Saturday, May 24, 2014

Sacrifice of borough’s families to be publicly marked

'Blue Plaques'

From early in the development of the Tynemouth World War One Commemoration project the idea of placing some recognition of the individual loss of the town’s families, by means of a plaque on the house at which men killed or died were resident, before or during the war, has been under consideration. The necessary work to contact property owners and residents of those houses still standing today has been a complex process. Now, as the centenary of the outbreak of the war approaches we are able to announce that the first of the ‘blue plaques’ we have designed and manufactured will be installed on houses in North Shields in the early part of June, 2014. 

Among the first streets to have plaques installed will be Newcastle Street where 5 casualties of the war lived. The plaque to be placed on 22 Newcastle Street will recognise Colin Miller Jamieson a Second Lieutenant in the 15th Battalion of the London Regiment – known as The Civil Service Rifles. 

Working in London before the war he had enlisted in another of the regiment’s units - the Artist’s Rifles. Both battalions were a part of the Territorial regiment of London into which men of ability were recruited and who were recognised as potential officers for the future. Educated at Western Board School, Queen Victoria state secondary school on Coach Lane and latterly at Tynemouth High School – the town’s newly built grammar school (opened in 1904) providing the opportunity for boys and girls of ability from all social classes to get an education that would qualify them to seek entry to university. One of 10 children, his parents would have struggled to provide for his need for uniforms and extra requirements of a grammar school education. He went on to become a schoolteacher with South Shields education authority before moving to London. He had enlisted in the territorials in December, 1913 and went to France in March, 1915. Twice wounded he was reported as missing in action on May 21st 1917 and later presumed killed in action. He is named on the Arras memorial which carries the names of 77 local men killed in action in the battle area who have no known grave. He is also remembered on the Tynemouth High School Roll of Honour Boards which are still in place today in what is now the Queen Alexandra Sixth Form college campus of TyneMet College.

Tickets are still available for the next in our very popular series of talks to be held at 730pm on Tuesday, 27th May in the Low Lights Tavern, Brewhouse Bank, Fish Quay, North Shields. Ian McArdle MA a regular contributor to these events will recount the experiences of a junior medical officer on the Western Front. Charles Wilson (later Lord Moran) survived the war and went on to become Winston Churchill’s personal physician. Tickets (free) must be obtained in advance and can be got from the Low Lights Tavern, Keel Row Bookshop and the Project workroom at Linskill Centre.

Our Information Centre on Front Street, Tynemouth, next door to the library, showing some of our mini-exhibitions, will be open during the holiday week-end and during the school half-term holiday from 1100 – 1600.

The major public commemorative event we are organising in conjunction with North Tyneside Council to take place in Northumberland Square on 3rd August from 10am-4pm, with a formal service of remembrance at 2pm will make special provision for relatives of the casualties on the Tynemouth Roll of Honour, Any relative of a casualty who has not been in contact with the project over the past three years as we have published casualties details can contact the project office to register interest in reserved seating for the event, or e-mail to our contact address.

Two events focus on history and consequences of the Great War

The project is supporting the Third Tynemouth (Ritson’s Own) Scout group Open Day from 1-5 pm on Saturday 17th May, 2014 at their base on Billy Mill Lane near Tynemouth Squash Club and the former Cannon Inn on the Coast Road – access from Lynn Road.
The day will have a focus on Fred Greenacre, who died as a POW in Germany in July, 1918 but who had previously been a significant figure in the establishment of the Scout movement in North Shields. The day will feature the role of Fred and Colonel Ritson, a family owner of the Preston Colliery, who was Lieutenant Colonel of the 16th Northumberland Fusiliers. This battalion of the regiment was raised in on Tyneside by the Newcastle and Gateshead Incorporated Chamber of Commerce and is one of the battalions commemorated on the famous Response war memorial, which stands in the Haymarket in Newcastle in the grounds of St Thomas the Martyr Church – one of the finest memorials of the First World War. That memorial was funded by the Renwick family, another of the important families on Tyneside, who along with the Ritson family were to play a great part in stimulating and organising the upsurge of local support and recruitment of volunteers for the war. The Ritson family owned three collieries in the North East; at Pontop and Burnhope in the Consett area, as well as the Preston Colliery in North Shields. The miners’ families of Preston colliery paid a heavy price for their sons and fathers and husbands enthusiasm to follow their owner to war - 61 miners from Preston were to die in the war.

