THE new year of 1916 opened with little activity on the Western Front but elsewhere there were two significant events which were to be the cause of dispute and the ruin of reputations.
In the eastern Mediterranean the final withdrawal from the Gallipoli peninsular brought to a close one of the most contentious episodes of the whole war.
It had already cost Churchill his cabinet post – he resigned in November, 1915.
As one of the early protagonists of the ill-fated venture he went to France to serve with the Scots Guards and spent a year out of office before returning to the coalition government of David Lloyd George in 1917.
A vitriolic enquiry into the strategy and management of the campaign would be held later in the year but for reasons of morale and security was not published at the time.
The only saving grace of the whole costly adventure was the brilliantly executed withdrawal of British and Dominion troops – firstly from ANZAC Cove and Suvla Bay in December 1915 and then finally from the tip of the peninsular over three nights from January 7 to 9.
There were those who believed the occupation of the positions at the mouth of the Dardanelles should be maintained to ensure no entry or exit by Turkish or German shipping, but this idea was rejected finally by the War Cabinet when the French withdrew their forces from both sides of the channel.
For the Borough of Tynemouth the ill-fated attempt to take Turkey out of the war and open up access to the Black Sea had cost more than 40 local men their lives.
Analysis now made possible by the building of the Tynemouth World War One Commemoration Project’s initial database shows that ten members of the RNVR (Tyne Division), who were transferred into Churchill’s newly formed Royal Naval Division are listed on the Helles Memorial to the missing at the foot of the peninsular, along with 16 local men of the 8th Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers.
These were amongst the first to volunteer locally and were part of Kitchener’s New Army.
Their early death, in what was for all of them their first campaign, was only a precursor of the terrible losses to be recorded over the coming 12 months.
Meanwhile, in Mesopotamia, (modern day Iraq), one of the little- known campaigns of the war was turning sour with thousands of British and Indian Army troops trapped at Kut-al Amara, retreating from an ill-conceived and unnecessary adventure in the inhospitable and strategically unimportant provinces of what is now Iraq.
This campaign was to sow the seeds of future conflict and the involvement of British troops in the area for years to come.
In a postscript to this episode of imperial adventure the British and Commonwealth war cemeteries in Baghdad and Basra were restored during the recent campaigns conducted as part of the second Gulf War after years of neglect and damage over the years from 1945 to 2003.
Bookings can still be made for the project’s first tour to the battlefields of Belgium and northern France from May 21 to 25 by DFDS ferry from North Shields.
For details see the project website or go to www.dfdsseaways.co.uk/battlefields2012
Anyone who has any information about men included on this week’s casualty list or who wishes to learn more about the project is welcome visit the workroom at the Linskill Community Centre – Mondays to Fridays, 10am to 4pm, or visit the website.
The next open forum for project volunteers and any member of the public who wishes to attend will be held at 7pm on Tuesday, March 27, in the Linskill Community Centre.
THIS week’s casualty list gives details of men from the borough who killed or died in January 1917.
Agnew, Thomas Randell, age 24, skipper, RNR, HMT Raven 3, lost in storm, 20th, husband of
Elizabeth Agnew, 16 Newcastle Street, former pupil of Tynemouth High School.
Bowes, Ernest Walter, officer’s steward, MMR, HM Water Tank Progress, drowned, 12th, (recorded as January 10 in the Roll of Honour), former Wellesley Boy, son of Mrs Alice Bowes, 3 Hope Terrace, Malton, North Yorkshire.
Crosby, James, age 30, engineer, RNR, HMT New Comet, LAS, 10th, 2 Cross Street, husband of Margaret, son of the late Thomas W and Margaret, date of loss given as 10th or 20th in websites.
Gibbons, Martin, age 22, RNR, HMT New Comet, 59 Back George Street, son of Catherine and late Martin.
Jones, Henry John, Private, 21st Battalion NF (Tyneside Scottish), DOW, 13th, Poor Law Institution, Preston Road, born Brecknockshire, (now Powys, mid Wales), buried Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension, Nord (Pas de Calais).
Leadley, William H, age 44, 2nd engineer, MN ss Planudes (Middlesbrough), LAS, 18th, 46 Dockwray Square, born Hull, husband of Mrs Leadley.
May, Peter, Private, 1st Battalion NF, KIA, 17th, 14 West Percy Street, commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the missing on the Somme.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Tynemouth World War 1 Commemoration Project, c/o Essell, 29 Howard Street, North Shields, NE30 1AR.