The First World War as reported 100 years ago

HERALD WAR REPORT: News, notices and adverts from the Morpeth Herald, March 12, 1915.
HERALD WAR REPORT: News, notices and adverts from the Morpeth Herald, March 12, 1915.

In this feature to commemorate the First World War, we will bring you the news as it happened in 1915, 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.


On Tuesday evening first, the Rev. J.T. Wardle Stafford, D.D., of Newcastle, will pay a welcome return visit to the Wesleyan Church, in Manchester Street, Morpeth, when he will lecture on “The Church and the War.”

The reverend doctor, who is well known in the North, is an able lecturer and his address will be well worth hearing.

The chair will be taken by Mr Cuthbert Bainbridge at 7.30. A large audience is anticipated. All soldiers are specially invited. A collection will be taken in aid of the circuit funds.


Sir,— Your readers will deplore with me the loss of Trooper A. White, announced in your last issue, and in which our sympathy will naturally be extended in the strongest manner to the parents who have lost so much in their son, and of deep respect for the gallantry of that trooper who has come to this untimely end.

We feel confident that he has shown in the battlefield the undaunted courage and the fighting spirit of the Northumberland Yeomanry, of which he was a member.

When we consider the constant exposure he would have to undergo in the trenches and from forced marches; and while an officer like Major Sidney can bear testimony to his bravery and his gallant request to replace a comrade in the trenches although not detailed for duty, in which he lost his life, we cannot pay too high a tribute of praise to his personal character and qualities.

A more devoted band than our Yeomanry never left these shores to uphold their country’s honour. Nobly have they done so, for what more becomes a soldier’s fame than to meet a soldier’s death fighting to the bitter end against overwhelming odds.

All honour to his memory and to all British soldiers who have died for their native land. A country, as England, need not fear the final issue when it can count men like Trooper White, maintaining nobly the hereditary valour of our nation against the German legions.

Yours, etc.,


Bedlington Colliery.


In his monthly circular to members of the Northumberland Miners’ Association, Mr Wm. Straker deals with various phases of industrial unrest.

Referring to the recent Food Conference in Newcastle, he says:— “There was a suggestion made that in order to put our protest into practical form trades unionists should agree to withhold their labour for 24 hours. This did not, however, get much sympathy, as it was fully recognised that, owing to the present pressing needs of the country, such action would be too drastic.

“It did, however, show a dangerous tendency, which may take greater hold of the workers should their less militant protests go unheeded, and the cost of living continues to increase.”

Dealing with the forthcoming National Conference of the Workers’ War Emergency Committee, Mr Straker points out: “There will be a number of proposals put forward at the conference.

“One will be ‘That the Government should at once take steps to obtain the control of more ships and itself bring wheat from Argentina, Canada, and elsewhere, at the bare cost of transport.’

“If those fighting at the front are to be kept supplied with food and material in order to achieve that victory which we all pray for it is absolutely necessary that the workers at home, who have to send those supplies, be kept in a state of efficiency.

“Another proposal will be:— ‘That in fixing shipping freights for coastal vessels under their control, the Government should have regard to normal rates rather than to the excessive rates inflicted by private ship owners.’

“It will also be proposed:— ‘That maximum prices for coal should be fixed by the Government’; and ‘That the Government commandeer coal supplies and distribute to household consumers through municipal or co-operative agencies.’”


This County Territorial Battalion has recently been divided into two, viz., the 1st Line and 2nd Line.

After completing the First Line and also its First Reserves, there is a shortage of men in the Second Line (including increased establishment) of about 340 men.

Recruiting of late has been quiet. There is, however, to be a special effort made to get this small number of men. In Ashington and Hirst districts on Saturday there is to be a recruiting parade to get recruits.

Men are beginning to write in from the country districts for particulars; shortly they are — (1) age, between 19 and 30; (2) height, not under 5ft. 1in.; (3) good bodily health.

Any man answering those requirements should apply locally or direct to the Depot, Fenkle Street, Alnwick. Immediately a man is passed and enlisted, he is supplied with uniform, and his preliminary training is done in Alnwick.

The recruiting district of the 7th extends from Berwick to Ashington and Morpeth, an extends as far west as Wooler and Rothbury.

