Sunday, 11 November 2012

War begins - Nunthorpe, 1914

Thomas Duncan Henlock (“Duncan”) Stubbs was a 42 year old Middlesbrough solicitor when war broke out.  He lived with his wife and family in the little rural hamlet that had grown up around Nunthorpe railway station.  As a Captain in the Territorial Army in the Northumbrian (Heavy) Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery, he was called up immediately.  

He began to keep a diary.  It begins on Tuesday 4 August 1914 and it is written in ink and pencil on lined foolscap paper.  It appears to be a fair copy, with additions and alterations, presumably (given the detail involved) from notes made at the time.  He was a methodical man.

Extracts from the first ten days of the diary follow.  They give a vivid picture of public reaction at the beginning of the War, on Teesside and Tyneside.

It begins with a summary of events in Europe:
Tuesday 4th August

For a week past there has been talk of war.  Austria’s declaration of War against Servia has started the ball rolling […]
Britain calls upon [Germany] to declare that the neutrality of Belgium shall be preserved.  Germany declines stating that to do so would disclose an important part of her plan of campaign […] 
The British fleet is fully mobilized, the reserves, even the Dartmouth cadets, are called up and about 7pm on Tuesday 4th August 1914 the order goes forth for the general mobilization of the whole British Army.
and then Duncan Stubbs begins to document his own experiences:

This is a purely personal account of my own doings as Captain in the Northumbrian North Riding Heavy Battery, which Battery I have had the honour of commanding for about 12 months past.

About 7.15 pm I took a stroll towards Nunthorpe Station with my dogs when I saw one of the Railway porters approaching with a telegram in his hand.  I guessed what the message was while he was yet some distance from me, he handed me the telegram which I hastily opened it contained two words “Mobilize Adjutant”.  I ran back to the house, called to my wife who gave orders for dinner to be placed on the table while I hastily changed into my uniform.  A hurried dinner, followed by a record ride on my motor cycle to the drill hall & I was in the midst of it.  Men coming in, officers working in their shirt sleeves, orderly room clerks addressing & sending off the notices to the men, warning the doctors & veterinary surgeon, horse purchasers & all others concerned, stores which for days past had been prepared were being got ready for the wagons.  I stayed in the drill hall until 11pm then returned home, to make my own preparations & pack.
Wednesday 5 August
The first day of mobilization.  I caught the 5.30am train to Middlesbrough.  The drill hall was all bustle, Barnley [George William Wynne Barnley, solicitor] & Ingham ready to take his party of 40 men off to Monkseaton, our war station, for the purpose of collecting the horses & wagons necessary to complete our establishment.
The Doctor Longbotham arrived at 6am.  The men stripped & were medically examined, I took off my coat, all he did was to place his stethoscope over my heart, I said “I don’t care whether you pass me or not I am going so you need not trouble”.  The men filed in & when 40 were passed Barnley took them & with Ingham went off to the train.  Douglas took the next 12 men & went off to Redcar for the 192 rounds of ammunition.  Telegrams & telephone messages came in at short intervals, the train was ready & as wagons were loaded & the horses began to come in from Col. Douglas our Middesbrough purchaser were taken off to the station & placed on their trucks, guns were loaded & the one hundred & one things necessary were gradually accomplished, pay books issued identification, discs also, officers swords sharpened, mine so sharp I could almost shave with it.  I had to obtain the money £1300 odd for the £5.5. bounty due to each man & officer fit for service who was embodied with his necessary kit.

One effect of the War was an immediate shortage of gold.  The August Bank holiday had been extended for 3 days but in this case arrangements had been previously made with the Nat Prov Bank & when I went to the Bank on my motor cycle with my cheque Mr Ellenton the manager was ready with the cash.  Fortunately Capt Wintershladen [Winterschladen] was there also at the same time on the same errand with a car, which he very kindly lent me to carry the money back to the Drill Hall. 

By about 10am I was famished so had breakfast at the club [Cleveland Club, Exchange Place] said goodbye to my friends there & returned to the Drill Hall.  Gradually order was restored from the chaos & at 1pm I returned home on the m.bicycle for lunch & to bring my belongings back by the 1.37 train & to say goodbye to the family. 

