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.
We have received the following letter from Lance-Corporal Levison, who belongs to Queen Street, Middle Greens, Morpeth. He says:— “I am one of the Bantams, known as the Birkenhead Bantams. I tried seven times to join the Army, but I was always refused, being too small — 5ft. 1in. However, I got into the Bantams, and have been in them for 27 months.
“We have done good work in the trenches. We were in the Big Push at the Somme when I was wounded. The first time I was wounded in the shoulder, but I got over it. At the place where my regiment was the Germans had a few counter attacks but we went over the top and met them coming and kept them back until we were reinforced.
“On another occasion the Germans came over and bombed us, and I was wounded again. When I was going up the trench someone shouted, and turning round I found I was covered with two revolvers. I just kept my head and fired point blank at the German officer and he doubled up. Then the bombs began to come over and the Germans made a rush at us. A German N.C.O. fired straight at me and I fired at him. When I came round I found I had been severely wounded in the left arm and hand. When I woke up I was lying with my head down a dug-out steps in a trench.”
Lance-Corporal Levison is at present in hospital in Birmingham.
The Morpeth Company of the Northumberland Volunteer Regiment is still forging ahead and progress of a very gratifying kind is being made. The parades have been well attended during the past week or so.
An outstanding feature of the instructions was the demonstration on bombing given last Sunday by the bombing officers and instructors attached to the Cheshire Yeomanry. There were 85 men on parade, and the detachment was marched to Cottingwood.
The demonstration was conducted by Captain Perkins, assisted by Lieut. Cooper and Sergeant Deakins. At the outset the different effects of high and low explosives tamped and untamped were demonstrated, and dug-outs were demolished. While the instructors were throwing Mills bombs by hand and rifle the men were instructed to take cover in the trenches round about.
It was explained that high explosives were just as effective in water, and this was amply demonstrated when a bomb thrown into a pool of water displaced a great volume of water some 60 feet into the air. Various rockets and star-lights were discharged, and the purpose of each was explained to the men.
A steel rail was broken with guncotton, demonstrating the force of the explosive, and the methods of attaching fuses and detonators to slabs of guncotton were illustrated.
At the conclusion of the demonstrations six slabs of guncotton were tamped with sandbags, etc., and exploded close to a trench in which a number of the volunteers were placed. The men stood the test admirably.
The officers and the N.C.O.s of the Volunteers assisted in the work.
At the close three rousing cheers were given by the Volunteers to those responsible for providing the highly interesting demonstrations.
Acting Second-Lieut. T.D. Shaw is orderly officer this week. On Tuesday evening twelve men from No. 2 Platoon were detailed for shooting practice on the range. To the remainder of the company Acting Second-Lieut. Chas. Grey gave a lecture on musketry, which was greatly appreciated by the men. Last night the company went for a route march, and were instructed in extended order drill.
The following promotions have been recommended:— Sergeants: Corporal Kennedy, No. 2 Platoon; Corporal Dixon, No. 3 Platoon; and Corporal Parker, No. 1 Platoon.
Corporals: Private Barnston, Private T.W. Duncan, Private Seabrook, and Private Eltringham.
Lance-corporals: Private A. Young, A.W. Burn, A. Straughan, R. Elliott, Harrison, and Pegg.
Orders for week ending April 8th are:— Orderly officer, Acting Second-Lieut. Wm. Duncan. Next for duty, Acting Second-Lieut. Chas. Grey. Orderly sergeant, Sergt. C. Rutherford. Next for duty, Sergt. C.W. Smiles.
Duties.— Morpeth Detachment:— Nos. 1 and 2 Platoons: Tuesday and Thursday, Company drill. No. 3 Platoon: Tuesday and Thursday, Rifle range. Sunday, April 8th, Route march or company drill.
Rothbury:— Monday and Wednesday at 7pm.
SOLDIERS’ INSTITUTE, MORPETH
Last Friday night’s competitions were “My opinion of Morpeth” (not to exceed 50 words) and “A Bullet.” Over 50 efforts were received for both, Private J. Edwards, B Squad, being awarded first for his “opinion” as follows:—
“The town, in proportion to its size, equals, if not exceeds, many of the cities in England in patriotism. It has the cause of the soldiers at heart, and everyone seems determined to do their best for those who are at present staying here.”
Private Chas. H. Yonwin, being second, his opinion was given in a nutshell, viz., “A dirty place in a golden frame.”
The prizes were given in this class by Mr Chas. Wilkinson, Auburn Place, the first prize being a pipe in case, and the second a cigarette case.
In the “Bullet” competition the words chosen were “The Common,” several very smart lines being made from the same. Private W. Stone’s effort being “Category’s Stepping Stone,” the second being Private J.E. Simpson for “Cheshires ‘shun’ it.” The first prize was a free supper for a week, the second cigarettes, given by the Institute.
