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The Great War News from Lancaster in 1914

4th September 1914

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

The Mayoress’ Sewing Parties

The sewing parties at the Town Hall, organised under the superintendence of the Mayoress (Mrs. Briggs) meet on Wednesday and Friday afternoons at two o’clock. Next Wednesday the work will be continued until eight o’clock, and if the attendance justifies it, this course will be pursued on subsequent Wednesdays. The work of making garments has proceeded apace, something like 150 workers attending. The scene is a very busy one – and everyone seems in real earnest. The Mayor’s Parlour is distinctly a workroom, and one could almost fancy the workers perform their duties under the stern eye of a forewoman. There is no frivolity or gossip, such as is supposed to be the prevailing features at ladies’ sewing meetings. Very great care is taken in “cutting and contriving,” and the “waste basket” contains nothing of value. Every bit of material is utilised in some way or other. The workers are greatly in need of more material especially calico, flannel, remnants for children’s clothing, yarn for socks, and sewing materials – thread, buttons etc. Gifts of these materials would be very much appreciated. As to the criticism that the ladies are doing work that might very well be done by people out of work, inquiries have been made, and it is quite clear that at present, at any rate, no sempstresses are registered as being unemployed. Even in the clerical department at the Town Hall, although much of the work is done voluntarily, no clerks are registered as being out of work. As the Government committee requires that work done for wages must be undertaken by people ordinarily employed at particular trades, it follows that some who are able to do clerical work, but who are not ordinarily engaged as clerks cannot be employed as such out of the relief funds. Neither can mill hands be employed as sempstressses in like manner.
A ladies committee has been formed, consisting of the Mayoress (who is the head), the lady representative on the ward committees, and Mrs W Croft Helme as secretary. This committee is endeavouring to co-ordinate all the work done by ladies, who may have formed or joined other sewing parties – so as to secure one central place or headquarters, form which all relief in the shape of garments etc, will be made. This is an excellent idea, and if carried out – as it will be by the cordial co-operation of all interested – much overlapping will be prevented.

Help for Recruits

A very remarkable response was made at the week end to the emergency appeal issued from the Bowerham Barracks through several churches for discarded books, socks, and undergarments for the temporary use of recruits. A number of ladies and gentlemen gave themselves to the work of collecting, and by Monday a very large number of all the required articles was sent to the Barracks. People gave willingly and cheerfully, and many of the boots and shirts given were very little worn. The Mayor has received the following letter, which speaks for itself:-

Bowerham Barracks, Lancaster
31st August 1914
Dear Mr Mayor,
I write on behalf of all ranks to thank you, and through you the kind people of Lancaster, for their prompt help in giving us boots, shirts, socks, suits of clothes, underclothing, towels, hats and caps.
Through no fault of their own, large numbers of men have been detained at our depot for weeks. It was impossible to get uniform and the many things required to fit out a soldier. Many of them were scantily clothed on arrival, and their things soon wore out.
What you have now sent has been of the greatest comfort to many, but of course there are still a large number who require fitting out.
It must not be assumed that the army factories have in any way broken down. It is merely a question of an abnormally large demand made on them at very short notice. It is the same with us at the depot. In normal times we have 200 men – a few days ago we had 1,500. Today we have 1,200 and are working with practically the normal staff.
We are glad to be doing it, and your help makes our work lighter. I remain, dear Mr Mayor, yours gratefully,
Signed W H Duffin, Colonel
Commanding the Depot of the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment.

Belgian Relief Fund

The Mayor has opened a Belgian Relief Fund, and already several handsome subscriptions have been sent in. It will be noted that Lord Ashton, with extreme generosity, has sent a donation of £5000 through the Belgian Minister to the Relief Fund. The Mayor commends the fund to the generosity of the people of the town and district. If it had not been for the gallant resistance of Belgium and her troops to the advance of the Germans, the position of the Allied Forces would not be as favourable as at present.