Madge [his wife] was a brick though she felt it, with Duncan [their 15 year old son, naval cadet] also called up to the Aboukir, very much.  Poor little Katharine [aged 9] burst into tears, Hugh as usual shewed no emotion [aged 13 - shy and reserved, shortly to start public school].  Having a few minutes to spare before the train left I looked in at the Box [home of ironmaster Gerald Cochrane] to say goodbye to Mrs Gerald Cochrane & Mademoiselle.  “Ah,” she said, “you are going to fight for France, vive la France.  I so wish I were a soldier too”.

I looked in at the club for a few minutes & saw my father [John Richard Stubbs, solicitor in Middlesbrough] & many others all friendly & wishing they were going too. “Can’t you take me, I feel it horribly you going off to do your bit & me staying at home doing nothing.”  Several said this or something to the same effect.  Dr Longbotham was particularly despondent about his being able to do nothing. 
The remainder of the afternoon was spent in finishing things off & about 4pm I walked down to the station. 

Crowds of people in the streets, the station gates closed, only friends of the officers & men allowed in the station.  I laid in some provisions & most fortunate it was that I did so.  Soon after the Battery marched in under Harris played to the station by the Nat Reserves Band.  Many people came to see us off, my father amongst them  I am afraid he felt it rather badly but kept up splendidly.  Penry Williams [ironmaster, Liberal MP for Middlesbrough] our old O.C. was there & most kindly asked whether we wanted anything in our equipment, I mentioned a field telephone which he at once undertook to obtain.  (The telephone was sent, a gift from him, a few days later).  The Mayor & Mayoress, Chief Constable, Clive [?] Dixon, Col. Douglas with Col. P Williams undertook to look after the depot.  Hedley had wired from Scotland asking whether we wanted him I replied “Yes”, he immediately set off. 

The train steamed in with 4 guns 6 wagons 45 horses & the carriages for officers & men, many goodbyes & good wishes.  The Band played “Auld lang syne” & “God save the King” & we steamed away everyone cheering & waving handkerchiefs.  At the Linthorpe Rd crossing I looked out & saw the whole street simply packed with cheering people, it was the same all along the route, at every village & every home people were cheering & waving as we passed. 

At Newcastle we had a wait of ten minutes.  The Railways had been taken over by the government & we were met by an officer on duty there.  He told me that troop trains had been passing through all day long, “I am sick of the sight of a train” he said.  Shortly before we left Middlesbrough we had been informed that instead of detraining at Monkseaton station we would be detrained at Tynemouth; this upset our arrangements considerably as the horses & transport we had expected to meet at Monkseaton were not available.

As we neared Tynemouth it began to rain & poured when we arrived.  The platforms were very bad for detraining as only about 2 vehicles could be emptied at a time & the train had then to be shunted to take off the empty vehicles.  This took a long time, we now found the loss of the extra wagons & horses.  Those we had were not able to carry all the baggage & ammunition nor had we harness that could be used with our two Association wagons.  After endless trouble we managed to get everything on, ammunition, which could not be placed in the wagons on account of want of space, on the gun limbers, with men standing on the trail of the guns to hold the boxes in place.  The two association wagons had therefore to be pulled by the men with drag ropes to Monkseaton, a distance of over 3 miles. 

All this packing & repacking took a great deal of time & it was midnight before we could start.  At last I was able to get to the head of the Battery & give the order to march.  We progressed through the streets of Tynemouth, hundreds of people out even at that time of night to cheer us. 

After going about a mile I halted & found that only one gun and a wagon were behind me.  I rode back to see what had happened.  One of our men ran up to tell me that a wagon had upset, the horses slipping on the sets [setts = paving stones] and one man had been badly hurt & asked me to go & see him, he had been carried into the Grand Hotel.  I found the wagon had been put right & the horses unhooked & one of the harness being broken, & then men preparing to haul this wagon also.