The final lecture in our highly acclaimed series, organised in conjunction with the University of Northumbria was delivered by Professor Joanna Bourke of Birkbeck College, London University on Tuesday evening 13th May, on the subject of Armistice and disability. Professor Bourke’s lecture was a thought-provoking and saddening exposition of the reality of the experience of those who survived the fighting but returned broken in body and/or mind, and who, despite the grand promises of the wartime years, found that they were to be reduced to an inconvenient and burdensome expense in the eyes of governments over the next fifty years. The case history of one North east veteran, Lt. Francis Hopkinson, a son of the Vicar of Whitburn , from a comfortable family of the established middle class was a sobering story of one man’s struggle to receive fair treatment and recognition of the extent of his disability, as he lived out a further 57 years of his life with a severe amputation of his leg, which required three unsuccessful amputations leaving him in mental distress and chronic and daily pain for more than half a century. His case involved numerous unsuccessful attempts to convince the military and pension authorities of the true extent of his disability including shell shock. For Hopkinson and many thousands of others the war never ended up to the day of their deaths, often decades after the war had been reduced in the minds of most people to an episode of early 20th century history.

The reports just days ago of the rapidly rising numbers of referrals of soldiers who have served recently in Afghanistan or Iraq, for counselling and support for the mental distress and effects of service places a duty upon us today to ensure that those men and women do not suffer the neglect and callous treatment of the more than 80,000 cases of mental disability, related by Professor Bourke in her outstanding presentation, who were still recognised in the 1930s but seen then as an uncomfortable burden for the Exchequer rather than a responsibility to make proper provision for the men and women who had in reality ‘lost their lives’ even if they lived on broken in spirit unable to resume a normal life outside mental institutions. Let us ensure that today we do not fall into the same uncaring indifference to the enduring consequences of the horrific experiences of those young men and women who have been sent to carry out the directions of our governments in the recent past.

Project information “shop” opens in Tynemouth village

New Tynemouth 'Shop'

The Project was delighted to be able to speak with many of the Bank Holiday visitors to Tynemouth Front Street as it opened its information centre to callers on Sunday, 4th May. The shop is next door to the Tynemouth Branch library and has been made available by North Tyneside Council to help the project promote the many commemorative events planned for the coming months.

Many people from across the region and from further away, who were previously unaware of the project were able to talk with project volunteers staffing the shop and gain an insight into our three years researches which have produced the detailed biography of many of the more than 1700 men of the former Borough of Tynemouth who died as a result of the Great War.

The two days of opening produced a number of valuable new contacts for the project and further information to add to our records will be forthcoming in the coming days.

The shop has displays of two of our small exhibitions featuring the story of the loss of the Pilot Cutter Protector on New Year’s Eve 1916-17 together with the story of the Somme Campaign of 1916 and the enormous human cost to the local community.
Information about all of our forthcoming events is available and prominently featured in the windows providing public awareness on a 24 hour basis.

The shop will be open on week-end days from 1100-1600 and we hope to open every day during school holidays through to the end of August.

As well as a number of the project publications, books focussed on the Great War will be available for purchase and volunteers will be on hand to demonstrate our detailed database which will be launched on the internet .


