Endurance of humanity despite horrors of war

The inhuman conditions in which men fought during the Great War have perhaps no parallel in history.

Forced to exist in crude dugouts or in the open, as weather, illness and lice took a heavy toll; trench life was compounded by the ever present threat of instant death through shelling or the much feared but less lethal poison gases employed by all sides.

Yet, through all of this, when enemies came face-to-face, in the majority of situations, recognition of their common plight would result in compassion and care for the opponent.

Whilst there were undoubtedly instances of men on both sides exacting revenge, perhaps motivated by the recent death of a good pal standing only inches away in the trench, in the majority of cases men would treat their opponents with respect.

There are many photographs of British and German troops offering basic care and support to their wounded enemy.

Richard van Emden, author of best-selling books on the war including The Last Fighting Tommy and Boy Soldiers, will give another of the project’s lectures organised in conjunction with Northumbria University at 6.15pm on Tuesday, April 28, at the City Campus East site, opposite Manors Metro. Parking (charged) is available on site after 5.30pm.

The lecture, Meeting the Enemy: The Human face of The Great War, will be based upon van Emden’s recent book and will give an insight into the little events which shone through the gloom and horror of the conflict.

There will be a reception with refreshments in advance from 5.45pm in the foyer area of the lecture theatres. And the public event is free.

A further five Blue Plaques for men killed in the war were placed at their homes on the western side of North Shields town centre on Sunday, April 19.

Relatives of some of the men were present and Coun Tommy Mulvenna, chairman of North Tyneside Council, represented the local authority.

Four family members of Edwin Calverley were present at 67 Chirton West View as his plaque was placed.

More than 20 men from his street were killed in the war, and when complete the plaques in that street will be a stark reminder of the toll exacted on the local community.

Mrs Joy Rayner, a niece and only surviving relative of Norman Wilfred Lawson, expressed her thanks that she had been able to be present at 8 Waterville Terrace as his plaque was placed.

The house also has the plaque for his brother-in-law , Thomas Mercer Lidster. His wife Amelia, sister of Norman, lost her brother and her husband to the war.

The family of Oswald Detchon and occupiers today of his former home at Widdrington Terrace were present and able to learn of the recently posted information on the project database showing his prisoner of war records, and Red Cross correspondence as his widow sought information about him in February 1919.

Sadly, she would learn that he had died of dysentery at Worms in Germany in September 1918, five months after being captured.

More detailed biographies of these men and for Septimus Smith and Thomas Finkall Blair, for whom plaques were also placed, can be found on the project’s website www.tynemouthworldwarone.org

The project’s information centre in Front Street, Tynemouth, is open at weekends for the spring and summer. A number of small exhibitions of the project’s work and publications can be viewed and purchased.

Anyone with information about anyone who was killed or died as a result of the war is asked to contact the project.

The project workroom at Room B9, Linskill Community Centre, Trevor Terrace, North Shields, is open from 10am to 4pm each weekday for visitors and for anyone interested to learn more about the project or how to get involved.

The address for correspondence is c/o Essell, 29 Howard Street, North Shields NE30 1AR.