I then went to the Grand where I found the man Chilvers lying on the floor insensible with several persons rubbing him, a doctor had been sent for & he arrived very shortly afterwards.  The man was carried to a sofa & began to shew signs of returning consciousness, I arranged with the Manageress that he & another man, a friend of his, might stay there for the night she promised to do everything necessary.  I then returned to the place where the accident happened, things had been put to rights & they were ready to start again.  We caught up the halted leading gun & went on our way.  Many civilians joined with the men in hauling & helped them very much in this way.
I had to ask the way repeatedly every one was willing to help all they could.  As we passed scores of people came to the windows in their night attire many men in pyjamas came out into the street.  We toild on, a civilian I had asked to shew me the road following the whole way.  At last he told me that our billets were just in front & I halted to look round for a place to park the guns. 

I found a vacant building site alongside the road & gave orders to turn in to it.  In doing so one of the gun horses slipped & fell & it looked like another bad mess but fortunately the man was not hurt & after unhooking the rest of the team we got the horse up none the worse.  Volunteers came forward to take us to our billets, we got the guns into the field & mounted a guard. 

It was then 1.30am & so tired were the men that several fell asleep on the footpath while this was being done.  I divided the men & horses up, got forage & rations from the wagons & sent each lot off to their billets under the guidance of a civilian.  The house of a Mr Weightman had been pointed out to me as a billet for two officers & 3 men, I selected this for my billet & just then Mr Weightman came up & introduced himself.  I detailed the Sergt Major & instructor Hanses [?], the Battery Sgt. Major Birch & 2 M.S. Gould for this billet, & having left the guns with the guard mounted we went to our Billet. 

The house is an excellent one with pictures, many good ones, covering the walls, our host I should call him so for he was a good host to us, had supper ready which we much appreciated as we were famished & then to bed.  Nothing could be kinder than Mr Weightman & his family & servants, all a billet requires is sleeping accommodation & to cook the soldiers’ ration.  Our host does not limit himself to this, for breakfast is ready for us each day.

Thursday 6 August
[…] I received various instructions from [the O.C. Tyne Defences] particularly as to sanitation, & I am ordered to keep a man at the telephone day & night.  Horses are beginning to arrive & we are busily engaged in arranging the billets.  Men slept anywhere last night & are much overcrowded in one or two places […]
 […] Rations are very short today but the men are behaving capitally realizing the difficulties.  I find the telephone allotted to me is in a wine merchant’s shop & don’t like the idea of a man sleeping surrounded by whisky bottles […]

7 August 1914
Slept badly, irregular meals & trying work upset me and felt pretty seedy in the morning.  Got the battery on to the road and had a treck round for 5 or 6 miles.  I rode Splinter.  Great enthusiasm amongst the inhabitants of the pit villages, one old woman called to me, “Keep your heart up hinny” and another, “Kill the Germans”, great cheering especially from the women. […]

8 August Saturday
[…] Lucas wired yesterday offering to lend me his two horses, an awfully sporting offer I hardly like to accept as they are good horses, too good for our rough work.  I wired him to this effect but he replied he wanted me to have them all the same, so they arrived this afternoon.  I got them safely stabled & his man returned leaving the horses’ bridles & a saddle.  They are both fine horses, I will ride the bay mare, & Harris the black horse. 

On returning to my billet in the afternoon I changed into trousers & blue serge & had my wet clothes hung up to dry, I then went to the Park [Hotel] to dine.
I met there a man called Peacock something to do with submarines & a very interesting man to listen to, he has lived in most European countries.  I went to his private room for half an hour, unfortunately the O.C. North Section Tyne Defence rang me up, the message was sent on to the Park but they could not find me as I was in Peacock’s room.  I heard of the call a few minutes after & rang up the number, 3 Shiremoor, only to be answered by someone speaking about a commercial traveller.  I rang off thinking there was a mistake as No 3 Shiremoor was the Urban District Council office.  When I returned to my billet I was told there that No 3 Shiremoor had rung up, so I rang them again, to hear the voice of a staff officer informing me that Major General Riddell had been trying to get hold of me for over an hour & the best thing I could do was to go over to see him at once.  The Tyne Defences had today been divided into 2 sections North & South & General Riddell was the new North O.C. 