At the close Mrs T.B. Waters presented the prizes. Corporal Crosby, Private F. Heaton, and the secretary acted as M.C.s.
NO HOT CROSS BUNS AT MORPETH
The ancient custom of bakers providing hot cross bun on Good Friday will for the first time in living memory be abandoned in Morpeth. The reason for this is obvious — for economy.
he decision has been arrived at by mutual agreements by the bakers in the towns, namely, Messrs Oliver and Sons, Mr Wm. Duncan, and Messrs Dance and Carr.
MORPETH BOARD OF GUARDIANS
The monthly meeting of the Morpeth Board of Guardians was held on Wednesday. The Hon. and Rev. W.C. Ellis presided.
A letter was received from the Local Government Board with regard to the dietary of inmates and referring to the consumption of flour, meat, and sugar, and asking the Board to keep within the scale specified by the Food Controller, and suggesting substitutes for the above mentioned foods.
The amended dietary for the inmates was considered by the Contracts’ Committee. They recommended the Board to accept the amended table of diet, which would not entail any undue hardship on any inmate in the house. Probable substitutes were oatmeal and rice, and other cereals for bread. It was considered that the change would be more appetising than the old table. The total reduction in the amended table would mean as near as possible £1 per week.
The report was adopted.
A communication was read asking the Board to give every encouragement to their officials to enrol under the National Service scheme.
The Local Government Board in a circular letter stated that Lord Rhondda had requested the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries to call attention to the cultivation of all land attached to public institutions in order to increase the food supply. All available labour should be utilised from the inmates. If seed potatoes could not be obtained, then they would grow other vegetable crops.
Clerk: All our land is let.
Mr Young: And all the land behind the Cottage Homes is under cultivation.
Chairman: We cannot do anything.
Mr Young: No more than we are doing.
UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFIT FOR MINERS
Unemployment benefit was paid to members of the Northumberland Miners’ Association employed at two coast collieries on Saturday. There had been only three days’ work during the past fortnight, chiefly owing to shipping troubles and the inability of the management to provide facilities for stacking the coal.
The latter practice is being resorted to at a number of pits in order to regularise the work. At times there is an overwhelming demand for coal, and at others the request is so small that very poor prices, comparatively are forthcoming.
It has been suggested that as these miners are within easy reach of farms, they might well help to make up the deficiency of agricultural labour. Some of them are not by any means inexperienced in the arts of agriculture, and the idea should be quite practicable.
One point, however, on which the miner will have something to say is the question of remuneration, as 25/- per week would not suit the average Northumberland miner. At the same time it is undeniable that a very considerable amount of labour is going begging in the county at the present time, and though on the hand many of the miners are busy cultivating their allotments, the excess of labour might well used on a larger scale.
MORPETH AND THE NATIONAL SERVICE SCHEME
The members of the Morpeth Town Council, with Councillor R.L. Fearby as secretary, who have the local arrangements in hand in connection with National Service, have done a good deal of useful work this week in furtherance of the scheme. Other local gentlemen have been added to the committee.
At the evening performances at the Playhouse and Avenue Theatre, short addresses have been delivered, each speaker emphasising the need there is for volunteers to enrol in the national interest.
Tonight (Friday) a public meeting will be held in the Town Hall, Morpeth, when Mr Charles Percy, Sub-Commissioner for this district, and Mr George Renwick of Springhill, will be the principal speakers.
A WAR OF MACHINERY
On the Western battle-front of hundreds of miles, and in various parts of the world, terrible engines of war are dealing death wounds. The courage and endurance of our fighting men have been tested and proved beyond all doubt. The nation has shown its readiness to provide all the money required. But the result of the contest depends upon machinery.
Our ships are floating huge boxes of machinery, our guns are complex masses of mechanism, daily wearing out and requiring repairs, and the line of battle relies upon railways and other means of rapid transport for everything necessary for our forces. Therefore upon the mechanic and the fitter largely depends success or failure.
It is essential that all engineers, boiler-makers, motor-mechanics, metal workers, and men in allied trades should fully realise this. Ships, locomotives, traction engines, and motor vehicles of all kinds bear our men to the front and supply them with food, clothing, and every implement of war. They bring back sick and wounded to be nursed back to health, and carry home the men on leave. To do these things, their numbers must be kept up, and their efficiency maintained.
Aeroplanes are the eyes of the Army, and every-increasing numbers of them are wanted. The voice and ears of the Army are the telegraphs and telephones, which with thousands of miles of wire, link up every part of our forces, and the lives of thousands may depend upon the perfection of their mechanism.
No man who realised these things will refuse to give the nation the first call on his services. That is all you are asked to do in enrolling for National Service. Never mind about your home comforts, and your future prospects. Our fighting men have few comforts, and many of them have no future on earth if we do not think of their needs first and all the time.
