In this feature to commemorate the First World War, we will bring you the news as it happened in 1918, 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 the large court room, Morpeth, on Saturday evening, the Duke of Northumberland, acting in his capacity as Lord Lieutenant of the County, thanked the special constables serving in the Morpeth Petty Sessional Division on behalf of the King and the country for the work they had performed during the war. His Grace was accompanied by Captain Fullarton James, Chief Constable of Northumberland.
There were 42 Special Constables on parade under the command of Major Ralph Crawford.
The Chief Constable said it was a parade of the East Morpeth Division of Special Constables, the area of the county protected being 90 square miles, and the population of 18,000. There had been two commanders of this Division since October 1914, when the Force was formed, namely Dr Dickie, who was now serving with His Majesty’s forces, and Major Crawford, the present commander.
The full strength of the Division was at present about 120, composed largely of tradesmen, colliery officials and miners.
Owing to the geographical position of the Division the special constables had to man numerous Road Posts on the nights of real or suspected air raids, and further on a special occasion of a naval character when those duties had to be performed for over a week. It was a very onerous duty and admirably carried out, and at the time earned the approbation of the higher naval and military authority.
There has been one actual air raid over the Division, namely on 2nd April, 1916. No bombs were dropped on the town, although an airship crossed over the Police Buildings on the return journey and dropped bombs both North and South of the town.
It was no exaggeration, he thought, to say that the immunity from damage was entirely due to the thorough arrangements for the obscurity of all lights which had been for a considerable period the principal duty of the Special Constable Force as well as the County Force.
He alluded to the cordial relations which existed between the Special Constables and the County Police of the Division. Representing the County Police he should like to say that they felt extremely grateful to the Special Constable Force for their help and if they should ever be called upon in the future he was certain they would be at hand.
The Duke of Northumberland desired, as the representative of His Majesty, to thank them and to express his appreciation of the hard work that had been performed, devotion to duty displayed, and the sacrifices which had been made in the service of the community.
The Special Constable Force has the proud and almost unique distinction of having served during the whole period of the war for no reward or remuneration of any kind. They would have the satisfaction of knowing in this hour of victory that the voluntary and ungrudging service they had rendered formed no small proportion of the sum total of that great National effort which had secured a glorious termination of the war.
He hoped that the time would soon come when the services of the Special Constable Force would no longer be required, but as the depletion of the County Police Force could not be made good immediately it was hoped that a large number of the Special Constables would continue to serve during the transition period until normal conditions were resumed.
He had been instructed by the Home Secretary to convey the thanks of the Government for the public spirited service rendered by the Special Constabulary in providing the personnel for the local emergency schemes which has been so carefully worked out for the whole county.
Major R. Crawford, on behalf of the special constables thanked the Duke.
The special constables were almost entirely composed of men, who from circumstances of age and otherwise were unable to join the Military Forces, and they very gladly embraced the opportunity of doing their bit.
Fortunately, their work had been very light, thanks to our glorious navy which had kept watch and ward in the North Sea, and through our brave army in France which had kept the enemy fully occupied, and finally achieved the victory in which they all rejoiced that day. Again he said thanks to our Navy and army our country had been saved from the horrors of invasion.
He desired to pay his tribute to the Chief Constable for the very admirable plan which he made to meet such an emergency, and so far as was humanly possible every contingency had been provided for so as to render the maximum amount of assistance to the military and to help the civilian population.
There had been no disturbances on the part of the population generally, in spite of the rather rigorous restrictions attached to the Defence of the Realm Act. Everybody had cheerfully obeyed the various regulations feeling that they were necessary for the common good.
In conclusion Major Crawford called for three cheers for the King which were heartily given, and also three cheers for the Lord Lieutenant, which were given with heartiness.
Christmas at Linden Hall Auxiliary Hospital was right merrily celebrated and thoroughly enjoyed by both patients and visitors. For more than a week the inmates had been anticipating the festival by the preparation of vari-coloured paper decorations, which reflected no small credit on the ingenuity of the soldiers who made them.
Christmas Eve was a busy time. All day foray parties from the various wards were engaged in excursions into the grounds, returning laughingly laden with huge branches of holly and evergreens. Rivalry between wards was keen.
The patients retired to rest about midnight, after a merry evening spent in creating hilarious noise rather than harmony. In the small hours of Christmas morning Santa Claus made a tour of the wards, leaving on every sleeper’s bed a stocking filled with all manner of welcome gifts.
Christmas dinner was served in St George’s Ward, where the Commandant and Quartermaster, the nurses, the nursing sister, and the patients dined together. It was followed by a battle royal in which nutshells constituted the ammunition.
