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The Great War News from Lancaster in 1914

27th November 1914

These pages include reports from the local press in Lancaster and district from November 1914.

5th Battalion, King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment

The 5th Battalion King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment has recently been transferred from Didcot to Sevenoaks, where other units of the West Lancashire Territorial Division are also in camp. It is now definitely stated that the battalion, at least, is to form part of the 2nd Expeditionary Force, and the men are looking forward with great eagerness in being drafted nearer the fighting line. An officer who was in Lancaster last week-end stated that the men are enjoying their drill tremendously, and are settling down in true soldier like demeanour to the serious work of making themselves “fit”. The bill of health is excellent. There have been few cases of sickness, and the men have stood the ordeal of inoculation against typhoid in a manner that speaks well of their physical condition. All the men are in billets, and thus are not exposed to the rigours of wintry weather as they were at Didcot. All have now been clothed and booted, and in addition a large amount of new equipment – transport, commissariat, etc – has been provided. It is expected that new rifles will be issued shortly. The 10th Lancashire Battery Royal Field Artillery (Lancaster) is in the neighbourhood working hard under similar conditions. They also have been refitted with guns and equipment.

Quartermaster Sergeant Woodcock and the Battalion ‘Mascot’

The regimental mascot ‘Didcot’ a grey cat was found one day among the meat while the battalion was in town. It was only a stray kitten then, but it has been ‘fed up’ and is now a sleek and good-looking cat. It receives rations every day, and wears an identity disc, just like the officers and men.

Ex-Royal Lancaster Officer Killed

Captain George Arthur Murray Docker, of the Royal Fusiliers, who was killed in action on 17th November 1914, was the elder son of Mr Arthur Docker, late of Sydney, New South Wales. He was at Oriel College, Oxford, where he studied law and passed the Law Preliminary Examination, but did not take his degree as he proceeded to South Africa with the 3rd Militia Battalion King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. Captain Docker was well known in the cricketing world. He was a member of the MCC and was one of the team sent to the West Indies in 1913. He represented his college in cricket, football, and athletics and played polo and cricket for his regiment. He was a member of the Inner Temple, and was called to the Bar this year. He married in 1903 Josephine, daughter of the late Mr Louise Arthur Goodeve, and leaves three sons and a daughter.

One Brother Killed; Another a Prisoner of War.

The relatives of Corporal Watson of the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, received news on Saturday from the War Office that another son (Private J S Watson) was killed in action on the 29th October. He was a reservist in the 2nd Border Regiment, and joined his regiment at the outbreak of the war. He was 26 years of age, and leaves a widow, who lives in Sheffield. The name of the battle at which he received his wounds is not known. His sister is Mrs Armand, of Windermere Road, and his mother (who formerly lived in the Bowerham district) now resides at Askam.

Corporal Watson, writing from Sestungslazarette, Cologne, where he is a prisoner of war, to his sister in Lancaster, says: “I have got over my second operation alright. They took the bullet out of my neck; rather a funny place to find it, because it went in just under my eye. It has affected my left eye (I can’t see yet), and also my ear, for I can hardly hear with it. My face is all askew, and my mouth is upside down when I laugh, which I am always doing. You would think I was pulling faces at you. My nose is also looking seven ways at once. But I am a cheerful sort of a chap; I take things as they come. I was wounded on the 26th August, after three days of marching. We got out meals as we could, and snatched what sleep we could. On the last day of our march we went into an open field about 4 a.m. for a rest, and the colonel told us to take off our packs. All the lads got scattered about, never thinking the enemy was only 600 yards away. All of a sudden they opened fire on us. You should have seen the lads run to get their rifles, and some of them were killed and wounded in doing so. The front company was ordered to open fire, and they managed to keep the enemy’s fire down a little while we got into firing formation. A lot got killed, though. As soon as the lot of us got into action we had more confidence. The colonel had been killed. The enemy had field and machine guns, and got plenty of rifle fire into our battalion. We were caught like rats in a trap. It was awful to see the lads drop. It was terrible listening to their moans. I managed to escape free from any wound for about four hours, and then someone shouted for us to retire. Not a soul moved; I presume they were all wounded and could not move. Just as the word “Retire” was given a shell burst and caught me on the leg. I took no notice of that, but just as I was rising a shrapnel shell burst right in front of me, and “poor old Fred” went down – to be picked up eight hours later, when they carried him to a church which had been turned into a hospital. As I lay in the church I could still hear the guns at work spitting out their deadly message. I heard that the captain told 80 men to fix bayonets, as he was going to charge a place where he thought there were 40 Germans. When he got there he found about 300. All our lads were killed but one…. We have a few English here (in the hospital at Cologne), so it is not quite so lonely”

