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.
In connection with the Northumberland Volunteer Regiment (1st Battalion), a public meeting was held in the Town Hall, Morpeth, on Tuesday evening to establish a Morpeth detachment. There was a large and representative attendance. The Mayor (Ald. Ed. Norman), presided.
Morpeth Pipers’ Band the Morpeth Boys’ Brigade Band kindly played through the town prior to the meeting. The meeting was a great success, and the speeches were excellent, and, better still, the enrolment exceeded the anticipations of headquarters, so much so that every form brought by the regimental secretary was filled up, and a large number of names of those who could not be enrolled were left with the Town Clerk.
We are requested to state that any person desirous of enrolment, who has not yet made appointment, may be sworn in at the Town Clerk’s office at any time between 10am and 5pm during the present and next week, and special arrangements are being made for taking enrolments at the Town Clerk’s office at 2.30pm on Saturday first, and at the Corn Exchange, Town Hall, immediately prior to the first drill.
The Mayor said he was pleased they had met that night to form a company of this volunteer regiment. A number of men had already enrolled, and he hoped that those who were fit to join would get an inspiration from that meeting to join and get others to join, and become recruiting agents.
He hoped that Morpeth would have a company at full strength. He was pleased that the borough had done so well in the past, and alluded to the men who were fighting their battles. They were grateful to them for what they had done and what they were doing. They had acquitted themselves as true Britons, and he trusted that they would all do their best and help them, and help the country in this its time of need. (Applause.)
Mr Geo. Renwick said that it was not his intention to be the first speaker, but one of his sons had just arrived home ten minutes ago from the Front — (applause) and he had hardly time to welcome him when he had to come away with Major Harle and other officers.
That was not the first time that they had endeavoured to form in Morpeth a volunteer detachment since the war commenced. Upwards of a year ago he was asked if he would be commandant of the V.T.C. At that time he made the stipulation that if they raised 200 men he would take command. However, they did not raise the 200, and the whole thing fell through.
A good deal had happened since then, and the war was still under way. He remembered 18 months ago addressing a recruiting meeting in the Market Place. He pointed out then the need of men. The cry was men, more men, and still more men. It was the same to-day. “We want men, more men, and still more men” to finish the war and bring it to a successful conclusion. (App.)
The war was not over, and they still wanted men. Things had changed also since that last meeting. They had then a Volunteer Training Corps for which they were appealing for recruits. No man knew when he joined what he was. It was not recognised by the Government. Things had altered, and the Government had recognised that those men were an integral part of the British Army, and the title was changed to the Northumberland Volunteer Battalion.
Newcastle and district was under the charge of Major Harle. In Newcastle they had raised 1,200 volunteers. They wanted in Morpeth a company of at least 250 men.
They had certain powers in connection with their local tribunals. Practically no man was exempted. They could say: “If we grant you exemption you have got to join the Volunteer Training Corps.” They had to put in two drills a week whether they liked it or not. If they did not do so and were reported the tribunals could withdraw the exemption.
Morpeth had always done well. He remembered welcoming at Springhill in 1902 the then volunteers who had been fighting in the South African War. He had a photograph of the men taken on the lawn, and no finer man was on the photograph than Lieut. Sanderson, who was Mayor of the borough two years ago. (Applause.) Although he was Mayor and could have got off, he joined again. He had a letter from Lieut. Sanderson the other week telling him how the Morpeth lads were doing, and how proud he was to be connected with them.
They were not to allow the boys to do everything. They had to support them. They had an open coast, and lots of young fellows, members of the cyclists’ battalions, and others were guarding the coast. It was no use saying that invasion was impossible. Those men were patrolling the coast of Great Britain while they were sleeping in their beds.
Addressing a meeting in Newcastle in 1910 he pointed out that some day they would have to fight Germany. He pointed out the increases that were taking place in the army and navy, how they were only 400 miles off Germany’s principal harbour, and how a fast cruiser could come out and fire shots on their shores. There were many men and women who have not slept in their beds for thinking of the Germans, and many that night would be apprehensive of their paying another visit.
Therefore they wanted the older men to come forward — the men above military age and those exempted to join the battalion, and do some of the guarding of the coast, and allow some of those able fellows who had been a long time on this work to go to the Front.