The particular advantage of a man enlisting in the battalion is that he will serve with men entirely drawn from his own district, and he will probably be among his own friends.


The Commandant, VI. Northumberland V.A. Hospital, has received with thanks gifts from the undermentioned for the use of the patients in the Hospital:— Magazines and papers — Social Club, Ashington; Miss Syne, Soldiers’ Institute, Mrs Harding, Mrs Mitchell, Mrs Wilkinson, Lieut. Anderson, Miss Young; fruit and flowers — Miss Simpson, Mrs Maxwell, Mrs Joicey, Mrs Dickie, “E” Co. 19th Northumberland Fusiliers; nut mill and parsley chopper, the Matron; rabbits, Miss Middleton; jelly and custard, Miss Simpson; tea-cakes, Mrs Harding; cigarettes, Miss Anderson; eggs, Mrs Thomas, Mrs Straker, Miss Richardson; cutlery, Mrs Clayton; cakes, butter-knife, jam spoon and sugar-tongs, Mrs Dickie; loaf, Mrs Jobson; cake and knife sharpener, Miss Mouat; bandages, Lieut. Anderson; tablecloth, Mrs Hood; curtains and fittings for lockers, Mrs Speke.


M. Emile Vandervelde, the Belgian Minister of State, was the principal speaker at a large and enthusiastic meeting held in the Ashington Miners’ Theatre on Sunday afternoon. The other speaker was M. Cammerts, the well-known Belgian author. Mr W. Straker, miners’ agent presided.

Prior to the arrival of the speakers, the Harmonic Prize Choir, under the leadership of Mr John Vine, rendered the National Anthems of the Allies and other pieces.

The chairman said that they had assembled that afternoon to hear an address from M. Vandervelde, the well-known international Socialist and now a member of the Belgian Government. (Applause.)

In Belgium as in England, all shades of political thought had found it necessary to unite together against the common foe. Whatever might have been the dispute that brought about this war, certainly Belgium was no party to it, and had nothing to do with it.

The working-classes of Belgium felt the results of this war more terribly than did the other classes; and M. Vandervelde had come to appeal to the working-classes of England to assist to relieve the terrible suffering and destitution of the Belgian people. They could not suffer like the Belgians were doing, but they could help them to bear the suffering that was being inflicted upon them.

M. Vandervelde did not speak English very well. He would speak in French and M.T. Demant, of Newcastle, would act as interpreter.

M. Vandervelde, who had a rousing reception, said he was there as a member of the Labour Party in Belgium. (Applause.) England had made a splendid effort in helping the Belgians, but there was in Belgium millions of Belgians under German rule, who would have been condemned to starvation if England and other countries had not come to their help. There were hundreds of thousands of trade unionists who were out of work because they would not work for the Germans. It was for them that he had come to ask for their assistance.

He went on to say that the Belgian King was with his army defending that little bit of their country which remained to them. (Applause.) He need not tell them how gratified they were for the kindness that England had shown to Belgium, especially to the Belgian refugees who had found a refuge in this country, and to the wounded Belgian soldiers who had been so well treated in their hospitals.

Besides the refugees and the soldiers there was another lot of Belgians who must not be forgotten; those who were left still in that country and were under the heel of the German invader. They were left in a state of destitution. They could still work and make higher wages than they had ever done before if they would work for the Germans, but they did not wish to work in the interests of the Germans. (Hear, hear, and applause.)

The miners refused to work, except on three days a week, and only to produce sufficient coal for the daily use of the Belgian people. They absolutely refused to produce coal for the Germans, and would rather starve than do it. There they had the situation practically a strike of the workmen, and not against their ordinary masters, but against the German invader. (Applause.)

In the month of August last year, when Belgium was invaded by the Germans, some of the Social Democrat Germans, in uniform, came to the People’s Hall in Brussels and said to the Belgians: “We are very sorry for you, but it is your own fault. Why did you not allow us to walk through in order to take France?” Their reply to that was: “With us it is a question of honour.” (Applause.)

It was a question of their neutrality which had been vouched for by the Great Powers of Europe, including the German Government, and had for its purpose the making of Belgium a buffer state, preventing France from invading Germany and Germany from invading France through her soil.

