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.
In support of national service a public meeting was held in the Town Hall, Morpeth, last Friday evening, when the principal speakers were Mr George Renwick of Springhill, and Mr Charles Percy, Sub-Commissioner for the district. The Mayor (Councillor J.R. Temple) presided.
The Mayor said that in this great crisis it was not much to ask any man to volunteer and help forward the scheme. It was only fair that they should do their best to back up their soldiers who were fighting in the trenches.
Morpeth has always been patriotic enough to rally round any cause for the successful prosecution of the war. No part of the country, according to the population, had sent more volunteers to fight than Morpeth. Morpeth had done magnificently in their contribution to the War Loan, and in regard to this National Service movement Morpeth would not be behind other towns.
Mr Renwick was well known in the borough and they looked upon him as a public benefactor. He was most patriotic in all his action, and all his sons were fighting for their country. The sub-commissioner would explain all the details of the scheme, and one of his duties would be to see that every man who volunteered would be sent to the work for which he was fitted.
Mr Geo. Renwick said that while he regretted there was not a large attendance, he was extremely gratified in one respect that there were so many ladies present. That showed, at any rate, that they were taking a keen interest in the war and everything appertaining to it. They wanted to back up their men at the Front, and they ought to do that.
No place had done better than Morpeth. They had ungrudgingly sent their sons to the Front, and many of them had unfortunately fallen. He believed in the trying times to come the men would still continue to carry on their brave and gallant work.
That was not the first time by many that he had warned the people of Morpeth of the gravity of the situation. He had been told by some people that he was a very doleful prophet, a very unpleasant prophet, but he thought that what he said had been quite true.
He had come to give them more warning, and it was this: That whatever the sacrifices they had made in the past, they would have greater sacrifices to make in the future. Let there be no mistake about that.
In the past they had always had warning to do something of a voluntary nature, and when they had not done it sufficiently well then compulsion came. Now, they were being asked to do something of a voluntary character again, and if they did not do it, it was certain that compulsion would come. It was better to do their duty in a voluntary way than by compulsion.
They were told that more men were required for the Front. The men could only be got in one way — by releasing the men at home, and other men taking their places in the factory or other industrial places. The Government was asking for volunteers, and the Government was going to have them, and must have them.
The first time the Government called for half a million men they got them without any trouble. Patriotic men came forward in the thousands. They did not wait until they were fetched. The cry had since been men, more men, and still more men, and after 2½ years the cry was still the same. They wanted a glorious and triumphant victory, which could only be secured by men, more men, and still more men.
The Germans were not beat yet. They must pay attention to the warnings that were given then by the First Lord of the Admiralty, by the Secretary of War, and by the Prime Minister. He wanted them to help the lads at the Front — the lads who went away over two years ago. Some of these men had not had leave for eighteen months.
Every man and woman had got to come forward and help. They did not want half-timers, but whole-time workers. It was a serious call. It could not be disregarded and must not be disregarded. Mr Chamberlain said he wanted one million men and women to support the men at the Front.
He agreed with Mr Winston Churchill when he asked in the House of Commons the other night: Would it not be better to raise the military age to 45 and bring in the men who had never been to the Front and had done nothing to help the war?
He believed it would be much better to call up those men up to 45 instead of calling again upon these gallant fellows who had done their duty and had suffered. He also believed that this scheme should be made compulsory — (hear hear) — and he did not think the scheme would be a success without it. Mr Chamberlain had done what other Ministers had done in the past — “Volunteer, but if you don’t we shall have compulsion.”
He next alluded to the disagreeable duties which has been put on the shoulders of tribunals. He said that he would have called up every man, no matter who he was, up to 30 years of age, single men first and married men afterwards, and so on. They should never have sent men from Morpeth with six and seven children. They had widows in Morpeth with six and seven children. The young men should have gone first. No man under 30 was indispensable. They ought to go and let the older man remain to carry on the affairs of the country.
Now, if they wanted to carry on the war to a successful conclusion they should fall in with Mr Chamberlain’s scheme whether they liked it or not. They were going to win this war, but could only win it by getting, as he had already said, men, more men, and still more men. (Applause.)
Mr Chas. Percy said that in spite of the small audience there had never been, he ventured to say, a meeting of more importance in that hall. They were not assembled to discuss matters municipal, or social, or to try to formulate a political programme, but to see how they could best help the Government in the enormous and stupendous task which was now set them — to destroy absolutely and for ever the menacing power of Germany.