Princess Mary’s Fund

The Duke of Devonshire writes:- On the 15th October, her Royal Highness the Princess May appealed for £100,000 for the object of sending Christmas gifts to all sailors afloat and to all soldiers at the front; but the public are responding so generously to the fund that her Royal Highness has decided to extend it – in the first place, by sending a present to all British Colonial and Indian troops serving outside the British Isles. Should the public still continue to support the fund, it may be possible further to extend its scope to include all his Majesty’s troops in the British Isles, so that every soldier and sailor of the King, in whatever part of the world he may be, shall receive a present from the homeland. The present for those at the front consists of an embossed brass box, a tinder lighter, a pipe, cigarettes and tobacco – with various alternatives for non-smokers – together with a Christmas Card.
The brass boxes, of which 500,000 have been ordered, are now being made in four important centres of industry in Great Britain. The manufacture of the tinder lighters is providing work in three localities, also in Great Britain. Tobacco is being supplied by three firms, cigarettes by two and pipes by seven. The covers of the packets of cigarettes and tobacco are being printed by a London firm. The orders for the Christmas cards and the cardboard boxes for packing the presents have also been placed in London. It is difficult to give an exact estimate of the number of person employed, but it is safe to say that the number runs into thousands. In subscribing to her Royal Highness’s fund, the public have the satisfaction of knowing that they are not only contributing to the present itself, but are affording much needed relief in industries which are suffering from the war. The box will be sent to the widows or mothers of those who have fallen. All subscriptions should be sent to her Royal Highness the Princess Mary, Buckingham Palace.

A Royal Lancaster’s Conspicuous Bravery

Sergeant Grant of the 1st Battalion King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, who is well known in Lancaster – having been gymnasium instructor at the depot for some time – and who is now at the front, had distinguished himself on the field, and has been recommended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal. He has also been promoted to company sergeant major. The particular act for which Sergeant Grant has been recommended for the special medal has not come to hand, but the following extracts from a letter (dated 3rd November), sent to a friend in Lancaster, will give some idea of the rough time he and other Royal Lancaster have endured:- “You talk about big game shooting! This is a treat, only having to dodge yourself spoils it. However, my luck has been in up to date. If you could only guess the escapes I have had you would be surprised how I am still on earth. How I am going to stop “on top” I often wonder, as no one at home can have the least idea what it is like. I only wish you could just come here and see the sight in front or our trenches.
There are dead Germans hung up on our wires in hundreds; in fact they are like a lot of sparrows hung out for the day. But that is telling tales, and I must stop, or they may not let this letter go through…. We are fighting like hell here, and I have just pinched a few minutes to drop you a line. It is the first chance I have had to write to anyone, for I am wasting valuable time and lead! The boys might think I was only dodging the chances of life, but that must never be said. You will no doubt remember me saying I wanted to account for at least twelve Germans before I went under. Well, up to date, I have “done in” about thirty that I know about, and goodness knows how many I don’t know about. So if they get me today I am satisfied with my bag. Of course, I would like to get home again and see you all, especially as I have had no pay since a fortnight before leaving Lancaster. Just imagine 4s 6d a day getting put on one side; does it not break a man’s heart to think he may leave this world any minute and have all that money due to him!”

Territorial Killed

The death of another Territorial who was killed on the line at the end of a viaduct near Hanwell Station, on the Great Western Railway, was inquired into a Paddington inquest on Saturday. The deceased was Private John Robert Singleton, aged 20, of the 4th King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment (Territorials) and a native of Barrow. It was stated that he went on duty at nine o’clock on Thursday morning as sentry, and ten minutes later, after an express train to Reading had passed, another sentry saw him lying in the middle of the line. He was conveyed to Bishops Road station in another train, but was dead on arrival. Captain Parson said the work was very dangerous unless the men exercised great care. To carry out his duties properly it might have been necessary for Singleton to cross the lines. The driver of the express train said Singleton was walking on the opposite line to that along which the train was travelling, and suddenly crossed the six foot way and stepped in front of the engine. Witness had been sounding his whistle for some distance. A verdict of accidental death was returned.

Only a proportion of our collections are on display at anyone time.  Certain items are on loan for display in other institutions.  An appointment is required to consult any of our collections which are held in store. 1914.

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