I walked up to the stables got my horse & an orderly with some difficulty in the dark & rode off, it was frightfully hot & damp & I had had to change back into my wet clothes.  After about 3 miles riding I arrived.  The general began by telling me I was not there to play, this was a very serious matter indeed, he had tried to get me & could not do so.  I explained about the commercial traveller & that the telephone number had been altered today, a line having been laid to my billet.  He relented & told me to keep someone day & night at the wire.  He then discussed the defences & shewed me the position of the map pointing out the artillery position.  I told him when he asked my opinion that the selected position was not a heavy battery position; he asked me where I would prefer to have the guns, I replied the left flank for enfilading fire at long range.  He turned to the staff capt & said, “This opens up a new field for discussion”.  I suggested Major Newman’s opinion being taken & he agreed & would ask him tomorrow when the defences are to be manned.  I returned about 1am very pleased with Genl Riddell & very tired.

9 August Sunday
Another fine day.  A detachment of our men has been busy digging gun epaulments at Earsdon …
I tried to get out of Major Newman a clue as to the probable length of our stay but he could give me no idea. “If you can tell me when our fleet will sink the German fleet then I might be able to give you some idea,” was his reply. […]

Monday 10 Augt.
Another beautiful day […]
[…] Madge writes to say she will come over to Whitley [Bay] so I arrange rooms for her Hugh & Katharine for Wednesday …

Tuesday 11 Augt
[…] We are asked to say whether the Battery will serve abroad as a unit & if not the number & ranks of any individuals who will serve abroad individually.  This raises some difficulty: am I to put pressure on the men to serve or am I to leave it entirely to them.  I discussed the matter at lunch with the officers & came to the conclusion that at this stage no pressure should be brought to bear.  For myself my way is quite clear, I will not volunteer as an individual, my home duties prevent that, but as O.C. if the Battery goes I go. 

I had the Battery fallen in & addressed them, I read the telegram & told them that I did not intend to put any pressure upon them, each must decide for himself whether he thought his first duty was at home looking after & providing for those dependent upon him, & whether he thought his first duty was to his country in offering himself for service abroad, & I would take the answer of each man separately & privately.  They asked a few questions which I answered & then I sat down on an overcoat with a biscuit tin between my legs & each man came up said yes or no & I wrote his name down in columns, the result was that 5 officers & 50 men were ready to serve abroad as a battery, 21 other men would serve in any event and 125 did not wish to serve abroad.  Of this 125 were a good many who wished to be asked again if the battery was really going or if there was any real need.  I have little doubt but that if required 50 of these men would go with the Battery.

Wednesday 12th
[…] I went at 12.30 to meet Madge & the children.  They arrived & I sent their luggage to the Park Hotel on one of the wagons.  The first question Katharine asked was, “What sort of a horse have you got?”  I was riding Lucas’ mare, she was standing outside so I put K on her back for a minute.  We then went down to the hotel where I left them & returned to lunch at Potts Farm.  I dined at the hotel with them in the evening.

Thursday 13th Augt
[…] Greig & I looked for billets in Killingworth, we called at the Hall & saw suitable accommodation for horses & some men & gun park in the park, also three farms provided accommodation.  We then called at Killingworth house, which we found to be divided into three houses.  A lady came out to speak to us & offered to give up one room for 2 officers by turning her two brothers out.  In the centre house where they have the telephone the lady was leaving to join her husband with his territorial battery in Ayrshire & the house was to be closed, but she offered to give us the whole house for 7 officers & her gardener’s wife to cook for us.  Next door the lady was not quite so hospitable, would promise nothing without asking her husband, so we determined to send 3 or 4 NCO’s to partake of this lady’s hospitality whether she likes it or not […]
[the Battery goes to Earsdon…] We got back for supper at the Park Hotel at 9pm.  While waiting at Earsdon we saw 3 monoplanes flying over.  The first I have ever seen!

Friday 14th Augt
The Battery was out near the rifle range, Madge & the children came along on their bicycles to see it, & during the morning the men bathed.  This is the only method of keeping them clean as there are [no] means of washing but I hear that people here are arranging to allow the men to use their baths.  We have a certain number of sick but nothing very serious, several both officers & men with bad colds.  The weather continues very fine indeed.  Greig has returned to the Durham Heavy Battery to give them a turn, he being adjutant to both.  Mrs G has gone back to Seaton & will return on Tuesday.  I hear today that we may not go after all to Killingworth but to Forest Hall, so that our charming Killingworth billet will fall to the infantry!  I dined with Madge & the children at the Park Hotel.

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