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.

Sunday, 26th February 2017, 10:30 am
Updated Wednesday, 1st March 2017, 08:59 am
HERALD WAR REPORT: News from the Morpeth Herald, February 23, 1917.

Next week the people of Morpeth will have a fine opportunity of seeing what is truly described as the greatest of all war films at the Avenue Theatre, Morpeth. The film is entitled “The Advance of the Tanks at the Battle of the Ancre,” and it will be shown at both houses on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

It is a wonderful film which everyone should make a point of seeing. In the picture, which is 5,000 feet in length, every phase of the great battle is depicted. You see the tanks from their first start to their triumphant return. You see the crews getting them ready for the fray. You watch them creeping from their hiding places. You follow them till they cross the trenches, and wander over “No Man’s Land,” and you see them crushing down the German wire entanglements.

HERALD WAR REPORT: Notice from the Morpeth Herald, February 23, 1917.

It enables all to realise what our brave men are going through — the terrific artillery duel, its close co-operation with the infantry, the work of the Red Cross, the ordinary life of the trenches, and the thrilling moment of attack.

Two matinee performances have been billed for Monday and Wednesday, commencing at 2.30. The whole of the children attending the Council Schools to the number of about 550 are to be taken, by the kindness of the managers of the schools, to the afternoon performance on Monday in order to see the wonderful war film.


Major J.B. Orde, R.F.A. (Military Cross), who died from wounds received in action on February 12th, was the second son of Lieut. Col. W. Orde, of Nunnykirk, Northumberland.

HERALD WAR REPORT: Advert from the Morpeth Herald, February 23, 1917.

He was educated at Temple Grove and Malvern College, where he took a classical entrance scholarship, although his gifts were still higher in mathematics. He passed through the entire course at Woolwich, and was appointed to a battery of the R.F.A., in which he served in England, South Africa, and India.

His division returned to England in November, 1914, went to France the following month, and saw hard work there for more than a year, after which he was transferred to the Salonika front.

Major Orde was promoted captain in October, 1914, acted as Staff Captain for more than a year, also as temporary brigade major and as liaison officer between the general commanding the French artillery at Salonika and our own army. In December, 1916, he was promoted major, and appointed to the command of a six-gun battery.

He was mentioned in despatches in January, 1916, and awarded the Military Cross in January, 1917.

HERALD WAR REPORT: Notice from the Morpeth Herald, February 23, 1917.

With a singular charming personality, he combined high intellectual powers, was devoted to his profession, and was a good all-round sportsman and fine horseman.


Morpeth is one of the few places where there is never any waste land, and consequently the Town Council have had the greatest difficulty in obtaining any land at all under the Cultivation of Land Order. We understand, however, that they have now practically arranged for three acres, and they have now a large number of suitable applicants anxious to assist in food production.

If land were available cultivators could no doubt be had without difficulty, and for this reason the local amateur horticulturists will welcome the new Order extending the rights of local authorities to the taking of land which is already occupied in cases where the authority are of the opinion that the most is not being made of it.

HERALD WAR REPORT: Advert from the Morpeth Herald, February 23, 1917.

Perhaps the Town Council could spare a little time to overlook their own East Greens allotments, where it would not be difficult to improve the cultivation of several of them, which in these strenuous times it is everyone’s duty to do where possible.

It may be added that while the cottage garden plays only a small part in the provisioning of the nation, yet it is a part large enough to justify the utmost care being spent upon it, and if the produce from this source is increased during the coming year by only 25 per cent over normal, a very important addition will have been made to the total food supply.


The Mayor of Morpeth informs us that close upon a quarter of a million — to be strictly accurate, £242,553 17s 6d — representing over £30 per head of the population, has been subscribed to the War Loan through Morpeth banks and Post Office as follows:—

Morpeth branch banks, £223,865; Morpeth Savings Bank, £7,188 17s 6d; Morpeth Post Office, £11,500. Of this, £148,015 is new money.

The gratifying features are the large proportion of new money invested, and the surprising sums contributed through the Post Office and Savings Bank, which is highly creditable to the small investors, and indicates a very large number of working class contributions.

For its size and population Morpeth has done exceedingly well in connection with the War Loan. Such an achievement in pre-war times would have been regarded as a most unlikely occurrence but it is a fitting corollary to the splendid patriotism which has been shown in sending men to the Front.


Mr Wm. Simpson, Press correspondent for the Morpeth War Savings Committee, sends us the following for publication:—

When these lines appear the War Loan lists will be closed. Many will have the satisfaction of feeling that they have done what they could, and some, it is to be feared, will have regrets because they have not. Those in the first category, however, having tasted the delights of helping the nation’s finances to the best of their power, may continue to sit at that feast of good things still, and those in the second may fortunately begin.

For after the War Loan rush of the last few weeks, we have to come back to some very common-place facts, chiefly to the fact that what was required of us is required still, rigid economy in the use of all the individual’s resources too.

And we come back, also, to the fact that war savings certificates — that channel through which the smallest contributor can pout his gifts into the country’s lap — are still to be had.

