Family memories the vital aspect of project’s research

THE work of the Tynemouth World War One Commemoration Project is focused not on the military history of the war but the human cost and the stories of ordinary men played out in major events in the conflict.

It is the materials and anecdotes brought to us by living relatives which so enrich the details of the men’s military service and family relationships.

If all we were to be doing was the collection and analysis of details of names, ranks and numbers, those interested today would learn little of the men behind the uniforms.

We are indeed fortunate that through the exposure the project has enjoyed in this weekly column and the listing of casualties names, many relatives with intimate details of the men’s lives, their families and correspondence during the period of the war have come forward and allowed us access to their treasured reminders of men who gave their lives long ago.

The project is working closely with an established group which collects oral history from local relatives by conducting in depth interviews with trained volunteers who can gather information about times gone by before it slips from living memory.

More than 100 relatives of men on the Tynemouth Roll of Honour have contacted us, most living locally or in the UK, but some from as far away as Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

We are hoping to conduct as many interviews with them as possible over the coming 12 months and we are providing training for anyone who wishes to volunteer to work on this aspect of the project.

If anyone is interested in this aspect of the project, get in touch via e-mail or call into Room B9 at Linskill Community Centre in North Shields and leave details so someone can get back in touch.

Typical of the stories was the family reminiscence about John Thomas Wakeling, of Cullercoats.

We have learned of a man reluctant to go to war but who responded to the call of duty to his country and family.

John’s father was born in Essex and drove horses to the north east to be used locally.

Born in Sunderland in 1880, he married Mary Ethel Benson in South Shields in 1903.

In 1911 they were living in Byron Street, South Shields, but later lived in Cullercoats, from where John went to war.

A volunteer in 1915, he served in the 16th. Northumberland Fusiliers and both the Tyneside Irish and Tyneside Scottish brigades of the fusiliers.

He was finally posted to the 1st Battalion on the disbandment of the 21st (Tyneside Scottish) Battalion of the regiment in January 1918.

He was killed by a shell on March 4 and buried near Arras.

He had worked as a glass cutter and glazier and used to paint in oils on glass.

The family still hold two pictures he created in 1915.

The project’s contact recalls his mother telling of her grandfather – John’s son – recounting his father’s suffering with bad feet and facial injury, and of his crying when he had to return to the front, but return he did.

The story of the ill-fated campaign in Mesopotamia will be told in a talk to be given at the Low Lights Tavern on Tuesday, February 26.

Tickets for this free talk, entitled Nobody’s child – Mesopotamia in the Great War, are still available from the Keel Row book shop, Preston Road, North Shields, Low Lights Tavern and the project workroom.

The reprint of the Roll of Honour and thought-provoking map, showing the addresses of more than 900 of those who died as a result of the war, are selling quickly.

Both can be obtained from the project workroom at Room B9, Linskill Community Centre and Keel Row book shop.

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 workroom is open from 10am to 4pm each weekday.

THIS week’s casualty list gives details of men from the former Tynemouth Borough who were killed or died in March 1918.

Davison, Thomas, age 54, 2nd, Officer, MN, ss Roxburgh (Newcastle), LAS, enemy action, 5th, 35 Jackson Street, son of the late Thomas and Francis, husband of Esther (nee Nightingale), their son, G H Davison, also KIA, October 11, 1918.

Donohoe, George S, age 31, Private, 1st Battalion NF, died effects of war service, 3rd, discharged from army under Para. 392 XVI King’s Regulations – no longer physically fit for service, husband of Margaret Ann (nee Davison), enlisted 104 to reserve 1909, recalled August 5, 1914, fought at Mons, Aisne and La Bassee, two of his brothers killed in action, buried in Preston cemetery.

Mounsey, George Alwyn, age 34, 3rd engineer, MN, ss Roxburgh (Newcastle), LAS, enemy action, 5th, born Keswick, Kilmeny House, Blencathra Street, Keswick. Information needed to explain his inclusion on the Tynemouth Roll of Honour.

Playford, William Alexander, age 42, Private 1st/7th NF, KIA, 19th, 79 Elsdon Terrace, son of the late John and Mary Ann, husband of Margaret C, trench fever 1917, hospitalised Cheshire, returned to France.

Todd, Alfonso, age 16, mess room steward, MN, ss Burnstone, LAS, 10th, son of Margaret Wadey (formerly Todd) and late Edward Todd, 25 Elsdon Street.

Wakeling, John Thomas, Private, 1st Battalion NF, KIA, 4th, 1 Front Street, Cullercoats, born Sunderland, married South Shields, husband of Mary Ethel, (nee Benson), she remarried Christopher Bell, 1920. See story.

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.