Documentary prompts new contacts for project’s work

The recent re-showing of the BBC Newcastle documentary Despatches from Tyneside prompted a large number of people from across the country to get in touch with information about their own relatives.

Chris Jackson’s programme, which looked at the war on the Home Front using a significant amount of material from the Tynemouth group, also brought praise on the quality and depth of the project’s research.

A couple, who describe themselves as ‘Geordies in exile’ living in Cambridgeshire, have sent a detailed biographical account of the life of Elizabeth Cole (later Smith) nee Cranston, who was widowed early in the war.

She lost her husband Daniel on July 1, 1916, while he served in the Tyneside Irish.

And more tragedy befell both the Cole and Cranston families in 1916.

Elizabeth also lost her younger brother Matthew only a few months later in the fighting at the end of the Somme campaign at Beaumont Hamel, where he was serving in the Howe Battalion of the Royal Naval Division.

Elizabeth was left with two young children aged two and three, but fate was kind when she met a soldier, John Alexander Smith, at home convalescing from service at the front with the RAMC, where he had been wounded and hospitalised on an earlier occasion in 1915.

On his coming home on leave in summer 1918 they were married, and despite all the worry of his having to return to the front, he arrived home safely on Christmas Eve 1918 and they went on to have a happy marriage and five children.

Unable to persuade Elizabeth to emigrate to Canada, where he had gone to work for a while in the 1920s, he settled into life as a caring father and a strong supporter of the Workers Educational Association.

Keen that his family should take an interest in literature and the arts, a piano and music lessons were seen as essential to self-improvement.

The outbreak of the Second World War was met with fear and trepidation as Elizabeth saw her elder children serving in the forces and younger ones at home, as the terror of bombing reached the town.

Despite being blown out of their Anderson Shelter by a landmine explosion in one raid, which made their home uninhabitable, they survived unscathed if shocked.

Elizabeth, howeve,r had suffered a further blow when Alexander had died after a short illness aged only 49 at the beginning of the war.

Like many she found the reserves of inner strength to carry on and lived to enjoy the birth of her grandchildren, dying in 1968 aged 76.

The detailed account of Elizabeth Smith (Cranston) will be added to the project database on the records of Daniel Cole, her first husband, and Matthew Cranston, her brother.

The new contacts are the third family to be in touch with the project regarding these two casualties of the war.

The project would encourage anyone connected to the men on the database to get in contact. They can often put families in touch but always on the basis of mutual consent.

The annual concert Salute Our Heroes, organised by the Army Benevolent Fund in aid of SSAFA, the charity supporting service personnel and their families in times, takes place in Hall One, Sage Gateshead, at 7.30pm on Saturday (September 27).

Tickets for the concert are available only from Sage Gateshead - including online - on (0191) 443 4661.

The project Information Centre in Front Street, Tynemouth, will be open Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4pm until late autumn. The project Workroom in Linskill Community Centre is open from 10am to 4pm daily Mondays to Fridays.

To access the project database visit

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

The workroom, at Room B9, Linskill Community Centre, Trevor Terrace, North Shields, is open from 10am to 4pm each weekday.

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