New factories and works are springing up all round, and skilled men are needed in all of them. Unskilled men, too, are needed to assist them, and everyone who can wield a hammer, use a file, watch a lathe, or draw a wire should offer his help to fill these factories.
The Prime Minister has told us that our supplies of food are lower than at any time within recollection. More land is to come under cultivation, and more agricultural implements and tools are needed. Motor ploughs and other machines are being largely employed, and driver-mechanics for these are urgently required.
This is YOUR WORK — your special work; it is not the printer’s or the clerk’s, but the work of the man who has been trained to use the spanner and the drill. Whatever the metal you work in, there is an urgent call for you. Don’t stop to wonder how or where, but offer yourself to the Director General of National Service and tell him what you can do.
Remember that, if the enemy has better engineers and mechanics, or more of them than we, he may yet beat us, or at any rate prolong the war. The British Nation and the Allies do not think that he has. Prove that they are right, and enrol today for every kind of engineering, fitting and metal work.
ROLL OF HONOUR
Private John Middlemiss, 5 Melrose Terrace, Bedlington Station, killed in action.
Lance-Corporal Thyall, Newburn, late of Shankhouse, killed in action.
Private John Hughes, 9 Middle Row, Dudley Colliery, killed in action.
Michael McKenzie, New York, Shiremoor, killed in action.
Private R.W. Coe, Third Row, Ashington, missing since July 1st, has now been reported killed in action.
Private Michael Philipson, Newsham, reported missing since July 1st, is now officially reported to have been killed on that date.
Driver Louis Howe, R.F.A., Hollymount Terrace, Bedlington, is reported to have died in Walkergate Hospital.
Private Thomas Dryden is reported missing since September 17th. He is a son of Mr John Dryden, formerly of the Grey’s Inn, Clayport, Alnwick.
Private Edward Angus, Station Road, Cramlington, missing since July 1st, is now officially reported killed.
Private W. Hall, 82 South Row, West Sleekburn, late Guide Post, Choppington, killed in action. He has been reported missing since July 1st.
Corporal Henry Hamilton, Hartford Colliery, missing since July 1st, is now officially reported killed.
Mr and Mrs Ternent, of 3 Burt Terrace, Morpeth, have received news of the death of their son, Private W. Ternent , platoon runner, N.F., who was killed in action on March 22nd.
Councillor Henry Harrison, New Delaval, has received the sad news of the death of his son, Private P.S. Harrison, in hospital in France. Councillor Harrison has another son permanently injured whilst in action.
Corporal John Dixon, son of Mr Joseph Dixon of Bebside Post Office, is now reported officially to have been killed in action in France on July 23rd. Corporal Dixon, who was only 19 years of age enlisted at the outbreak of war.
Private Wm. Morris, who before he joined the Army, was landlord of the Sidney Arms Inn, Cowpen Village, is reported to be a prisoner in Germany. In a letter to his wife he states that he is working.
ROLL OF HONOUR
COE.— Missing since July 1st, now reported killed on that date, Private Robert William Coe, 1420, N.F. aged 25 years, dearly beloved son of Samuel and Dorothy Coe, 56 Third Row, Ashington Colliery.
DIXON.— Missing since July 23rd, 1916, now officially reported killed in action, aged 19 years, Corporal John Dixon, eldest and beloved son of Mr and Mrs Joseph Dixon, Post Office, Bebside. Deeply mourned.
WAITE.— Missing since August 18th, 1916, now reported killed, Private William Waite (800), T.S.S., attached 1st N.F., aged 24 years, youngest and dearly beloved son of Robert and Isabella Waite, of Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, late of North Seaton.
BACK TO THE LAND
The existing shortage of potatoes has without a doubt induced many to concentrate their efforts to the cultivation of the tuber who previously never thought of such a thing. “Back to the land” has long been a well-known phrase, but its realisation has now been accomplished.
This year has wrought great changes, many of which were only in recent years thought to be impracticable. Nationally and parochially these are in strong evidence, and not the least striking of these is the man in the street who is adapting himself to the changed environments which necessity has brought upon him.
The facilities offered by private and local authorities, the latter of which have been vested with powers for the acquisition of land, has been a great stimulus in focussing opinion in that direction. This ideal of striving to make oneself independent of others so far as the production of food is concerned is worthy of commendation and is deserving of every encouragement and brings into practice the old maxim of “Do not ask others to do for you what you can do for yourself.”
The commander of a guardship at the mouth of a river on the North-East Coast recently canvassed his men with a view to ascertaining if any of them could plough. He found amongst the stokers four men who were experienced ploughmen. These men were released from 9.30am till 7.30 pm, and all were readily employed by farmers near at hand.
Reports to date, both from the men themselves and their new employers indicate that the men are enjoying the change, and that the farmers are highly satisfied with the result of their labour.