For some the war was merely a brief ‘dance with death’

John Catherall Errington.
John Catherall Errington.

FOR some, the military adventure into which they had volunteered or been thrust by the ‘happen chance’ of selection for compulsory conscription, was to be but a brief encounter.

There was the reality of life on the Western Front before they were sucked into the maelstrom of death and destruction which was the ever present spectre haunting the life of everyone seeking to do as they were ordered and hopefully cheat ‘fate’ for another day.

John Catherall Errington had only enlisted in March 1916 so his death in action in August would have been only a matter of weeks after he was shipped to France.

By then he would have learned that his elder brother, Thomas William, serving in the same battalion since the outbreak of the war, had been killed in action that April.

And he would have been only too aware of the anxiety of his parents and three other siblings waiting at home.

Another case of the tragic loss of two sons in the same family occurred when Henry D Hogg was killed only a few days after arrival in the front line.

Reported in the Shields Daily News on September 6, 1916: “Rifleman H D Hogg, King’s Royal Rifle Corps ... has been killed in action.

“Deceased who was formerly an active worker in Holy Trinity Parish, North Shields, had recently been engaged as a Church Army Captain at North Wingfield, Derbyshire.

“He joined the forces in March and had only been a day or two in the trenches. A brother, – Pte Robt. H. D. Hogg of the Northumberland Fusiliers was killed in action on April 24th. The news of [Henry’s] death was conveyed to the family by a letter from a comrade. Rifleman E. E. King, who writes ... we went over the top together; just as we had good hopes of getting clear of the enemy’s heavy fire, Harry was hit by Shrapnel ... Harry was conscious until shortly before I left him, and he seemed quite content to have me there. He had implicit trust in God, and there was no horror of ghastliness about his end.”

As with more than 120 others from his former parish church – Holy Trinity, Coach Lane – his name was included on an inscribed wooden triptych, which features those from the western area of the town killed in the course of the war or died of their injuries, physical or mental, in the immediate aftermath.

That memorial has recently been restored and is now hung in the vestibule of Christ Church.

Anyone with information on this week’s casualties or anyone killed or died as a result of the war is asked to contact the project.

The project workroom is open from 10am to 4pm each weekday for visitors and for anyone interested to learn more about the project and how to get involved.

AS part of the series of events in this year’s Heritage Open Days taking place across the region from September 6 to 9, there will be a conducted walk (two hours) in Preston cemetery.

This will look at some of the family memorials and Commonwealth War Graves for men on the Tynemouth Roll of Honour.

There will also be a commentary on some of the unusual circumstances of the casualties and their war service records.

This will take place at 1.30pm on Sunday, September 9.

Places should be booked in advance by telephoning (0191) 643 7413 or (0191) 643 7420.

A second walk may be organised subject to demand.

More details of the Heritage Open days programme across Tyne and Wear can be found at

A booklet with full details of all events is also available form libraries and other venues across the region.

THIS week’s casualty list gives details of men from the former Tynemouth Borough who were killed or died in August 1916.

Armstrong, John Wilson, age 23, Lance Corporal, 1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders, KIA, 18th, son of Wilson and Mabel Emma Armstrong, of 19 North View, Shiremoor.

Bailey, Richard George, Private, 2nd Battalion Royal Berks Regiment, DOW, 30th, No 1 CCS, 19 Camden Street, Chocques Military cemetery.

Defty, William, age 25, Private, 11th Battalion NF, DOW, 2nd, 31 Milton Terrace, Heilly Station cemetery, had been at front for only two weeks.

Errington, John Catherall, age 20, Lance Corporal, 1st/6th Battalion NF, KIA, 13th, 43 Park Crescent East, son of Thomas and Isabella, former pupil of Tynemouth High School, only enlisted March 1916, his brother killed only five months earlier.

Hogg, Henry Dunn, age 27, Rifleman, 16th Battalion KRRC, DOW, 25th, 15 Brannen Street, son of William George and Mary A, he had only been in trenches two days, brother killed in action April 24, 1916. See story

Newman, George, age 23, Private, 33rd Battalion Canadian Scots, Canadian Infantry – Manitoba Regiment – enlisted Winnipeg, DOW, 20th Military Hospital Bristol, wounded May 11, son of John Newman, fisherman, of 11 Upper Penman Street, born Aberdeen, had emigrated to work on his brother’s farm. See story

Newton, Benjamin John Robert Ryder, age 25, Pioneer, 1st Battalion Special Brigade RE, KIA, 24th, 11 Camden Lane, was previously with 15th Battalion NF, transferred to Gas Section.

Peugh, William, age 33, Private, 11th Battalion KRRC, KIA, 29th, 2 Waterloo Road, Bedford Street, son of Margaret and late Edward.

Robson, Joseph, age 26, MN, died of appendicitis,15th, Aden, Yemen, husband of Margaret, 48 King Street, did not qualify for a war memorial entry with CWGC.

Smith, William, age 19, Private, 9th Battalion NF, KIA, 8th, 19 Church Way, husband of Jennie, previously employed at Ritson’s colliery.

Tate, [Tait] Harry, Sergeant, 22nd Battalion NF (Tyneside Scottish), 20 Cleveland Avenue, stepson of William Eltringham and Jane Keda Eltringham (nee Tait).