In this feature to commemorate the First World War, we will bring you the news as it happened in 1917, 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.
On Thursday night last an interesting ceremony took place at the Soldiers’ Institute, Morpeth, when the Mayor (Councillor J.R. Temple) decorated Corpl. T. Grey, Royal Field Artillery, with the D.C.M., before a large gathering of soldiers.
The chair was taken by Mr George Renwick, and among the visitors were Dr J.P. Philip, Mrs Renwick, Miss Renwick, Councillors R.N. Swinney, I. Armstrong, and J.H. Simpson, Canon Davies, Lieut. Davies, and a large company of nurses and wounded from Morpeth V.A.D. Hospital.
The Chairman expressed his pleasure at seeing such a large gathering of soldiers and visitors to do honour to a hero. Being chairman of the institute, he was always pleased to see the comforts available appreciated by the men. The committee had always tried to make it a home for the men stationed in Morpeth.
He had just returned from London that afternoon, and on learning that a north-country man was going to be decorated at the institute, he decided to come.
Corporal Grey, he understood, was a native of Seaham Harbour, and was one of the real heroes who had joined the Colours some two and a quarter years ago. He was proud to say that one of his own sons was serving in the same division of the Royal Field Artillery as Corpl. Grey.
The other day he addressed a meeting in Newcastle appealing for money. Two and a half years ago he had appealed for men; today they were still wanting both — more men, and still more money; — men of the stamp of Corporal Grey. Those who were too old to fight could assist by lending money to the Government.
They did not want to send the married men with large families when such a large number of unmarried men under thirty appeared weekly before the Tribunals.
In Newcastle the other day he had addressed a meeting appealing for men to join the Volunteer Training Corps. Why not begin with lads of 15 and 16 by drilling them now? If this step had been taken at the beginning of the war, those who were now being called up would have been ready for service. Public schools had their cadet corps.
He had learned that Morpeth had opened a fund to give local men a small present when awarded distinctions. He would like to become a subscriber himself, but would rather see twenty or thirty subscribers at one shilling each than one or two at a sovereign each.
He hoped that their Mayor would be kept busy presenting such gifts to their deserving heroes. (Applause.)
The Mayor said it was a pleasure to him to be present to pin the decoration on Corpl. Grey’s breast. It was such men as Corpl. Grey that had made England’s name what it was today. His bravery had been recognised at headquarters and he had been recommended for the D.C.M. by his superior officers for volunteering to repair communication wires which had been severely damaged.
At this stage Councillor Swinney asked if he might say a few words concerning the second presentation. At the last committee meeting of the Council it had been decided to raise a fund to give local men a small memento on being decorated with medals. That night the subscription list totalled £12. He also intimated that the Morpeth Gleemen had consented to give a concert in aid of the Heroes’ Fund. (Applause.)
The Mayor then presented the Corporal with a beautiful wrist watch.
In reply Corpl. Grey said he thanked the Mayor for making these presentations. He only did his duty — the same as the soldiers present would do under similar circumstances. (Applause.)
He had only one regret, and that was that his companion who had sacrificed his life had not been recommended. He thought that his nearest relative should have received a medal.
He also thanked the Council for the beautiful watch, which would always remind him of Morpeth; and Mr Renwick for his delightful speech; and the nurses at Morpeth V.A.D., who were always willing to help the wounded soldiers. (Applause.)
A capital programme of music was rendered by Privates Cook, Chantler, Moorhouse, Shipton, Signaller Smith, Corpl. T. Grey, Private Jones, Master B. Jobson, and Private A. Dutton.
The proceedings terminated with the singing of the National Anthem.
A good deal of useful work has been done this week by the Morpeth Company of the Northumberland Volunteer Regiment. Acting-Second-Lieut. Chas. Grey is orderly officer this week.
The force is going to be divided into two principal sections, A and B, and those over military age, who can pass the medical test, equal to C1 in the regular army, will be placed in Class A, and men of military age, who can pass the same test, will be placed in section B.
A grant of £2 will be made by the War Office in respect of all men who have put in 40 drills prior to January 13th, and efficiency badges will be issued to these men.
It should be remembered, however, that a new date will probably be fixed by which men may become efficient, and it is therefore recommended that men who were not qualified prior to January 13th should attend as regularly as possible, so when the date is fixed as large a number as possible will have earned the efficiency badge.
