A mounting death toll for local community on first anniversary

The Ritson Colliery Memorial in Preston Cemetery.
The Ritson Colliery Memorial in Preston Cemetery.

AT the first anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War on August 4, 1914, the local communities of Tynemouth Borough were becoming accustomed to reports of yet another man lost.

By the summer of 1915 the casualty toll had mounted to 149 for the first year, but 67 of these had been killed in the months of May to July, 1915.

August 1915 brought the highest monthly toll so far – 36.

John Cawson had served in the South African War (1899-1902) with the Coldstream Guards and re-enlisted in December 1914.

Too old to re-enlist at the outbreak of the war, the army had relaxed its restrictions as the need to replace the huge losses of experienced regulars lost in the first three months meant men up to age of 42 could now serve.

Although he is shown as being in the 23rd Battalion Tyneside Scottish, he must have been attached to another unit to have been wounded in France and returned to Newcastle, where he died of his injuries, as his listed battalion did not go overseas until later in 1915. Anyone with information about him is asked to contact the project.

Joseph Dehn was a former pupil of Tynemouth High School. He died suddenly and was buried after a funeral at St Cuthbert’s Church in North Shields. He was serving with a territorial battalion of the DLI still at home at that time.

William Elsdon’s death in France was reported by the Shields Daily News as ‘Another North Shields man killed in action’ (September 4, 1915).

Like many other families, his relatives received a letter from an officer of his company relating how his death had been instantaneous and he ‘had suffered no pain at all’.

These words appears in so many reports they can question the extent to which senior NCOs and officers sought to soften the blow for families.

Captain James Errington was a former member of Tynemouth Rowing Club.

He was serving in a territorial battalion of the DLI but had seen service 14 years earlier with the Northumberland Hussars in South Africa.

At 45 he was another over age for active service but allowed to go to Belgium when the greater needs arose.

The paper reported his sister in Cullercoats had received ‘a wire from the front’ informing her of his death in Flanders.

Private Joseph March, of Penman Street, was reported as ‘missing in action’ in Gallipoli since August 19, 1915, when his wife was seeking information about him in a notice published in the local paper in January 1916.

He was finally recorded as killed in action and his name is included amongst the 35 local men remembered on the Helles Memorial and who have no known grave in the dry and inhospitable landscape of the Dardanelles.

Thomas Patton was a coal miner at Ritson’s Preston Colliery who was killed by a German mine whilst serving as a member of a tunnelling company of the Royal Engineers.

Like many in his trade, he had moved to North Shields from his birthplace at Wheatley Hill in County Durham.

Enlisted into the Yorkshire Regiment he had transferred into one of many specialist units the army formed from men with his experience to carry out the dirty and extremely dangerous work of undermining the enemy’s positions and placing of high explosive charges.

His name is amongst the 65 employees of the colliery at Preston killed in action or died as a result of the war and listed on the company memorial.

Unfortunately it appears to have been be spelt incorrectly but never corrected.

The memorial previously sited near to Billy Mill roundabout is now at the south west gate of Preston cemetery.

Anyone with information on this week’s casualties or anyone killed or died as a result of the war is asked to contact the project.

The project workroom is open from 10am to 4pm each weekday for visitors and for anyone interested to learn more about the project and how to get involved.

THIS week’s casualty list gives details of men from the former Tynemouth Borough who were killed or died in August, 1915.

Bruce, George Stephenson, age 38, Chief Steward, ss Jacona (Liverpool), mined – LAS, 12th., 21 Spring Terrace, born Liverpool.

Cawson, John, age 41, Private, 23rd Battalion NF (Tyneside Scottish), DOW in hospital, Newcastle, 52 Middle Street, Milburn Place, previously served in South African War, (Coldstream Guards). Buried St Andrews Cemetery, Jesmond – see story

Coleman, James Patrick, Private, 1st Battalion East Yorks, KIA, 9th Ypres. Menin Gate Memorial. Details needed.

Curry, John, pictured, Private, 2nd Battalion DLI, DOW, 14th, Harton Fold, South Shields. Details needed.

Dehn, Joseph, age 22 Private, 7th Battalion DLI, died, 18th, 66 Hudson Street, formerly a pupil of Tynemouth High School.

Elliott, Joseph William, Private, 7th Battalion DLI, KIA, 27th, former Wellesley Boy. Chappelle D’Armentieres Cemetery.

Elsdon, William, age 22, Private, 9th Battalion NF, KIA, 31st, 9 Coronation Street, son of Mary Ann and late Thomas, brother of Thomas, also killed in war – see story

Errington, James, age 45, Captain, 7th Battalion DLI, KIA, 30th., son of William and Ann Jane Errington, brother of Miss Errington, of 41 Beverley Terrace, husband of Edith now residing Heaton, previously served in the South African War, (Northumberland Hussars) later an officer with South Shields detachment DLI Territorials – see story

Hall, Ernest, age 40, Donkeyman, ss Glenby (West Hartlepool), LAS 17th, born Constantinople. Tower Hill Memorial. Details needed.

Harrison, John, age 35, Private, 8th Battalion NF, KIA, 7th, 37 Percy Street. Helles Memorial – Dardanelles.

March, Joseph, age 28, Private, 8th Battalion NF, missing in action, 19th, 28 Penman Street – see story

Patton, Thomas, age 36, Sapper, 170th Tunnelling Company Royal Engineers, KIA, 13th, 85 Church Way, husband of Susan and father of James, miner, Ritson’s Colliery – see story


KIA – killed in action

DOW – died of wounds

LAS – lost at sea

NF – Northumberland Fusiliers

DLI – Durham Light Infantry

RND – Royal Naval Division

RNR – Royal Naval Reserve

RFA – Royal Field Artillery

n Anyone with information on this week’s list or who wants to find out more about the project, should visit www.tynemouthworldwarone.org, e-mail contact@tynemouthworldwarone.org or write to Tynemouth World War 1 Commemoration Project, c/o Essell, 29 Howard Street, North Shields, NE30 1AR.