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The Great War News from Lancaster in 1914

11th September 1914

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

The “Roll of Honour”
How Colonel Dykes was Killed. Officers’ Bravery and Heroism

A story told by a sergeant of the King’s Own gives some brief intimation of how Colonel Dykes and two of his officers met their death. Here is the story, told with laconic bluntness – a soldier’s description, in fact, of an engagement which a war correspondent would have been able to present in thrilling fashion: The King’s Own with the Lancashire Fusiliers and the Middlesex Regiment were ordered to cover the retreat of the allied forces from Mons. On Tuesday 25th August, they left the position in which they had been entrenched to take new ground, and were marching through the night, finding themselves at day break between Cambrai and Le Cateau. Several French regiments and a Highland regiment had passed their lines, when as the King’s Own were taking breakfast, the German artillery boomed forth. Several shells fell in the vicinity of the trenches without doing much harm, but the enemy’s artillery was much superior in numbers to that of the allies, and they poured in a raking shrapnel fire before the English guns began to speak. There was no doubt either about the enemy’s range finding, under cover of the guns the enemy came on in the proportion of six to one. Men were mowed down like ninepins by the bursting shrapnel, and it seemed as though the King’s Own had been singled out for the special fury of the onslaught. Colonel Dykes fell at an early stage of the engagement while shouting encouragement to his men. Fighting continued furiously from 4.30 until 9.30. Then there was a lull, and the enemy, seemingly reinforced, made good their advance, and another five hours’ desperate conflict ensued. The allies fought the advance inch by inch, fighting becoming so close that the King’s Own got home with several dashing bayonet charges. One of the most brilliant of these bayonet charges was led by Captain Clutterbuck, who, with a handful of men, routed four times the number of men under this command. He paid the price of his gallantry with his life, but the casualties to his men were singularly light. The sergeant said, “It was just like Clutterbuck.”

“Then,” continued the sergeant, “there was Lieutenant Steele-Perkins, who died one of the grandest deaths a British officer could wish for. He was lifted out of the trenches wounded four times, but, protesting, crawled back again till he was mortally wounded. The first man knocked over was one of the most popular of the Rugby footballers in the Dover garrison. He was shot through the mouth. Lieutenant Woodgate distinguished himself in bravery, and Major Parker was coolness personified.

“A German aeroplane,” proceeded the sergeant “which came over our position on the day preceding the battle was accounted for; assailed by a shower of bullets from more than one regiment, its reconnoitring career had a sudden stop. The enemy swooped down on us so quickly at the finish that we were unable to remove all our dead and wounded. Stretcher bearers were shot down, and I, who had been wounded with a shrapnel bullet in the muscle of the left arm, was taking a message for the doctor from the field hospital (a school) when a shell came and demolished the roof. All the King’s Own dead are buried in France, a few miles from the frontier. We saw many burning villages, and our artillery helped along many old women and children who were fleeing before the enemy.”

Colonel Dykes’ Distinguished Career

Colonel Dykes was born in 1874, and was the son of the late Mr William Ashton Dykes, of The Orchard, Hamilton, NB, an of Mrs Dykes who is still alive. He was educated at Glenalmond, and in 1894 received his commission in the King’s Own, passing in through the militia. He received the highest number of marks of any of his competitors. In his early twenties, as a subaltern, he became adjutant of the regiment, serving in that capacity in South Africa, rejoining his regiment after having done duty for a short time as embarkation officer. He was dangerously wounded at Spion Kop, in the vicinity of the Boer Trenches, and an endeavour to locate their exact position. He was invalided home, but in a few months he returned to the seat of war, where he was employed on convoy duty. He distinguished himself in the defence of Vryheid, successfully repulsing an attack by Louis Botha in greatly superior numbers. He was twice mentioned in despatches, and was offered the choice of DSO or a brevet majority. He chose the latter, being then but 27 years of age. He received the Queen’s medal with four clasps, and the King’s medal with two clasps. He was staff captain at the War Office between 1904-08. He had also passed through the staff college, and for a short time he was in command of a company of gentlemen cadets at Sandhurst. On the death of Colonel Marker in August last year he was appointed to the command of the 1st Battalion of the regiment. He was then but 39 years of age, and was the youngest lieutenant colonel in the line. To his fine soldierly qualities were added an extreme personal charm, and inexhaustible fund of humour. He was beloved by both officers and men in all the positions he occupied. On the 21st April this year he was married in London to Rosamund Ann, daughter of the late Mr Frederic Willis Farrer, and of Mrs Farrer, of 26 Palace Court.

