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.

Saturday, 10th November 2018, 11:07 am
Updated Thursday, 1st November 2018, 15:58 pm
HERALD WAR REPORT: Advert from the Morpeth Herald, November 8, 1918.

At the first performance at the Playhouse, Morpeth, last Friday evening, the Mayor (Coun. James Elliott) was afforded the opportunity of making presentations to three local men who had recently won distinctions on the field of battle. There was a very large audience present, and scenes of great enthusiasm prevailed during the presentation ceremony.

The names of the gallant soldiers and the distinctions bestowed upon them are as follows:

HERALD WAR REPORT: Advert from the Morpeth Herald, November 8, 1918.

Captain William Douglas Baird Thompson, D.L.I., who about a year ago was awarded the Military Cross and received a presentation from the War Heroes Fund, has had the honour of receiving two other decorations of high merit.

The gallant captain was awarded, in September last, the Distinguished Service Order for having shown great courage and determination in holding the line, which was the left flank of the battalion and not in touch with any other unit, beating back every attempt of the enemy to advance. After dusk, when the flank was temporarily driven back, he restored the situation by his energy and fearlessness.

From the French Government he received the Croix de Guerre Avec Palme. The Order states: “An officer of remarkable valour who particularly distinguished himself during the attacks on the 21st and 23rd July, 1918, near the Chateau de — and at the village.”

R.S.M. J. Donnelly, H.L.I., was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He rendered invaluable service as Regimental Sergeant Major, and his whole-hearted energy, courage, and thoroughness have been unfailing throughout.

Private James McLevy, Royal Fusiliers, was awarded the Military Medal for his bravery and devotion to duty, although wounded, when acting as guide during operations on 23rd and 24th August last.

The three heroes were accorded a hearty reception when they appeared on the stage.

At the outset the Mayor said that they were very much indebted to Mr Fred Tinsley, the manager, for having kindly granted them the use of the hall. He was very proud, indeed, to have another opportunity of doing honour to another three of their Morpeth heroes who had gained distinctions for bravery over in France. (Applause.)

He had already presented to Captain Thompson, of the Durham Light Infantry, the usual War Heroes’ wristlet watch, when he had the honour of winning the Military Cross (Applause.) Like all noted lads he had done it over again, and had gained other two honours. He had been awarded the Distinguished Service Order, and the Croix de Guerre (Applause.)

They were all proud that the D.S.O. had again come to Morpeth (Applause.) On behalf of the War Heroes Fund he had great pleasure in handing over to Captain Thompson, M.C., Croix de Guerre, a gold cigarette case, and at the same time, wished him a safe return and many years of happiness. (Applause). Then followed three rousing cheers from the audience.

The Mayor then said that in R.S.M. Donnelly they had a hefty Highlander and a substantial specimen of a British soldier. He had been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. Not many words, but they covered a great deal of hard work and bravery. (Applause.)

Now, it was a genuine pleasure on his part to pin the Distinguished Conduct Medal on the Sergeant-Major’s tunic. After performing that duty and wishing the gallant soldier the best of luck, the Mayor said that he had great pleasure, on behalf of the Heroes Fund, to present to Sergeant-Major Donnelly a wristlet watch. He hoped that it would be useful to him, and that he would be spared to come back and have many happy years with his wife and family. (Loud and prolonged applause.)

“Now we have a chip off the old block of Morpethians in Pte. James McLevy,” observed the Mayor in introducing that brave soldier. After reading the official account giving details of Pte. McLevy’s bravery and devotion to duty, the Mayor remarked that it was a splendid record. (Applause.)

He had great pleasure in presenting to him, as a gift from the Heroes Fund, a wristlet watch, and also wished the recipient a safe return to his wife and home. (Loud applause.)

Captain Thompson thanked them all for their kind and generous gift. The men whom he had the honour to command had helped him to get that high distinction. There were few towns in England that had done so much as Morpeth. He was glad to belong to the ancient borough. He knew that the Morpeth people were proud of their soldiers, and Morpeth soldiers were proud of their town.

He gave a happy illustration of that by relating a conversation which took place in a communication trench between himself and a young lad who greeted him with the remark, “I know you. You come from Morpeth.” (Applause.)

R.S.M. Donnelly, in returning thanks, said that every man who faced the Germans should receive the D.C.M. (Applause.)

Pte. McLevy also returned thanks and said he would continue to do his duty as a Morpeth lad. (Applause.)

Councillor Swinney in endorsing everything the Mayor had said remarked that Mr Tinsley had given them leave to make a collection on behalf of the local War Heroes Fund. They had never asked for a collection before as the fund was in a healthy condition, but they wanted to be ready to honour more men when they come home.

He then moved a vote of thanks to the Mayor, which was carried with enthusiasm.

The singing of the national anthem concluded the interesting ceremony.

