpeth, on Saturday. Mr Geo. Hunter, the chairman of the Association, presided over a moderate attendance.
Mr Simpson read the annual report of the committee, which, as he remarked, partook more of a military than of a political character. Details with regard to recruiting work were given.
The report went on to state that during the year the committee had kept in touch with local secretaries, but many of their local Associations had been depleted owing to many members having joined His Majesty’s forces. Wansbeck had sent its quota — more than its quota — for military service.
To those brave men who had sacrificed their lives for King and Country, and whose names were recorded in the Roll of Honour, and to those who had suffered or were suffering from their participation in this dreadful war, they owed a debt which could not be paid, and to those loved ones left behind they extended their sincere and heartfelt sympathy.
The chairman in moving the adoption of the report, said:— Mr Simpson had been engaged almost exclusively in military work, and had been very busy indeed. From the headquarters of the Conservative and Unionist party there had been received a letter acknowledging the services which the agents had done in connection with recruiting, particularly under Lord Derby’s scheme.
It was only the exigencies of a position demanding unity among men of all parties that had called forth a truce, or a suspension of political work. But when that truce, for one reason or another, came to an end, all parties would claim that freedom which existed aforetime. Then the Unionists must again assert themselves. They did not know what a day or an hour might bring forth.
The next election, if the war continued, would be of short duration, for they could not afford to be without a responsible Government in such a time of extremity for any prolonged period. Northumberland, as a whole, was prepared, and Wansbeck must form no exception. They would, he believed, be ready when wanted.
Wansbeck Division, since its formation had never returned a Unionist. They had fought it seven times, and hoped to do so again. The next General Election would be an interesting one. The old order of things would have passed away and new ideals would take their place.
Mr Thomas Bertram seconded, and the report was adopted.
ROLL OF HONOUR
A.B. Albert Wright, R.N.D., son of Mrs M.E. Wright, Simonside Terrace, Newbiggin, formerly reported wounded, is now reported killed.
Information has been received at Alnwick that the Rev. Ronald Irwin, chaplain of the headquarters staff of one of the divisions of the Indian Expeditionary Force, has been wounded. Mr Irwin has the rare distinction of having twice been awarded the Military Cross for gallantry and distinguished service in the field, in two theatres of war, where his duties as chaplain had taken him. He was for a few years curate at Alnwick Parish Church.
Mr and Mrs Rice, of West Bolton, Alnwick, have received official intimation that their son, Corporal H. Rice, of the Northumberland Fusiliers, was killed in action on April 4th. This is the second son Mr and Mrs Rice have lost during this war.
ROLL OF HONOUR
GIBB.— Killed in action in France, on April 25th, Private Geo. Gibb, Australian Imperial Expeditionary Force (late of Ashington). Emigrated to Australia 1910. Deeply mourned by his brother and sister-in-law, Charles and Isabella.
SWINNEY.— Killed in action, April 28th, 1916, Second-Lieutenant Norman A. Swinney, eldest son of Mr and Mrs James Swinney, Northfield Villa, Morpeth.— Ever remembered by his loving father, mother, sisters and brothers.
CONCERT FOR WOUNDED SOLDIERS
At Linden Hall an enjoyable evening was spent by the wounded soldiers (under the care of Mrs and the Misses Adamson and a staff of trained nurses) and local friends.
A party of soldiers from Newcastle had the arrangements of the programme, which included songs from Private Nicholson, Corporal Ellis, and others of the military party, whilst Mr J. Brown (tenor) of Felton and Mr Scott (humorist) of Meldon also contributed items. The latter caused much amusement by his Scotch impersonations and highly humorous songs.
The concert was much appreciated, both in the vocal and instrumental items, the latter being selections on the piano by the party’s accompanist and Mrs A.H. Wardle of Felton. The duet “Watchman, what of the Night?” by Mr J. Brown and Private Nicholson (baritone) was well applauded, as were the majority of the items performed. After the programme was finished the National Anthem was sung by all with great gusto, following which the artistes were entertained to supper. Mr Rea of Meldon School ably accompanied Mr Scott at the piano.
