A great sportsman and larger than life character

Second Lieutenant Teddy Mortimer.
Second Lieutenant Teddy Mortimer.

Some months ago in this column I reported on the exploits of Whitley Bay man Stanley Kent whose tales of derring-do on the Western Front in the First World War read like a page out of a Boy’s Own story – a larger than life character who was a leader and a real inspiration to the men in his battalion.

Our intrepid researchers have now uncovered the story of another casualty of that great conflict, equally larger than life, and a man trusted and admired by those he came in contact with. There must be something about the sea air that breeds such characters as he also hailed from the coast.

Edmund Mortimer, Teddy to all his friends and family, was born in Tynemouth on August 24, 1879, to William and Jane Mortimer. They had married in Whalton, in Northumberland. Indeed, Jane’s father was the Reverend J.E Elliott of Whalton. The family were well off.

Teddy went as a boarder to the Royal Grammar at Lancaster, then Bracewell Hall in Skipton, followed by the elite public school Repton. His education was completed at Clare College, Cambridge.

Sport seemed to play a large part in his life. As well as being a competent footballer, he went on to represent his company in inter-regimental matches. He was a keen golfer and a particularly good cricketer.

Before the war he represented Northumberland on quite a few occasions. He was “a good bat, sound field and, on occasion, a dangerous change bowler”. To complete the sporting picture he was also a good shot and a keen angler.

He worked with his brother as a land agent, and was also a partner in a Blyth timber merchant, but with the advent of war he enlisted in September 1914 and was gazetted into the 6th Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers, with the rank of Second Lieutenant.

By April 26, 1915, he was at St Julien in the Ypres Salient in Belgium, where he was killed in action. His brother died six weeks later with the Durham Light Infantry.

When researching a combatant of the Great War it is often difficult to find any written material on that person. A name on a memorial is often the only reference. Teddy, however, is the exception to the rule. He is mentioned on numerous plaques and memorials and there are copious amounts of material about him.

From a newspaper clipping we find out a lot about him from the colonel of the regiment, who wrote a touching letter to Teddy’s mother Jane.

He writes: “Your son was killed gallantly leading his platoon in a desperate attack on St Julien. He was a fine type of English gentleman, and I feel his loss very greatly. He was very popular with the men and his platoon adored him.

“His body was brought in, and we buried him near Wieltje. I had some red and white roses, which the 5th Fusiliers wear on St George’s Day, and I made a little wreath of them, and put it on the cross we made with his name and regiment.

“He was shot through the heart and died instantaneously. He was as brave as a lion.”

The grave was never found after the war and Second Lieutenant Edmund Mortimer is commemorated on the Menin Gate at Ypres.

Please take time to check out our website www.northumbriaworldwarone.co.uk or send me an email to tommy@northumbriaworldwarone.co.uk for more information.

If you would like to get involved in the project, or have any information on casualties. You can also call into our office at B9 in the Linskill Centre, Linskill Terrace, North Shields.