The collection amounted to £4 1s.


There was a large outpouring of sympathy and respect on Sunday afternoon last on the occasion of the interment of Flight Cadet William Leslie James, R.A.F., who, under very sad circumstances, met his death in a seaplane accident on the south coast.

The deceased was the younger son of Mr and Mrs J.J. James, Newgate Street, Morpeth, and had nearly completed his nineteenth year when he met his death.

The following account of the inquest is taken from the “Hampshire County Times” of Nov. 1st:—

An inquest was held on October 31st concerning the death of Flight Cadet William Leslie James, R.A.F., who lost his life as the result of an accident while engaged on a flight on Tuesday, October 29th.

Evidence of identification was given by John J. James, Morpeth, Northumberland, who said his son was 18 years and 10 months of age. He started to learn flying in France, and joined the Naval Branch of the Service about two months ago for instruction in seaplanes.

Flight Lieutenant George Frederick Moody, R.A.F., stated that on Tuesday, Oct. 29th, about 12 noon, deceased was flying, when the machine got into a very steep glide quite suddenly with the engine full on, and developed into a perpendicular nose dive, hitting the water.

The deceased was at a height of about 100 feet, and probably intended to alight on the water, but pushed the nose of the machine down too steep. This machine was very sensitive. From the position the machine was in there was not sufficient height for deceased to correct the machine to a horizontal position.

Major Tom Harry England, R.A.F., said this type of machine was not completely satisfactory and had faults like any other machine, but was the best when put into production. Others of improved type were being constructed, which would obviate all the faults. These particular machines were now being used, but when sufficient of the others came along these other ones would be deleted.

Captain J.D. Bangay, R.A.F., said that the deceased had sustained a fracture to the base of the skull, but in the opinion of witness death was due to drowning.

The jury returned a verdict of “Accidental Death,” and through the Coroner expressed their sympathy with the relatives and the deceased’s brother officers.

Flight Cadet W. Leslie Jones was educated at the Grammar School, Morpeth, where his genial manners won him the respect of both masters and fellow students. He was an enthusiastic member of the School Cadet Corps, besides taking a keen interest in all manly sports. Being a good shot, he was one of the few who captured the silver spoon.

At the annual sports he was a prominent competitor for a number of years, particularly distinguishing himself in throwing the cricket ball. In 1915, before leaving school, he obtained his First XI colours for cricket. He was an expert swimmer, besides being a clever diver.

For a number of years he was a member of St James’ Church Choir, as well as being a member of the Y.M.C.A.

On leaving school he entered the employ of Messrs Weidner, Hopkins and Co., shipowners, Newcastle, with whom he was until he joined the O.T.C. at Armstrong College, though was later transferred into the Air Force. By the end of October he would have obtained his wings and his full commission.

The funeral partook of a military character, and every tribute possible was paid to the memory of a departed soldier who had earned the goodwill and esteem of all with whom he came in contact, and although he did not fall on the battlefield, had, none the less, made the great sacrifice on behalf of King and Country.

There was a firing party from the East Yorks, in charge of Sergt. Banford, who were supported by the Morpeth Grammar School Cadets under the command of Capt. Kennedy and Lieut. Heddon, the coffin being draped with the Union Jack.

The service at the church was a very impressive one. After the committal prayers at the graveside, which were said by the Rev. Mr Brodie, the choir boys sang very impressively “On the Resurrection Morning.” The firing party then fired three volleys over the grave.

Mr and Mrs James’ eldest son, J. Geoffrey, was one of the first to join the Territorials in 1914, who so distinguished themselves in France in the early part of the war. On returning home he later applied for his commission, and was gazetted Second-Lieut. to the 9th Border Regiment, with whom he is now serving in Salonica.


Mrs H Fairbairn, 99 Newgate Street, Morpeth, is informed that her son, A.B. Leslie A. Fairbairn, Hood Battalion, R.N.V.R., is a prisoner of war in Germany, well, and unwounded.

Mrs Elliott, 9 Low Stanners, Morpeth, has received word that her son, Pte. Richard Elliott, is wounded and in hospital in Boulogne.

Mrs Brotherton, Newgate St., Morpeth, has received notice that her son George, who has been wounded four times in France, is now in Cambridge Hospital, seriously ill.

Mr and Mrs J. Burrell, Bridge St., Morpeth, have received word that their third son, Pte. Henry Burrell, D.L.I., has been wounded in action in France, and is lying in Stoke-on-Trent War Hospital.

Official news has been received by Mrs E. Brady, 4 Staithes Lane, Morpeth, that her husband, Gunner E. Brady, of the 252nd Seige Battery, R.G.A., was killed in action on Oct. 5th, 1918.


HARVEY.— Killed in action October 18th, 1918, Gunner Alder Atkinson Harvey, beloved son of Jane and the late Matthew James Harvey.— Deeply mourned by his little daughter, mother, brother, sisters and brothers-in-law.