Captain Clutterbuck

Captain Henry Clutterbuck was born in 1873, served seven years in the ranks, and joined the King’s Own from the Yorkshire Light Infantry. He served through the South African war, being attached for part of the time to the Army Service Corps, as was with General Hunter’s advance in the Western Campaign, including the capture of General Cronje. Known among the “Tommies” as “Daddy Clutterbuck” he was very popular.

Captain Theobald

Captain Frederick George Theobald, born in 1875, joined the King’s Own from the Militia. He got his company in 1907. He was ADC to the Governor and Commander in Chief at Ceylon for five years. He was engaged in the South African war, taking part in the operations in the Transvaal. He obtained the Queen’s and King’s Medals.

Lieutenant Steele Perkins

Lieutenant Cyril Steele-Perkins, born 27th February 1887, joined the Regiment in 1908, obtaining his lieutenancy three years ago. He was a gallant young officer, and wounded men from the front state that he crawled back into the trenches after having been four times wounded.

Prisoners of War at Lancaster
The Class of Men Interned at the Wagon Works.

No small interest has been aroused in Lancaster, and not unnaturally, by the ever recurring detachments of prisoners of war arriving almost daily for internment at the Wagon Works. A large proportion of these appear to be seamen who have been brought in from alien ships captured by British men of war on the high seas, while others comprise alien “enemies” from different ranks of life who have either omitted to take out naturalisation papers, or have been objects of suspicion to the police in different cities and towns in England.

The Wagon Works are not ill-suited for a place of detention, and the large sheds which are contained within the lofty walls of the works make admirable dwelling and sleeping apartments for the motley crowd therein collected. Circumscribing these sheds and the open spaces near them, the curious public of Lancaster have been able to descry from the surrounding high ground lofty fences of barbed wire, constructed in inner and outer rings and of such a height and formidable nature that it would be a matter of more than ordinary ingenuity for any of those interned to effect an escape. Armed sentries are, of course, posted at various points around these fences, and brilliant lights burn all night. Outlooks are also posted on platforms, and promenade among the roofs of the offices and sheds, and every movement of the prisoners can be carefully noted. In fact, it may be confidently stated that nothing has been left undone by those in authority to insure the interment of the prisoners under the safest and most salutary conditions.

Personal observation of the prisoners and their tempers leads to the conviction that there is at present a very cheerful and resigned tone prevalent. Many of those who have been brought to Lancaster are doubtless far more comfortably situated than they would have been had they found themselves without employment or the prospect of obtaining any, and it was mentioned the other day that all that they lack is their liberty and news of happenings in the outer world. The former they bear for the most part with a cheerful resignation which appears to be but the veneer of an inward satisfaction and self-congratulation on having found such a comfortable abiding place; while the latter is a condition of necessity to which they are rapidly becoming accustomed.

While too much must not be said about the conditions under which the prisoners live, it may be stated with authority that they are fed and housed in such a manner as to call forth many expressions of satisfaction at, and gratitude for, their lot. Numbers of them have voluntarily offered their services to the commandant in any capacity in which they could be found useful, welcoming the prospect of some definite duties to relieve what must obviously become in time rather a monotonous way of spending their days. A distinctly cheerful note prevails, and this finds expression in the frequent singing and music that is heard each afternoon in the encampments. Quite a first class band has been recruited by the prisoners themselves from amongst their numbers and as it was not necessary to deprive them of their instruments some excellent concerts have taken place. At the same time their indulgences must not be taken to suggest that they are left in possession of anything which could possibly be a source of danger to their fellow prisoners or to the soldiers who guard them, and each fresh arrival is most rigorously searched before he is allotted to his “company.”