Tickets for the play specially commissioned by the project and written by North East playwright Peter Mortimer of Cullercoats are now available from the shop, as well as from Linskill Community Centre reception, North Shields Customer First Centre (library) reception and Keel Row Bookshop, Fenwick Terrace, North Shields. Death at Dawn - a soldier’s tale, telling the story of a young lad, William Hunter from Coronation Street, North Shields, who was executed for military offences in February, 1916 will be directed by Jackie fielding an produced by Cloud Nine Theatre Company at Linskill Community centre in their newly- enhanced and furnished theatre space. Tickets can also be bought on-line from Ticketweb through the project website

Tickets for the next in our series of talks at 7.30pm on Tuesday, 27th May at the renowned Low Lights Tavern, Brewhouse Bank, Fish Quay, North Shields are now available from the Keel Row Bookshop and the project workroom at Linskill Centre. Ian McArdle, who has delivered a number of our talks will relate the experiences of a young doctor in the conflict in his talk entitled: Charles Wilson – a young doctor on the Western Front. Wilson went on to become Lord Moran and personal physician to Winston Churchill in later years.

The final lecture in the series organised in conjunction with the University of Northumbria will be delivered by Professor Joanna Bourke of Birkbeck College, London University on the subject of Armistice and disability telling of the outcome of four years of terrible fighting which and consequences for many of the survivors and their families for decades after the fighting ceased. The lecture will be given at 6.15pm on Tuesday, 13th May at the City Campus East at Northumbria – opposite Manors Metro station – parking available from 5pm (charged).

ANZAC anniversary prompts new contacts across the globe

ANZAC anniversary

The power of modern communications has been an enormous benefit to the work of the Tynemouth project. Recently the nations of Australia and New Zealand marked the 99th anniversary of the ill-fated landings by the ANZAC Corps on the Dardanelles peninsular, as their contribution to the plans of the Allies to seize the channel giving access to the Black Sea and thus force the Ottoman Turks to withdraw from the war and thus it was believed weaken the Austro-Hungarian and German alliance of which the Turks held the eastern flank.

The experience of that campaign is credited with forging the national identity of both those newly emergent Dominions of the then British Empire. Each year at dawn on the 25th of April a vast number of the current populations of both countries gather in silent vigils to remember the heavy losses of the fledgling nations and as a collective affirmation of their sense of who they are.
As a part of those national commemorations many of the millions of current day Australians with family connections to the ‘mother country’ are reminded of their own family history and the contribution of grandfathers and others to the combined military effort that was the tragedy of the Great War.

A recent posting on Facebook in Australia by a relative of Rufus Brooksbank who died of his wounds aged only 21 on 7th July, 1916, having been struck down in the ill-fated advance of the Tyneside Irish Brigade in front of La Boiselle on the opening day of the Somme campaign, has brought together a number of his descendants who were unaware of the work of the project.
Two years ago the News Guardian featured Rufus Brooksbanks’ name as part of the weekly listing of casualties by the paper which was so helpful in making connections today for the project and which was picked up across the world in 2012 by two of his descendants who got in touch. They were able to provide some interesting family memorabilia about Rufus and his only daughter who was born just five days after his death in a military hospital. Now, alerted by a story from a social media posting two more relatives have become aware of the project and the work we have been carrying out. His granddaughter was abroad when her brother made contact with us in 2012 and did not learn of the project until just 6 days ago. We have now received additional information to add to Rufus’ entry in our database and which will be available, with the more 1700 biographies of local casualties we have researched, on the internet from 28th June, 2014.

The last lecture in our very popular series held in conjunction with Northumbria University will be given by Professor Joanna Bourke of Birkbeck College, London University who will conclude this acclaimed 8 part programme looking at the aftermath of the war in a lecture entitled ‘Armistice and Disability’. The lecture begins at 6.15pm on Tuesday 13th May, 2014 at the City Campus East site of Northumbria University (opposite manors Metro Station) with parking (charged) available from 5pm).

