War project assisting family member’s quest for recognition

The headstone for Private T W Vyse, who was killed in action in August 1918.
The headstone for Private T W Vyse, who was killed in action in August 1918.

THE grandson of a North Shields man has contacted the Tynemouth World War One Commemoration Project for help in getting recognition for his grandfather.

It has prompted consideration of what steps can be taken to get official remembrance for the loss of a relative who did not qualify for the grant of an Imperial War Graves Commission headstone and who is not remembered at the family plot.

If a serviceman or woman died whilst under military discipline and was not discharged from service then they were automatically granted an official war headstone or their name included on memorials to the missing.

That recognition was granted irrespective of the cause of death, be it the result of direct or indirect enemy action; accident, illness or other cause.

However, when a serviceman died after returning home, discharged from his unit as no longer fit for military service, often suffering debilitating and chronic effects of service (exposure to gas or mental stress from the terrors of constant shellfire) his family could not obtain the recognition of his service and subsequent death unless they could prove beyond reasonable doubt that the cause was a direct result of his war injury.

In the circumstances of the time this was not always easily proved.

Herbert Henry of Seymour Street, North Shields, served 12 years in the Royal Navy from 1896 to 1908 and then transferred to the reserves before being recalled for war service in 1914.

Following an injury received when a heavy ammunition case crushed his chest on board ship in March, 1915, he was hospitalised in Malta and finally discharged in June 1915.

Unfortunately, surviving naval records are unclear as to the circumstances of his being sent to hospital and the family had only verbal and anecdotal evidence of the incident.

In summer 1915, now returned to North Shields, he had only his pre-war pension of 10d (4.5p) per day to support his wife and three children.

He took a job as a labourer with the Tyne Commissioners but was often unable to work owing to pain in the chest which prevented him from sleeping for weeks at a time.

Finally, in February 1917, racked by pain, he attempted to take his own life by cutting his throat with a razor.

This attempt to kill himself was unsuccessful, and after weeks of treatment at the Jubilee Infirmary and Preston Workhouse Hospital, he died of his illness on August 15, 1917.

At the inquest held on the same day, the doctor who had attended him was not clear in asserting that death had been a direct result of war service and the death certificate issued merely states ‘pleurisy and pericarditis – probably resulting from an injury on board a warship at the Dardanelles about two years previously’.

The self-inflicted injury was ruled out as the cause of death.

His widow was left without a pension, with three children and her only means of support was to take in washing.

His grandson, also Herbert (Richard), of Tennyson Terrace, was born in 1929.

Along with his sister Joan Bennett, of Chirton Green, he has been investigating the mystery which has surrounded the history of his late grandfather and the fact that he has no official war headstone or recognition in the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

The Tynemouth project has discovered there is a process for ‘cold case reviews’ provided evidence can be presented to support the grant of a headstone.

A case is now being assembled for submission to the Royal Navy – unfortunately these can take up to five years to be considered and decided.

The project will now work with Richard and Joan, hopefully to gain the recognition they seek for their late grandfather’s service and death.

This case also reflects the strange coincidences of life because Herbert’s grandson was able to study for the stage through a grant from the Sir James Knott Trust (Sir James’ memorial to his sons killed in the First World War) and went to London to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in the 1950s.

He had served an apprenticeship at Smith’s Dock Company Limited at the end of the Second World War and was active in his youth in Tynemouth Borough Labour Party and the YMCA drama group.

After his spell in London he completed two year’s National Service in the Royal Navy but was disillusioned when he only served on land at HMS Victory in Portsmouth.

He subsequently enjoyed a life-long stage career under the name ‘Richard Henry’.

And he appeared in the 1970’s television drama When The Boat Comes In, playing a soldier suffering the effects of gas poisoning who is assisted by James Bolam’s character to seek financial assistance.

THIS week’s list gives details of the men who were killed or died in the month of August, 1918.

Charlton, William G, age 20, Lieutenant, 15th Battalion DLI, KIA, 26th, son of John Clark, JP, and Ann Fenwick Charlton, of Seaton Delaval.

Crispin, Joseph, age 22, Messroom Steward, ss Eros (London), LAS, 19th, born Sierra Leone.

Crowe, James A, MM, Sergeant, 12/13th NF, DOW, 28th, buried Pozieres British Military Cemetery, Ovillers la Boisselle.

Garvie, James Alexander, MC, age 22, Lieutenant, 2nd Battalion King’s Own Scottish Borderers, KIA, 21st, of 28 Rosemeount Avenue, Toronto, Canada, born at Leith – connection to Tynemouth needed.

Heslop, George Thirston, Private 1st/4th Battalion NF, died whilst POW, 10 Silkey’s Lane.

Malcolm, James Dalrymple, age 22, Private, 13th Battalion East Lancs Regiment, died, 30th, son of James Dalrymple Malcolm, 77 Elsdon Terrace, Percy Main.

Muckle, William Jackson Smith, age 39, 29th Stationary Hospital, RAMC, died suddenly, 25th, son of Peter and Catherine, 6 St John’s Terrace, Percy Main, buried at Cremona Town Cemetery, Italy.

Newson, Joseph, NF, died at home, 23rd, 4 Laet Street, buried, Preston Cemetery.

O’Donnnell, M, AB, Merchant Navy, ss Auckland Castle, LAS, 4th – details needed.

Rowntree, Anthony, Private, 10th Battalion Cheshire Regiment, died whilst POW, 27th, 29, Camden Street.

Speight, George Brown, age 39, CPO RN, HMS Vehement, LAS, 2nd, husband of Ellen Alma, 3 Medway Terrace, Gillingham,

Todd, John, age 19, AB Drake Battalion RND, KIA, 21st, 11 Edwina Gardens.

Vyse, Thomas Wilson, age 19, Private, 2nd/4th Battalion KOYLI, KIA, 25th, son of Adam and Margaret, 23 Park Avenue.

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.