Wartime bravery of the men of the Territorials

In the month that we commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War, a new book records the history of the Territorial battalions of the Northumberland Fusiliers during the bloody conflict.

Monday, 26th November 2018, 10:39 am
Updated Monday, 26th November 2018, 10:45 am
Members of the 1/7th Battalion about to clear roads, near Serre, August 1918. At this time the 1/7th battalion were acting as Divisional Pioneers to the 42nd Division.

The Territorials served with distinction in France and Flanders from 1915 until May 1918.

Their actions were praised by Field Marshall French and Lord Kitchener in the House of Lords.

Lieutenant Francis Merivale, 1/7th Northumberland Fusiliers, who died of influenza on November 17, 1918.

The book, A Sturdy Race of Men – 149 Brigade, A History of the Northumberland Fusiliers Territorial Battalions in The Great War, covers the progress of the four Territorial battalions of the Northumberland Fusiliers.

These so-called part-time soldiers from all over the county left their bases on April 20, 1915, and fought with great courage and tenacity for nearly four years. 149 Brigade saw major action on the Somme in 1916, at Arras and in Flanders in 1917, and during the 1918 German offensive.

The annihilation of three battalions on the Aisne in May 1918 effectively removed the Brigade from the order of battle.

The book is the work of Ashington-born Alan Grint.

Captain John William Merivale, killed in action on September 15, 1916, while serving with the 1/7th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers.

Several years of research into the lives of the men of Northumberland who served in the Great War, many of whom were Territorials, fostered a deeper interest in the Territorials in general.

Alan was grabbed by the realisation that there is hardly a war memorial in Northumberland that does not honour at least one of these ‘weekend warriors’.

Further research prompted the need for a book to honour these extraordinary and sturdy men.

Alan’s research includes visits to all the major sectors held by the Territorials during the First World War,

including Ypres, Armentières, Somme, Arras and Aisne.

The book contains numerous eye-witness accounts from the battlefield and features images of local people and places, including Alnwick, Ashington, Berwick, Hexham and Newcastle.

Among those featured is the 1/7th Battalion, which had its headquarters in Alnwick with its recruiting area from Berwick to Ashington and inland as far as Rothbury and Wooler.

Among their number were two brothers, the sons of John Herman and Blanche Merivale, of Togston Hall, near Amble.

Captain John William Merivale was killed in action on September 15, 1916, while serving with the 1/7th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers.

His brother, Lieutenant Francis Merivale died of influenza on November 17, 1918, six days after the Armistice was signed.

He also served with the 1/7th Northumberland Fusiliers.

A Sturdy Race of Men should appeal to all those with an attachment to the Northumberland Fusiliers.

Alan spent many years as a carbon specialist/scientist, before changing direction in 2001, when he founded Cogito Books, an award-winning independent bookshop in Hexham.

Increasingly fascinated with the Great War, he and his wife have visited Commonwealth War Graves cemeteries in France, Belgium, Turkey and Syria, researching the military careers of local men killed in action.

Alan’s earlier books, The Faith and Fire Within and In Silent Fortitude, cover the men of Hexham and the North Tyne Valley respectively.

His website – www.ashingtonmemorial.com – is devoted to the soldiers of the Ashington area who died in the First World War.

l A Sturdy Race of Men is published by Pen & Sword Books. Hardback, it costs £25. ISBN: 9781526741783