Recruiting Movement
Magnificent Response In Lancaster
Animated Scenes at Bowerham Barracks

The rush to the colours of the King’s Own continues with almost unabated vigour, and the staff at Bowerham Barracks has during the week been working at full pressure. Since the regular mobilisation was completed over 2,000 recruits, drafted to Lancaster from London, Manchester, and other cities and towns, have been dealt with, and up to last evening, when a further draft of 600 was sent to join the Kitchener battalion, over 1,700 had been equipped. Last evening there were about 300 men at the barracks, and it is hoped to keep the number down to that figure for the future. At the end of last week, however, there were four or five times that number. Many of the men were in almost destitute condition, and on Sunday kind hearted ladies made a whip round for clothing to tide them over the interval which was to elapse before they could be supplied with service clothing. Bowerham Council school and marquees on the barracks fields and on the field adjoining the school were utilised for their accommodation, but if the authorities succeed in carrying out their intention these extraneous aids will be unnecessary. Ex non-commissioned officers who have rejoined the colours have been busily employed in giving preliminary instruction, and the fine weather has enabled this very necessary work to be done under perfect conditions. The YMCA has been providing recreation for the men, and on Wednesday evening the British Women’s Temperance Association, at the Westham Street mission room, gave the first of a series of nightly concerts, with refreshments.

Enthusiastic Meeting at Waring and Gillows

Waring and Gillows’ Lancaster works was the scene of a stirring patriotic event on Tuesday morning, when a meeting in furtherance of national defence was addressed by Mr S J Waring, one of the directors, a member of the Territorial Association for the county of London.

After referring to the traditions of Lancaster and the part it had played in military history, Mr Waring said he felt confident that the Lancastrians of today could live up to the reputation of the past in this momentous crisis in Britain’s fortunes. The situation was undoubtedly grave and called for sacrifices from everyone. Englishmen, and especially Englishmen of the North, would strain every nerve in a determined attempt to overcome the horde of barbarians who were committing such gross brutalities on the Continent, devastating homes, outraging women and children, burning towns, and behaving with ruthless ferocity. England had stepped into the fighting arena, not for the sake of fighting – she had nothing to gain in this struggle – but in defence of a great principle. She was fighting in the interests of the sacredness of treaties, and to plant the heel on the bloated militarism of Germany. There must only be one end to this war. The Allies would win, and Germany would be thrown back at least fifty years in her progress. But to ensure this, we had to keep on reinforcing our army. This was not going to be an easy matter; it could only be effected by England’s manhood nobly responding to the call of duty – by every man who was not barred by age or infirmity stepping into the ranks, either of the army of the Territorials, and by every man who was so barred joining a rifle club and learning to become a marksman. There was no knowing how soon the need for these trained marksmen might arise; and even if it did not arise the existence of such a force would be a useful chapter in our rough island story. We could not forget the effective use which the Boers made of the rifle, and in the event, remote, it was believed, but not impossible, of a German invasion, our skilled sharpshooters might be drafted to the defending forces and render a splendid account of themselves. Mr Waring added that he wanted every man and boy over sixteen to come forward in one of two capacities – either to volunteer for the front or to join the Territorials – and if they did so the firm would see that some adequate allowance was made to those who had to support families. The splendid example set by Messrs James Williamson and Sons, and other large local factories was one worthy of imitation, and he wanted it to go forth that every man and boy in Waring and Gillows’ Lancaster factory responded to the call and had enrolled their names. A rifle range, rifles, and ammunition would be supplied, and arrangements had been made for butts to be erected, at which shooting could be practised at stated times. Later on some degree of drilling and training might be added, but the first consideration was that every man should become a marksman.
Mr Waring’s speech was heartily applauded, and cheers were given for the King.