A strong proof of the trust placed by the prisoners in their English captors is found in the fact that those who have any considerable sum of money in their possession appear only too anxious to hand it over for safe keeping to the authorities, from whom they are able to from time to time to draw small sums for the purchase of “extras” at the canteen in addition to their ordinary quite adequate fare. All correspondence, incoming and out-going, is of course strictly censored, but no bar is placed upon the receiving of letters and parcels from friends under these conditions.

Were the average prisoner at Lancaster to be asked his candid opinion of the conditions under which he lives he would probably reply that he was quite comfortable, that the food was good, that he was kindly treated; but that he hoped the war would soon come to an end. That it can end otherwise than favourably for the Allies does not seem to be a question for consideration at all, and what has been heard described as the “madness” of the Kaiser is looked upon as entirely responsible for bringing about the upheaval of Europe.

It was been stated that the Wagon Works will accommodate two thousand prisoners, though whether anything like that number will ever be interned there is not known. But this much can be said definitely – the prisoners are secure, well cared for, and comfortable; they are generally contented, and well disposed towards England. Many of them wonder vaguely why they have been brought here, but with an unquestioning mind resign themselves placidly to the inevitable. And the inevitable is in this case far from unenviable. Are British prisoners abroad so comfortably “interned”? We wonder!

A story was published in a London newspaper last Saturday which stated that 960 Germans, taken prisoners by the British during the fighting at Mons, had been brought to Lancaster, and the story also went on to give the narratives of some of the prisoners, and their views on the war, as expressed by them to members of the military guard who brought them here. We are assured that the report of 960 German prisoners from the field of battle having been brought here is inaccurate.

On Saturday a party of aliens was brought to Lancaster from Manchester by a force of armed police. They were mainly destitute aliens, whose internment was considered desirable, as otherwise they might be a menace to the community. The prisoners, although chained in groups, were quite cheerful and seemed in no sense dismayed at the prospect of being provided for at the expense of this country. They were provided with cigarettes by people on the Wigan station platform, and they were on excellent terms with their guard.

The Commandant of the place of internment is Colonel H Cholmondeley CB, Rifle Brigade. Major Hatton, Seaforth Highlanders; Captain Fairclough, Royal Welsh Fusiliers; and Lieutenant Graves and Ackerley are also among the officers. Lieutenant Faulkner is the medical officer. A strong detachment of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers form the guard. The boy scouts have done a great deal of useful work in assisting the staff.

Stories by Wounded Soldiers

A Lancaster Soldier’s Story

Amongst the wounded in the rearguard action after the British forces retired from Mons is a sergeant drummer of the 1st King’s Own, a native of Lancaster, who has been invalided home with a nasty wound in the left arm from shrapnel. He did not actually take part in the battle, being within 100 yards of the fighting with the transport, but received his wound from a shell which burst amongst the transports. He states that his regiment arrived at Boulogne on the Sunday, and were in camp on Monday. Early on Tuesday morning they boarded trains for the firing line, having about a seven hours’ journey. They then marched for upwards of seven hours, staying at a small village for food, after which they were ordered to entrench themselves, and hardly had they done so when the allied forces retired in good order through their lines. The Germans, to whom he pays a high tribute, quickly found the range. He and his comrades had a marvellously providential escape, three shells exploding in their trenches without injuring anyone. He stated that the son of ex-Quartermaster Sergeant Williams, of Bowerham Road, who was reported missing, was safely entrenched when he left. Mr and Mrs Williams, however, have as yet received no news. The sergeant corroborates the statement that the hospitals were fired on by the Germans, the one he was in being shelled.