All this is doubtless very prosaic, but prosaic facts are often the fundamental and dominating ones, and in this case they are so. The War Loan has been a special effort. Now the common-place effort must be resumed once more.

We must remember the menace of the U boats, not in any spirit of panic, but as a thing to be seriously countered. No one should dare to squander a single farthing, or use up an iota of “goods and service” on an unnecessary thing. Besides great events in the military field are at hand, and the cry for guns, ammunition, and clothes for the soldiers, and all the other paraphernalia of war will grow louder as the months go on, so, in the words of Mr Fisher, “scrape and scrape” in order that these demands may be met.

Let each Britisher face the situation again. Let him do without as much as he can, and buy war savings certificates with what he saves. For the moment that is the whole duty of man. Britain called loudly in the War Loan campaign — she calls just as loudly still, though the tone be changed, and those who hear the call and continue practising the small economies of every day have the satisfaction of knowing that what they temporarily surrender makes for Britain’s permanent gain, just as surely as did the largest subscription the War Loan received.

It is too late to subscribe for the War Loan, but it is not too late to buy war savings certificates and to go on buying them. Go to the Town Hall, Morpeth, every Tuesday evening from 6 to 7pm and join the War Savings Association.


We have now received our last Consignment of Sporting Cartridges from all the firms, and will not be able to obtain any more until after the War.

John Smail,




The Commandant wishes to acknowledge the following gifts with many thanks:— 3lb. butter and ginger loaf, Mrs Rayne; cakes, Hon. Mrs A. Joicey and Mrs J. Simpson; books and pears, Mr Purdy; milk, Mrs T. Simpson, Hepscott; calf’s foot jelly, Mrs Gillespie; fresh eggs, Mrs Pringle, Tritlington.

A course of instruction in nursing will be given by Dr Philip for the purpose of providing more nurses for the hospital, as they are urgently needed now. For further information apply to Mrs Philip, Bon-Accord House, Morpeth.


The training of the Morpeth Company is going steadily forward, and in a manner which undoubtedly leads to greater efficiency. The spirit of enthusiasm shown by the majority of the men is excellent and augurs well for the success of the volunteer movement locally.

In a variety of ways the officers in command are doing their very utmost to make the drills varied and interesting, and at all times the instruction imparted is followed with the closest attention. Last Sunday morning Acting Second-Lieut. W. Duncan paid a compliment to those men whom he termed enthusiasts, for their regular attendance at drills.

Efforts are now being made to increase the strength of the company, and a special appeal is being made in our advertisement columns to men over military age to come forward and join the movement.

Since last Sunday morning the men have been receiving special instruction in the mechanism of the rifle, sighting, and firing at the Morris tube. Platoon drill has also been gone through. Acting Second-Lieut. Duncan is orderly officer this week.

Orders for week ending March 6th.

Orderly Officer — Acting Second Lieut. C. Gray. Next for duty — Acting Second Lieut. T.D. Shaw. Orderly Sergeant — Acting Sergt. C.W. Smiles. Next for duty — Acting Sergt. Geo. Brown.

Duties — Morpeth Detachment.

Tuesday.— Nos. 1 and 2 Platoons, Company Drill. No. 3 Platoon, Rifle Range.

Thursday.— No. 1 Platoon, Rifle Range. Nos. 2 and 3 Platoons, Company Drill.

Sunday.— Route March or Company Drill.


Monday and Wednesday, Squad Drill.

WILLIAM DUNCAN, Acting 2nd. Lieut. 5th N.V.R.


Accustomed as we are to the darkened thoroughfares there is one thing that many people have not yet accustomed themselves to, and that is to keep to the right when using footpaths. Numerous are the complaints that one hears in the town that no heed whatever is paid to the rule of the road.

Young people in particular swing along regardless of the fact that others are coming in the opposite direction on their proper side, and the inevitable result is a collision, often with disastrous results to those who exercise great care in their movements. When it is practically impossible on a dark night for anyone to distinguish one object from another, it would be as well if those who have neglected to do so in the past would just try to keep to their right, not only for their own safety but for the safety of the public in general.

Another source of danger in our main streets is this standing about in groups at night time. That practice should certainly be stopped. To elderly persons the shock received through coming in contact with these groups is a real danger.


The report of the Northumberland Guild of War Agricultural Helpers for 1916 states that the Guild was established early in the year with the object of enlisting and organising, in different districts of the county, helpers who were prepared to render war service by working on the land at farms where there was a deficiency of labour owing to the absence of men on military service.

The organisation now consists of 17 wardens and 140 sub-wardens. The Guild has been the means of placing 60 women in permanent situations, but the record is incomplete.

Regarding the organisation of casual workers, the returns are not complete. But the records which have been made show that 675 helpers have worked 10,798 days with very satisfactory results. A helper who has worked for 30 days is entitled to an armlet issued by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, and the number already earned in Northumberland is 124.

Special service was rendered by the following wardens in the organising of their districts:— Mrs Middleton (Castle Ward), Mrs White (Earsdon Urban), Mrs Rea (Glendale), Mrs Sample (Hexham Rural), and Miss Daphne Straker (Hexham Urban).

