Archive for July 2017

This Week in World War One, 27 July 1917







Tweedmouth Feast has come and gone once more under the shadow of war, and its attractions have in consequence been reduced to a minimum. Visions of the old days, when the festive board groaned under its load of good things, when the douce resident regaled himself with the succulent Tweed salmon, all Tweedmouth and its wife became possessed of the holiday spirit, and “the parish pump ran beer,” for those who cared to partake, have, it appears, passed into the forgotten limbo of the past. Older residents will look back with mixed feelings to the days when some local “drouth” was elected for the day as Mayor of Tweedmouth and driven round the “pubs” of his constituency in state.

A very early photograph of the West End area of Tweedmouth.


This form of cheap comedy is happily known no more, and in the interest of temperance alone it is well to be so. The amount of horse play attached to these proceedings rendered the mortal life of the “mayor” extremely precarious, for it is recorded that after having been reduced to a stage of hopeless intoxication, he was “dipped” in the Tweed and restored by his sudden immersion to a state of partial sobriety. The boat races, quoit mains, and foot races on the green at West End have also (we hope only temporarily) been allowed to lapse, but even amid it all it all there is a feeling which comes to the average “Twepie,” a feeling no doubt born of heredity and environment which sets the “Feast” down as something apart of the calendar of the year’s events.





Not only the charm which the seaside holds for all in the sweltering days of July, drew a large and gala crowd to the foreshore at the Ladies’ Bathing Pond on Monday afternoon, rather we would imagine all were brought thither in the hope of witnessing amid enjoyable surroundings, sport of a first-class character. In the latter they were not disappointed and especially in the 22 yards race for school boys between the ages of 13 and 15 years and the 44 yards race for lads over 14 and under 17 years of age, competition was keen and the finishes of an exciting character.

The ladies’ bathing pond at the Greenses Harbour, where the Swimming Gala took place in 1917. © Berwick Record Office – BRO 1636-9-42


On the whole afternoon there was few surprises packets. Scout Hawkins, as we anticipated, was on the top hole of form, and his victories were indeed popular. A promising first year competitor was Bain Dickinson of St. Mary’s School and from the form which he displayed we should imagine the last has not been heard of him in swimming circles. Young Turnbull, Less and Walkenshaw, also are worthy of note and no doubt their exhibition will have caught the lynx eye of the local handicapper. Pleasure was given to the proceeding by pleasing selections discoursed by the Boy Scouts Pipe Band under Pipe-Mayor Dumbreck, Royal Scots.

At the close of the proceedings the prizes were presented to the successful competitors by the Rev. R. W. de la Hey, who had a pleasant word for each.

Mr Broadbent moved a hearty vote of thanks to the reverend gentleman for having come forward on the absence of D. H. W. Askew, Esq., and who had so pleasingly presented the prizes.




Herring Improving – On Tuesday morning a dozen to fourteen boats arrived at Berwick with from five to fifty crans of herring. The fish were larger and of improved quality, and sold from 27s to 60s per cran

More Herrings – Ten to twelve herring boats arrived at Berwick on Thursday morning with up to 60 crans each; quality poor, and selling a from 4s 6d to11s per cran.

Herring Boats discharging their catch at the Carr Rock, Spittal, in the early 20th century. © Berwick Record Office – BRO 1887-25-1

Salmon Fishing – The salmon catches during the past week have been most unsatisfactory. This is due to the continuous fine weather, which is not conducive to good fishing. River continues in a foul sate. A flood is urgently needed to clean the river. Prices during the week have risen, and on Thursday morning salmon was quoted at 2s 5d per ls; grilse, 2s 2d; and trout, 1s 9d.


Blyth Bathing Disaster 1917

The late Second-Lieut. Kenneth Brown of a Warwickshire Regiment and son of the late Dr D. W. Brown formerly Mayor of Preston was buried at Horton, Northumberland with full military honours. The deceased officer was one of nine victims of the Blyth bathing disaster. Capt. the Rev. Mr Vecschoyle, chaplain to the battalion who was highly commended for his gallantry in attempting to rescue the deceased officer, assisted the Rev. H. P. Cutter in the service. [Taken from the Morpeth Herald 31 Aug. 1917.]

The following has been extracted from the Morpeth Herald following the inquest.

