Tuesday 14 April 2015

Diary of a somebody - Frank Simpson's war diary part 3

Frank Simpson (1863-1942) was a prominent figure within his native city of Chester. During the First World War he was Quartermaster of the Chester Volunteers formed for home defence in 1914. One of our volunteers has begun to serialise his diaries. Our third instalment describes when the colours of the 3rd Battalion the Cheshire Regiment were deposited in the Cathedral.

August, Tuesday 18, 1914

A semi private meeting was held this evening at Mr. David Hughes office, old bank buildings to consider the matter of forming a civic guard for the city. A deputation waited upon the General (Brig. Gen. McKinnon) at Watergate House, yesterday. He informed the deputation (Mr Pelham Elphick, and Mr Owen Roberts) that he could give no official confirmation to the suggested Corp but if it was continued he would be glad to hear what was going on. It appears unfortunate that the military staff at Watergate House was approached especially so as Lord Kitchener, at the War Office, is against these guards being formed at the present time, as it may interfere with young men under 35 joining the Territorial force.

August, Saturday 22, 1914

At a special service held this afternoon in the south transept of the Cathedral. The colours of the 3rd Battalion the Cheshire Regiment were deposited in the Cathedral for safe keeping during its absence at the seat of war. As two young officers carried the colours, guarded by two colour Sergeants with fixed bayonets, up Bridge Street, the Welsh Border Brigade mounted on their horses came along on their way to the camp at Eaton; upon seeing the colours, they presented arms. On went the officers and Sergeants with their sacred emblems to deposit them in the house of God. They proceeded along Eastgate Street and St Werburgh Street to the south-west entrance of the Cathedral where they were received by the Dean, Canon Bethell Jones, the Presenter (Harold Weight) and Junior Canon Baxter, along with the choir. Headed by a youth carrying the cross, the choristers and clergy led the way to the military chapel dedicated to the Cheshire Regiment. The colours and their guard followed immediately behind was a military looking civilian and a lady, and the writer. Arriving at the Chapel, the two officers, Lieutenant H. W. Harrington, and Lieutenant H.G. Watkin; stood at attention, and the Dean (Darley) addressed them in a trembling voice- and tears welling down his cheeks – saying
“On behalf of this Cathedral church we receive the colours of your Battalion for safe custody during the period of your active service; we deem it an honour to be put in charge of these emblems which are so dear to you. Your Battalion will remember these are now placed for the present in the sanctuary of God and they will dearly remind us to pray to God to protect your Regiment. We trust that we may return them to your charge when you come back in peace and with a noble record of services willingly rendered to your King and Country”.

The officers then handed over the colours to the Dean (at 3:58 p.m.) he handed them to the presenter, and minor Canon Baxter; and they were placed in either corner of the military chapel. The Dean read a prayer in which he especially asked God’s blessing on the Cheshire Regiment. The national anthem was sung-in which the congregation joined- with many a trembling voice, and tears rolling down their cheeks; not from fear of this World War, the greatest war the world will ever see, all through the ambition of a despot, his heir, and the unbearable military spirit of the German nation, but the unnecessary sacrifice of thousands of human lives, their families, and dependants. After the service I, at the request of the presenter, accompanied him to the chapter house, where the colours were taken, for the time being, and where the Dean was resting for a few moments prior to the ordinary afternoon service, at 4:15. The Dean shook hands, and informed me that the colours would be placed in the slots for their reception in the Cheshire chapel and that they would remain in their cases as delivered to the Dean and Chapter. Colour-Sergeants Wilkie, and Jones, formed guard for the colours. The former introduced me to the two officers. I informed them I would follow, very carefully, the career of the Regiment throughout the war. And when it was over I felt sure, it would return with increased honour and glory equalling if possible that gained at Meeanee, and Hyderabad, feats which have never been excelled by any other Regiment of the line.
Colour-Sergeant Wilkes informed me that, the Sergeant Major, and all the colour Sergeants had been offered commissions. The Sergeant Major (Murphy) had accepted, but the Colour Sergeants had refused, as circumstances would not allow them to accept. He also informed me that Captain Clark, Captain of Quartermaster Ryan, some others officers, and hon: Commissioned officers were stationed at Birkenhead and would remain there for some time drilling recruits. They have turned Gamlin’s works into a barracks. He begged me to go over and see them and have a chat with the boys-which I promised to do before they leave for the front.