There was an old saying in connection with the Navy — ”Ye gentlemen of England who sit at home at your ease, how little you know of the dangers of the sea.” Now they might put it this way: “Ye gentlemen of England who sit at home at your ease, how little you know of the dangers that your sons, brothers, and friends are enduring for your sake and the country’s sake at the Front.” If they could not do marching and fighting at the Front, they could so something at home — (applause) — and they wanted them to do it voluntarily.
Mr Renwick referred to the attendance of the Morpeth Pipe Band, and said he was pleased to know that every member had enrolled. He hoped that on many occasions the Pipe Band would be seen marching through Morpeth at the head of at least 250 gallant volunteers. There was nothing more inspiriting than the pipes. (Applause.)
He ventured to say that the British race, great as it was, and great as it had been in the past, would be still greater after the war was over. (Applause). There was no part of the country which had done better than Northumberland. The Northumberland Fusiliers had made a name for themselves. They could hardly pick up a casualty list or list of distinction without finding the names of Northumberland Fusiliers. They had done gallant deeds and they had served their country well. They were true sons of these rocky shores.
In conclusion he hoped that a big company would be formed in the town and wished God-speed and success to the new battalion. (Loud applause.)
Mr F Wise said they had got to realise how the army had increased and the enormous numbers there were now when compared to what the Kaiser called the contemptible little army. Every army that has left their shores had shown imperishable heroism throughout. Those men must be supported, and they wanted to be supported by the men at home.
They might ask what good could they do in joining a volunteer corps. Well, they could make themselves efficient and be able to relieve the men who were able to go on foreign service.
In Newcastle the volunteer movement started two days after the outbreak of war. It was known as the Citizens’ Training League. They became the 1st Battalion of the Volunteer Regiment, and it was a company of that regiment that they asked them to form at Morpeth. They would have their own committee in Morpeth. All local affairs would be run by the local committee. They were under the control of the Army Council, and their administration was delegated to the Director-General of Territorial Forces.
The Northumberland Regiment at present consisted of two battalions and their services had been accepted by His Majesty the King. All were subject to military discipline, and the force could only be called up in case of imminent danger. The battalion had been allotted definite work in the defence of the country should the emergency arise. He urged his hearers not to relax their efforts in any way. They were on the winning side, the German morale was going, and he was sure they would all help to bring about the glorious victory for the Allies. (Applause).
Captain Moncrieff, second in command of the 1st Battalion, made a stirring appeal for volunteers. At the Front they had the cream of the nation, and were they to stay at home and do nothing? They would not get enough from Germany to compensate them for what they had lost in blood and treasure, but they must not think of that, but of their country’s honour. (Applause.) They must have guns, they must have ammunition, and they must have men. They could all help the boys at the Front. No man who was privileged to stay at home should be required to be asked to join.
Ald. Wm. Duncan asked if a man had to attest for any period or resign like under the old volunteers?— Adjutant Barnes: A man can resign by giving 14 days’ notice.
“Will there be drills during the day?”— There will be drills on the half-holiday on the Saturday afternoons, and certainly drills on the Sunday.
In regard to the question of uniform, Adjutant Barnes said that a certain amount of equipment had been allowed by the Army Council to each battalion.
Will the men get rifles?— The 1st Battalion have some rifles of their own, and we have been offered rifles for drill purposes. Rifles are to be provided for special purposes.
Have members to provide their own ball ammunition? — There is no provision for that but no man will be called upon to pay for ammunition out of his own pocket.
Major Harle said he had great pleasure in proposing a vote of thanks to the Mayor. Captain Spencer, in seconding, said that the best vote of thanks they could give to the Mayor was to enrol at once.
The motion was passed with enthusiasm.
The Mayor said that the first drill had been fixed for Tuesday first, at 7pm. The Corporation had offered to place the Corn Exchange at their disposal for drills. The place was lighted up with electric light. He hoped that great enthusiasm would be put into the movement. They ought to rise to the occasion as true Britons. (Applause.)
ROLL OF HONOUR
Private T. Neeson, Choppington, missing.
Private R. Logan, Bedlington, killed.
Lance-Corporal G. Bates, Blyth, missing.
Corporal R. Jas. Kane, Sleekburn, killed.
Private Roughead, Cramlington, killed.
Private G. Tynemouth, Hirst, killed.
Private A. Rutherford, Bedlington, missing.