Captain Seward, of the 5th Battalion King’s Own, afterwards addressed the meeting. As to the Territorials, when they were at Barrow, he said, they were asked who would volunteer for foreign service, and over 80 per cent, of them volunteered straight off. Foreign service meant that they were willing to go anywhere abroad, or to allow the regular troops to leave the garrison towns and to go into the fighting line, and by doing the latter they were doing as good a job, if not a better, than if they had volunteered for active service. They wanted to send from Lancaster a whole battalion of about a thousand odd men, full strength, for foreign service, and those that were left behind would be attached to some other battalion. In times like these, no young man who had a real tie should be working at his trade. If he did not join now he might be forced to join later, for although Mr Asquith said there would be no conscription, there were other things besides. In a few months’ time any single man between the age of twenty and thirty seen in the streets would be pointed at with the finger of scorn.

Mr Waring, having thanked Captain Seward for his spirited address, said the directors of the company and the whole staff had loyally submitted to great reductions, and they were all glad to do it for the sake of England. It might be that they would be called upon to bear privations, but they must remember that they were better off than their allies, who in many cases had had their homes devastated and their businesses entirely ruined.
At the end of the meeting a fine response was made. About fifty volunteered at once for foreign service with the Territorials, and the rest, to a man, put down their names as members of the rifle club.

The Fifth of King’s
Enthusiastic Response by Foreign Service Volunteers

The effort inaugurated last week-end to raise a Lancaster battalion, with “pals” companies, for the King’s Own, had to be suspended because of the inability of the staff at Bowerham Barracks to cope with the expected rush, but the organisation so far as it had been perfected was not lost, for when news was received late on Monday night that the 5th Battalion required between 200 and 300 men willing to undertake foreign service it resulted in an immediate rush of enthusiasts. When the battalion was at Barrow nearly all the men volunteered, but between 200 and 300 were either rejected as unfit or did not wish to leave the country. They will probably form the nucleus of a new battalion. A draft of 40 or 50 foreign service volunteers was secured from the local staff and workmen of Messrs. Waring and Gillow; and on Tuesday and Wednesday, and again yesterday, volunteers came forward as fast as they could be examined and enrolled. A large number were drafted from the civic guard, including many members of the Lancaster Rifle Club, and nearly all the athletic organisations of the town have contributed their quota. The legal, banking and teaching professions are largely represented, and an endeavour is being made to raise a contingent of old boys of the Lancaster Royal Grammar School. Up to noon yesterday 254 men had been accepted, and the number was being added to every hour. Provisionally upon the consent of the local education authority being obtained about a dozen teachers have volunteered. Among them may be mentioned Mr James Ewan, secretary of the Lancaster Regatta and John O’Gaunt Rowing Club, and Mr R E Davis, a popular member of the Luneside Bowling Club; Mr I S Keen, secretary of the Lancaster and District Cricket league; Messrs. W Pinch, H Chapman, R Irving, Wilcock, Brash and others. Mr R Gardner, who is making himself responsible for getting together old Lancastrian contingent, is secretary of the Lancaster Agricultural Society. Mr E T Hannam, secretary of the Lancaster Cricket and Bowling Club, and Mr R Threlfall and Mr R Higginson, of the same club, Mr G Jackson, Mr F Bowerm, Mr G V Williams (four old Lancastrians, all of them at Cambridge), Mr W Huntington, jun., and his brother, Mr F D Huntington are also among the recruits.

Enthusiasm at Morecambe

Stirring speeches by Lord Richard and Lady Moyra Cavendish, and Major Bates.
Third Territorial Battalion to be Enrolled.

The secret of the continued recruiting for the 5th Battalion King’s Own was revealed at a crowded and enthusiastic meeting at the Central Council schools, Morecambe, last evening, when Colonel Lord Richard Cavendish, commanding the battalion, announced that the War Office had sent down instructions for a third Territorial battalion to be formed for home defence. The meeting, which was the first of a series to be held in the recruiting area during this weekend, was almost monopolised in its earlier stages by grey beards, women, and ineligibles, but when the band which had paraded the town and its followers reached the building the Mayor (Mr A Coulthurst), who subsequently presided, appealed that those not immediately interested in the object of the meeting should adjourn to the side rooms and enable the “young men” to occupy their places. The appeal was instantaneously responded to.