Hundreds of soldiers were bathing at a spot between the West Pier and Gloucester Lodge. There was a strong southerly wind and a heavy hash on the sea. The tide was at a low-ebb, making the spot very dangerous for bathers. At this spot there were deep water channels cut in to the sand by the currents and the water rushes with an irresistible force. The soldiers had not been in the water long when some of them got into difficulties and were washed out seawards, in spite of their struggles. A number of comrades rushed to their assistance until at the fatal spot 13 men were seen struggling and evidently drowning.  Soldiers formed a human chain by joining hands and wading as far they could into the fast ebbing tide. They succeeded in saving 5 of their comrades, three of whom were very exhausted, when they got ashore that they were immediately rushed off by car.

A statement by an old fisherman who knew every foot of the beach remarked. ”To bathe there was almost suicidal”.

The inquest into seven of the men was held on the Monday by the Coroner H. T. Rutherford. The recovered bodies were – Sgt. John Riley aged 25, Private Fred Shale 18; Thomas Forty; Edward G Beavan 19; Ed Noy 18; Harry Southern and W. W. Henderson. The other two missing were Private Blunn and Lieut. Kenneth Brown.

Sgt. James Dowling of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment identified five of the bodies. He was present bathing when the accident happened between 10 & 11 o’clock on the Friday morning.  Private Leonard James identified the body of Private Harry Southern and was a witness at the time of the accident. He stated that he had never bathed in the sea before and went out about 30 yards and it took him all of his time to get back. He also stated that he had never seen the sea before! Police Sgt. Hill gave his account of the recovery of the 5 bodies. Private Southern was taken out of the sea by a Boy Scout belonging the 8 1/2 Maple Street, Hirst and Private Noye was rescued by a Boy Scout called Johan Gowans of 97 Pont Street, Hirst. Private Fortey was rescued by H Malston of Kimberley Terrace, Cowpen Quay the other bodies were got by the soldiers.

Lieut. Colonel Frank Martin Chatterley of the Warwickshire’s was the Commanding Officer and expressed his deepest sympathy to the relatives of the deceased and wanted also to recognises the great gallantry shown by the Chaplain Captain G. J. F. Verse Hoyle who tried to save Lieut. Brown and also to Sgt. Riley who lost his life whilst trying to save his comrades.

The soldiers left camp at 09.30 on the weekly route march. Arriving at Blyth sands about 11.30. He give the men a rest of 20 minutes to allow them to cool down and afterwards extended them along the sands in the usual place where the battalion had bathed several times before. This is the exact place civilians and children bathe. Chatterley issued orders to the detachment. Strong swimmers had to be taken out first and the ranks were warned not to go beyond their depths. About 600 men then went in to the sea.Chatterley remained on his horse and watched as the men went in to the water. He then decided to have a bathe himself. He undressed and went into the water and was in the water for about 6-7 minutes. As he came out of the sea Major Burn galloped up to him, informing him that someone was in difficulties towards the pier.

He ordered Major Burn to gallop off and arrange for a boat which he did and the steam launch ‘Water Witch’ was there within 10-12 minutes. Chatterley went into the water where he saw the chaplain had swam out to Lieut. Brown who was 70-80 yards out and in extreme difficulties. The chaplain was supporting Lieut. Brown and Chatterley shouted to the chaplain to encourage him, but the chaplain had to relinquish the Lieut. and had the greatest of difficulty getting back. Indeed he would not have reached the shore if others hadn’t assisted him. The witness added there was a terrific current on the right flank.


Coroners Recommendation

Summing up the Coroner said the accident was one of the saddest cases of drowning they had had in Blyth for many years and certainly not in his experience, which they knew was an exceedingly long one.

So far as the verdict of the jury was concerned it would be a simple one. They were drowned whilst bathing and they would join him in commending the efforts made to save the poor men, especially the efforts of the chaplain and the others who had done their best to get the men out of the sea.

But there was another matter he would like to refer to. About two years ago he had a case at Seaton Sluice where 3-4 solider went out and were drowned and he had made some rather strong comments at the time in regard to the current at that part of the coast and suggest that many of these men, had never seem the sea before and knew nothing about sea bathing. Every precaution may have been taken, but they did not have the local knowledge and should have consulted with local men who knew the beaches and could give advice.

Lieut. Brown’s brother remarked that an old sailor on the beach told him when he saw the battalion go down on Friday, that some of the men would not get out of the sea alive. They knew the currents and the dangers. Had their knowledge been at the disposal of the officers the lives of the deceased men might have been saved. The jury found that the mem were accidently drowned and they recommended that a boat be provided in case of accidents whenever large numbers of men were bathing.