The pudding was a mysterious confastion, containing charms, shillings, sixpences, and at least one signet ring. Not a few declared that they had managed to add an extra period to their convalescence by the misadventure of swallowing one or other of the wins in the pudding.
Tea was a very picturesque affair. The prettily laid tables were surrounded by people dressed to represent every conceivable being in and out of the British Isles. Afterwards a fancy dress ball took place.
An interesting presentation took place, the Commandant and Quartermaster being the recipients of neat and beautiful silver vases. Corpl. Manning said that the two ladies always used every endeavour to make a soldier’s convalescent period at Linden as bright and homely as possible. Sister Lobley was the recipient of a neat satchel, given as a mark of the esteem in which she is held by the patients.
In the small hours of Boxing morning the celebrations concluded with the singing of the National Anthem.
HONOURS FOR LOCAL SOLDIER
Second-Lieut. Sydney J. Henderson, son of Mrs Henderson, 25 Pretoria Avenue, Morpeth, has been awarded the Military cross for gallantry and devotion to duty in Italy.
ROLL OF HONOUR
CHILTON.— Died at Port Amelia, Portugese East Africa, on December 17th, Pte. G.P. Chilton, R.A.M.C., only son of the late George and Jane Chilton, 66 South Row, Bedlington Colliery.
THE HOLLON FUND
In accordance with the usual custom, each of the annuitants, under the Mary Hollon Annuity and Coal Fund, were supplied with a ton of beat coal and a quantity of beef for Christmas.
In addition to this, the Council have been enabled to distribute a quantity of coal amongst the poor people of the town, but in consequence of the Fuel and Lighting Order, which restricts gifts of coal to a value not exceeding 10/-, the number of recipients have had to be doubled, and the quantity to each reduced by one-half. The fund, which is administered by the Town Council, is in its usual satisfactory condition.
From money derived from investments in the hands of the office-bearers of St George’s Presbyterian Church, a number of needy persons in the town benefitted.
Mr Robert Wood, King’s Avenue, kindly gave a half ton of coal to each of the occupants at the Alms Houses, a gift which the old folk greatly appreciated.
FARE AT THE WORKHOUSE
As has been the custom form any years, the annual dinner was given to the inmates in Morpeth Workhouse on Christmas Day. The dining room, which was artistically decorated with flags, presented quite an animated scene when the inmates were seated at the festive board.
The Chairman (Mr C.E. Young) in wishing them all a Merry Christmas, said they had met that day under vastly different conditions to what they had 12 months ago. Then they were hoping that the great war would soon be ended. It had taken a long time, but now peace was in sight, and they trusted it might never be broken again.
MILITARY BALL AT MORPETH
The first annual ball in connection with the Northumberland R.A.S.C. Motor Transport (Morpeth Section) took place in the Town Hall, on Christmas night, when eighty couples attended, including the Mayor (Coun. Chas. Grey).
The ball was also attended by officers and N.C.O.’s stationed throughout the county.
When the dance was in full swing the hall presented a very gay and animated appearance. All the latest dance music was rendered by Mrs Carman’s Band, and the duties of M.C. were efficiently discharged by Sergt. Bibby and Pte. W. Lee.
An interesting whist drive, conducted by Corpl. R. Elliott, was also successfully held, and the prizes were presented by the Mayor.
The squad hope to give a donation of £5 from the proceeds of the ball to the V.A.D. Hospital. The affair was such a success that it is intended to hold another dance in April.
DEMOBILISATION OF MINERS
The Controller of Coal Mines announced that coal mines are being demobilised under special arrangements come to between the various services and the Coal Mines Department, and colliery proprietors need take no action for the return of their former employees, except such action as the Controller from time to time asks them to take.
STANNINGTON SOLDIERS REMEMBERED
Through the generosity of the parishioners, the committee of the Stannington Parish Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Fund have this Christmas again been able to forward a 10/- note to each one enlisted from the parish, including lads from Netherton Training School.
SHOOTING COMPETITIONS AT MORPETH
In connection with the Morpeth Company of the 4th Batt., V.B.N.F., shooting competitions were held on the miniature range at the Terrace on Tuesday and Thursday of last week. Great interest was taken in the competitions, which attracted large entries.
VOLUNTEERS DANCE AT MORPETH
The annual whist drive and dance in connection with the Morpeth Company, 4th V.B.N.F., took place in the Masonic Hall, last Friday evening. A large company attended, and the proceedings were greatly enjoyed.