The proceedings were characterised by enthusiasm, and when the Mayor took the chair, accompanied by Lord Richard Cavendish and Lady Moyra Cavendish, Major Bates, Captain Seward, Colonel North CB MVO, Colonel Coupland VD (Lancaster) and members of the Corporation, they were received with rounds of cheers.

The Mayor gave an admirable lead to the speakers by remarking, among other things, that they were all thinking of the welfare of the homeland, and were there to give inspiration to those who were willing to serve their country.
He pointed out that they who were not wanted in the army had a great work to do, and announced amidst applause that the Morecambe contributions to the Prince of Wales’ Fund amounted to over £500.

Colonel Lord Richard Cavendish had an enthusiastic reception. He announced with pride that the 5th Battalion King’s Own had volunteered to war strength for foreign service or to do any duty that the War Office placed upon them. Already the battalion possessed a fine nucleus for the second battalion which the War Office wished should be raised in its area for home defence. It was on behalf of that battalion he wished to appeal, and he knew he would not appeal in vain, for it to be filled before the end of the week. There was not a man in that room who doubted the righteousness of our cause. (Applause.) The war was not of our seeking, but in order to fulfil a solemn obligation to protect a weak, and what the enemy at first sight believed to be a defenceless nation. Not only that, but the war was also being waged to put an end to a ruthless tyranny and despotism, and, also, should events not go favourably to the Allies, to promote the safety of the United Kingdom itself. We were at the turning point in our history. The issue had been laid down, and could only be decided either by our absolutely overwhelming victory, or, on the other hand, and he could not for a moment believe it possible, by our everlasting disgrace. Such a crisis must surely appeal to every living soul throughout the land. Was there a man capable of bearing arms, either as a participant in the conflict abroad or in the more remote but perhaps inevitable conflict at home, who could calmly acknowledge that he was doing nothing to meet his country’s need? We had great pride in the army. Lancaster people had perhaps more legitimate pride in what their soldiers had done abroad than any other county, after the gallant manner in which Lancashire regiments had held their own. (Applause.) He wanted to it to be said with justice and truth that there was not an able bodied man in Lancashire who was not serving his country in one capacity or another. It was obviously impossible for everyone to be at the front or on garrison duty in the empire, but he wanted a battalion for home defence, and there was no knowing how soon it might be called upon. Ample opportunity would be given to men engaged in business to return home frequently to look after their affairs. No one who realised what there was at stake would for a moment hesitate to come forward. He hoped to get a thousand men during the next two days, and if there was no room for them there he asked them to put every consideration aside and join Lord Kitchener’s force. Another five hundred thousand men were needed, and even then we should not have one two many. He appealed to them not to leave the room without making a firm determination to hand in their names as soldiers of the King, and make certain of securing at least one of their friends to do the same. (Applause.)

Major Bates, who was received with rounds of cheering, gave an impressive address. He said he had been tramping over sleepers on railway lines until he had hardly an idea in his head, and began by withdrawing a remark, made time after time, that the Germans never intended to fight them. He was astounded that the contrary had proved true. But the Germans had started it, and they had go to have it. (Applause.) That was no mere braggadoci; we were in for it, and we were going to see it through. (Renewed applause.) When their colonel got the wire from the War Office asking how many men would go to the front in case they were called upon he said “I’m going, and I hope the rest of the battalion will go with me,” and ninety three per cent of the men said “We’re after you, Sir.” The Colonel had many obligations and was leaving a lot of things behind him.” as were they all, but they were doing their duty, and were going to see the thing through. Lady Moyra would have a sad heart if her husband went to the front, but in spite of that she had come along to help to raise another battalion, “and,” added the major, “We are going to make her honorary colonel – and we couldn’t have a better.” (Applause.) He urged the men of Morecambe to come forward for the defence of their women folk, and raised enthusiasm by the remark that a man who could and did not was no Englishman.

