Another series of blue plaques now in place

The Northumbria World War One Commemorative Project banner.
The Northumbria World War One Commemorative Project banner.

A further six blue plaques marking the homes of victims of the First World War were put up in North Shields on Saturday.

They encompass a wide spectrum of places and activities as for many North Tynesiders, the war came to them, rather than them going to war.

By following their normal occupations, they were caught up in the conflict and ended up on the front line.

Two such men were lost when the steam trawler Reaper hit a mine laid by the German submarine UC 49 just a couple of miles off the mouth of the Tyne.

Alexander Hastie, of 18 Park Crescent, and Thomas Fyall, of 27 Washington Terrace, were part of the trawler’s crew lost on February 21, 1917.

Fyall’s body was washed ashore on the Trow Rocks at South Shields two months after his death, and he was taken to North Shields for burial in Preston Cemetery.

Hastie’s body was never recovered, and he is commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial in Kent.

He was a temporary skipper in the Royal Naval Reserve and serving his country while also following his peacetime occupation. Three other members of the crew were from North Shields, but their old homes have long since been demolished, so no plaques can be placed for them.

Further away in the hostile Atlantic waters of the Western Approaches, off Fastnet Rock, John Richard Kolmn was one of five victims of the German U-boat U 45 after it sank their ship in February 1917, then turned its fire on lifeboats launched by its crew.

A plaque has been placed at 67 Princes Street, his former home.

The full story of Kolmn, a steward on the SS Eavestone, and his involvement in an incident believed to have contributed to America’s entry into the war two months later can be read online at www.

Two men who went into the Army and did not return were also connected to the sea through family and occupation even though they were shore-based.

George Hunnam Stenhouse, of 52 Washington Terrace, worked for Richard Irvin and Sons on the town quay but went to war in the Royal Garrison Artillery and served as a telephone specialist, carrying out the dangerous work of repairing and laying lines under fire.

He was wounded and died near Arras in France in March 1918.

William Purdy, great-nephew of the founder of steam-trawling family firm William Purdy, was a senior manager in the business when he was conscripted in summer 1917 after previously being exempted because of the importance of his civilian work.

After training, he went to France in December 1917 and was caught up in the great German spring offensive of March 1918.

He had been selected in February of that year for training to be an officer, but his return to England was delayed by the critical situation at the front.

He was wounded on April 9 near the La Bassee Canal and died the following day, the same day that he should have arrived home for his officer training.

His home at 11 Park Crescent now carries a plaque just opposite the home of his neighbour Alexander Hastie.

The sixth plaque, placed at 33 Washington Terrace, was for William Coats.

He enlisted in the Army in August 1914 at the outbreak of the war.

After his death at Suvla Bay in the Dardanelles, Turkey, on August 8, 1915, at the age of 24, the Christ Church parish magazine and Shields Daily News mourned the loss of a man described as being of fine physique and having had great qualities.

He had played for Percy Park Rugby Football Club.

 On Tuesday next week, Peter Coppack will give a talk at 7.30pm at the Low Lights Tavern on Brewhouse Bank in North Shields on the development of armoured vehicles including tanks during the war.

Admission is free. For further information, go to

The project’s information centre in Front Street, Tynemouth, is open at weekends and some weekdays until the end of September.

Anyone with information about anyone killed or died as a result of the war from homes across all parts of the modern borough of North Tyneside is asked to contact the project.

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

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