They were now in the midst of a great crisis, which might lead them to annihilation or to great victory. There were many causes for that crisis, the most important of which was possibly their neglect in time of peace to provide against the ever-growing menace of Germany. They were paying the penalty so far for that neglect.
They were making enormous sacrifices, both in lives and expenditure of treasure as had never been paralleled in the history of the world. He referred to the great sacrifices which were being made without complaint, readily, and with determination.
What they had got to show was that the German nation was not the only nation of the world that was possessed of the will to win. They wanted to show that this nation possessed the will to win, and that the sacrifices they had made in the past were but an earnest of the sacrifices still to come, if necessary.
Germany began the war with a standing army of five million men. What Germany had done by compulsion, they were able to do practically by voluntary means. They had raised an army of over three million men entirely on the voluntary principle. The Government had been compelled to make laws by which every man might be liable to serve.
He then referred to the great success of our last great loan, which he believed would be the victory loan, and which was double that raised in Germany, and said that in the matter of finance and in men this country has been able to top the best efforts of their great enemy.
Germany had mobilised the whole of her male and female population, and had put the whole of them under Army discipline compulsorily. They had to meet that again, and they meant to do it by the present scheme. They were going to mobilise the population, men and women, by voluntary means.
The success that had attended Mr Chamberlain’s efforts up to the present time was in a sense satisfactory and creditable to his organisation. He (the speaker) did not say the scheme was a perfect scheme. They were doing things today which they should have done two years ago. He then made an eloquent appeal to all not to pick holes in the scheme, but to make it a huge success.
Mr Percy then gave an outline of the scheme and explained the position of volunteers as regards pay and other matters connected with enrolment. He added that the sacrifices that any volunteer could make at this time could not be compared in the slightest degree to the sacrifices that were being made by the gallant fellows in the trenches. (Applause.)
The Rev. Jos. Miller proposed a vote of thanks to the speakers for their excellent addresses. He said that the German soldiers had been inspired with the belief and the conviction that they could not be beaten, and what they had to do was to inspire their own soldiers and sailors with the thought and conviction that they could not be beaten. There has been no doubt in his mind since the battle of the Marne that this nation should eventually win. (Applause.)
The motion was passed with great heartiness.
Mr Renwick in replying moved a vote of thanks to the Mayor for presiding.
The meeting terminated with the singing of a verse of the National Anthem.
MORPETH OFFICER’S PROMOTION
The many friends of Mr F.H. Jackson, third son of Councillor George Jackson, of Morpeth, will be glad to learn that he has recently received a commission in the Royal Flying Corps.
Mr J.H. Jackson, the second son, is a lieutenant in the N.F., and is now serving in Egypt, whilst the eldest son, Mr G.W. Jackson, is a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps, and is serving in France.
Sir,— There appears to be general dissatisfaction in the North of England in regard to sugar supplies, and the complaint has been intensified by the report in the Press of the statement made by Captain Bathhurst on behalf of the Food Controller in the House of Commons, that there is sufficient sugar to give a supply of ¾lb. per head per week.
In a call to England’s housewives by the Director-General of Food Economy, Mr Kennedy Jones, M.P., gives the national scale of weekly rations per person — bread, 4lb. (or 3lb. of flour); meat, 2½lb.; sugar, ¾lb.
Surely there is some huge blunder being made somewhere and by someone.
The Co-operative Wholesale Society inform us that the Commission are not releasing anything like this quantity as far as the co-operative movement is concerned. The present supply allotted to Pegswood Co-operative Society will only permit ¼lb. per head per week.
A special committee has been appointed to report, and we think the time is opportune for the adoption by the Government of a national registration scheme.
1st. To stop sugar hunters rushing from one shop to another.
2nd. To state the actual amount per head on the table.
3rd. If a ticket is punched once a week no more supplies to be forthcoming to that particular household.
4th. To assure equity in distribution, not only in sugar, but in other commodities if necessity arises.— Yours, etc.,
G.R. NICHOL, General manager,
Pegswood Co-operative Society.