Germans are Brutal Cowards

Drum Major Wilfred Thompson, of the Royal Lancaster Regiment, who has just returned home to Warrington, states that at Mons he just raised his arm in time to prevent a piece of shrapnel from entering his breast. His arm was severely injured. Describing a skirmish with a party of Germans, who were caught looting, Thompson said the enemy were brutal cowards. When caught they whined on realising what was in store for them. His and other Lancashire Regiments, he added, made dashing bayonet charges, as well as riddling the enemy with bullets.

King’s Own in a Trap

“As soon as we arrived in France on Saturday night they rushed us in the firing line,” says another private in the King’s Own Royal Lancasters. “We entrenched, but found it too hot, and had to retire. We marched two days and nights. I put my foot in a hole and twisted right round. and so fell out behind the regiment. I was not more than 100 yards behind them when they walked into a trap set by the Germans, and our poor chaps were shot down like rats. A stray piece of shrapnel caught my foot and cut the boot and barely grazed by ankle, but with having it twisted I could not walk at all. I think it was a very lucky accident for me, because out of 1,100 of my regiment there are only 300 left. An ambulance cart came along, picked me up with the wounded, and rushed us off to Rouen.
“Just a word about the people of Belgium and France. It was heart breaking to see the poor women trudging along with their kiddies, breaking their hearts at leaving their homes and everything behind them. We retired through one village, and the inhabitants gave us fruit, bread and anything they had. About half an hour after we looked back and the same village was in flames, being burnt to the ground, and I daresay the people with it. It is quite true about the Germans killing innocent people.”

Remarkable Escape of Royal Lancasters

A party of men of the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment has arrived at Shorncliffe, being part of a body of men who were cut off in the rear guard action at Le Cateau. They tell an interesting story of how they came through the German lines. They were covering the retreat of the main body of men after then hours’ hard fighting. Finding themselves cut off they crept along in units. Five of the party fell in with other stragglers, and altogether a party of 70 of different regiments were collected under Captain N P Clarke and Captain A S Tregona of the Dublin Fusiliers, bot of whom could speak French and German fluently. They had a brush with the enemy at an early stage of their adventures, but scattered them, and for the rest they marched by night and slept by day. They cold not sleep in the villages, because if the enemy had found them being harboured the villages would have been burnt. They slept in woods and under sheaves of standing corn, the villagers bringing them refreshments.

A Salford private was with a private of the Somersets taking refuge in a cellar when the house was burnt over their heads. Without map or compass the two made their way eighty miles across country. They spent several nights in a culvert. The villagers at length gave them civilian clothes and provided them with food and guides.

A French girl wrote on a postcard “Please give me a drink,” and other such requests. In this way their requirements were met without payment, and before they got to the coast they were sleeping in feather beds.

King’s Own Men’s Thrilling Experiences
Seven Days in a Cave

A party of seven King’s Own men, including Sergeant Adams, who comes from North Shields, and Private Harrison of Lancaster, reached Bowerham Barracks from the front on Wednesday morning with the marks of war thick upon them. They told a thrilling story of fighting and adventure. With the regiment they took part in the fight in the neighbourhood of Mons, including the big battle of 26th August. When their company (D company) was ordered to fall in they found themselves, in the confusion caused by the terrific German fire, among the Dublin Fusiliers, and, of course, completely isolated from their regimental comrades, and set off “on their own.” They found shelter in a cave, which they made their home for seven days. The cave was in a garden, and they filled up the entrance with boughs of trees in order to hide themselves from the Germans, who swarmed all over the countryside. Near the cave was a well, and the kindly Belgian peasant who occupied the garden, in his visits to the well, after careful reconnoitring brought them food in his water bucket. This he did for seven days. During that time German patrols passed the cave every day, and their conversation was distinctly heard, if not understood, and the day before they left a German convoy passed close by. The peasant was extremely watchful, and when the coast was clear of the enemy he gave the fugitives warning and helped them to a change of clothing. Thus disguised, and after many narrow escapes, they found their way to Bolougne, where they found themselves among friends and embarked for England. One of the men reached Lancaster wearing bandages on his forehead. He was accidentally spiked with a bayonet by one of his comrades during the charge on the German front.