Sunday, April 20, 2014

 Pace of commemoration activity quickens as centenary approaches

The whole nation is now being alerted to the massive planned programme of commemoration and reminiscence of the events of 100 years ago when the country was plunged into a conflict the tragic outcomes of which the population could have had no imagination in the warm summer of 1914.
Locally, the Tynemouth project has an on-going range of activities which have awakened a strong interest in the local community in many aspects of the Great War. These events include academic lectures at Northumbria University, where we will conclude our landmark series of 2013/14 in May, when Professor Joanna Bourke of Birkbeck College of London University will deliver the final lecture; appropriately entitled ‘Armistice and disability’ –her conclusion of the series will review the aftermath of the conflict.  These lectures are free to attend and the final one takes place at 6.15p on Tuesday, 13th May at the City Campus East of the University opposite Manors Metro Station.

Anthea Lang will be looking at two local men of the area who had interesting parts in the conflict. Her talk to be given as part of the very popular series at the
Low Lights Tavern on Brewhouse Bank, Fish Quay, North Shields is entitled ‘Saint or Sinner – but which was which?  Anthea is looking at two local men from Gateshead, Brigadier Roland Boys Bradford VC the youngest man to achieve ‘field rank’ in the war (aged only 25) and a man named Rix unknown to almost everyone. We shall learn the answer to her question at 730pm on Tuesday 29th April, 2014. Tickets for this talk are free but must be obtained in advance from the Low Lights tavern, our workroom at Linskill Centre or Keel Row Bookshop, Fenwick Terrace.
Anyone interested to learn about the sources of World War One materials which have been assembled by the Europeana Project across the continent, from all nations involved in the conflict can hear a free talk from Alun Edwards of the University of Oxford’s Academic IT Services at 530pm on Thursday evening next week (24th April), again being given at the City Campus East of Northumbria University. The vast archive of materials gathered (mostly free to download) includes material of a local nature as well as from the battlefields [picture].

As the project’s major events approach we are preparing to open a public information point on Front Street Tynemouth in the vacant property adjacent to the Library. This will, when open, be a place where local residents and visitors to the very popular street can learn about the project’s work and forthcoming events.
Initially it will be open on week-ends and Bank Holidays from 3rd May but we hope that it can be open during week-days in the schools’ holidays if sufficient volunteers are willing to give a few hours to staff the information desk we will have to advise about our many activities. Anyone who might be able to offer a few hours a week is asked to contact the project at our workroom at Linskill. The shop will display some of our small exhibitions of materials we have gathered over the past three years as well as giving visitors an opportunity to view our critically acclaimed database of family biographies of local men killed in the conflict..

Memorial Garden – project appeals for your support

Despite the atrocious weather of the preceding few days the members of the Tynemouth Venture Scouts were on hand all day on Saturday 29th March, to work with volunteers from the project to plant out the hundreds of shrubs, roses and other plants generously donated by Brambledown Nurseries and now awaiting some warm spring days to flourish and provide the backdrop for the planned memorial wall  which we intend will contain the details of the more than 1700 men of the Tynemouth Borough who died as a result of the Great War, to be recorded street-by-street to form the town’s only public memorial naming the victims of the war.

We hope the garden- with a large paved area - will be provided with memorial bench seats and other furniture, bird boxes etc. It will become a haven of peace and a space for quiet reflection for visiting family relatives of those named on the wall or anyone interested to see the details of the loss suffered by the community 100 years ago. However, the creation of the garden and wall is only possible if we have the support of the population today just as in the early 1920s when the Jubilee Infirmary extension and memorial in Hawkeys Lane was funded by public donations (see News Guardian story 27th March).

The funding we received from the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2012 for the many activities we have carried out did not provide for this more recent proposal. Therefore we must raise the money for this development before we can complete the full memorial project.    
The full programme of commemorative events we have planned for this summer, will provide the fitting culmination of the three years of dedicated work by over 70 local volunteers and our many supporters in the community, including North Tyneside Council and its staff; the news media (particularly the News Guardian and The Journal); and many local businesses and individuals who have generously donated their time and resources, as the project has developed into possibly the largest WW1 commemorative programme in the country.