BRADY.— Killed in action on October 5th, 1918, Gunner Edward Brady, 205956 252nd Seige Battery, R.G.A., beloved husband of Frances Isabella Brady, of 4 Staithes Lane, Morpeth, aged 35 years.

IRVING.— At General Hospital, Rouen, France, on the 3rd inst., Sapper John Irving, only and dearly beloved son of Superintendent and Mrs James Irving, Police Station, Blyth.

SINGER.— 40452 Saddler William Singer, R.F.A., killed in France on October 17th, after having served 17 years in the army, beloved son of Mr and Mrs Hugh Singer, of 7 High Market, Ashington.— Deeply mourned by father, mother, sister and brothers and sisters-in-law, also sister and brother-in-law in Ireland, and by all who knew him.

GIVENS.— Died of wounds received in action on October 16th, 1918, Gunner Peter Givens, R.G.A., beloved son of Peter and Jane Givens, 54 Bewick Street, South Shields (late of Hexham).— Ever remembered by his father and mother, brothers and sisters. Deeply mourned.

DOWNIE.— Killed in action in France on October 2nd, 1918, Rifleman Henry William Downie, K.R.R.C., dearly beloved husband of Joan Downie (nee Foreman of Longhoughton), 19 Alexandra Road, Ashington.— Deeply mourned.

CHARLTON.— Missing since May 27th, died in Germany on September 12th, aged 32 years, Sapper William R. Charlton, Royal Engineers, dearly loved husband of Ella Charlton, 31 Pretoria Avenue, Morpeth, and only son of the late Mr and Mrs Robert Charlton, Dogger Bank, Morpeth.— Deeply mourned.


On Friday last, a short ceremonial parade of the Cadet Unit was held at the Grammar School to celebrate the surrender of Turkey and the splendid news received that day from all fronts.

After the saluting of the flag with full honours, Councillor Jas. Elliott, Mayor of Morpeth, delivered a short address. He complimented the unit on its smartness and soldierly bearing and on the efficiency which it has shown on all occasions.

He dwelt upon the importance and significance of the news which we had just received as to the progress of the war, and in a few impressive words exhorted his hearers to play their part in the great future of the nation to the full extent of their powers and opportunities.

The Mayor also exhibited a Challenge Cup which he has presented to be competed for by the various cadet units in the district.

Captain Kenney, in expressing his thanks to the Mayor for his presence, paid a tribute to the genial, efficient and painstaking manner in which he has discharged the many exacting duties of his office.

The ceremony closed with the signing of the National Anthem.


In the past the Morpeth Boys’ Brigade have always occupied a warm corner in the affection of the local people, and judging by the heroic deeds enacted in France by old members, their affection has not been misplaced.

Seeing that in future they will be known as “Volunteer Cadets,” it is to be hoped they will preserve the old and honourable traditions of the Boys’ Brigade.

In order to raise funds to procure khaki uniforms for the new unit, a whist drive and dance was held in St James’ Hall, Morpeth, last Friday evening, which proved a success in every way.

The dance proved very attractive, and some sixty couples took part, Lieut. Lamb acting as M.C.

The sum realised amounted to £7 10s.


There was a large gathering of representatives of Labour from all parts of the Borough of Morpeth, presided over by Mr George Warne, of the Reay Memorial Hall, Bedlington Station, on Saturday evening, whereat an address was given by the Labour candidate, Mr John Cairns, whose speech was received with enthusiasm by the representatives.

Mr Cairns delivered a short address, in the course of which he said he could claim that he had consistently supported the national claims throughout the great crises of the war, which was now nearing a successful and victorious conclusion for the Allies.

They had passed through times that has tried men’s souls, and in the coming times they would have, in the task of reconstruction, difficulties and problems requiring great courage, discretion, and above all, unity amongst the working classes of the community.

Referring to the discharged soldiers, he said he had ever striven to advance their interests and those of the dependents of the men who had bled for their country, and they might be assured that when the time came for anything of a practical nature being done for the discharged soldiers, it would be found that the Labour Party would be their best friends.

A discharged soldier, ex-Sergeant Colvin, Ashington, in the course of an address, strongly advocated the claims of the Labour party for the support of not only discharged soldiers and sailors, but also of the working classes of the nation. He trusted they would send Mr Cairns to Parliament at the coming election by a large majority.


The Secretary of the Morpeth Branch wishes to thank all those who have so kindly brought or sent contributions of fruit, vegetables and money to the Branch Depot at the Town Hall, Morpeth, every Wednesday morning during the last months, and to assure them that their gifts are most warmly appreciated by the men of the North Sea Fleet.

She begs to announce that during the winter months the Collection Depot will only be open on the first Wednesday of each month from 9am till Noon.