Private Harrison stated that they came across a discarded German baggage cart, filled with biscuits, some of which they took possession of. For three nights they crawled about on hands and knees so as to keep out of the Germans. One of the men had two bullet holes through his sleeve, and two through his hat.

Lancaster and the War

A meeting of the borough magistrates has been called for this morning to consider the early closing of public houses.

Ninety additional members of the Mayor’s Own Civic Guard were sworn in last evening, bringing up the total, after deducting enlistments into Territorials etc to over 400.

The Lancaster and District Co-operative Society has decided to grant (to all men in their employ joining the colours) 5s a week for each man. In the case of married men 2s a week additional will be allowed for each child.

Mr Kenneth L Storey, only son of Mr H L Storey, has been granted a commission in the 20th Hussars, with which his brother-in-law, Mr H De Freville, holds a commission, and his father-in-law, the late Colonel De Freville, was connected.

The law clerks of Lancaster have levied themselves for the National Relief Fund to the amount of £2 per week.

Major Holmes, who has charge of the hospital at the Bowerham Barracks, has placed the duty of nursing the sick and wounded soldiers who may be sent to the hospital in the hands of the members of the 24th West Lancashire, Voluntary Aid Detachment, (of which Miss Garnett, of Quernmore Park is commandant), and has informed the War Office that he does not need the assistance of trained nurses.

The Lancaster police have this week arrested four aliens, who are now in custody awaiting instructions from the War Office as to the place of detention to which they have to be sent. They were arrested under the War Office order which provides that all Germans or alien enemies liable to military service in their own country, are to be detained. It must not be assumed that these four persons have committed any overt act against this country.

Generous Offer by Laundry Proprietors

The steam laundry proprietors of Lancaster and Morecambe district have offered to do all the laundry work of the 24th West Lancashire Voluntary Aid Detachment free of charge in the event of the detachment having to establish a hospital in or near Lancaster. The offer has been gratefully accepted by Miss Garnett, of Quernmore Park, the commandant,

National Reservists Wanted

A requisition was made yesterday on the Lancaster battalion of the National Reserve for the immediate supply of fifty men from Class II (ex-Territorials). The enlistment is into the Territorial force for one year or for the duration of the war, with service for any place in the United Kingdom. Up to last evening over twenty men had volunteered.

The Equipment of the Soldiers’ Hospital Beds

The Matron of the Royal Lancaster Infirmary reports that the following additional gifts have been received towards the equipment of the thirty beds in the infirmary placed at the disposal of the military authorities for sick and wounded soldiers:- pair of blankets and old linen, Mr and Mrs Dodds, Victoria Avenue; quilt from Miss Skirrow, Greaves Road.

Recruiting at Bowerham Barracks

The full effect of the new army order as to recruiting under which men are only accepted for one day with the colours to stay at home on reserve pay (3s 6d per week) until called upon has had some effect upon the conditions at Bowerham Barracks, but there is no lack of recruits. Three hundred and forty men were sent off on Saturday, and 240 on Tuesday to join the Kitchener battalion, but notwithstanding this relief nearly all the available accommodation was filled up again on Wednesday.

Despite the continued rush of recruits there is still great need for ex-NCOs, especially sergeants and colour sergeants. During this week six police officers have been called in to assist in maintaining discipline and drill instruction. Two have come from Barrow, two from the Lancashire constabulary (including PC Barber of Galgate, an ex-ranker of the Leinster Regiment, and one (PC Leadbetter) from the Lancaster force. Private Leadbetter has over 16 years’ service in the King’s Own, and went through the Natal Campaign, including Spion Kop, Pieter’s Hill and other engagements, with General Buller.

Among those who have joined the regiment this week is a reservist who has given up a good position in Italy.

Shouldering Responsibilities

Many thousands of people are anxiously asking themselves just now “How can I help my country?” We cannot all don the King’s uniform, but those who are forced to remain at home can serve the nation faithfully and well if they will shoulder their responsibilities. There is in general the will to do this. All that is needed is an indication as to the best way. This is particularly true of women, and to them to a very large extent is given the power to preserve the balance of affairs in many trades and industries.