Now we are appealing to the public today to help us by donations, however great or small to support our programme of commemoration including the memorial garden and wall.
The Borough of Tynemouth suffered twice the national average loss of life in the Great War which our nationally commended ‘casualty map’ has demonstrated to great effect. We hope that relatives of the casualties as well as those with no direct connection to the local victims of the war will wish to help us to establish a lasting memorial and reminder today of the terrible events of 100 years ago which had profound consequences for the town and its families.

Individual donations will be recorded in an on-line Book of Remembrance, at the discretion of donors, which can be made in respect of a family relative or merely as a mark of thanks today for the sacrifice and hardships endured by hundreds of men, women and children of the community as a result of the war.

Donations can be made in person (10am to 4pm) or sent by cheque to the project, at the Administration address at: Essell Accountants, 29 Howard Street, North Shields, NE30 1AR. Donations can be accepted by debit/ credit card in person or by telephone (subject to a small merchant fee) – Tel: (0191) 259 2743 Please do not send cash donations by post. Cheques should be made payable to: ‘Tynemouth World War One Commemoration Project’.
If you wish to make a donation in memory of a particular person please include details of the casualty and his date of death and home address at the time (if known). Our volunteers at the Linskill Community Centre may be able to assist you in this but they cannot accept cash donations.
Anyone who might wish to make a special donation to provide for an item of garden furniture or other special cost can contact the Administration office and a member of the project will get in touch to discuss this further with you.

Sage September Concert

 Commemorative Concert will reflect the War across the North East

Planning is now well advanced for the staging of what will be the biggest event of its kind in the North East this year to mark the contribution of the people of the region to the national struggle over the years 1914-18; as the entire population was affected by the demands of the government to sustain an all-consuming juggernaut of military effort, that changed the nation; both the patterns of employment and social structures, over the four years of conflict.

The concert, in the imposing venue of Sage Gateshead will take place on Saturday, 27th September, 2014 at 7.30pm in Hall One. The Project has joined forces with the ABF – the Soldiers’ Charity to organise this event under the title of The Response which reflects its theme of telling the story of how the communities of the North East played a strategic and pivotal role in the national war effort as well as providing recruits for the armed forces in far greater numbers proportionately to the majority of other parts of the country; and suffered some of the worst losses of life in the many great campaigns on the Western Front and elsewhere over the period of the war.

The project will be using many images drawn from its research findings to illustrate the concert, which will feature popular music of the time, military airs and soldiers’ songs together with poetry and writing of the wartime era.

Young people of today will play a big part in the event with the Northumbrian Ranters school orchestra of Northumberland alongside traditional dancers reflecting the Scottish and Irish cultural mix of the population of 1914; a time when the region was the industrial powerhouse of the nation attracting a huge influx of migrants from elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

The story of the Tyneside Scottish and Irish Brigades and the other local ‘Pals’ battalions of the Northumberland Fusiliers and Durham Light Infantry will be reflected as we remember the tragic consequences of the First Day of the Battle of the Somme (1st July, 1916) and its consequences for thousands of North East families.
Tickets for the event will go on sale from the Sage Box office from 1st June, 2014 and demand is expected to be high for this very special event. All proceeds from the event, one of the ABFs Salute our Heroes concert series, will go to the Soldiers’ Charity and SSAFA  Forces Help

More immediately the seventh in our series of key lectures on the Great War and its consequences will take place at Northumbria University, City Campus East on Tuesday 8th April, 2014 at 6.15pm when Professor Andrew Lambert of Kings College, London University will deliver a lecture on the Royal Navy in WW1.
This is a free event. The City Campus East is located opposite Manors Metro Station and parking is available on site from 4pm in the University car park (chargeable ). Details of this lecture and the final event on 13th May, when Professor Joanna Bourke of Birkbeck College, London, will conclude the lecture series looking at ‘Armistice and Disability’, can be found on the project website.