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The Great War News from Lancaster in 1914

2nd October 1914

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

Killed by Express Trains
Local Territorials’ Deaths

A message was received by Mr Harriss, Chief Constable of Lancaster, on Tuesday, announcing that Private John Huartson, of the 5th King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, was killed by an express on the Great Western Railway on Monday, at Twyford, between Reading and Didcot. He lived in Ridge Street. He leaves a widow and one child.

A verdict of “Accidental death” was returned at the inquest, yesterday, on the body of Huartson. Captain Bingham said deceased was sentry on a railway bridge, and when his comrade went to relieve him he could not be found. Subsequently his body was discovered about ten yards down the embankment. His injuries were terrible, and death must have been instantaneous. The body was found 100 yards from his post, and he had evidently left the bridge contrary to orders. His loss was very real, as he was a good soldier and always cheerful.

The Vicar of Twyford, Rev R W H Acworth, sent a Union Jack to cover the coffin, upon which his comrades placed floral tributes. The coffin was borne to the train en route for Lancaster.

Two Other Territorials Killed

News was received in Garstang by telegram yesterday that Privates James Walton and Ernest Halton of the 5th Battalion, King’s Own Territorials, and belonging to Calder Vale, had been killed by an express train whilst railway guarding at a level crossing at Steventon.

The Fighting at Cambrai
Sergeant Ellis William’s Experiences

Sergeant Ellis Williams of the Royal Lancaster’s, son of Mr Ellis Williams, of Bowerham Road, was wounded in the right arm by shrapnel in the fighting at Cambrai on 26th August, and after being in the London Hospital and Lord Lucas’ house, near Luton, reached home on furlough on Friday. Describing the fighting west of Cambrai, he says the Germans discovered the British position by means of aeroplanes while the troops were entrenching, and at once opened fire. They held the position until nine o’clock at night, and retired upon Cambrai, which they reached at 5.30 am. In the fighting which followed (already described by Royal Lancaster men in these columns) Sergeant Williams was wounded. Lieutenant Irvine was in charge of his platoon, and was also wounded, but the sergeant did not see him in the confusion which ensued upon the troops being surprised by the Germans. Lieutenant Irvine was a very nice fellow, and was a great favourite with the men. Many wounded had perforce to be left behind, and only those who could walk were saved. In this engagement the regiment lost its commanding officer, Colonel Dykes, and ten of eleven other officers, including Captain Higgins, who received a nasty wound in the temple. “He has got home, I believe,” said the sergeant, “but when I passed him he was in an awful state.” Sergeant Williams describes a gallant deed by Drummer Hayden, who, though badly wounded between the legs, went back to the firing line for a comrade named Smith, and carried him out of danger.

The Record Office have notified Mr and Mrs Williams that their son, Sergeant John Williams, was wounded, but that his whereabouts and the nature of his wounds are unknown. His brother last saw him during entrenching operations on the 25th. Another brother, Lloyd Williams, is with the 2nd Battalion in India. Sergeant Williams was much gratified while in hospital at receiving letters from old school fellows at Scotforth school.

Daily Life of the 5th Battalion

Communications that reach relatives and friends in Lancaster from the 5th Battalion (Foreign Service) of the Royal Lancaster Regiment show that life is very jolly for the men, who are enjoying themselves immensely. They are eagerly awaiting the summons to go on foreign service, and as they have got the idea that the home defence battalion must be complete and efficient before they can be sent abroad, they are insistent in calling upon the young men of Lancaster to “hurry up” and fill the home service battalion. “The country around where we are staying is very pretty but flat,” writes “One of the 200,” “and we have had many opportunities of seeing it on route marches. One march of 20 miles was round a place named ---. We had plenty of work, drilling from 6.30 to 8.30, 10.15 to 12.30, and 2.30 to 4.30. Between parades we have other work to do, bringing food, washing dishes and clothes (although we send ours out), and many other little jobs too numerous to mention. All parades are subject to alteration at the option of the OC.
“As regards the 200, the opinion of those competent to judge is that the progress made has been remarkable. This is chiefly owing to the men’s enthusiasm and to the painstaking instructors. All the men are looking fit, the weather is exceptionally brilliant, and although we are in tents there are few cases for the hospital staff. A day or two ago we were supplied with palliasses (which are filled with straw) for beds. Some were given by Lady Ian Hamilton, but not all. Extra blankets were also supplied so we don’t feel the cold at night much.”