Thursday 9 April 2015

Diary of a somebody - Frank Simpson's war diary part 2

Frank Simpson (1863-1942) was a prominent figure within his native city of Chester. During the First World War he was Quartermaster of the Chester Volunteers formed for home defence in 1914. One of our volunteers has begun to serialise his diaries. Our second instalment describes some of the changes in Chester following the outbreak of war.

August, Thursday 6, 1914
Mobilisation is in full progress men are arriving from all parts of the county, and elsewhere, to the call of arms. At the castle and government house they are working day and night.
August, Friday 7, 1914
The banks opened this morning and paper money is prominent so that gold may be protected for the nation’s use . One pound notes are being issued and postal orders are now to be used as current coin, they are procurable at the post offices free of charge. The Roodee has been closed to the public and is now used for military purposes. Horses are being commandeered and brought in by the score. They are taken to the Roodee, examined, and those suitable branded. It is no use trying to bargain over the sale of a horse. The military offer anything up to £40, you can take it or leave it but they keep the horse.
August, Sunday 9, 1914
The artillery (mounted) marched out of Chester this Sunday morning, and well they looked with arms; they proceed to Shrewsbury. These are no bands this time, little cheering, every man’s face bears the impression of business. The Emperor of Germany has menaced the peace of the world long enough; he must be thrashed, that is the opinion of every person one meets. Everyone is eager to fight or take some part in the struggle.
August, Monday 10, 1914
A special war edition of the Cheshire Observer was published this Monday evening, and sold at a halfpenny per copy. This is the first occasion during the existence of this newspaper that a special edition has been issued other than on the usual days of publication –Friday evening, or Saturday.
August, Friday 14, 1914
Notice has been given to persons who hold contracts on the north Wales line to Chester that from tomorrow, Saturday morning, the lines from Holyhead to London, will be held over for at least forty-eight hours for the transportation of troops and that it may continue until Tuesday.

Thursday 2 April 2015

Diary of a somebody - Frank Simpson's war diary

Frank Simpson (1863-1942) was a prominent figure within his native city of Chester. On his twenty first birthday, he was made a freeman, and from then on spent a large proportion of his time studying the history of the local guilds. He would eventually go on to write several works on the Cheshire Regiment and its headquarters, and in 1913 he was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries as a reward for his service. He was also a key member of the Chester Archaeological Society holding a variety of positions throughout his life. He was an avid photographer and his albums and journals survive at Cheshire Archives.

During the First World War Frank Simpson was Quartermaster of the Chester Volunteers formed for home defence in 1914. One of our volunteers has begun to serialise his diaries. Our first instalment describes life in the city at the outbreak of war.

August, Tuesday 4, 1914

War declared by England against Germany. The war office issued an order for mobilisation; notices were placed under the City gates and at the castle the notices were pasted up at the latter at 6:30; by 7:30 pm Territorials and Reservists were flocking to the castle to report themselves. At midnight crowds of people were congregated at the castle gates.

August, Wednesday 5, 1914

Chester was early astir this morning, the streets are crowded with men and soldiers. The Territorials are answering to the nation's call in a patriotic manner. Wagon loads of war equipment are passing through the streets to the various destinations.

The banks are all closed but are to re-open on Friday when one pound, and ten shilling notes will be issued to the public. This is to protect the gold supply. All kinds of food stuff has gone up in price this owing to certain people making raids on the grocers shops etc to lay in a supply. Big crowds of people gather round the doorways, and in many cases the shops have had to be closed in the faces of would be customers. This is not due to a shortage of supplies but to the assistants not being able to cope with the demand owing to the Territorial’s having to report for duty the firms are very short handed. Unfortunately some well-to-do people have land in such stocks they removed it in their motor cars. One person asking for 16 hams, flitches of bacon, sacks of flour, etc. There will be no saving in this as the grocer tells me it will not keep. The only result being that various articles of food have gone up in price and the poor will have difficulty in procuring the necessities of life. Sugar which was at 2 ½ d lb last week is now sixpence, and moist sugars in proportion, meat one penny per pound, butter from 1 shilling 2 pence to 1 shilling 6 pence.