Special sections will be formed for men in certain occupations so that they will not be called up for service immediately on mobilisation.
Last Sunday there was a larger number on parade than usual, and Acting-Second-Lieut. W. Duncan intimated that in future two marks would be given in respect of Sunday parades, as these were of more than two hours’ duration. The company had a seven-mile route march, which was greatly appreciated by the men.
At the week-night drills instruction has been given in musketry at the Morrie tube, and also instruction in the mechanism of the rifle and how to handle it.
The usual parade will take place at the Council Schools on Sunday morning first, when it is hoped there will be a large muster.
MORPETH CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH
Sunday first is to be observed as Armenia Sunday at the Congregational Church, Morpeth, when the entire collection will be devoted to the Lord Mayor’s Armenian Relief Fund.
The need for help in Armenia is grave, and the recently published Blue Book on the treatment of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire is one of the most terrible documents ever issued. The official summary shows that during the first two years, some 1,200,000 Armenians were deported, of whom half died or were massacred on their journey, and the other half are dying now of hunger and exposure in their places of exile. Some 200,000 refugees in Russian territory and in Egypt can still be saved.
It will be seen from these few facts that the service, as arranged, is on behalf of a most worthy cause.
The special service will be conducted by the pastor, the Rev. Joseph Miller, and is timed to commence at 10.30am. The Mayor of Morpeth and members of the Corporation will attend in an official capacity, and other public bodies in the town will be represented. Suitable music will be rendered for the occasion.
We feel sure that whole-hearted sympathy and support will go out to those poor Armenians who innocently bear a suffering, the measure of which the human mind can scarcely conceive. If any of the public desire to join in the Mayoral procession to the Congregational Church they are requested to join the members of the Corporation at the Town Hall at 10.15am.
It is interesting to note that at the conclusion of the above service it is proposed to assemble in the Market Place with the troops billeted in the town and district and Morpeth Company of the Northumberland Volunteer Regiment, and any others who can make it convenient to attend, when the Mayor will present Sergeant Cyril Johnstone of the Northumberland Fusiliers with the D.C.M., recently won by him.
It may be noted that on the initiative of Councillor R.N. Swinney, the Town Council last week inaugurated a War Heroes’ Fund, the idea being to publicly recognise those men belonging to Morpeth who gain distinction on the field of battle. The fund received a splendid start from the councillors and the officials.
The sum of £30 17s 4d has been subscribed by the inhabitants of Ponteland and district for providing wool to make socks and mufflers for local men who are serving with the Forces.
At Christmas 52 parcels were sent abroad and 35 to men at home; also a 2/6 parcel of cigarettes and tobacco to each man at the Front.
Up to date 179 pairs of socks and 77 mufflers have been made, and the work is still proceeding. In addition to the above, 120 pairs of socks have been made by the Vicarage party for the Northumberland Fusiliers.
The canteen, reading, writing and music rooms, which were opened in November, 1915, are still flourishing, and prove a real boon to the soldiers who come to the range to shoot.
THE NEW WAR LOAN
Under the auspices of the Morpeth War Savings Committee, a meeting was held in the Town Hall last Friday evening to interest the public in the new War Loan. There was a good attendance.
The principal speakers were Mr R.G.E. Mortimer, High Sheriff of Northumberland, and Mr T.R. Williams, secretary of the Northumberland War Savings Committee. The Mayor (Councillor R.J. Temple) presided.
The Mayor stated that they had assembled to consider the new War Loan and to do their utmost to raise as much as possible for the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He hoped Morpeth would make a generous response to the appeal.
The Town Council had unanimously agreed to invest £5,000 in the War Loan. (Applause.) It was the duty of every householder in the borough to subscribe to the great loan and so help to provide the means for the supreme effort which would bring the war to a successful and glorious issue. (Applause.)
Mr R.G.E. Mortimer said that Northumberland had done as well, if not better than any other county in Great Britain in providing soldiers for the Army. The district of Morpeth had sent many soldiers to fight for this great Empire and they all knew how splendidly the Territorial soldiers had behaved in action. Northumberland having done so well in the way of providing soldiers, it was for them at home to help them in every way they could.
He was there to put before them the new War Loan, which the Government had brought forward. They were being invited to subscribe. For every £100 they paid £95, or for every £105 they paid £100, and received interest at the rate of 5¼ per cent. There had never been such an investment put before the country, and the security was the British Empire, and what could anybody want than that?