German’s Fears of Their Officers

Private C Bain of the King’s Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment), writes to a relative: “What do you think of our army now? I wonder what the Kaiser thinks about it. his famous crushing machine turns out to be an easily demoralised crowd of automatic, soulless clods who don’t know the meaning of individual effort and efficiency. Take away their driving power, the fear of their brutal officers, and they stand a useless mass of brainless, bewildered men. They have a certain amount of pluck, but don’t know how to put it into account. Three times on the run they came up to within 100 yards of our lines, when a determined charge with their superior numbers must have wiped us out. But no. As soon as they spotted us preparing with steel to meet them, about-turn they went, helter skelter for their lives. No wonder our infantry hold them in contempt. Their cavarly are very daring – until they spot ours. Then the same thing happens again. Their artillery is grand, their shooting deadly accurate, as we found out to our cost; their guns throw a far heavier shell than ours, and it explodes with a deafening crash. At Cambrai and Mons the air was simply alive with them, and how any man lived through it was a marval. I noticed that a lot of their high explosive shells never burst. Several fell just behind me, splashing me with great clods of earth. I fully expected, as each on screamed over my head, to be blown to atoms, but there must have been a good angel keeping watch and ward over me, for not one exploded that came over me. I am afraid that is we were not granted the satisfaction of firing back there would have been a kind of panic, for what with the terrific explosion of the shells and the perpetual hiss and whistle of bullets, the place was a hell on earth. Only the excitement of firing, I think, kept our men so cool. There seemed to be a grim determination to slay, and slay as many as possible. The cool but rapid shooting of our fellows proved too much even for the vast crowd that never seemed to thin out. They staggered and reeled back like drunken men, then ran for cover lashed by our gunners, who are superb. And so are our cavalry; they simply don’t care a cuss for anything or anybody. And when our fellows get going with the bayonet, as they did at Cambrai later in the day, they are perfect devils. Our officers are grand, and they cheer their men by their laughter and jokes in the trenches. They are gluttons for work, and are always in the thick of it, and always cheerful, cool, and quick to see and seize any chance of delivering a punishing blow at any part of the enemy’s lines.

The Wagon Works

General Belfield inspected the staff at the Wagon Works prison yesterday morning. On Tuesday the Vicar of Lancaster conducted an open-air service at the works. Mr Bardsley proposes to conduct similar services each week.

King’s Own Officer Killed in East Africa

Lieutenant E G M Thorneycroft, of the Royal Lancaster Regiment, has been reported killed in the East African Protectorate. Lieutenant Thorneycroft was gazetted Second Lieutenant on 16 Aug 1905 and lieutenant on 2 Nov 1907. He became a lieutenant (local captain) of the 4th Battalion, (Uganda) King’s African Rifles, on 30 Dec 1909 and company commander on 30 May 1912.

“Bravo, King’s Own”

“A villager,” writing from Pangbourne, Berkshire, says:- “I write to you on the gallant assistance of Lance Corporal Whalley, of the 5th Battalion, King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, at a fire which occurred in this village on the night of 22nd September. He did very good service in extinguishing the flames; and he got wet through, but he was quite happy after his rough task.” The writer proceeds: “I shall never forget the boy for his service and he shall never forget it himself from Berkshire. I hope the people of Lancaster will see this in your local newspaper. “Bravo, King’s Own!”

Lancastrian and His Revolver a Foolish Action

The manner in which Alfred Wood, draughtsman, 11 Cromwell Road, defied Special Constable R Threlfall, at one a.m. on the 12th August at the Vale railway bridge, Skerton, was told at the Lancaster Borough police court on Monday, when Wood was charged with carrying a gun without a licence. Mr Neville Holden appeared for the defendant, who pleaded guilty.
Chief Constable Harriss explained that the hearing had been delayed owing to the report not having been considered by the Finance Committee of the County Council, the local taxation authority for the district, until a week ago. When Threlfall spoke to him defendant very foolishly – “I could use stronger words if I liked,” said Mr Harriss – produced a revolver, making use of a foolish remark as to what he could do with it if he cared. He seemed, indeed, to have regarded the duty of bridge guarding as a bit of a pleasure on the part of the special constables. That duty, placed upon him by the War Office, was imperative, and the way in which the men of Lancaster had rallied to his assistance was beyond all praise. As reports from all over the country had shown, it was a duty not unattended by risk. Probably defendant did not mean anything, but it was a very foolish thing for a man in his position, who ought to have known better, to be guilty of. The public ought to recognise that this work was being done voluntarily, and that therefore the town’s exchequer was being saved a considerable sum. If Threlfall had not kept his head he might have shot defendant, and defendant would only have himself to blame.
Threlfall, who said he was now in the active service company of the 5th Battalion King’s Own, said when defendant got off his bicycle he produced a revolver and made a remark about the skill with which he could have used it before he (witness) could have done anything.
Mr Holden, on defendant’s behalf, expressed regret, and explained that the had bought the revolver along with a number of other things, and happened to have it in his pocket only because he had forgotten to take it out after cleaning it.
The Mayor, after the magistrates had retired, said defendant appeared in a very bad light, and to mark their sense of the enormity of the offence the Bench had determined to fine him £5 and all costs. He might thank his stars that he was not either killed or wounded. Threlfall was to be highly complimented on the way he used his judgement. If defendant had been on the Great Western Railway he would probably have been shot dead. He hoped the case would be a warning to him and everybody else.

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