A POULTRY DEMONSTRATION TRAIN
In view of the present urgent necessity of doing everything possible to help to increase the food supplies the North-Eastern Railway Company, in conjunction with the Northumberland Education Authority, have arranged for a poultry demonstration train to visit the following places on the under-mentioned dates:—
Friday, 27th April, Ponteland Station; Saturday, 28th April, Newcastle (Central), passenger station, No. 12 platform (enter at west end); Monday, 30th April, Alnwick passenger station, carriage dock; Tuesday, 1st May, Wooler Station, North Cattle Dock; Wednesday, 2nd May, Morpeth Station, up siding (enter from road); Thursday, 3rd May, Monkseaton passenger station, up platform; Friday, 4th May, Chathill Station, depot siding; Saturday, 5th May, Tweedmouth Station, cattle dock; Monday, 7th May, Rothbury Station; Tuesday, 8th May, Scotsgap Station; Wednesday, 9th May, Bellingham Station; Thursday, 10th May, Haltwhistle Station, cattle dock; Friday, 11th May, Hexham Goods Yard.
The train will be open for inspection from 11am to 5pm.
Mr F.W. Parten, lecturer on poultry keeping, the University of Leeds; Miss Mason, lecturer on poultry keeping to the Northumberland County Council and other experts, will accompany the train.
Short addresses on all branches of poultry keeping will be given, and the working of all the latest poultry appliances, which will be on exhibition, will be explained.
It is hoped that the public generally will visit the train and take full advantage of this effort to promote increased supplies of eggs and poultry.
The birth-rate for England and Wales in 1915-22 per 1,000 was the lowest on record, says the Registrar-General in his annual report.
Although this rate is 3.5 below the average for the preceding decennium and 1.8 below the rate in 1914, the fall compares very favourably with the experience of other belligerent countries. The provisional rate for 1916 is 21.6.
On the other hand, the marriage rate — 19.5 per 1,000, 3.6 above the rate in the preceding year, and 4.1 above the decennial average — was the highest on record. The provisional figures for 1916, however, indicates a return to the average experience in 1905-1914.
The civilian death-rate was 15.7 per 1,000, 1.2 above the average for the preceding ten years. Although higher than the rates in recent years, it was below the rate for the whole population in any year before 1903.
It was adversely affected by the enlistment of a large body of men of an age at which mortality experience is below the average, and by the fact that the men remaining in the civil population at this age are on the whole much less healthy than those withdrawn.
The provisional rate for 1916 is appreciably lower than for 1915.
Marriages numbered 368,868, the phenomenal rise being due to the war.
A tendency towards increasing age at marriage is indicated, the mean age of bachelors marrying spinsters being 27.33, and of spinsters marrying bachelors 25.47, in each case the highest recorded.
As regards the fall in the birth-rate, Dr Stevenson, in view of the statistics, points out that in countries where mobilisation on the grand scale occurred at the beginning of the war far greater declines have been recorded.
The joint birth-rate of the eight largest German cities fell from 21.5 in 1913 to 16.4 in 1915, of Vienna from 17.1 to 13.0, and of Paris from 17.4 to 10.7, as against a fall for London from 24.5 in 1913 to 22.6 in 1915.
Statements have been made that the ratio of male to female births is increased in war time.
Owing to the delay permitted in birth registration, the births occurring in any month are mostly represented by those registered during the following month, so that it was probably not till June, 1915, that the majority of births registered were those of war babies.
The ratio for the whole year (1,040 males to 1,000 females), is, therefore, no index of the proportion born under war influences.
ROLL OF HONOUR
H.C. Moore, 5 South Parade, Choppington, has been killed in action.
John Joseph Lawson, 2 Coronation Yard, Morpeth, has died at Bournemouth.
Private T. Wilson, K.O.Y.L.L., of Lawson’s Buildings, Newbiggin-by-Sea, has been missing since February 12th.
Sergt. Joseph Riddell, reported missing since July 1st, 1916, is now reported to have been killed in action. He was husband of Mrs Elizabeth Riddell, Barrington.
Private David Kinnair, Inniskillings, of Beatrice Street, Ashington, missing since July 1st, is now officially presumed to be dead. Previous to enlistment he worked at Linton Colliery.
News has been officially received that Private Edward Luke, of the 2nd West Yorks, of Morpeth, was killed in action on March 11th, 1917, the communication having been received by his brother, Mr W.A. Luke, Ravensworth Terrace, Bedlington Station.
