Fighting rages across three continents and the open seas

Skew Bridge Cemetery in Turkey, the resting place of Robert Skipsey.
Skew Bridge Cemetery in Turkey, the resting place of Robert Skipsey.

A CHAIN reaction that swept across Europe in July 1914 triggered the catastrophe which would come to be known as ‘The Great War’.

By July 1915, as the first anniversary of the outbreak of hostilities approached, the conflict was global in nature with campaigns across three continents and on the high seas.

The Turkish army was engaged in eastern Anatolia against the Russian army.

In Mespotamia a British force was advancing up the Tigris/Euphrates river system.

And on the Gallipoli Peninsular, the ultimately ill-fated allied attempt take control of the Narrows and free the sea routes to southern Russia had entered its second phase, following the sea-borne landings at Cape Helles at the tip of the peninsular.

Two local men were killed in action early in the month. Ernest Gott (July 5) and Robert Skipsey (July 9) were both serving in Drake Battalion of the Royal Naval Division fighting in the campaign to wrest the Gallipoli isthmus from the Turkish defenders.

Their service records reveal the following account of events which claimed their lives.

Telling of the intense fighting in the dry gullies and ravines of the inhospitable battlefield, temporary Sub-Lieutenant the Hon K R Dundas, an officer of the division, wrote in almost the tones of a boys’ adventure story of the actions in which they were killed.

“We have just had a most exciting time. I was lying down at about 7am when I heard a sudden burr, and looking round saw the whole of our right bolting. Things looked pretty bad, but we charged out and reinforced the right and drove off the Turks with heavy losses. For the time being, however, there was a bad panic, and had we not stopped the Turks few of us would be alive to tell the tale. I killed four Turks with my own fair hands and I know my men accounted for a good few.”

Only a few days later on July 10 he wrote: “Yesterday evening as I was going through the Drake lines a shell burst and killed four men and wounded 17.”

This is the event which claimed the life of Robert Skipsey, from Adison Street, (see casualty list).

Elsewhere the armies of Germany and Austria Hungary were engaged with Russian and Serbian forces.

In East and South West Africa, British forces were seeking to take control of German colonies.

In Italy the war with Austria was just beginning and in France the fighting that was to be known as the second battle of Ypres had just petered out.

At sea the Royal Navy was on constant alert for U-boats as the toll of shipping losses grew with the expansion of the German fleet.

The current exhibition at the Low Lights Tavern, Brewhouse Bank, Fish Quay, North Shields, featuring Richard Simpson, a survivor of the sinking of HMS Hampshire when Lord Kitchener was lost, will be moving soon to a new location and will be replaced.

The project workroom will now be open until 7pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for visitors and anyone wishing to find out about helping the work.

Anyone interested to learn about the project and how to get involved can visit the Workroom at Room B9, Linskill Community Centre, from 10am to 4pm Monday to Friday.

THIS week’s casualty list gives details of men from the former Borough of Tynemouth who were killed or died in July 1915.

Common, Robert Watson, age 20, Private, 1st Battalion West Yorks Regiment, DOW, 30th, 64 Blyth Street, Percy Main, son of John H and Isabella W. A postman in Percy Main, his brother John T H Common, died on active service on September 24, 1918. Hop Store Cemetery.

Ewins, Alexander, age 35, Private, 1st Battalion NF, KIA, 27th, 20 Church Way, son of Christopher and May. Menin Gate Memorial.

Gott, Ernest Godfrey, age 20, AB, RNVR, Anson Battalion RND, KIA, 5th, 4 Murton Row, Percy Main, son of Samuel and Levina. Buried Redoubt Cemetery, Cape Helles, Dardanelles.

Rollo, Joseph, age 32, Sergeant, RAMC, died Malta, 5th, son of George and Esther, husband of Anne Harker Godley (formerly Rollo).

Rutley, Joseph, age 21, Private, 2nd Battalion, DLI, KIA, 22nd, 7 Bedford Lane, son of the late Joseph, husband of Elizabeth Ann Rutley.

Skipsey, Robert, age 32, AB, RNVR, Drake Battalion RND, KIA, 9th, 21 Addison Street, husband of Mary Jane Sheppard (formerly Skipsey). Dardanelles.

Stelling, John (aka Anderson), Sergeant, 1st Battalion, NF, KIA 18th, 17 Silkey’s Lane, brother of Jane.