Life of ‘Geordie Doughboys’

Declaration of war
Declaration of war

The Northumbria World War One Project has received a grant from the US Embassy in London to examine connections between the north east of England and the US forces that were engaged in the Great War from April 6, 1917.

The research, under the working title of Geordie Doughboys, has included examining draft registration cards for members of the American Expeditionary Force that came to France to fight alongside Western allies.

Our research shows more than 800 men gave addresses in north east England as their place of birth, before emigrating to the US in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The findings are included in a new exhibition to be opened at the Old Low Light Heritage Centre, Clifford’s Fort, Fish Quay, North Shields, on Tuesday, July 14, which tells the story of the local connections to US naval ships and aviation personnel, trained at Cramlington, as well as stories of individuals and the US destination of emigrants who joined the American forces.

The exhibition, on the first floor, will be there until July 16, when it will transfer to Washington Old Hall until the end of the summer holiday period. Further information about the project can be found at www.geordiedoughboys.com

One of the most important connections between the US and Tyneside was the incident on February 3, 1917, when, before America’s entry to the war, a US merchant seaman Richard Wallace was one of five victims of a cruel act by the captain of U45, who, having sunk their ship, SS Eavestone, proceeded to fire shrapnel shell onto the crew he had ordered into the lifeboats. Richard Wallace, from Baltimore, and four others, including John Richard Kolmn, of North Shields, were killed.

Germany had only resumed unrestricted submarine warfare three days earlier and these killings were regarded by many as a significant factor in the entry of the US into the war on the allied side two months later.

To mark the centenary of the entry of the US into the war and connections to north east England there will be a ceremonial raising of the US flag at North Tyneside Council offices at Cobalt Business Park on July 4 (US Independence Day) in the presence of a representative of the US Embassy, London.

Afterwards a commemorative tree to remember the five victims of the SS Eavestone will be planted in Northumberland Park. The North Shields’ victim John Richard Kolmn lived only a few hundred yards away in Princes Street and his former house has one of the more than 260 blue plaques placed by the project to mark the homes of the victims of the Great War.

To find out more email tommy@northumbriaworldwarone.co.uk or call into the workroom at Linskill.