Mr and Mrs Lance Hedley, of 6 Maud Terrace, Shiremoor, have just been notified of the death of their nephew, Corpl. Lance Hedley, who died on March 26th in Switzerland. He was wounded and taken prisoner at the Battle of Loos on September 26th, 1915. He was sent from Germany last January into Switzerland.
THE MILK PROBLEM
A meeting of the Northumberland War Agricultural Committee was held on Monday at the Moot Hall, Newcastle. Lord Armstrong presided.
The Executive Committee reported that the weather had extremely delayed the survey of agricultural land. As the reports were received the areas to which attention is directed were coloured in the maps, and the remarks of the surveyors scheduled.
Particulars of the suggestions made were being sent to the owners or their agents, with an intimation that the committee was not at present in a position to confirm or otherwise the recommendations of its Survey Committee, and it had, therefore, as a preliminary decided to invite observations thereon.
At the same time, as it might be extremely important in some cases for immediate action to be taken, the committee would be glad if owners and tenants could at once give effect to any of the suggested improvements or developments recognised as now possible or desirable.
It was believed that, as a first step, much more could be done expeditiously to increase food production, by the co-operation of landlords and tenants than would be possible by the intervention of the committee.
In cases where land was seriously neglected or derelict the committee was proposing to take such immediate action as might be possible or necessary.
Two tractor ploughs has been placed entirely at the disposal of the committee, and a number of motor tractors and ploughs acquired by the Board of Agriculture for use in different parts of the county as soon as the essential work of the owners had been completed.
One of the tractors was working in the Alnwick district, the other in the neighbourhood of Newcastle, and arrangements were proceeding to utilise as fully as possible the acquired tractors in other districts.
The charge had been fixed at 15/- an acre to cover the use of the tractor, fuel, labour and supplies.
The Board of Agriculture had appointed Mr A.E. George, of South Street, Newcastle, district organiser, to supervise the proper maintenance and operation of the tractors, and he was instructed by the Executive Committee as to the farms upon which the tractors were required to work.
There were many difficulties incidental to the adequate utilisation of the tractors, and the weather had, of course, seriously interfered with their operation, but a fairly satisfactory beginning had been made.
The following rates of pay have been fixed for soldiers employed by farmers:— Skilled men at 30/- a week and for unskilled men at 25/- a week, the rates per day according to whether the men are (1) living in, (2) billeted, or (3) living out, being as follows:— Skilled men (ploughman, cattleman etc.), (1) 2/3, (2) 2/-, (3) 5/-; unskilled man, (1) 1.5, (2) 1/2, (3) 4/2.
Ald. Aynsley asked what arrangements had been made with regard to motor ploughs owned by farmers. He had been consulted by one man who had been called upon to hand over his plough, although he had over 130 acres to plough.
The hon. secretary (Mr C. Williams) said that was due to the excessive zeal and enthusiasm of the Board’s director, who went about commandeering ploughs. It was quite understood that a farmer’s own work had to be finished before they interfered with his tractor.
Mr Williams said the committee had a memorandum from the Board of Agriculture setting forth the conditions under which a short term of credit could be extended by the banks to farmers for the purchase of seed, manure and so on.— The report was adopted.
Mr Williams said he had received over 1,000 applications for seed potatoes to be sent to 97 railway stations for re-distribution. The quantity was 148 tons 5 cwts. All these customers might rest assured, if their orders had been acknowledged, that the seed potatoes would be forthcoming in due course. Applications from about 50 persons had had to be refused because they applied late.
It was reported that up to April 1st over 200 soldiers had been placed on farms.
Captain Turnbull stated in detail the arrangements made for supplying men from his agricultural company to farmers, and said these men could be kept as long as the farmer required them.
Mr Williams referring to the enrolment under the National Service scheme of men who were now in other occupations but who had agricultural experience stated that he had advertised in all the county papers and got not a single application for these men.
The Secretary said the question of women workers had come very much to the front, and a special branch of the Board of Agriculture had been established with sub-divisions. He did not think the Board appreciated the conditions in Northumberland.
The object was to train women in a month to take permanent positions on farms and they were anxious that training centres should be established. There was no difficulty in getting women; the difficulty would be in getting them placed. There had been many applications from women who were suitable, and many from women who were wholly unsuitable. Those accepted were required to sign an agreement for six months’ work after training.
Mrs Middleton, of Belsay, had been selected organiser on behalf of the Board of Agriculture.