As the August 23, 1918, passed the British and Allied forces were engaged in the final campaign that would bring the war to an end in Western Europe on November 11.
The British army in 1918 was not the tiny expeditionary force that four years earlier had made first contact with their principal adversary, in what would become years of relentless struggle to eject the invader, who had beached Belgian neutrality and provoked Britain into a declaration of war.
The army of August 1914 was a collection of regiments and units with strong affiliations to geographical areas. Formed of full-time regular soldiers and reservists recalled for service it would by November 1914 have ceased to exist as a fighting force.
Rapidly reinforced by troops brought home from the colonies and with support from the Indian Army, the enemy was held near Ypres and both sides dug in. Only in August 1918 would the Allies in France and Belgium break free from the vast network of trenches and then open warfare could resume.
In August 1918 the army was formed principally of conscripts, and those volunteers of 1914 and 1915 who had survived the grinding and debilitating existence of the trenches. The age for service at the front had been lowered in February 1918 to 18½. These troops, many just boys, were only recently brought into the war and, since 1916, were allocated randomly to units without reference to any personal preference or geographical origins.
No one from North Tyneside was killed on August 23, 1914, as fighting began. Four years later seven men would be recorded as dying that day, six in action in France. Four had volunteered in the first year of the war and two were conscripts.
Thomas Carniby Irvin Reed, of Alma Place, North Shields, an office boy at Smiths Dock Company Ltd., was called up in 1917 just before his 18th birthday. The casualties of the final months would be heavier than any period of the war apart from the disaster on the Somme in July 1916.
To mark the ‘100’ days, the Heritage Lottery Fund – that has supported the Northumbria and previous Tynemouth projects with substantial grants – is posting stories and links to show the work of many of the hundreds of projects across the country that they have supported. They will be posting daily to their Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and other social media sites.
The Memorial Hall, Wallsend, will be the venue for a concert at 7pm on Friday, November 9, to mark the end of the war and the second phase of the project. The concert is titled – Our Journey’s End – after the famous dramatic work of R C Sherriff, brilliantly translated recently into cinematic format. A wide ranging programme of music, dramatic excerpts and stories of some of the 4000 casualties of the war in North Tyneside will fill an evening of entertainment and reflection on the project’s work and the wartime experience of our community.
Tickets (£7) for the concert are available from from the Memorial Hall, Frank Street, Wallsend, and the Project workroom at Room B9 – Linskill Community Centre.
New volunteers are welcome to join the project. To find out more email firstname.lastname@example.org or call into the workroom at Linskill.
The project workroom (Room B9) at Linskill Community Centre, North Shields is open from 10am to 4pm each weekday for enquiries and for anyone to bring information about relatives lost in the war.
The Memorial Garden is open for public visits during the opening hours of the centre – 8am to 5pm daily.