Burial Register


Blyth Town Council and Blyth Battery are looking for any of the relatives of the nine men who died of drowning while on service with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment on August 24, 1917. They are putting together a commemoration for these men on Thursday August 27, 2017. If any of the relatives would like to be involved please contact them on or ring 01670368816.



This Week in World War One, 13 July 1917








Ann Paterson, Berwick, shopkeeper, 101 Castlegate, Berwick, was charged with having, on Sunday, 8th inst., unlawfully engaged in trading. She pleaded guilty, and the Chief Constable explained that there had been complaints, the shop being watched. She was discovered selling six packets of Wild Woodbine cigarettes. P.C. Smith proved the case, and stated when challenged the accused expressed her regret, and admitted that she knew she was contravening the law.

The Chief Constable stated that in future he would summon customers as well as defendants.

The defendant said she was really sorry and that the boys came from the station.

In answer to Mr Dodd’s it was explained that tobacconists were equally guilty if they sold tobacco on Sundays, and that the case was taken under an Act dated 1677. There had been about thirty such cases during the present Chief Constable’s time, and it was not usual to administer a warning, as the law was supposed to be understood.

The Bench imposed a fine of 5s, which was paid.

Mr Dodds – What about Sunday papers, Mr Nicholson?

The Chief Constable – I daresay I could take them, too, but it has never been done. I buy one myself.

Mr Dodds – War time.

Mr Hogarth – That does not make it legal.

The Chief Constable – I am afraid I could have you up too. (Laughter.)

Mr Hogarth – I am certain you could not. (Laughter.)




Boy Falls into the River – What was almost another fatal drowning accident occurred at Spittal about noon on Wednesday. A little boy, Ronnie Gibb, aged 5, son of Mrs Gibb, Main Street, and of Private Gibb, Royal Engineers, who was formerly a North Eastern Railway guard, and is now at the front, was paddling on the beach with his twin brother, and had climbed into a boat from which he fell into the water, and was rapidly washed out towards the sea. The incident was seen by a Mr Dick Piercy, a fisherman who was standing on the Bat at the Berwick side, and he shouted across to a crew of Spittal fishermen to tell them what had happened. They rowed after the child as fast as they could, and reached him near the Pier when Mr John Ainslie, master of the boat, was able to pull him out of the water. Prompt measures were taken to restore the little boy to consciousness, and his rescuers, were soon rewarded by his giving a cry, which showed that he was still alive. The boat was met by Mr Peter Patterson, railway guard, who showed the fishermen how to do artificial respiration, and the child was soon able to breathe properly and even to speak. A young member of the crew, named Patterson, then carried him home. His mother’s relief in finding he was alive may be imagined when it is known that a few minutes before he was carried home his little brother, who had seen him washed away, had run in to tell her that he was drowned.



Elder House


10th July, 1917.


Sir,- The year 1916 constitutes a record in the history of the Institution for the number of  lives saved – 1,300, and never were the courage, endurance, and seamanship of the Life-Boat Crews more severely tested than in the terrific gales of October and November last.

But while the year of 1916 has been fruitful the number of lives saved, it has, alas; been marked by the loss of 16 gallant Life-Boatmen, the complete wreck of one Life-Boat, and severe damage to others.

I regret to add that the income of the Institution was £21,000 less than in 1915; and it must be remembered that the service is entirely dependent on voluntary contributions.

Berwick Lifeboat and crew 20th century (c) BRO 2001-8

The Life-Boat Service is national in the truest sense of the word, and is playing an active and noble part in the War. It is hardly realised by the Nation that many hundreds of lives have been saved from H.M. Ships and other vessels which have fallen a victim to the mine or the torpedo, or other causes directly arising out of the War; and that over 2,600 lives have been saved for Britain and her Allies since August, 1914.

But, in these times, there is also a personal aspect; for there is surely no British man or woman who has not some relative or friend who is obliged to cross the seas in carrying out his duty to King and Country; and any of these men may need the services of the Life-Boat.

These brief facts are the reason of my earnest appeal to you not to gorget [sic] the Life-Boat Cause, even amidst the many claims to your generosity which the war involves, and I feel sure that I can rely upon your sympathy and support for one of the noblest forms of national activity, which can now point to over 54,600 lives saved.

Yours faithfully

C. L. Fraser

Hon. Secretary, Berwick-on-Tweed Branch.

Royal National Life-Boat Institution.

In aid of the Life-Boat Cause an entertainment will be held in Berwick at end of August or beginning of September: Particulars later.