Heroism and a ‘rum do’ in the wartime trenches
HERE in this weekly feature we take a look back at the Rochdale Observer from 100 years ago...
●●A ROCHDALE OFFICER’S HEROISM
For gallantry in saving life, the King has awarded the Albert Medal to Second-Lieut R L Brown, whose home is at 28 William Street, Rochdale.
The official account of Lieut Brown’s gallantry says: “In France, on March 27, 1917, Lieut Brown was instructing a class in firing rifle grenades.
“Owing to a defective cartridge, a grenade was lifted only about two inches and then fell back into the cup. The safety catch had been released and the grenade was fusing.
“Lieut Brown at once ordered the men to clear and, running forward, picked up the rifle grenade in his hands and endeavoured to throw it away.
“While he was doing so, it exploded, blowing off his right hand and inflicting other wounds.
“Had not Lieut Brown seized the grenade in his hand, thus sheltering the men, there can be little doubt that several of them would have been killed or severely injured.”
Private H Copestick of the Lancashire Fusiliers died of wounds in enemy hands on April 27 last. He was 19 years of age and the youngest son of Mr and Mrs F Copestick of Abbey Street, Rochdale.
Private John William Jennings of the Lancashire Fusiliers, late of 3 Holme Terrace Summit, Littleborough, died of wounds abroad on December 26.
●●SOLDIERS AND THE RUM RATION
The “Observer” postbag is a daily indication of the keenness with which Rochdale men enduring the hardships and horrors of war follow affairs at home.
I often regret that the censorship and the restrictions of space prevent the publication of so many of these interesting epistles and feel what a story these brave fellows have to tell when the embargo on free expression is removed after the war.
Just now, the main themes of the letters I receive are the Rev W H Cookson’s hostility to the rum ration with which the men in the trenches are served and the attitude of the Rochdale tramwaymen in refusing to work on Christmas Day.
Both subjects have roused the soldier’s and without exception. My corespondents are against both Mr Cookson and the tram workers.
I can only afford spaces for a few extracts which will suffice to show the feeling:
“I wonder whether if Mr Cookson had gone through a night similar to the one I had last night, he would have refused his rum ration on his return,” writes one young fellow.
“I was a keen teetotaller before and I am mighty sure I shall be after the war, but, I know from experience that the rum ration is necessary, very necessary out here.”
●●THE “QUEUE” TROUBLE
In conjunction with other districts, Castleton experienced the food “queue” trouble last weekend, several of the larger provision stores as well as the meat shops were besieged by would-be purchasers, large queues being the rule.
On Saturday, nearly all the butchers’ shops in the district were closed early in the afternoon.
●●THE MEAT SUPPLY
The meat supply naturally came up for consideration by the committee. Returns showed that there were 600 head of sheep brought into the town following the permission to charge 3d a pound extra a bigger supply than in normal times.
A telegram was read from the Central Committee preventing the killing and sale of more than 50 per cent of the quantity sold in October last from any shop for four weeks as from the 17th instant. A special cattle market was fixed for Thursday and the committee was invited to purchase the beasts.
As there was a plentiful supply of mutton it was deemed unnecessary to take action.
The question of the extra 3d per pound was again discussed and it was pointed out that in other towns only 1/2d or 1d a pound extra had been permitted.
The figure is to be reconsidered on Monday.
●●Private H Copestick (left) and Private J W Jennings were reported to have died of their wounds
●●Advertisements which were printed in editions of the Observer in 1918