Private Frank Hedley, East Chevington, has died of wounds received on September 17th.
Captain F.B. Ellis, N.F., the son of the Rector of Bothal, is reported missing, believed killed.
Private Matthew Tate, Alnwick, killed.
Private Wm. Bell, Yorkshire Regiment, Alnwick, killed.
Mr and Mrs George Graham, Prestwick, Ponteland, have received information that their son, Private J. Wm. Graham, has been wounded.
Private Matt. Trewick, N.F., Dudley Colliery, missing.
Private James Tweedy, N.F., Alnwick, killed. Private Wm. Knox, N.F., Alnwick Moor, his brother-in-law, was wounded on the same day.
Mr J. Sproat, Gas Works Cottage, Morpeth, has received official news that his son, Robert Sproat, N.F., is seriously wounded in France.
Mrs Martin, 7 Grey’s Place, Morpeth, has received word that her husband, Corporal C. Martin, D.C.M., has been wounded in the leg, and is in Aberdeen Hospital.
Mr and Mrs Lamb, 7 Grey’s Place, Morpeth, have received word that their son, Pte. C.F. Lamb, bomber, N.F., has been wounded in the foot, and is in France.
Sergeant Arthur Grey, Alnmouth, N.F., killed.
Mr and Mrs W. Burn, 15 Bridge Street, Morpeth, have received news that their son, Private G.S. Burn, N.F., has been wounded for the second time. He is lying in hospital at Glasgow.
Mrs E. Thompson, 10 Union Street, Morpeth, has received official notice that her youngest son, Private Alexander Sample, N.F., aged 21 years, has died of wounds received in France on 20th September; also that her second son, Private Arthur Sample, N.F., has been wounded in France on 15th September.
Mr and Mrs J. Norman, 42 Pretoria Avenue, Morpeth, have received an intimation that their son, Private N.L. Norman, N.F., has been wounded in the back and thigh in action in France on September 15th and is now in hospital at York. This is the second time he has been wounded.
Mr and Mrs Thomson, of Oldgate Street, Morpeth, have received information that their son, Sergt. John Thomson, N.F., has been wounded for the second time and has been admitted to hospital in France.
Private Edwin Armstrong, Coldstream Guards, a son of Councillor I. Armstrong, of Morpeth, was wounded by shrapnel in the right arm on September 15th. He is lying in hospital in Cheshire.
Mrs Chas. Hunter, Newgate Street, Morpeth, has received official information that her husband, Private Chas. Hunter, N.F., No. 1473, was killed in action on July 1st. He was a son-in-law of Mr Thomas Burn, of Morpeth. Prior to enlisting he worked at Barmoor Colliery.
Mr and Mrs N. Turnbull, 22 Northbourne Avenue, Morpeth, have received news that their son, Signaller M.T. Turnbull, King’s Royal Rifles, has been missing in France since August 24th. Any information regarding him will be thankfully received.
Lieut. R.E. Turnbull, of Craig Hall, Bolam, was wounded in the neck with shrapnel whilst fighting with the Northumberland Fusiliers in the recent advance. He was also wounded in a battle early in July, and only returned to the Front a fortnight prior to falling again in action. Before the outbreak of war Lieut. Turnbull was the resident sub-agent and secretary to Mr F.B. Atkinson, of Gallowhill, the master of the Morpeth Hunt. He is now in hospital at Oxford, and in a letter, which states that he is making a good recovery, Lieut. Turnbull says “the Northumberland Fusiliers fought splendidly.”
Capt. J.W. Merivale, who is reported killed, was born on June 6th, 1887, and was the third surviving son of Mr and Mrs Merivale, of Togston. He was educated at Queen’s College Oxford. Upon leaving to become an articled clerk with Messrs Wilkinson and Marshall solicitors, Newcastle, he obtained a commission in the Northumberland Fusiliers, retiring in 1912. He rejoined immediately upon the outbreak of war, and took part in the second battle of Ypres in April, 1915, when he was wounded. In September of that year he returned to the Front. He was killed in action on September 15th, at the head of his company. He married in 1913, Blanche, daughter of Mr G.H. Liddell, and leaves one daughter.
Captain Cuthbert Pease, of the Irish Guards, Otterburn Tower, killed.
Lance-Sergeant Robert D. Wear, Delaval Terrace, Blyth, a Military Medallist, killed.