Lady Moyra Cavendish had an enthusiastic welcome, and speaking to the women said there was not an enormous lot that they could do, but they could encourage their husbands, brothers and sons to do their duty, even if they cold not got to the front to prepare for the call to service. They wanted the new battalion to make women and older men feel that they were safe, and so that the men who had volunteered for foreign service could feel that their places at home had been taken by able bodied men who could do their work. (Applause.)

Captain Seward gave a rousing speech. At the close of the meeting, there was an immediate response to the call for recruits and about 40 were enrolled. The first to respond was Mr H H Wright, advertising manager to the Corporation.

Colonel Lord Richard Cavendish subsequently inspected the foreign service contingent at headquarters. Over 300 were on parade. After the inspection, the Colonel told them men that he was proud of them, and considered them a highly fit body of men. Lady Moyra Cavendish also briefly addressed the men, and said she was proud her husband’s regiment contained such a fine type. She extended to them her good wishes for a safe and speedy return. An announcement by Captain Seward of Lady Moyra’s possible appointment as honorary colonel of the new battalion was received with enthusiasm.

Scene at Dallas Road Depot
Checking, Measuring and Branding Army Horses

The Artillery Drill Hall in Dallas Road has been converted into a depot for the collection and despatch of army remounts for this district. Major Goring is in command. Something like 400 horses are dealt with, and they are sent off in batches of 30 or 40 at a time, as required.

Stories by Men From the Front

King’s Own in a Tight Place

Sergeant Ellis Williams, of the 1st Battalion, King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, has reached the London Hospital, suffering from a slight wound in the arm. In a postcard received by his father, Mr Ellis Williams, of Bowerham Road, an ex-quarter master sergeant of the King’s Own, on Tuesday morning, he makes anxious inquiry about his brother, Sergeant John Williams, of the same regiment, whom, he says, he had not heard of since the previous Tuesday. “Our battalion,” he says, “got trapped and cut up, so I fear the worst for poor Jack. God only knows how I escaped.”

Colonel Reported Killed

Postcards which throw further light on the great battle of last week, and the gallant part the King’s Own played in it, have been received by ex Colour Sergeant Clarke, late of the King’s Own, now residing in Ulster Road, from his son, Lance Sergeant Charles George Clarke (of the same regiment) who was in the fighting about Mons, and is at present detained in the 1st Eastern General Hospital at Cambridge. The first message, posted at Eltham on Saturday, states that Lance Sergeant Clarke is suffering from slight shrapnel and bullet wounds. He continues:- “We were all split up. Our regiment is all over the place, most of them wounded and killed. My wound is nothing – only my right arm. I can write with it. I have had no sleep for three days and three nights, but I had a good sleep last night.”

In the second card, written from hospital, the writer says:- “I got my wound in last Wednesday’s engagement, just below Mons. Our colonel was killed. I am in the best of health, and my wound is only a slight graze on my right arm. Thank God that after five hours’ storming of fire, and no trenches, but in the open ground, at 600 yards, I escaped being killed.”

A Terrible Conflict

One of the King’s Own Lancaster’s, who had been hit in the legs at Charleroi, and who arrived at Birmingham on Tuesday, said he was one of about 1000 men who had to bear the brunt of the terrific shell firing, as a result of which, he estimated, only about 90 escaped injury. He declared that he saw the Germans fire on horse ambulances, Red Cross, and Royal Army Medical Corps.

A Murderous Fire

A surprise attack in which some of the King’s Own Royal Lancasters were caught in a tight place was described by a private in advance of Mons, they were suddenly swooped upon by Germans, who in the words of the narrator, “seemed to open fire on us from nowhere. The Welsh Fusiliers, who had exchanged the rifle for the spade, being hard at work digging a trench, had instantly to find what cover they could from the murderous fire poured into them. Very few of them left the field. We lost heavily,” said the soldier, adding triumphantly, “but the Germans lost a lot more when our artillery came up.”