This was not a time for indulging in luxuries, because by indulging in such things they were encouraging a trade that was not helping the national interests. They ought to avoid as far as possible buying things which were imported from abroad, and so keep our money in this country.
The smallest investors need not be frightened to put their money in the War Loan. It was desirable that as many people as possible, who had small incomes, should invest their money, because it would show that the people of this country realised the great war in which they were engaged and were prepared to back up the country with their money.
Besides being a very sound investment, it was an excellent opportunity to any man or woman to help their country. They all hoped and felt that at the end of the war the British Empire would come out a greater Empire than what it had been in the past. (App.)
There was no doubt that the conditions of working men would be greatly improved. He thought everybody ought to be proud of having an opportunity of helping their country, and the Government were only asking them to lend their money at a very good rate of interest.
He referred to the great sacrifices which were being made by their soldiers. He said there would come a time when there would not be so much money in the country. Wages would not be so high, and those who invested would be doing a wise thing, a very thrifty act, and laying up stock for the rainy day. (Applause.)
Mr T.R. Williams said that Germany was now making her last great kick. Germany had threatened to do things in earnest this time as if they had not done their worst all along. As a nation they had nothing to fear from Germany, but if they were going to take their part as citizens of a better world — and they were looking forward to it — then they had no right to enjoy it unless they were prepared to do their little bit to bring it about.
He wanted everybody to give £1 or £5 towards the War Loan. They were not going to win the war by a few people giving their millions. He wanted millions of the people to put their little in.
The Huns were watching what they were doing, whether it was a few capitalists or the whole nation that was behind it. Let Germany see that it was the people’s money that was going into the loan.
He urged upon them all to cultivate the spirit of self-denial every day, and think of their soldiers in the trenches always on the alert and ready to give their lives for the great cause of civilisation. He asked them to abstain from buying things they did not really need out of sheer patriotism for their country, and by so doing it would have a tendency to bring down the prices of commodities.
He wanted them to pledge for the future all their possible savings, and let the country have the use of it.
In Morpeth they had a War Savings Committee, and a number of associations. If they could not put their £5 down now, let them join a War Savings Association, and get their 15/6 certificates. They could pile them up to the number of 500. He advised the local committee to institute a house-to-house canvass.
The Mayor said he had been asked by the local secretary of the War Savings Committee (Mr G.W. Phaup) to state that volunteers were wanted to assist the committee.
Councillor Swinney proposed that this meeting of the public of Morpeth, held in the Town Hall on february 2nd, 1917, confirm the following resolution passed at a meeting of the Council on January 30th:— “It was resolved (subject to confirmation by a public meeting to be held on Friday first (the 2nd February) to invest £5,000 in War Bonds and (subject to the sanction of the Local Government Board) to borrow the £5,000 required for investment from Messrs Lloyds Bank Limited on security of the War Bonds and the Council’s India Stock and Consols and their Corporation Yard, McGill’s Yard, and Market Place properties and that the Town Clerk apply forthwith for the Local Government Board sanction.”
Ald. Hood said he had pleasure in seconding the resolution. The investment was a very sound one, and it was a patriotic duty for them as a Corporation to invest in the Loan. It was not a large sum, but it was as much as they could afford.
The resolution was carried unanimously.
MORPETH WAR SEWING MEETING
A largely attended tea was given at the above by Mrs Brumell, Fulbeck, and realised £2 2s. Tea will be given next week by Mrs Dargie, Heighley.
Gifts of socks have been received with thanks, from the Misses Harbottle and Weightman (King’s Avenue), and Mrs Halls.
The hon. treasurer begs to acknowledge with many thanks a subscription of 10/- from Mrs Robert Oliver, Bowmer Bank. Further subscriptions will be gratefully received, as, owing to the high price of material, funds are getting low.
BRITISH FARMERS’ RED CROSS SOCIETY
An enjoyable concert was given in the Coates’ Endowed Schools, Ponteland, by Mr Forster Pattinson’s Concert Party, in aid of the funds of the British Farmers’ Red Cross Society. Mr R.G. Mortimer, of Milbourne Hall, was in the chair.
The proceeds of the concert amounted to £21 9s, which will be paid over to the society.