Mystery of brothers’ graves

Silver War Badge
Silver War Badge
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As many of readers will know the Northumbria World War One project has been researching casualties from the North Tyneside area who perished in the Great War. In the course of this researchers, all volunteers, rely heavily on the resources of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, set up to record those who died during the conflict.

It details basic information on each casualty such as name, rank, regiment, sometimes an address, and the all important service number.

These details are often vital in pinning down the right details for a casualty. However, a couple of brothers have come to light who died but are not included on the CWGC database. Not only that but researchers have, so far, been unable to locate their graves.

The Moan brothers were from Wallsend but judging by the surname the likelihood was that the family hailed from Ireland. A look at their references in the Census of 1881 and 1901 confirmed that their father, James, was indeed born on the Emerald Isle.

Edward, the younger of the two brothers, was born in Jarrow but by 1911 was living in Willington Quay and working as a labourer in the Castner Kellner Chemical Works.

He joins up in June 1913 and by the start of the war is a professionally trained soldier with the Northumberland Fusiliers. He sees action early on, indicated by receiving a 1914-15 Star, as well as Victory, British War medals and the Silver War Badge (often given to those soldiers who received wounds or who were somehow incapacitated during the fighting).

During his service he rises to Corporal. He dies on November 25, 1918, two weeks after the armistice, at home. Researchers have uncovered a very telling Army Medical Report after an examination of Edward takes place on November 8. He had been discharged in 1916 after suffering from a gas attack the previous year and it seems his condition deteriorated in the interim.

According to the medical officer conducting the examination Edward is “a thin emaciated man”, who has great difficulty in breathing because of lung damage caused by the inhalation of the deadly gases fired by the Germans. He had returned to his old job at the chemical works but by late 1918 he was unable to work. The poor man was in terrible distress and must have suffered greatly in his final months. Despite all this he has no reference in the CWGC records.

Older brother Henry’s case is different and, although he was a professional soldier when war comes he is discharged less than three weeks after it is declared. The nature of his illness is unknown but he succumbs only five months after Edward dies. Again he has no CWGC reference and his only war medal is the Silver War Badge. They are both a puzzle for the project’s researchers but their tenacity to resolve these men’s records should bring dividends.

We have another fascinating talk at the Low Lights pub on the Fish Quay on Tuesday, April 18, at 7.30pm by Peter Coppack. He will look at a lesser known ally of Britain, that of Japan in the Great War.

If you have any information on any casualties of the First World War from North Tyneside, visit the website www.northumbriaworldwarone.co.uk or call into our office at B9 in the Linskill Centre, Linskill Terrace, North Shields, or email tommy@northumbriaworldwarone.co.uk