A Bayonet Charge of the King’s Own

Among the injured of the Expeditionary Force who arrived at Charing Cross by continental boat train on Saturday afternoon was a soldier in the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, who told how he had been in the trenches for four days. The battle was waged, he said, at a distance of not more than 1,000 to 1,200 yards. Although suffering heavy losses from the British artillery fire, the Germans gradually crept nearer, and those in the trenches were finally ordered to charge the enemy with fixed bayonets, some of the enemy coming within 50 yards of the trenches. Immediately the Germans saw the Britishers charge with bayonets they bolted, and it was during this charge that pieces of shrapnel struck the soldier wounding him severely.

Local Territorial Killed While Guarding Railway Bridge

Arthur Gordon, a lance corporal of F Company of the 5th Battalion Royal Lancaster Regiment, Territorials, was knocked down and killed by a train whilst guarding a bridge of the Great Western Railway near Faringdon, Berkshire, on Saturday night. A message from Major Bates says that Gordon was not a Morecambe man as was first reported, but was assisting to guard in Captain Wright’s section.

Local Territorial Shot by a Sentry

Lance corporal T Ward, 4th Battalion, King’s Own Royal Lancaster Territorial Regiment, living at Grange over Sands, was visiting a sentry on the railway between Slough and Burnham Breeches, on Monday night, and apparently failing to hear the sentry’s challenge was shot and killed.
Another account says:- While guarding Hay Mill bridge between Slough and Taplow, on the Great Western Railway on Monday night a Territorial private challenged a man approaching the bridge. Receiving no reply to his third challenge, the sentry shot the man, with fatal results. He was then horrified to find he had killed lance corporal Ward, of his own regiment, who was in charge of the squad at Hay Mill.
“Justifiable homicide” was the verdict returned at the inquest on Wednesday. The sentry described how he challenged Ward three times, and, failing to get any reply, shot. A letter found on Ward from his sister was read. It referred to the shooting of a motor cyclist by a sentry, and begged him to be careful that he did not meet with a similar fate. “I have worried about you ever since,” the sister wrote. Two civilian witnesses stated that Ward failed to reply to the challenges from the sentry, who, after firing, screamed “Oh, Tommy, oh, dear Tommy, I have shot you.”

Police Court Not a Recruiting Depot

At the close of the business at the borough police court, on Monday, the Mayor addressed the large crowd of young fellows who occupied the back of the court as spectators. He said he was afraid they had made a mistake in attending there that morning, because the court as not a recruiting depot. The young fellows in court should certainly enlist, and they would find the recruiting offices at the Old Town Hall and at the Bowerham Barracks.
Yesterday it was noticed that not a single young fellow was in court. Many of those who were present on Monday were no doubt at work yesterday; others took the Mayor’s hint and offered themselves as soldiers; and some others, perhaps, did not care to risk another “lecture” from his Worship.

Soldiers Beds at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary

In answer to the appeal made in last week’s paper for equipment of the extra beds at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary for the use of sick and wounded soldiers, the following have been received:- A friend, six quilts; Mrs Wildman, pair of blankets. The manager of the Lancaster and Morecambe Steam Laundry has kindly offered to wash, free of charge, all the articles which will be used by soldiers admitted to the Infirmary, and he has already washed all the necessary bedding.

Public Waterworks

The Chief Constable of Lancashire (Mr H P Lane) has warned the public that all waterworks in the country are guarded by armed police and that any unauthorised person approaching or trespassing on the works will render himself liable to be fired at. “All persons,” says the notice, “are warned to keep at a distance from any pipe track, reservoir, or water course, and on no account to loiter in the vicinity. Any person found damaging or interfering with or attempting to interfere with any of the works will be immediately arrested.”

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