Hero­ism and a ‘rum do’ in the wartime trenches

Rochdale Observer - - NOSTALGIA -

HERE in this weekly fea­ture we take a look back at the Rochdale Ob­server from 100 years ago...


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.


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.”


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 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

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