Well, said the German Socialists: “This talk about honour are fancy ideas belonging to the middle classes.” The Belgians replied that the signatures of the working-people were as sacred as that of the middle-classes. (Applause.) Supposing they had acquiesced in Germany’s request and let her go through Belgium, what would have happened? The invaders might not have bombarded their towns, but they would certainly have bombarded the capital of France. Then the Belgian people would have considered themselves traitors in allowing such a thing to take place. Therefore, they considered that it was not only their right to oppose Germany, but it was their bounden duty to prevent the violation of the treaty of neutrality. (Loud applause.) In defending their neutrality they were defending the democracy of Europe. (Applause.)

This neutrality had been assailed by German Imperialists, who had committed a crime against the rights of man and against humanity as a whole. (Applause.) Germany tried to find an excuse for their crime by saying that Belgium, before the war, had secret agreements with France and England. He asserted that there was never any tendency in that direction. Whilst the greater part of the Belgian people, especially the Social Democrats, had a leaning towards France and England for the ideals of freedom they represented, the Government probably tended more towards Germany than to France or England, though never wishing to be governed by Germany.

In a note to the Belgian Government the German Government said that if the Belgians would allow them to pass through they should respect their independence and would not touch their colonies. Well, the only answer they could give to such an insolent demand was an absolute refusal. (Applause.)

M. Vandervelde then referred to the great havoc that had been wrought in their country by the invaders. Their towns and villages had been devastated and great treasures had been destroyed. Not only had their soldiers been shot down, but peasants, young and old, women and children, had been murdered in cold blood. “I do hope,” declared the speaker with great emotion, “that justice will one day avenge that crime.” (Applause.)

When the Germans invaded their country they knew that they could count on Great Britain. They knew that the British people would help them not only with their gold, but with their hearts. They also knew that they were sending hundreds of thousands of men over to France to fight for the French and Belgians, and that they were not doing that from any selfish motives, but for civilisation itself. (Applause.)

He again appealed to them in the name of justice and liberty to help their fellow-workers in Belgium who were on the verge of starvation because they refused to work for the Germans. (Loud applause.)

M. Cammerts, who spoke excellent English, said that they were struggling hand in hand to conquer this bitter foe, and they would stick faithfully to each other to the end. He alluded to the close solidarity which bound the workers of the Allies’ countries, especially the workers of Belgium and England. (Applause.)

This solidarity did not date from the war. They had often met in recent years to help each other in their struggles to improve the conditions of international labour.

The strike in Belgium was now very different to the strikes in the early days when the Belgian capitalist was the only enemy. It was a strike against the German invader. The Belgian worker had decided to put down his tools and would not work in the pit, in the mill, the factory, or the railway for the Germans. (Applause.)

Supposing England had been invaded, and its towns destroyed and women and children butchered, he felt sure that the English people would have done exactly the same as the Belgians and would have taken a solemn oath not to accept the enemy’s dirty money. (Applause.) “Germany must be beaten,” declared the speaker, “and we must all do our duty to that end.” Applause.

Mr Edwards, on behalf of the local miners’ lodges, who had initiated the meeting, proposed a vote of thanks to the chairman and speakers, the lessees of the theatre, to the choir and conductor.



The Secretary of the Admiralty issued the following announcement on Monday night:

Wing Commander Longmore reports that an air attack on Ostend was carried out yesterday afternoon by six aeroplanes of the Naval Wing.

Of these, two had to return owing to the petrol freezing. The remainder reached Ostend and dropped 11 bombs on the submarine pier and four bombs on the Kursaal, the headquarters of the military. All the machines and pilots returned. It is probable that considerable damage was done.

No submarines were seen in the base.


Press Bureau, Monday.

The Secretary of the Admiralty makes the following announcement:—

Since the war began his Majesty’s ships have on every occasion done their utmost to rescue from the sea German officers and men whose vessels have been sunk. More than one thousand have been saved, often in circumstances of difficulty and danger, although no such treatment has ever yet been shown to British sailors in similar distress.