The report points out that the results were largely what was anticipated, and that it had been demonstrated that for a large number of important manual farming operations special training was entirely superfluous and unnecessary.


This week it has been my fortune to be in the society of numbers of men who have been wounded in battle, some of them wounded and broken in a way from which they can never recover; and the thing that struck me was the irrepressible spirits of everyone.

Goldsmith pictured to us the broken soldier who:

“Wept o’er his wounds and tales of sorrow done.

Shouldered his crutch and showed how fields are won.”

But here we had our modern soldiers who had advanced on the Somme in that dreadful conflict, but there were no tales of courage or of “sorrow done,” but they recapitulated many a ludicrous incident and comical scene or saying, even amid that “abomination of desolation” to which they who are capable cheerfully return to “carry on.”

I daresay a budget of amusing things I could repeat; but one must suffice.

Behind the lines a number of soldiers used to seek a little restaurant, something after the fashion of our fish and chip shops, but instead of fish they were supplied with eggs and potato chips. One evening a hungry warrior from a local colliery village entered and ordered “fower eggs” to his potatoes.

The good lady who ran the shop communicated the order to her attendant, but instead of saying “four” she used the French numeral “quatre,” pronounced as “cat.” So that to the customer it sounded as “cat eggs,” to which the unsophisticated soldier immediately replied, “No, hinney, hens’ eggs for me!” to the infinite amusement of his comrades.


The committee have to thank Mrs Irwin, The Nest, for a most successful tea, which realised £1 13s 3d; also gifts of socks from Miss Harbottle, King’s Avenue; Mrs Hoey, and Mrs Halls.

The hon. treasurer acknowledges with many thanks the following donations:— Mrs Lawson, Brighton Villa, £1 1s; Mrs Creighton, Castle Square, 10/-.

Tea next week will be given by Mrs Noble, Castle Square.


In connection with the special service held at the Congregational Church, Morpeth, in aid of the Lord Mayor’s Armenian Relief Fund, the entire collection, amounting to £14 7s, has been forwarded.


Mr W. Straker, secretary of the Northumberland Miners’ Association, has received the following letter from the President of the Board of Trade:—

“In connection with the decision of the Government to take possession of the coal mines in the United Kingdom, it is proposed to set up an Advisory Committee, composed of representatives of the coalowners, and the workmen to assist control of the coal mines, and I shall be obliged if you will be good enough to inform me whether you can see you way to serve as a member of the committee.”

The communication was laid before a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Association at Burt Hall, Newcastle, on Monday, when the following resolution was agreed to:— “That we place on record our appreciation of the invitation of the President of the Board of Trade sent to Mr Straker asking him to sit on the Advisory Committee in connection with the Government control of coal mines, and also that we thank the President of the Board of Trade for his invitation to our secretary.”


Corporal W.F. Green, Gordon Terrace, Bedlington, was killed in action on July 1st.

Official news has now been received of the death of Sergeant John Wilkinson of Isabella Pit, who was killed whilst attempting to cross barbed wire on July 1st.

Mr Wm. Daggett, Elmfield Gardens, Gosforth, has received official information from the War Office that his son, Captain C.H. Daggett, M.C., Northumberland Fusiliers, has been missing since the 12th inst. He was last seen on an enemy parapet assisting his wounded men.

The death of Lance-Corporal Edwin V. Burgess took place in France on the 7th of February. Lance-Corporal Burgess joined the Middlesex Officers’ Training Corps, but was transferred to the Border Regiment, when he went to France. He was in a dug-out in the firing line, where he contracted dysentery. Before enlisting Burgess was a clerk in Farrow’s Bank, London, and was acting cashier in a London branch of this bank when he voluntarily enlisted.


DAWSON.— Died of wounds received in France on the 5th February, 1917, A.B. Geo. Robt. Dawson, Z/4270, Hawke Battalion, R.N.D., son of George Dawson, Benton Square, Forest Hall.

NEESAM.— Killed in action on July 1st, 1916, previously reported missing, aged 26 years, Private Thomas Neesam, 750 N.F., beloved husband of Isabella Neesam, and son of William and the late Mary Neesam of Felling, and son-in-law of James and the late Sarah Smith of Choppington.— Deeply mourned by his loving wife and child.

SCOTT.— Killed in action, July 16th, 1916, previously reported missing, aged 38 years, Thomas the dearly beloved husband of Hannah Scott, 5 Gordon Terrace, Bedlington.— Deeply mourned and sadly missed by his loving wife and three children.

FERRIER.— Missing since July 1st, 1916, now reported killed in action, Private J.R. Ferrier, 961, N.F., the beloved husband of Mary Jane Ferrier of Bedlington.— Ever remembered by his loving wife and child.

GREEN.— Missing since July 1st, 1916, now reported killed in action, Corporal Mark Fairhurst Green, 982, N.F., aged 30 years, the dearly beloved husband of Eleanor Jane Green, and only son of the late Robert and Margaret Jane Green, of Gordon Terrace, Bedlington.— Ever remembered by his loving wife and two children.