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 McLachan 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
The great scarcity of labour for farm work has provided hinds, who are seeking new places, with an excellent opportunity for obtaining higher wages. This was clearly the case at the half-yearly hirings for single servants at Morpeth on Wednesday.
As was only to be expected the men who came forward held out for bigger wages, and in every case where an engagement was made, the servant managed to obtain a substantial rise in wages. In a conversation with “one who knows,” we were informed that with the prices rising in the market, the farmers were well able to stand the increased demands on them.
As usual, Murphy’s switchbacks and side shows proved a popular attraction to the visitors to the town. During the afternoon and evening the main streets presented a very busy appearance.
RED CROSS HOSPITAL, MORPETH
The Commandant wishes to acknowledge with thanks the following gifts:— Mrs Carr, game; Mrs Harvey, milk; Mrs Saunderson and Mrs Davison, leeks; Mrs MacDowall, fruit; Mrs J. Oliver, books; Mrs Coble, rhubarb; Master John Dunn, flowers; Miss Lizzie Kendall, magazines; Miss Farrell, book; Miss Conme, primroses; Mrs MacDowall, table; Herbert and Winnie Cowling, eggs, tomatoes and honey; Miss Jobling (Butterwell), 2 cushions; Miss Smailes, ash-trays.
MISHAP WHILE AT BOMB-THROWING PRACTICE
Lieut. Shutt and Private Edward Taggart, both of the Northern Cyclists Battalion, have been badly hurt while practising bomb-throwing with other men in the Berwick neighbourhood. A bomb burst, and the officer was seriously wounded in the stomach while Taggart had his arm badly injured.
PUBLIC RECOGNITION FOR ASHINGTON HEROES
In the Ashington district there has been formed what is now known as the Distinguished Service Recognition Society, with members of the local Urban Council at its head.
As the name denotes, the society has been instituted for the purpose of giving public recognition to all those who have gone from the district to fight for King and country and have been awarded a medal or some other decoration for meritorious service. In the formation of such a commendable society a very worthy example has been set to other districts.
It appears that Ashington has now five D.C.M.s to its credit, and the second of the D.C.M. heroes, in the person of Corporal Fairless, was made a public presentation of a gold watch and chain last Friday. With soldierly modesty, the recipient remarked that scores of lads from the Ashington district had done far greater things than he had done, but, unfortunately, they had not come under the notice of the proper authorities.
It is said that new occasions teach new duties, and this saying has been amply proved by the men who have gone from our mining centres to fight the common foe. They have done their duty nobly and heroically, and it goes without saying that they will continue to do so to the end.
FOODSTUFFS FROM BLYTH TO FOREIGNERS
There is something more than a suspicion that the Blyth tradespeople are supplying a deal of vegetables and other foodstuffs carried away by foreign vessels from this port which are not for consumption on board those vessels, and therefore it is obvious what use is being made of it.
The question has been raised in the House of Commons by Mr Will Thorne, and inquiries are being made on the subject, and Captain Pretyman has promised to communicate further on the matter when inquiries have been completed.
AN ASHINGTON INCIDENT
Some people there are who, not being eligible for army service themselves, by reason of age or otherwise, are frequently found aggressively patriotic, and this too often takes the form of offensive taunts to others.
It transpired during the hearing of a case at Morpeth Court on Wednesday that a discharged soldier, who had served at the Front for 16 months, had been taunted by a stranger that they were looking for men like him for the army, whereat the ex-soldier set about the man so that Inspector Culley had no small trouble to get him off.
“You showed him you could still fight a bit?” remarked the chairman, Colonel Orde, who added that it was a pity the man had not been a German, and the accused who was charged with having been drunk and disorderly, replied that the fellow was nearly as bad as one. One could only have wished that the defendant could have been let off without the usual fine.
The lesson, however, not to apply taunts to people they do not know may not quite be lost by the incident.