One of the problems of this nature is to continue to find work for the 200,000 women and more who are engaged in the laundry industry. It is quite natural, when desiring to economise, for a lady to first think of the possibility of reducing the household laundry bill. What she does not realise is that by so doing she is reducing the amount of employment and seriously affecting a class of worker who can ill afford any reduction in her wages, especially at a time when, in very many cases, the entire responsibility of keeping up the home is thrown on her shoulders by reason of her male relatives having been called up to the front.

Unfortunately, already there has been a great falling off in the quantity of linen being sent to laundries from week to week. In some cases as much as one half of the usual trade only is being done. It is obvious that unless something is done to remedy this, many women will be thrown out of work. It will be generally admitted that it is very much better for these women and their dependants to receive the necessary income by way of wages, rather than by doles from any charitable fund.

It is therefore, without doubt one of the first duties of those who can in any way afford it to continue to send the usual quantity of linen to the laundry.

More Aliens at Morecambe

At the county police court, on Saturday, Victoria Sasson and Rebecca Salise were charged with, being aliens, and residing at Morecambe, they neglected to furnish to the registration officer the particulars required by the Aliens Restriction Order; and Francis Edward Whittaker, with whom the women lodged, was charged with failing to report that they were in his house – Inspector Whitfield said on Thursday the 27th August, the two women went to the police station and registered themselves as aliens. Both described themselves as being Turkish Jewesses, and belonging to Constantinople. They said they came to Morecambe on the 14th July, and when told they would be reported for not registering themselves, Sasson said the did not know that they had to be registered until told be the detective. Salise was the wife of a man in Leicester, and both women had charge of a linen department near the Tower. Supt Scott said the cases were reported on the Friday, and could not be heard along with the other cases on Saturday, the 29th August. In reply to the Bench, Supt Scott said he had no reason to think the description given by the two women was wrong. He did not press the case – they had acted more in ignorance than anything else, and they had given no trouble since. Sasson said she could not read English, and no one had told her she had to be registered. Whittaker said he acted through ignorance, not having seen the notices. He admitted, however, he had lived in Morecambe for four years. Defendants were ordered to pay costs.

Maurice Saul, a Turkish Jew, born in Constantinople, was charged with a similar offence in not registering himself with the registration officer at Heysham; and Samuel Dawson Bargh, with whom Saul lodged, was charged with not furnishing particulars of the fact. A second charge against him related to Nellie Sepero, another alien lodger – Inspector Whitfield gave particulars of the cases, and added that Saul arrived at Heysham on the 3rd August from Manchester. Saul told the Bench that he had come to Morecambe for five or six years during the season, and if he had been told he would have registered. Bargh said he did not see the notices, but the Chairman said they were posted all over the district. Bargh added that he had not seen a newspaper containing directions about the registration of aliens. The Chairman said defendants would have to pay costs. They were, however, liable to penalties of £100 each. Saul: I am quite aware of that, now.

5th Battalion King’s Own Reserves

Recruiting for the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment Reserve Territorial Battalion has proceeded briskly during the week, and, counting in the men transferred from the 5th Battalion, it is now about 750 strong. Three hundred and twenty five have been enrolled at Lancaster, 185 at Fleetwood, and 104 at Morecambe. Captain Seward, the officer responsible for collecting the recruits, has spared neither himself nor those associated with him in bringing about this remarkable results. On Tuesday he addressed a meeting at Stalmine, on Wednesday he was at Galgate, and last evening he spoke at Carnforth. The men are keen as mustard, and put in several hours a day at drill, under volunteer instructors, but in the near future their drill will be under taken by three officers – Captain Keen, Lieutenant Dochard and Lieutenant Wolfendale, who have been sent up from the parent battalion for instructional purposes. The foundations of training, however, are being well and truly laid, and ere long the men will have been licked into some thing like drill efficiency. The Lancaster recruits are being drilled on the Giant Axe Field and the Morecambe and Fleetwood detachments in their own districts.


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