Despite ceasefire effects of war still take there toll in early 1919

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MANY men who had returned home or were still serving in France or elsewhere in Britain would fall victim to the epidemic of influenza which swept the world from 1917-19.

Weakened by the rigours of their wartime service they would succumb to relatively minor ailments which in ordinary circumstances would not have resulted in their death.

Corporal William John Craig was 28 when he died of influenza and the effects of gas poisoning in February 1919.

Previously he had served with the Northumberland Hussars, a yeomanry (territorial) regiment of cavalry which went to France immediately on the outbreak of the war and provided a large number of cyclist companies to the tiny British expeditionary Force in the early days of the fighting.

Gassed in July 1917, he was subsequently transferred to an agricultural company in the Labour Corps, evidently no longer fit for active war service.

These groups of men, many without any previous farming experience, were used to replace the large numbers of agricultural workers conscripted or volunteered into the army.

Often having been reduced in category of military fitness they were brought home to Britain to help offset the desperate shortage of farm workers.

Although his military records show he was transferred from the Hussars and reallocated a new service number, his Imperial (Commonwealth) War Graves headstone in Preston Cemetery carries the regimental badge of the Northumberland Hussars.

Perhaps it was his family who requested that his grave should show the unit he had joined at the outset and been invalided from into the Labour Corps.

The project is making enquiries about this with the CWGC to ascertain who had the authority to decide on the descriptions and emblems on a headstone.

Corporal Henry Henderson Kyles MM was reported to have ‘died of the effects of war service’ on February 22, 1919.

His presence of mind and raw courage had seen him awarded the Military Medal for saving the lives of several of his comrades by selflessly carrying a live shell down the trench and throwing it over the edge.

Working in a trench in September 1916, he had accidentally activated a defective shell.

Realising it would explode in just eight seconds, he carried it several yards along the trench away from his comrades before throwing it out.

He was presented with his medal ribbon at a meeting in the Co-operative Hall in North Shields – his medal not having arrived in time for the presentation.

Private Kyles had served in the grocery department of the North Shields Co-operative Society at Camden Street and Percy Main.

He joined one of the Commercial Battalions in January 1915 (16th Northumberland Fusiliers) and had served throughout the war, ending up in the 9th Battalion of the Fusiliers.

We can only speculate on the effects of the war over almost four years but like many others he was weakened to the point where his physical condition was so debilitated as to lead to his early death.

Copies of the Reprint of the Roll of Honour, with additional notes; and the booklet containing information about many of the men on the recently refurbished Christ Church memorials, (extracted from the Christ Church Parish monthly magazine) can be obtained from Keel Row Bookshop on Preston Road, or from the project workroom at Room B9 Linskill Community Centre.

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 (until 7pm Tuesdays and Wednesdays) 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 February 1919.

Craig, William John, age 28, Private, 412th Agricultural Company, Labour Corps (previously Northumberland Hussars), died influenza and effects of gas poisoning, 18th, 26 Rosebery Avenue, son of Thomas Blaxham Craig and Isabella Simpson Craig, buried Preston cemetery. See story.

Kyles, Henry Henderson MM, age 24, Private, 9th Battalion NF, died of the effects of active service, 22nd, 76 Grey Street. See story.

Reddy, Nicholas Lumsden, age 50, Engineman, MN, RNR, HMS Satellite, died of disease,12th Princes Street, husband of Hannah, mentioned in Dispatches.

Robinson, Charles Frederick, age 35, Private, 2nd Battalion West Yorks Regiment, died at home, 15th, 1 St George’s Terrace, Cullercoats, husband of Jesse Philip Robinson (nee Stocks), buried St Paul’s Churchyard, Whitley Bay.

Rutherford, James age 31, Private, 182nd (POW) Company Labour Corps, died 6th, 19 Brunton Terrace, Percy Main, husband of Anne, 31 Easten Terrace, East Howdon, son of James R W and Sarah, teamer at coal staithes, buried Preston cemetery.

Swanson, Thomas Norman, age 23, Leading Hand, RNR, HMS Victory, died Naval Hospital, Portsmouth, 15th, 10 Tennyson Terrace, son of Charles and late Anna, 25 Gardner Street, buried Preston cemetery.

Seddon, Thomas, age 47, Sapper, 441 Northumbrian Company Royal Engineers, died 22nd, 89 Norham Terrace (now Norham Road), son of John and Margaret, coal miner (hewer), husband of Jane, previously discharged unfit, had been a dispatch rider (motorcyclist). Details needed.

Key:

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.