Officers and men thus taken prisoners have received the treatment appropriate to their rank, and such courtesies as the service allows, and in the case of the Emden, were accorded the honours of war.

The Board of Admiralty do not however, feel justified in extending honourable treatment to the 29 officers and men rescued from U8.

This vessel has been operating in the Straits of Dover and the English Channel during the last few weeks. There is strong probability she has been guilty of attacking and sinking unarmed merchant ships and firing torpedoes at ships carrying non-combatants, neutrals and women.

In particular, the steamer Oriole is missing, and there is grave reason to fear she was sunk at the beginning of February with all hands — 20. There is, of course, great difficulty in bringing home particular crimes to any individual German submarine, and it may be that evidence necessary to establish a conviction will not be obtained until after a conclusion of peace.

In the meantime persons against whom such charges are pending must be subjects of special restriction, and cannot be accorded the distinctions of their rank, or be allowed to mingle with other prisoners of war.


Paris, Monday.

The Matin publishes the following telegram from Dunkerque, dated March 6th:—

A citizen of Lille, who left that city a week ago and offered his services to the French military authorities, states that the inhabitants of the great northern city are bravely awaiting the end of their troubles.

While the morale of the population is excellent, that of the German army is becoming considerably worse. Soldiers under orders for the front show much depression. A good number weep, and those who can, desert.


The Press Bureau issued the following statement on Tuesday afternoon:—

The Field-Marshal commanding the British forces in France reports as follows:—

(1) The situation on our front remains unchanged.

(2) The mastery over the enemy’s snipers reported in my communique of March 1 as having been acquired in the neighbourhood of La Bassee has been maintained and similar conditions have been produced on other portions of our front, notably in the region of Ypres. This result is primarily due to local and individual initiative, and has been materially assisted by successful mining operations.

(3) On the night of March 5-6, a mine was exploded under a German trench at the south-east of Ypres, several of the enemy being killed. The mine crater was temporarily occupied by our troops, and the enemy’s trench on each side rendered useless.

(4) On several sectors of our front the enemy’s artillery has been more active than usual, but the effect has been slight.


The latest achievement in Germany’s sea policy may have an important effect on public feeling in America.

It is stated that the American sailing ship, “William P. Frye,” has been sunk by the German raider “Prinz Eitel Friedrich,” whose commander first declared the “William P. Frye’s’” wheat cargo contraband, and commenced throwing it overboard, but afterwards changed his mind and sunk the ship.


The Secretary of the Admiralty makes the following announcement:—

The British steamship Tangistan, 3,738 tons, owned by Messrs F.C. Strick and Co, London, was sunk by a torpedo off Scarborough at 12.30 this morning, March 9. The crew consisted of 38 hands. Of these only one survivor is at present known to have been picked up.

The British steamship Blackwood, 1,230 tons, owned by the Tynes de Line, Ltd., North Shields, was sunk without warning by a torpedo from a submarine at 6am, on March 9, off Hastings. The crew of 17 were all saved and were landed at Newhaven.

The British steamship Princess Victoria, 1,108 tons, owned by Messrs. M. Langlands and Son, Glasgow, was sunk without warning by a torpedo from a submarine at 9.15am, on March 9, off Liverpool. The crew of 34 hands were all saved and landed at Liverpool.


The British Government’s Press Bureau issued the following statement on Wednesday:—

The German submarine which was rammed and sunk by H.M.S. Ariel was the U12, and that out of her crew of 28, the number saved was 10.

Germany has lost several submarines since the beginning of the war. It has officially been announced that six German submarines have been sunk by the British. The first, No 15, was sunk by the Birmingham six days after hostilities began. H.M.S. Badger rammed and sank a submarine in the North Sea on October 25. U18 was sunk off the coast of Scotland on November 23, all the crew but one being saved. On February 28th, this year, the steamer Thordis rammed a German submarine in the channel, and on March 4 submarine 8 was sunk off Dover and the crew captured.

It is interesting to add that in the official list issued by the Admiralty it is stated that the West Hartlepool steamer Alston reported having rammed a submarine off Dungeness on February 26, and that the North Shields trawler Alexander Hastie was “approached by a submarine which fouled the trawl” on February 23.