As a gesture of remembrance and gratitude Eric Donjon, Honorary Consul for France in north east England and Cumbria, has presented a sculpted poppy, which he placed in the Northumbria World War One Commemoration Project’s Memorial Garden at Linskill Community Centre on Saturday, November 11.
More than 80 people were present for a service of remembrance as the Honorary Consul installed the large metallic poppy he had commissioned from an artist in France. The poppy is inscribed ‘Nous n’oublierons jamais’ – We will never forget.
M Donjon dedicated the poppy to the centenary of the Battle of Arras, which was fought in April-May 1917 and involved many local British military units.
Relatives of men from North Tyneside who were killed in that campaign were present, along with representatives of the Royal Navy, Army veterans’ associations and project volunteers.
Those present were reminded of the significance of the battle by Dr Dan Jackson, of the project, who gave a short account of what proved to be the bloodiest campaign fought by British and Dominion forces during the Great War.
The Battle of Arras, was the called ‘the blood tub’ by the British and Dominion forces fighting there, with around 4,000 casualties killed, wounded or missing every day for 40 days, from April 9 to mid-May.
The British attack was launched outside the city of Arras to support a larger French offensive to the south. Vimy Ridge had been taken by the Canadians to the north and the British had advanced further than they had since the start of the war, but the battle soon got bogged down, and final attempts to outflank the German lines proved costly.
More than 200 men from the modern borough of North Tyneside were killed. Many have no known grave and are commemorated on the Arras Memorial that carries the names of more than 35,000 British and Dominion sailors, soldiers and airmen.
One casualty was Gunner Robert Robson, from Seymour Street, North Shields. A hairdresser and athlete with North Shields Polytechnic Club before the war, he’d only been in France with the Royal Artillery for two months before he died of wounds, aged 30.
The talk at the Low Lights Tavern on Tuesday, November 21, at 7.30pm, will be given by Professor Ian Buxton of Newcastle University, an expert in naval architecture. His talk, Tyne-built Battleships of World War One, is attracting great interest on social media.
New volunteers are welcome to join the project. The commitment of time is entirely at your discretion. To find out more contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call into the workroom at Linskill.