Poppy row reinforces commitment to remembrance

The poster for the Northumbria World War One Commemoration Project's 'Hunting the Hun' talk.
The poster for the Northumbria World War One Commemoration Project's 'Hunting the Hun' talk.

In Flander’s Fields the Poppies blow…Between the crosses – row on row.

Dr John McCrae, of the Canadian Field Artillery, reflected on the loss that he observed in the temporary resting places of the British, Dominion and Empire casualties of the early months of the Great War, including a close friend killed in the second week of the German offensive of April, 1915.

He jotted down his thoughts and in due course it would become the iconic poem written on the English-speaking side of the conflict.

Taken up by an American woman who made poppies to raise funds for injured soldiers, the poppy was to become the worldwide symbol of British Commonwealth remembrance that continues to this day as the way we affirm our commitment to remember the dead and support those who suffer the effects of their military service.

It is perhaps ironic that in an era when displaying your affiliation to any number of causes is ever present, a controversy has arisen around the wearing of the poppy by two of our national football teams. The poppy is now mired in an argument about alleged political symbolism.

In an era when everything from the past must be strained through a filter of modern thinking, this controversy is only likely to reinforce the commitment of the majority to the wearing of the poppy and bring down contempt on a morally bankrupt organisation which purports to administer fairly the game of football worldwide.

In a time of increased antipathy about immigration, our next talk at The Low Lights Tavern is particularly apposite. On Tuesday, November 22, at 7.30pm, Silvie Fisch, of the Time Bandits living history group and Northern Cultural Projects, will give a talk entitled Hunting the Hun.

Silvie will consider the significant German immigrant population living in Britain in 1914 and the anti-German hysteria which gripped the nation in the early days of the Great War, not least on Tyneside and across the North East, where a huge and vital munitions industry was of special interest to the ‘spies who allegedly lurked around every corner’.

Tonight, Thursday, November 10, at 7pm, at Linskill Community Centre, the project is showing the great and controversial film about the Battle of the Somme, which was fought from July 1 to November 18, 1916. Admission is free.

That battle would claim 150 men of Tynemouth alone, and more than 450 across the modern borough of North Tyneside.

Our exhibition, North Tynesiders and the Battle of the Somme, at North Shields Customer First Centre, Northumberland Square, will be on display until November 18.

The level of loss means that the project has decided reluctantly that it will not be practical, as in previous years for 1914 and 1915, to announce the names of all Tynemouth borough’s casualties for 1916 in advance of the official service of remembrance at the Hawkey’s Lane War Memorial, at 10.50am, on Sunday.

Full details of more than 1,800 Great War casualties from Tynemouth are available on our website at www.northumbriaworldwarone.co.uk

The project workroom (Room B9) at Linskill Community Centre, North Shields, is open from 10am to 4pm each weekday for enquiries and for anyone to bring information about relatives lost in the war. The Memorial Garden is open from 8am to 5pm daily.